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Intractable Scenarios

Ali Ahmed

By Sumit Ganguly
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2016, 188, 395


Sumit Ganguly is no stranger to scholars in international and strategic studies. His book The Origins of Wars in South Asia is a popular text with undergraduates. He takes his earlier work that finishes with the 1971 War further in the volume under review by beginning with the Kargil War. His is a slim volume covering the first decade of the century, the beginning of which he dates to this war. In his view, Pakistan’s India policy cannot be explained through the ‘spiral model’. The spiral model relies on the concept of security dilemma. The security dilemma has it that states, perceiving even defensive actions of neighbours as threatening, resort to counter measures that in turn generate a negative threat perception in their neighbour. This leads to a spiral—hence ‘spiral model’—expressed through worsening relations, the arms race and recurrent crisis. Since Pakistan covets Kashmir, to Ganguly, Pakistan is a revisionist and ‘greedy’ state—‘with nonsecurity motivations for expansion’ (Charles Glaser) (p. 20). Wanting territorial revisionism, its actions in the security sphere are not a result of a perceived threat from India that can be attributed to a security dilemma. Nothing India can do in terms of reassuring Pakistan by reining in its actions in the defence and security spheres can assuage Pakistan. Therefore, the recurring crisis and potential for conflict in the subcontinent cannot be explained by the spiral model. The deterrence model on the other hand has it that a state’s security preparedness deters a neighbour from threatening it, but even such preparedness can be found wanting when confronted with a revisionist state out to change some or other facet of the status quo or relationship. He uses the deterrence model in appraising India. To Ganguly, evidence in favour of this model is in the quiescent period in the seventies and eighties when Pakistan was fended off by India’s defence preparedness. However, Pakistan’s Kashmir obsession got an outlet with the outbreak of troubles in Kashmir in the nineties. Since Pakistan is attempting to overturn the territorial status quo, India cannot but restrict itself to warding off Pakistan through defence related measures. This brings Ganguly to his prescription that, since the deterrence model provides a better vantage for India’s Pakistan strategy, a strategy informed by deterrence by denial is the preferred one for India. Ganguly makes his theoretical case in his opening chapter. He then ...

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