CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Sumit Ganguly

By Neha Ansari

Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science at Indiana University, presented a chapter from his upcoming book on the origins and evolution of India’s defense policy at the CSS Research and Policy Seminar on February 25. The book is slated to be published by Columbia University Press.

At the seminar, Ganguly discussed the historical, political, and economic factors that drive the formation and implementation of India’s defense policy. He explained how a combination of competing ideas, institutions, resource constraints, and threat perceptions informed and affected the formulation of defense policy since the country’s independence from the British in 1947.

His book chapter identifies important historical milestones—from India’s wars with Pakistan and China to major Cold War events—pedagogically dividing India’s post-independence history into four phases. These phases marked major events in the country that precipitated changes in its defense policy. Despite the particularities of these turning points, there are also constant factors that drive the country’s formulation and implementation of defense policy.

The discussion during the seminar focused not only on India’s defense and military history, but also on contemporary political and defense issues. Participants asked him about current regional challenges, particularly recent skirmishes with Pakistan after the suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir on February 14. He explained the challenges by setting them in the context of the current politically charged environment in India, the ideological government of Narendra Modi, and the upcoming general elections in May.

More importantly, Ganguly pointed out the dearth of research and literature on India’s defense policy and strategy—works by other scholars are either outdated or limited—and how he intends to fill that gap with his book. It is surprising that a regional economic and military power like India has practically no comprehensive scholarly account or study of its defense policy and strategy. Ganguly’s presentation gave CSS fellows and students a glimpse into how his new work will provide a much-needed historical analysis of India’s defense policy. His upcoming book will not only address the lack of scholarship on the defense policy and strategy of the world’s largest democracy, but also provide policymakers with an important historical foundation for future analysis.

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