Strategic culture is the assortment of beliefs, ideas, values, religion, and historical experience that manipulates a nation’s choices. There are many reasons and motivations for a country to act in a specific way. Some are pacifists, while others are warmongers.
Indian strategic culture innately is not monolithic rather, it’s a montage of different compositions and still is more coherent and connected, unlike the other contemporary nation-states. And that’s because India endures one of the lasting civilizations with the allegory of the pre-modern state system and the threads of Hindu civilization dating back numerous millennia.
Indian sub-continent has remained witnessed to the consciousness of the Hindu values which had remained resident in the same local space. This continuity of values was disturbed by different reigns and rulers, but the values had never been inundated or vanished.
In a broader sense, Indian culture is somehow assimilative, which we witnessed during the escalation of nationalism in the subcontinent under the British raj. The Indian strategic culture conformed copious of what we ponder as 20th-century “modernity.” And that assimilation got India freedom in 1947.
India is a state of diverse social diaspora with a long history of transition in its political and economic spheres, sharing the aspirations in its strategic culture of almost every pertinent ideology, culture, or even the class that it has been bestowed with.
Though history is quite rich when it comes to India and the way it links its strategic culture to its past. Largely, the Indian strategic culture is illuminated by the ideas deduced from primitive Hindu texts, 19th and 20th-century religious reformists, revivalists, and modern thinkers.
The ideas inferred by these texts and thoughts have shaped three traditions of strategic thought, realpolitik, Nehruvian, and Hindu nationalism. However, since the inception of India, Nehruvian has remained an overriding aspect that underpins a commitment to strategic restraint. In contrast, the other remained less persuasive over policy but had remained a great alternative to offer over the overriding Nehruvian.
Additionally, if nationalist traditions gain influence over India’s strategic culture, it could limit India’s behavior in international relations. This is because the tradition emphasizes achieving social unity within India as a prerequisite for international recognition of India’s greatness.
However, the much-touted treatise of Chanakya Kautilya, Arthshastra, is very relevant for a better understanding of Indian strategic culture, which he had written around 300 BC for the reign of the Chandragupta Maurya Dynasty, which is still relevant.
Indian strategists regard this book as one of the most pertinent guides for the maneuvering of policies.
Henry Kissinger, in “World Order,” writes, “this work sets out, with dispassionate clarity, a vision of how to establish and guard a state while neutralizing, subverting, and (when opportune conditions have been established) conquering its neighbors.” Kautilya had always asserted in his books that the neighboring states remain dormant and have perpetual hostility.
Indian Policy makers are getting the most out of using the writings of Kautilya, particularly the Mandala theory, which states that neighboring states cannot be expected to be friendly. Thus, the state next to one’s neighbor will likely become an ally. Based on this assumption, Indian policymakers are maneuvering their foreign policy accordingly. However, India’s current foreign policy is also driven by economic pragmatism.
If we look at the current plight in India, we can infer that most policies are influenced by the Indian strategic culture, be it domestic or foreign policies; almost all of them are largely manipulated and Motivated by the ideas that support the mass rather than the all, and the ruling Bhartiya Janta (political) Party (BJP) is the best example of it.
Since it arrived in 2014 as a right-wing mainstream ruling political party of India, BJP has been an extremist and ultra-nationalist political party. It is mainly driven by the BJP’s Hindutva Ideology, having its roots back to the rise of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the early 20th Century.
The ideology aims to achieve its dream of an extended Indian Empire, also known as the Akhand Bharat (undivided India), by establishing a Hindu Rastra (the Hindu Nation). It seeks to expand the Indian Empire, ideologically and territorially, throughout the Indian subcontinent, stretching out from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, to Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
However, with the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) reigning in India for two consecutive terms, the country’s foreign policy is largely under the classic Hindu Strategists.
Alongside that, RSS Akhund Bharat (Undivided India) concept is in array with the Indian innate hegemonic aspirations, which too justifies the BJP and RSS impetus of turning India into the Pan Hindu Nationalist State.
Veshma Dharma ki Jay (Victory to the Universal Dharma) is the primary endeavor of BJP lead govt. Modi is particularly working on its success which is largely influenced by the Indian strategic culture.
And the subsequent goal is the realization of an extremist state with classical Hindu thinking deriving from the SC and aligning with the BJP’s founding goals—eventually, nuclear-armed states warmongering in the region.
Kautilya being the radiance of Indian policies, had been the advocate of mass killing against the enemy and the own peoples for the subsistence and sanctuary of the state. And those policies are quite evident from their action in Kashmir.
Moreover, atrocities against minorities in India are also increasing with every passing day. Also, the apprehension of an Indian spy in Pakistan is the endeavor of the Indian aspiration of being the hegemon.
Precisely, there are dissenting views over the stature of Indian strategic culture; one of the views infers that India is not gratifying the perspective, whereas the other contends that India has the potential to be an assertive power in the years to come seeking the history of India.
*Author is an International Relations graduate and Policy Researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Any opinions or perspectives expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the position of The Diplomatic Insight. Nor does the organization endorse or take responsibility for the accuracy of the article’s content.