Daniel Markey of CFR on the new Karnad book

A take on my new book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ by Daniel Markey,former member of the US State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and now Head of Research at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, was published in the ‘Asia Unbound’ blog of the NY-based Council on Foreign Relations’ and is available at http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2015/11/18/thinking-about-armed-confrontation-between-china-and-india/. It has been reproduced by ‘National Interest’ on its ‘Buzz’ site, at: http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/war-between-china-india-possible-14395. The Markey piece from CFR site is reproduced below.


Thinking About Armed Confrontation Between China and India
by Guest blogger for Daniel Markey
November 18, 2015

As I was researching and writing the latest Contingency Planning Memorandum for CFR’s Center for Preventive Action, “Armed Confrontation Between China and India,” one of my top priorities was to avoid overstating the probability of the contingency. Throughout most of my conversations with Indian, Chinese, and U.S. policy analysts, I found a striking consensus about the relative stability between these two giant Asian neighbors. This was reassuring, but also slightly surprising given the lingering suspicions and growing competition between New Delhi and Beijing.

Then I started reading a new book by Bharat Karnad, Why India Is Not a Great Power (Yet), and quickly observed that nearly all of the avenues by which I thought a China-India conflict might conceivably emerge (land border skirmish, Tibetan protests, India-Pakistan standoff, and maritime disputes) were also areas where Karnad believes India should pursue far more aggressive policies. The one exception is Pakistan, where Karnad suggests India should principally deploy economic incentives to overcome longstanding hostilities (an approach he recommends for all of India’s smaller neighbors).

Karnad, a professor of National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, is unusually strident in his call for India to play an opportunistic power-balancing role in Asia without signing up to either Washington or Beijing’s agenda. He expects that India will never find the United States to be a reliable strategic partner and that China will inevitably represent India’s chief security threat. To chart its own path, India will need to play a more opportunistic and reckless game quite unlike anything we have seen in its history since independence.

Karnad’s prescriptions go well beyond garden variety calls for “nonalignment” or greater Indian “strategic autonomy.” He proposes that India needs to take provocative measures if it wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, and in particular, to “strategically discomfit” China. To these ends, he argues for steps such as mining the Himalayan passes between India and China with atomic demolition munitions, arming China’s neighbors like Vietnam not only with Brahmos cruise missiles but nuclear weapons, and actively bankrolling and assisting an armed uprising in Tibet. Each of these steps would undoubtedly make an armed India-China confrontation more likely and more dangerous.

Quite unlike Karnad, my Contingency Planning Memo assumes that the U.S.-India partnership holds significant strategic value to both sides. As a consequence, I argue that Washington should stand by New Delhi’s side in the unlikely event of an armed confrontation between India and China, even at the risk of heightened U.S. tensions with China. To be clear, however, I also assume that India will not unilaterally pursue the sorts of policies that Karnad advocates and I suggest that Washington’s interest in backing India should apply only to defensive security measures.

These competing perspectives are worth considering because India has important strategic choices to make as its material power grows. I suspect that if India becomes more confident in its partnership with the United States, it will be less likely to pursue risky foreign policy positions. Karnad’s India, on the other hand, with growing power and ambition but deeply insecure about its relations with Washington and convinced of the China threat, would be far more likely to emerge as a dangerous new wild card in the international system.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, Europe, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Nuclear Policy & Strategy, Nuclear Weapons, Pakistan, Pakistan military, Pakistan nuclear forces, South Asia, Strategic Relations with South East Asia & Far East, Strategic Relations with the US & West, Tibet, United States, US., Vietnam, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Daniel Markey of CFR on the new Karnad book

  1. Rituraj Rao says:

    I am yet to read your book and have been frantically trying to buy its soft copy, because Amazon will take ages to deliver it in hardbound. Nevertheless, many congratulations to you for writing a book which has unsettled so many complacent scholars, especially these ‘experts’ on India.

  2. Shail says:

    atomic demolition munitions?? our own passes? why? screw the ecology for all time? we can defend them without any such craziness. Also if we r going to nuke first then why on own land??

  3. @Shail — ADMs because, as argued in an earlier tome — Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security — and, more elaborately, in the new book, it fits in with India’s passive-defensive policy mindset, and provides cover for aggressive actions by offensive mountain corps (for whenever they are fully raised and deployed) across the LAC on the Tibetan plateau. and even for a proactive strategy in the maritime realm. ADMs were standard weapons deployed by NATO to stanch massive Soviet aggressor armoured forces. W/o ADMs has little latitude of geopolitical maneuver.

