Having spent eight years researching and writing in a focused manner on war and conflict in independent India, it is time to distil five big lessons for a diverse constituency of stakeholders in India’s national security matrix. These range from the policymaker and the practitioner to the academic and the common citizen.
As India matures as a democracy and its aspirations to emerge as a leading power gains momentum, all these stakeholders must understand the conduct of war and the utility of force as an instrument of statecraft.
The first lesson is that contrary to the largely peaceful trajectory of growth envisaged by the drafters of the Constitution, India has been a “reluctantly warring democracy” to protect its sovereignty and internal fabric. It has fought four major wars and one high-intensity but limited conflict with its principal adversaries, Pakistan and China.
It has quelled four insurgencies (Mizoram, Tripura, Punjab and Assam), in which the latter two also displayed shades of terrorism. It continues to search for a solution to the longest insurgency in the post-World War-II era (the Naga insurgency) that has merged with another violent expression of ethnic angst in Manipur. Left-wing extremism has shown signs of fatigue, but security forces continue to search for conflict termination before the phase of conflict resolution offers some light at the end of what has been an intense struggle of ideas.
In what has been a mother of all struggles, the Indian State continues to grapple with a waxing and waning proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) that has shown chameleon-like shades of insurgency, terrorism and hybrid war.