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India Adopts a New Defense Policy for the Twenty-First Century

Following India’s independence in 1947, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated a foreign and defense policy that was based on principles of socialism and remaining

uncommitted to the Cold War disputes. Eventually, this specific policy led to India becoming the founding and leading member state of the Non Aligned Movement in 1955.

However, in the twenty-first century India’s defense establishment is undergoing a serious and dramatic transformation as it modernizes its defense capabilities. India systematically seeks a "strategic partnership" with the United States of America. The diplomatic courtship started under President Bill Clinton continued under President George W. Bush and furthered under President Barack Obama with his latest trip to India.

On specific terms, the Indian political establishment wants to expand its economic influence in the Indian Ocean basin and beyond. This cataclysmic transformation includes a shift from an emphasis on the former Soviet Union/Russia as the main supplier of defense materials to a pro-Western base supply and an increasing emphasis on India-U.S. relations.

The rapid warming of the diplomatic relations between India and the United States over the past decade is proving to be a serious and significant, yet very challenging, new relationship. The new opportunity for tens of billions of U.S. dollars in defense related sales will open up new business venues for both countries and establish strong bilateral relations.

In addition, the U.S. defense technologies have important applications to domestic counterterrorism; these sales also expand beyond the defense establishment to law enforcement and border control challenges. Despite the tremendous new opportunities, U.S. policy makers need to keep a few crucial things in mind as the Indo-U.S. defense relation moves into new and uncharted territories.

The Indian diplomatic establishment to a lesser extent will look to the United Nations as a way of forming global consensus on multilateral issues and challenges that do not affect adversely India’s national interests. At the same time, New Delhi will fiercely protect its own domestic and bilateral issues such as, counterterrorism measures, the conflict in Kashmir, and the Indo-Chinese troubled relations.

India wants to become a regional power or even regional hegemon and secure diplomatic and defense agreements from nation-states that support this specific goal, while building an expeditionary navy and a strong air force. In addition, India builds a new army ready to deter a Pakistani onslaught or domestic terrorist activities.

Globally, India wants to develop "strategic partnerships" with nation-states perceived as leaders of a global, multicolor order, and seek to buy sophisticated military capabilities from many of these new relationships. This includes modern and highly sophisticated military assets as well as the technology and licensed production associated with those weapons and weapons systems.

Various military analysts argue that, India will most likely emphasize balance in its defense relations, especially with the larger powers of the United States, Russia, the EU, UK, and Israel. This balance will often be reflected in defense procurement decisions, as these are enduring symbols of the bilateral relationship. Most bilateral and multilateral military exercises will not be affected with considerations of balance, with the exception of larger, more visible exercises.

Furthermore, Indian political elite wants to secure or sustain diplomatic ties with smaller countries across the globe, many of which are member states of the Non Aligned Movement, that can provide a great support in international fora as well as provide potential markets Indian’s own emerging defense industry. India will maintain a position of leadership in the Non Aligned Movement and publicly appears itself as "nonaligned" despite its actual alignment. It is evident that India will achieve a serious defense industry to be reckoned.

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