One of the remarkable features of the 21st century is the increasingly egalitarian nature of communications, so much so that access to and participation in matters that affect the State, matters that were hitherto under a veil of secrecy, are today open to free debate and to a (truer) democratization of perspectives. The Strategic Dialogues is driven by such an ideal and is intended to be a forum where points of view on the subject can be aired.
The ‘strategic approach’ primarily derives from two critical characteristics of the international system. The first of these is the endemic instability of protagonists involved in the system; whether it is their politics, national interests, alliances or even their historical antagonisms, which when in interaction with the larger global setting, causes friction, a sense of deprivation, and generates a chemistry of volatility. The second is the function of the State as a sovereign entity that is charged with guardianship of certain specific and, at times, unique set of values, ever so often contrary and in opposition to the larger system. In form, the strategic approach addresses the need to adopt a cogent theory which integrates the promotion, nurturing and maintenance of force, while in substance, it aims to create a convincing contract for use.
The contemporary era is in a complex state of evolution. There is an old world, more a creation of the mind; there is a world that has been churned by technology; and then, there is yet another, the real world stimulated by economics and material conditions. We have unfortunately, through the civilizations that we have inherited, put all three in a continuous state of agitation. These three worlds impact on the circumstances in which we live and on our very being and wrench the international system in directions that are not entirely predictable. They take the form of the conflicting politics of the day, a virulent nationalism that does not harmonize with the realities of technology and global economics and fragmented leadership that seem to exult in the absence of common purpose. The symptoms of the now we inhabit carry the face of an Assange; speak in the voice of a Gandhi and more often, that of an Osama; and act with the brutal unfeeling of a drone attack. In all this if there is one consideration that opens a window to understanding, it is to create fora where the mind can be fertilized in order to engage with the things that overwhelm us, be it a financial meltdown or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Strategic Dialogues provides one such space. I welcome contributions by way of articles and comments with the sincere hope that this will grow into a larger forum.
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About the Author: Vice Admiral (retd.) Vijay Shankar PVSM, AVSM, is the former Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Forces Command of India. He is also former Commander-in-Chief of the Andaman & Nicobar Command and Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet. His command and operational experience are comprehensive and include Command of INS Viraat, the aircraft carrier, active service during the 1971 war, Operation Pawan (the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka), and Operation Vijay, to vacate the Kargil intrusion. He holds an MSc. in Defense Studies and is a graduate of the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, USA.
The Admiral retired on 30 September 2009, after nearly 45 years in uniform. Since retirement, he has lectured widely both in India–at the Staff College, Higher Command College, the United Services Institute and the National Maritime Foundation, amongst other venues–and abroad.
Internationally, his participation in the Global Zero initiative, Track II Ottawa Dialogue, the Bellagio Carnegie Endowment discussions, the Indo-Sino-Pak trilateral dialogue, Chaophraya Dialogue, and the papers he has presented there, seek to provide a new paradigm for nuclear security on the sub-continent. He has delivered lectures and participated in discussions at academic and research institutions in the US., including Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Security Studies Program, The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, The Howard Baker Center for Public Policy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore Open Campus, The Atlantic Council,
and The Carnegie Endowment for Peace.
Vice Admiral (retd.) Shankar is a Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru, India, and has tenanted the Admiral Katari Chair of Excellence at the United Services Institute.