West indian culture

Strategic culture shapes a country’s military response


For Indian national security and foreign policy planners, China and Pakistan are two countries of deep concern. While China is using its military to engage India in the border conflict, Pakistan, on the other hand, prefers to employ clandestine and violent non-state actors like jihadists against India to ensure plausible deniability of India’s involvement. the state. Therefore, these adversaries have different styles of state behavior to use force against India that are tied to their respective strategic cultures.

Strategic culture is a lens that allows us to understand how a nation-state chooses to employ force in interstate relations. It attempts to explain how and why a nation state would respond to a security threat – either the outbreak of conventional warfare, a terrorist threat, or an application of force threat such as a naval blockade. Strategic culture stems from political culture. It helps to understand and interpret state and military action, how to situate particular maneuvers in a larger historical context and, therefore, how to better predict state behavior.

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In 1977, during the Cold War, American academic Jack Snyder coined the term “strategic culture” in a report titled “Soviet Strategic Culture: Implications for Limited Nuclear Options.” He defined strategic culture as the sum total of the ideals, conditional emotional responses, and patterns of habitual behavior that members of the national strategic community have acquired through instruction or imitation and share with one another in matters of strategy.

Consider the United States, geographically distant from Pakistan, but which succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden after years of hunting him down. What is stopping India from kidnapping Dawood Ibrahim from nearby Karachi? In 1960, Israel kidnapped Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina and took him to Tel Aviv to be executed. While Pakistan uses terrorism as a tool of foreign policy with impunity, India is reluctant to undertake a covert operation to apprehend Dawood Ibrahim, the mastermind of the 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai. Is Delhi afraid of breaking international law?

Similarly, when the 26/11 terrorist attack hit India’s commercial capital, Mumbai, there was no overt Indian military response. How would Israel have reacted to such an attack? Very differently. Why do different nation states react differently to national security threats? Their geography, their history, their economy, their military experience consciously and unconsciously shape their national responses.

For example, after the infamous terrorist attack on its parliament in December 2001, India responded with coercive diplomacy that involved a prolonged military mobilization for 10 months along the Indo-Pakistan border. Imagine a similar situation in the United States and suppose that terrorists attacked Capitol Hill. How do you think the US government would have responded? The aerial bombardment of Afghanistan following the September 11 terrorist attacks is the closest parallel. Different countries approach key issues of war, peace, and strategy from both distinct and deeply rooted perspectives to reflect their unique geostrategic situations, economic resources, history, military experience, and political beliefs.

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Political leaders who do not believe that war can serve a useful political purpose are unlikely to assign it a political goal. The more one believes in the role of force in international politics, the more one is inclined to use the army as an instrument of foreign policy. In the India-China War of 1962, the politico-military rulers did not use the Indian Air Force in air combat operations, its role was limited to troop transport and supply logistics.

Even today, when China sends a submarine to Sri Lanka, India only makes diplomatic protests but refrains from sending any of its own submarines to the island nation. India confidently conducts low penetration cross-border commando raids in Pakistan and even launched an airstrike to breach Pakistani airspace to target Balakot in 2019. However, India treats territorial transgressions differently. ‘Chinese People’s Liberation Army on the line of actual control. (BAC) — with kid’s gloves.

India’s response to China has always been diplomatic in nature with no military element – ​​except for military diplomacy. Too much diplomacy indicates an aversion to resorting to the military instrument. For an adversary to take his rival seriously, it is important to demonstrate a certain military adventurism. Why is India not ready to wage a defensive war with China? Otherwise, Beijing will continue to repeatedly bully New Delhi along the LAC.

As a regional power, India must undertake covert or overt military operations against hostile neighbors whenever the situation demands. Otherwise, these opponents will not hesitate to punch above their weight to hit India.

(The author is a member-secretary of the Bengaluru Institute of Contemporary Studies, a security studies think tank)

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