  4. Atul says:

    This seems like a very good review :
    Book Review: Crouching dragon, kneeling tiger

  5. Bharat Karnad’s response to Daniel Markey published on the Council on Foreign Relations’ ‘Asia Unbound’ blog Nov 21, 2015 at :http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2015/11/18/thinking-about-armed-confrontation-between-china-and-india/, and is reproduced below.
    Daniel Markey is right in describing India-China hostilities as “low probability, high cost contingency”. The trouble is however low the probability it is a contingency India has to prepare for because the relative cost of failure will be immeasurably higher for India than for the United States. It requires New Delhi’s vision, strategy and policies to be more aggressive, proactive and preemptive and geared to prevent China having its way and, in the larger context, from implementing its geopolitical design for a Sino-centric order and security architecture in Asia, which will obviously be at the expense of the Asian rimland and offshore states and maritimist India and, in southern Asia and the Indian Ocean region generally, directly impact Indian national interests and the country’s natural sphere of influence. The marked difference in Indian and US perspectives reflects their different geopolitical realities and differing solutions to the ‘China problem’ faced by them.

    The elaboration of a comprehensively hardnosed approach in my new book – ‘Why India is Note a Great Power (Yet)’ which, incidentally, the Indian government is realizing but only in parts, is seen as hurting the US objective defined by Dr. Markey as avoiding “a sharpening of the global competition between China and the United States”. To divert and dissuade India from a confrontationist stance, he recommends in his ‘Contingency Planning Memorandum No. 27’ that Washington not support New Delhi’s “offensive moves”, to restrict itself to enhancing India’s “defensive security capabilities” and “encourage India to accommodate Chinese demands on Tibet”. It is precisely such American thinking and appeasement-laced polices, I have argued in the book, that renders the United States an unreliable ally and strategic partner, and why Washington’s foreign and military policy focused narrowly on advancing its own interests and its unwillingness to step in on the side of its Asian friends and allies in any meaningful way makes it imperative for Asian states contesting the strategic space with China to look out for their own security by banding together in a military cooperation scheme “organic” to Asia, in which the US’ role is limited to the one it has always played – “an opportunistic offshore balancer”.

    Washington’s punitive attitude to resumption of testing by India to obtain a credible thermonuclear arsenal even though a notional parity at the thermonuclear weapons level will help stabilize not just the India-China security situation but the Asian security order and help US interests, the Obama Administration’s reluctance to support Japan on the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute despite Premier Shinzo Abe’s pleading, and media commentaries voicing fear about Japan and the Philippines – the latter in a maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea (aka South China Sea) — invoking provisions in the mutual defense treaties and drawing the US into a rumble with China, are indicative of , if not tilt benefitting Beijing, than in US’ desperate desire to avoid conflict with China except in the most extreme and, hence, the most remote circumstances. In this context, Markey’s proposal for a trilateral India-China-US commission to resolve fractious Sino-Indian issues, could well turn into a forum, as I have stated in my book, to pressure New Delhi into making security compromises India can ill afford.

    The problem at heart is that Washington is un-reconciled to the growing scarcity of its resources and, hence, its inability to meet the China-derived challenges to Asian security in the face of a re-assertive Russia and NATO’s security pull towards Europe. It has led to confusion and lack of clarity about the emerging “correlation of forces” in Asia and to weak-willed policies. The US can afford to underestimate the China threat; Asian states do not enjoy that luxury. Thus, India will have to be ready for the worst, and increasingly configure hard-edged policies and posture, but also learn to live with the ire of Daniel Markey and many others in the Washington establishment who think like him.

  6. Raahul Kumar says:

    The United States is an unreliable ally, and our polices and objectives are in conflict and to be honest have always been so, especially when the USA started funding Pakistan back in the 1950s. We need to focus on gaining more reliable allies, who can be trusted to fight besides us.

    Only 3 countries qualify. Nihon, Việt Nam, and South Korea. Our alliances need to be with nations that can help us. And even though we are already in a military alliance with all 3, our relationship is shallow and superficial. We need a strong mutual security pact, and many more exercises training our armed forces together under realistic combat conditions.

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