Research Blog

India’s deterrence dilemma

This is a really fascinating piece by Yogesh Joshi in War on the Rocks on the new INS Arihant, India’s first SSBN. A couple passages that jumped out at me:

“With China and Pakistan as nuclear adversaries, India confronts a unique challenge. It has to build up its nuclear capability enough to ensure that Chinese decision-makers fear it, without sending Islamabad into panic and undermining regional stability. This “Goldilocks dilemma” will be difficult to resolve, and India should not leave it to chance — especially as the United States, once South Asia’s chief crisis manager, loses both interest and influence in the region. India should reassure Pakistan by reaffirming its policy of no first use of nuclear weapons and a retaliation-only nuclear doctrine. More importantly, India should rethink its deterrence requirements vis-à-vis China.”

” Indian decision-makers must accept the reality of this modest enterprise. Rather than engaging in premature triumphalism over Arihant, India should take a page from the Chinese playbook to hide its capacities and bide its time.”

“Even after nuclear weapons have been mated with missile tubes, the military will not be in command of nuclear weapons. Any ballistic missile launch requires a two-step authorization, in which civilian authority plays a key role. Even in situations where an imminent enemy strike may be about to take out the submarine’s ballistic missiles, civilian authority will remain the sole custodian of India’s sea-based nuclear forces.”


What to read on Assam

Assam has been in the news recently, as well as the broader Northeast, as a site of protest against the recent citizenship bill passed in the Lok Sabha. These are a few works that can help situate the politics of Assam in a broader historical perspective:


Sanjib Baruah, India Against Itself and Durable Disorder

Udayon Misra, The Periphery Strikes Back

BG Verghese, India’s Northeast Resurgent

Sanjoy Hazarika, Strangers of the Mist

Myron Weiner, Sons of the Soil

Monirul Hussain, The Assam Movement

Deeka Meeta, Student Movements in Assam

Nani Mahanta, Confronting the State

S.K. Chaube, Hill Politics in Northeast India

Recent articles

  1. A new piece in International Security by Asfandyar Mir examining the different possible effects of drones, using remarkable fieldwork and new data from Pakistan.
  2. Another new piece in IS by Matt Kocher, Adria Lawrence, and Nuno Monteiro, exploring the indeterminacy of nationalism as an independent variable in IR research.
  3. I just came across this very fascinating, unique survey-based article in Pacific Affairs on professionalism and views of politics in the Royal Thai Army, by Punchada Sirivunnabood and Jacob Ricks. Very cool stuff.
  4. Rajesh Venugopal has a nice overview of the return of Mahinda Rajapaksa in The Wire.
  5. Kheder Khaddour wrote an informative (at least to a non-Syria-watcher like me) article on the status of pro-state militias in contemporary Syria for Carnegie.

Recent recommended readings

  1. Ashley Tellis provides valuable background on the US-India tensions that have emerged from India’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system.
  2. ThePrint gives a really fascinating historical overview of the 1967 India-China clash at Nathu La.
  3. The Wire has been running a great nine-part series on the historical evolution of political violence in Bengal, both before and after colonialism. Here’s the first article. This part jumped out at me for my ongoing project on leftist insurgencies in democracies, where I’m finding much (though far from all) of the action comes in intra-left feuds and spiraling rivalries:
    “The political system – bourgeois democracy, as it was in Naxalite and Marxist parlance – was seen to be the biggest impediment to any kind of meaningful social change. Food shortages, rampant unemployment and grinding poverty – nothing seemed to matter to those in power. The young revolutionaries even began to perceive in the formation of United Front governments, where the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (the parent party Naxalites had broken away from) was the dominant partner, as a betrayal of ‘the people’. To them, being part of the government meant becoming a part of that corrupt and decrepit system.”