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Arming Without AimingStephen P Cohen and Sunil DasguptaVikingRs 499pp 240

books Updated: Dec 03, 2010 21:56 IST

Arming Without Aiming

Stephen P Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta


Rs 499

pp 240

Over the years a great deal of literature has appeared on India’s strategic planning. Many foreign scholars have also made contributions to the research on the modernisation of our defence programme. These studies have been carried out from various perspectives and aren’t devoid of specific ideologies, including prejudices and distortions. One rarely comes across a balanced and dispassionate assessment of the issue. However, Arming Without Aiming by Stephen P Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta provides an in-depth analysis and systematic examination of the problem and makes a sincere effort to fill the gap in the existing realms of knowledge.

Their concern over the need to change the existing — and also evolve a new — strategic approach is valuable. The historical backdrop that the book provides helps in tracing the roots of the problem. Cohen and Dasgupta bring to light an important fact: India needs to diversify its strategies to counter the challenges it faces from Pakistan and China.

Our defence policies should be able to adapt to the challenging environment as well as efficiently implement recommendations. Since today threats are more severe and enemies more organised than ever before, new concepts of safety and security should be followed. A modern, vigilant and assertive military, intelligence, police and paramilitary network should replace the old one. Many important suggestions and recommendations of various committees are out of tune with existing circumstances. The book holds the lack of both political foresight and deep commitment as reasons for this folly. The book is free from blemishes. But, at times, its authors concede that while there has been a constant change in our political and administrative arenas, the old mindset and predilections of powerful syndicates within the system haven’t changed as desired.

Both Cohen and Dasgupta are concerned about the need for a new consensus in strategic planning. The weak strategic planning, as portrayed by authors, appears to be meaninglessly exaggerated. Both argue that Indo-US strategic partnership can play an important role in improving the situation. Though the contiguity of Indo-US relations in the field of nuclear energy and modernisation of military and intelligence is highly desired, India will have to work carefully to protect its national interests. The authors seem to have forgotten that India is a mature democracy and its leaders are capable of cashing in on any opportunity and strategy that’s a combination of tactful strength and resilience.

Some arguments in chapters titled ‘Army Modernisation’ and ‘Struggling with Reforms’ are interesting. They provide a leeway to generate academic argumentation, which goes beyond the dictates of powerful syndicates within the system. The key here is freedom of expression with emphasis on non-hierarchical and egalitarian ways of structuring social relationships, and in a manner that is consistent with our inherited core values. However, one can’t but admire the ingenious talent of the authors as they explore our domestic underpinnings by focussing on the need to modernise our defence mechanism along with our democratic ideas and values.

Despite years of concerted efforts to eliminate them, terrorism and violence of caste and class have taunted us time and again. It will be naive to blame only others for our problems. To a great extent, we are also responsible for the mess. The chapters on ‘Police Modernisation’ and ‘Fighting Change’ discuss important issues. The insights they provide on how the ideas and emotions of our strategists should translate into effective policies and shape new decision-making process are pathbreaking.

Cohen and Dasgupta’s scholarships, phenomenology and writing style present a holistic and analytical view on the need for immediate attention in the field of strategic modernisation. The book assumes a great topical value in view of the recent upsurge in threat posed by transnational terrorism.

(Sudhir Hindwan is a Chandigarh-based strategic affairs expert)

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First Published: Dec 03, 2010 21:53 IST