New Delhi: Warning of the possibility of a
limited war under a nuclear backdrop in the future, India
on Thursday sought a new "open, balanced and inclusive" global
security architecture that corresponds to modern threats such
as hi-tech terrorism and cyber conflicts.
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon also called
for a study of India`s practices in use of force as a
statecraft, considering that values and justice have always
dictated its doctrines.
Menon was delivering the key-note address at the National
Defence College Golden Jubilee celebrations here.
"What India seeks is a new security architecture -- an
open, balanced and inclusive architecture to correspond to the
new (security threat) situation that is emerging," Menon said.
"It also seems from the recent experiences that the
utility of force as traditionally configured and conceived is
of limited value in protecting society or achieving some
"But one can hardly jump to conclusions about the futility
of force when limited war under nuclear conditions remains
possible and when adversaries need to be deterred," he said.
He said emergence of technology had led to terrorists too
laying hand on sophisticated systems, alongside cyberspace
emerging as a domain for conflict. Moreover, these non-state
actors were also drawing strength from state institutions.
"Unfortunately, we have seen technology place increasingly
lethal power at the hands of non-state actors. Terrorism is
technologically enabled and knows no boundaries today, even
drawing on support from state systems," he pointed out.
"States were no more the predominant factor in today`s
world. We have also seen new domains for confrontation such as
the cyberspace," he said.
Calling for an in depth study of Indian ways of using
force, he said historically there had been a "strategic
culture" in the country that hinged on "achieving justice"
under circumstances when all alternative means had been
exhausted without fighting a war.
Quoting from Indian epics Mahabharatha and Ramayana,
Mahatma Gandhi`s views, Chanakya`s Arthasastra and King
Ashoka`s life, Menon said, "In the Indian tradition, use of
force is legitimate not just if it is in a good cause and its
results will be good. Instead it is about a doctrine that saw
force as necessary in certain circumstances to obtain justice,
when all other means are exhausted."
Indian traditions, he said, recognised that use of force
was not always the most effective or efficient means, but was
essentially a defensive use when other means were exhausted.
Citing from history, Menon said though Mahatma Gandhi had
led the Indian freedom struggle on the principles of "truth
and non-violence", he had approved of use of force when the
Indian Union had rushed troops to defend Kashmir in 1947 and
had called for wiping out the Pakistani raiders.
"In saying so, Gandhi ji was keeping with the long
regarded tradition of using force as legitimate in certain
circumstances, if there is alternative way of securing
justice," he said.
Another lesson that India drew from history, Menon said,
was perils of weakness. "The colonial narrative of India`s
history, outside invasions and rulers had, as a corollary as a
conviction, taught that India must avoid weakness at all
costs, lest that history be repeated," he added.
The NSA said Indian quest for strategic autonomy and for
autonomy in decision to use or threaten force as a norm after
1947 had a tradition behind it.
"Indian strategic culture has an indigenous construct on
the role of force in statecraft, modified by our experience in
the last two centuries. War and peace are continuing themes in
Indian strategic culture. By not celebrating war, the culture
treats defensive war as acceptable. Indian strategic culture
has been comfortable with this contradiction," he noted.
As a result of acceptance of the contradiction, Indian
strategic culture supported "an ethical view" that dovetailed
very easily with the international norms of conduct, whether
legal, war or human rights.
"It is a culture that tends instinctively to pluralism,
tolerance of different views and positions, and relies on
argumentation, diplomacy and law, before taking recourse to
use of force. It is, therefore, no surprise that it seeks a
rule-based international order to limit the anarchy among
states," he noted.
Indian strategic culture had three different schools and
these differed on "means" but not on "strategic goals," Menon
said, pointing out that all the streams, interestingly,
believed that "nuclear weapons are essential for India`s
security in a world that has shown no signs of moving to their
abolition and elimination."
He said, "There are substantial agreements on values, on
goals and even on means in our policies, despite the marked
and rapid changes in the external environment in which we have
Noting that India`s defence budget had crossed three per
cent of GDP only once since independence, Menon said there had
also been "clear limits" in use of force internally.
"The use of military force for internal security functions
has been severely restricted to those places where there is a
strong correlation to inimical forces from abroad.
"The armed forces have been used only defensively against
external aggression. India has never sent troops abroad,
except for UN peacekeeping operations or at the express
request of the legitimate government of the nations concerned.
India has also never retained territory taken by force," he
He noted that Indian nuclear doctrine too reflected this
strategic culture with its emphasis on minimal deterrence, no
first use against non-nuclear weapons states and its direct
linkage to nuclear disarmament.
"We have made it clear that while we need nuclear weapons
for our own security, it is our goal to work for a world free
of nuclear weapons and we are ready to undertake the necessary
obligations to achieve that goal in a time bound programme,
agreed to and implemented by all nuclear weapons states," he
Menon said there is an Indian way, view and practices on
use and role of force.
"We do not care if it is better or worse than any other
way that other nations adopt. It is a result of our own
history and own experience and we feel it is best suited to
our goals and situations. This too is evolving both
consciously and unconsciously, as is the world around us. And
it is probably time for us to consciously build our own
concepts and strategic thinking," he added.