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Paper No. 656                                    08.04.2003

by Dr. Subhash Kapila 

Background: This author’s paper “INDIA’S MILITARY LESSONS FROM GULF WAR II” (SAAG Paper No. 644) appeared on South Asia Analysis Group Website on 27.03.2003. Subsequently, it appeared on Headline News on ‘Sify’ and ‘Samachar’ websites. The author feels humbled by the overwhelming responses that followed in terms of e-mails from all over the world- USA, UK, Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand and India of course. 

The views expressed by this author in terms of building India’s strategic assets, specifically ICBMs and SLBMs found overwhelming support and demands have been made by Indians all over the world that India’s ICBM and SLBM programme should be speeded and that India’s political leadership should heed Gulf War II as a “wake-up call”. 

It is the intention of this paper to share the responses of Indians from all over the world, who seem to care more about India’s security than those sitting in the homeland. 

But before that for the benefit of those readers who missed out on the earlier paper, a ‘RECAP” of the crucial points in that paper, specific to India would be in order. 

Gulf War II- Military Implications for India: A Recap

Summarised, the following was reflected in the paper under discussion by this author:

* India needs to take note of the distinctive characteristics of the United States rationales and impulses for “War s of Pre-emption” and also its military characteristics.

While United States and India may not be on a collision course presently, it does not take long for the international equations to change.

* United States in its declaratory policies has asserted that the emergence of the regional dominant powers is unacceptable for its national security interests.

* India is indisputably the natural pre-eminent power in South Asia and US-India contradictions are bound to emerge on this score.

* India cannot mortgage its national security to future pious intentions of any major power.

*  In brief, therefore, India in terms of lessons from Gulf War II needs to build up at crash speed her strategic assets:

1. ICBMs


2. SLBMs

3. Aircraft

4. Anti-missiles Systems

5. Air Defence systems

6. Military Satellites.

In conclusion, it was pointed out that historically and contemporarily, two stark facts which stand out, which need to be noted by India are:

* Japan would not have been subjected to atomic bombings by USA, if it  had the similar capability.

* Iraq would not have been subjected to Gulf War II if it had credible WMD capabilities.  Why is North Korea with proven WMDs being not subjected to similar treatment by USA as Iraq?

The answers to the above are obvious and it is this which must galvanize India into building of her strategic assets to pre-empt “Wars of Pre-emption.”

Responses to the above Paper  

A broad sampling of responses quoted verbatim are reproduced below. However to safeguard the privacy of the respondents, their names and addresses are being withheld. 

From India- A Top Executive in India’s Largest Industrial Group  

A brilliant article particularly the last part “Military Implications for India

I have long believed that India cannot play its natural role in world affairs till it develops and demonstrates that it has developed ICBMs. 

Our second strike capability (should) not (be) just aimed at the nation that has struck us, but equally to all nations that have supported, promoted and armed that nation. It is a question of will, of self-perception and self-esteem. As long as in our sub-conscious, we look upon ourselves as a second-hand nation always implementing foreign ideas, we will remain exactly so.

From a Catholic Priest   

Thanks for the thought-provoking article. I want to say that I appreciate your views very much. As you have mentioned, it is imperative that we acquire the ICBMs and the operational level atomic bomb at the earliest. 

I am a Catholic Priest and a Pacifist. However seeing the present international circumstances where the UN is simply undermined, I think we have no other options. 

America is an arrogant and belligerent superpower---  

It may be Iraq today and it may be India tomorrow. It is not simply a possibility for argument sake. Given their track record, we must expect it. Let us be prepared for any eventuality. I now understand what Dr Kalam said: “Power respects Power”.

We must not in any case undermine our cooperation with Russia. It is a time-tested friendship. 

I think the present Government and its radical right wing groups are much fascinated by the Americans. 

From USA

 I read your article Gulf War II: Military Lessons for India. It is very nice article. You gave the perfect requirements INDIA should consider immediately. If possible please email this article to the President, PM, Deputy PM and to Defence Minister. After reading this article at least they would realize how important to have these weapons. If we don’t have these capabilities other countries (USA) will always try to blackmail India” 

From USA 

“I totally agree with your views and have an applause for the points that you have given and the due course for India to make “ICBMs” and have seen the necessity for them in the current situation in the world. 

