Even with a scintillating title and a striking cover depicting “lifting an elephant single-handed”, Arming Without Aiming says nothing new on the malaise in Indian strategic and defence planning. Indian defence analysts have repeatedly called for defence reforms, white papers, and policy and political guidelines without any outcome. Will the political and bureaucratic class heed the damning critique of Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta? Unlikely. But they should read the book, as it recaps what they already know but do nothing to set right.
It is difficult to disagree with the central issue of India’s strategic restraint which has inhibited the use of force to alter the strategic balance in its favour. This deficiency is due to the bias, the authors say, towards development rather than defence, stemming from an ideological rejection of the armed forces as an instrument of state policy. They argue that strategic restraint leads to an astounding lack of political direction in India’s military modernisation, haphazard defence planning, lack of strategic thinking and dissipated decision-making.