Indian Defense Policy

An Indian army convoy drives towards Leh, on a highway bordering China, on June 19, 2020 in Gagangir, India.

Indian Defense Policy

Exploring what kind of power India will be

Drivers of Indian military strategy

India is an attractive strategic partner to the United States and a key player in the Indo-Pacific, but its defense policy remains understudied. The South Asia Initiative at APARC is investigating how India approaches the use of force and prepares its military to manage security threats.

Research Focus

The United States has placed a strategic bet on India. As strategic competition with China intensifies, Washington assesses that a strong India will be an invaluable counterweight to Chinese influence in the region. India is an attractive strategic partner to the United States for many of the same reasons it is a natural rival to China. Demographically, it is China’s only peer and will increasingly compete with China for resources and markets. Geographically, it is positioned on China’s western land border and astride vital shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. And historically, India and China have fought a war, competed for regional influence, and engaged in intermittent security crises.

India’s importance in the Indo-Pacific may seem self-evident, but its defense policy remains understudied. In particular, how does India approach the use of force, and how is it preparing its military to manage security threats?

These research questions have scholarly importance because India, as a non-western power, may challenge some of the established precepts in strategic studies based on modern western cases. These research questions have even greater policy importance, as Washington seeks to effectively build security cooperation with India and encourages India to undertake a more prominent independent role in Indo-Pacific security.

The South Asia Initiative at APARC is addressing these questions through a body of interlocking research grounded in theory, history, and contemporary security issues. Research scholar Arzan Tarapore’s book project assesses India’s modern warfighting experience, offering the first theoretically rigorous account of the factors shaping Indian military strategy. A large part of this work and other recently published research focuses on the intangibles of military power – especially the importance of military strategy and doctrine.

Research from the South Asia initiative has also sought to make sense of contemporary security issues, such as the 2020 border crisis between India and China. Published research has explored the long-term implications of the crisis for India’s defense posture and competition with China.

Lead Researcher

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Arzan Tarapore

South Asia Research Scholar
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Arzan Tarapore

South Asia Research Scholar

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