India Flexes Its Muscle

Behind New Delhi's Assertive Foreign Policy

The Indo-Myanmar border bridge at the border town of Moreh, in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, January 2012.  Rupak De Chowdhuri / Courtesy Reuters

On June 9, Indian special forces walked several miles into Myanmar (also called Burma) and destroyed two rebel camps, an act of retaliation for a bloody ambush of Indian soldiers by three separatist groups the previous week. The cross-border raid sparked interest and concern within India and across South Asia. The conventional wisdom is that India is averse to flexing its military muscles. Just a month ago, a retired Indian military officer and veteran analyst, Gurmeet Kanwal, wrote in the southern Indian newspaper the Deccan Herald that India’s is “a pacifist strategic culture steeped in Gandhian non-violence.” In their book on India’s military, Brookings’ Stephen Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta have highlighted India’s “ideological rejection of the use of armed force.” Such assumptions are deep-rooted and commonplace.

Indian soldiers during an anti-terrorist exercise in the north eastern Indian state of Mizoram near the boder of Myanmar, September 2004 Jayanta Shaw / Courtesy Reuters
Now India appears to be flexing. In lots of ways, the Myanmar raid was like the many others India has conducted over

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