About the Event: What explains the consistent patterns – and exceptions – in Indian wartime strategy? In most of its wars, the Indian military has used a similar military strategy – to gain limited advantage on the battlefield as a way of consolidating the strategic status quo. The key exception was the eastern theater in the 1971 war, in which it sought – and won – battlefield decision to effect a major territorial revision. Much of contemporary international relations scholarship elides questions of strategy altogether, treating combat as an abstract contest of material power or resolve. Scholarship that does deal with strategy often seeks to explain consistency through strategic culture, or evolutions in military doctrine; but cannot explain patterns and exceptions in wartime behavior. This paper offers an explanation of military strategy as a function of the state’s geopolitical risk assessment and its military’s organizational preferences. Dr. Tarapore illustrates the argument with a detailed case study of the 1999 Kargil war, in which India was cautioned by the risk of nuclear retaliation, and the military pursued a tightly limited campaign. This research has implications not only for our understanding of Indian strategic behavior, but also theoretical debates on conventional deterrence and conflict processes.
About the Speaker: Dr. Arzan Tarapore is the South Asia research scholar at Stanford University's Asia-Pacific Research Center, and a senior nonresident fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. His research focuses on military strategy, Indian defense policy, and Indo-Pacific security issues. He previously held research positions at the RAND Corporation, the East-West Center in Washington, and the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. Prior to his scholarly career, he served for 13 years in the Australian Defence Department. Arzan holds a PhD in war studies from King's College London.