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India: National Security Challenges
Country Study > Chapter 10 > National Security > National Security Challenges


As the twenty-first century approaches, India faces a number of key challenges to its national security. The vast majority of emergent threats are essentially from within.

Because of increased educational opportunities, greater political awareness, and media exposure, hitherto quiescent ethnic minorities are steadily claiming their rights in the political arena. This form of political assertiveness has generated a backlash from the well-entrenched segments of India's majority population. Much violence has accompanied this process of social change. Increased use of coercion alone, however, is unlikely to contain ethnoreligious violence. Further development of India's political institutions and social policies is also needed.

A related national security problem in the region is linked to the porous borders and cross-national ethnic ties that characterize South Asia. Consequently, Pakistan has found it expedient to support Muslim militants in Jammu and Kashmir and, to a lesser degree, Sikh insurgents in Punjab. India, on occasion, has retaliated in Pakistan's Sindh Province, supporting various movements for Sindhi autonomy. Furthermore, India has also been involved in supporting the Tamil extremists in Sri Lanka. As long as governments in the region yield to these temptations for short-term gains, continued fratricidal violence is inevitable.

The other major source of instability in the region stems from the proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities in both India and Pakistan. The long-standing border dispute with China and the memories of the 1962 military debacle have encouraged India's efforts to acquire these capabilities. India's acquisition of weapons of mass destruction may well precipitate a three-way arms race in the region involving India, Pakistan, and China. Such an arms race not only would be strategically destabilizing but also would impose enormous costs on resource-poor societies.Stephen Philip Cohen's The Indian Army is the best work on the historical evolution of the Indian army. One of the earliest and still useful accounts of India's security problems is Lorne J. Kavic's India's Quest for Security . Raju G.C. Thomas's Indian Security Policy is probably the most comprehensive, although not necessarily the most analytic, treatment of Indian security questions. Basic armed forces information appears in SP's Military Yearbook and the weekly armed forces news magazine Sainik Samachar (available in thirteen languages), both published in New Delhi. Analyses of the state of India's armed forces, including its paramilitary forces, periodically appear in the journal Armed Forces and Society . Within India the best discussions of security issues are found in the privately produced Indian Defence Review and the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses Journal, the house journal of the government-supported think tank, the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. Broader discussions of regional security issues can be found in Survival, published by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London.

The various wars that have taken place in the region are well documented. The best analyses are Lionel Protip Sen's Slender Was the Thread on the 1947-48 conflict, D.K. Palit's War in the High Himalaya and Stephen Hoffmann's India and The China Crisis on the 1962 India-China border war, Russell Brines's The Indo-Pakistani Conflict on the 1965 war, and Robert Jackson's South Asian Crisis and Richard Sisson and Leo E. Rose's War and Secession on the 1971 Indo-Pakistani conflict. Sumit Ganguly's The Origins of War in South Asia is the only comparative and comprehensive account of the three Indo-Pakistani conflicts. Civil-military relations and defense decision-making issues have been discussed in articles written jointly by Jerrold F. Elkin and W. Andrew Ritezel and by Sumit Ganguly.

An excellent discussion of nuclear proliferation issues is found in Stephen Philip Cohen's Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia . Indian nuclear and ballistic missile programs are discussed in some detail in Brahma Chellaney's Nuclear Proliferation: The U.S.-Indian Conflict . For an early analysis of the motivations underlying the Indian nuclear program, see Sumit Ganguly's "Why India Joined the Nuclear Club." Another useful analysis of India's nuclear and ballistic missile programs is Raju G.C. Thomas's "India's Nuclear and Space Programs: Defense or Development?" An important discussion of Indian strategic culture and doctrine is George K. Tanham's "Indian Strategic Culture." (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of September 1995

Last Updated: September 1995

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for India was first published in 1995. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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