Indian Defense Policy
September 2023 update: This research project is no longer part of Shorenstein APARC.
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.
Almost Parity: Understanding the India–Pakistan Conventional Military Balance,
a chapter in Routledge Handbook on South Asian Foreign Policy (ed. Aparna Pande), August 2021.
The Crisis After the Crisis: How Ladakh Will Shape India’s Competition with China
The Lowy Institute, May 2021
Exploring India’s Strategic Futures
National Bureau of Asian Research, September 2020
See also U.S. Policymakers Cannot Assume the Fixity of Indian Strategic Preferences, Argues South Asia Research Scholar Arzan Tarapore
APARC website, September 2020
The Army in Indian Military Strategy: Rethink Doctrine or Risk Irrelevance
Carnegie India, August 2020
A Risky New Status Quo
The Hindu, September 22, 2022
India-China Strategic Competition and the Costs of the Ladakh Crisis
South Asia Voices, Stimson Center, May 2021
Evaluate the Ladakh crisis, Keep China at Bay
The Hindu, May 2021
India and China Are Taking New Risks Along their Border. It Will be Hard to Restore Peace
Washington Post Monkey Cage, September 2020
Rethinking the Defence Doctrine
The Hindu, September 2020
In the Media
India Seeks to Reform Its Military Amid New Security Threats
DW News, July 29, 2021
Indian Elephant Fit for a Marathon – Not a Sprint – in Taking on China
The Straits Times, July 19, 2021
Military Build-Up on India-China Border amid Fears of New Conflict
The Telegraph, June 8, 2021
Evaluate the Ladakh Crisis, Keep China at Bay
The Hindu, May 12, 2021
Everything You Need to Know About India and China’s Ongoing Border Dispute
Vice World News, September 11, 2020
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