I still do not understand why Govt. of India is not going ahead with the (ICBM) program. I do not want history to repeat itself and India to become a scapegoat for the dirty imperialistic goals of the west. 

I even thought of starting an organization that would collect funds for the ICBM program, if at all the requirement was monetary. 

From UK 

You have written an excellent piece. I hope it gets to the decision makers. USA with all the military might would have been a lot less effective if they did not have any launch pad i.e. Kuwait. So India has to make sure there are no launch pads near India i.e. Pakistan and / or Bangladesh or even Sri Lanka. 

From USA 

‘Your article hit the spot in terms of the military stance that India needs to take. Before we builds ICBMs we need to show the courage to deal more directly with groups like LeT, Hizbm, JEM. This issue…(when a militant can blow up India’s Parliament) also speaks of our character as a nation. I can think of no other nation in the world which has tolerated open terrorist action for over 15 years. I can think of no other nation which let its hostile neighbours develop nukes, knowing that nuke will totally change our security paradigm.” 

Let us get the nation’s character and leadership in the right frame of mind…

 From an Indian-origin Academic Abroad 

Just a quick note to let you know that I could not agree more with your analysis on the military lessons for India. 

But I wonder a country that has been unable to buy jet trainers after 20 years of negotiations has what it takes to arm itself with ICBMs, SLBMs…. 

Its time to ask George to deliver or  quit (even though I have been an admirer of Fernandes) 

Its either force modernization and expansion or resignation. 

Unfortunately, not a single defence analyst in India has asked for this. 

From USA 

It is very true that India needs to develop its strategies and capabilities in defence. But does this message get to the politician and officials in the defence department who have to bring all you said into action.

 I feel there is a huge gap between people who think ahead for our country’s defence and people who are in power and need to ACT to implement the same. 

I sincerely wish that this message (article) would inspire the people who are responsible to bring about the changes you mentioned in your article to actually do the needful so that we wouldn’t endanger our nation’s security.

From USA 

I think u r absolutely correct that India should acquire ICBMs and all the other equipment; the way the world is going. As they say, prevention is better than cure. I hope the Indian Govt. can listen to your voice.

Long live India. 

From New Zealand

I read your article and totally agree with you.

I firmly believe that in the near future, the Americans and the British are very likely to target India. 

The stupid Indian politicians have to act now and act fast. 

From India  

“ I was very impressed with your article and I believe what you predict should be India’s course of action is absolutely correct.” 

We should have no one to put us down and threaten us. 

From UK. Business Extensive 

“ Further to your editorial I complement you on perceiving correctly the order of the day for India and what should be the plan of action for the future." 

From Sweden: An Indian Educationist 

Reading your article about “Gulf War II: Military Lessons for India”, gave me such an inspiration that I was obliged to write you about your commendable article. A real good work and with far sightedness.

I hope politicians in India get the message and act Now. 

From USA

“You have written a fantastic piece on Gulf War II-Lessons India can Learn.” 

I have already forwarded your article to a few hundred people. And I am sure my friends would have forwarded it to a few thousands and few hundreds of thousands by the time you have received and read my this mail. Your article has given us confidence in the abilities of my country.

 Concluding Observations: The sampling of opinion from all over the world lead to the following conclusions: 

* Indians all over the world, overwhelmingly, desire that India launches a crash programme to build-up her ICBM and SLBM arsenal to cater for ‘pre-emptive’ strategic doctrines.

 * Indian’s overwhelmingly feel that India’s political leadership is not sufficiently alive to the imperatives of building up an ICBM and SLBM arsenal. Or else, they are weak-kneed in succumbing to external pressures not to do so.

 * Nothing highlights the intensity of the above Indian public opinion than the Catholic priest, a declared pacifist who now has been led to believe that India has no options in the contemporary world but to build up her ICBMs and nuclear weapons.

No political leadership of any hue can ignore Indian public opinion which is always well-informed, politically conscious and alive to external dangers. India, historically, has always been  let down strategically by her rulers. The people were always vigilant. 


The Government of the day, which claims to have given overriding priority to national security should not be found wanting or vacillating or succumbing to external pressures, in building up India’s strategic assets and capabilities.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email <drsubhashkapila>)