International Politics

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 87–102 | Cite as

Strategic culture reconceptualized: the case of India and the BJP

  • Muhammad Shoaib PervezEmail author
Original Article


In this paper I argue that strategic culture is shaped by the ideology of a political party and is carried through elites’ practices. A state’s decision to become a nuclear power is often explained by rational choice theories. These theories assume states as rational actors and explain their behavior by cost–benefit calculation, keeping in mind the material cost involved in such decisions. The problem with such approaches is that they usually underemphasize the impact of other influences like culture. One such variable is the role of a political party’s ideology that influences the identities of state elites and helps shape their strategic behavior. Therefore, strategic culture is appropriately explained by looking at intervening variable of elite socialization that stems from the persuasive power of socially constructed norms of political parties.


Strategic culture Practices Ideology Elites’ socialization Norms Social constructivism 



I am indebted to anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on earlier submissions. I am also thankful to Prof. Dr. Robert Jervis, the doyen of International Relations for his mentorship during my stay at Columbia University (2014–2015), and to the USEFP for providing me the Fulbright Grant for this purpose. I am also grateful to my beloved wife Sadia for her unwavering trust on my capabilities, and finally, my debt is also due to my two sons Muneeb and Moiz for giving me time to pursue my intellectual pursuits.


  1. Abraham, I. 1999. Making of the Indian atomic bomb: Science, secrecy and the postcolonial state. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  2. Acharya, A. 2009. Whose ideas matter: Agency and power in Asian regionalism. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Appaiah, P. 2003. Hindutva: Ideology and politics. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Bajpai, K. 2011. The BJP and the bomb. In Inside nuclear South Asia, ed. S.D. Sagan, 25–67. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bapu, P. 2013. Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial India, 1915–1930: Constructing nation and history. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Barnett, M. 2011. Social constructivism. In The globalization of world politics, ed. J. Baylis, S. Smith, and P. Owens, 148–165. New York: Oxford University.Google Scholar
  7. Basu, A. 2013. The changing fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In Routledge handbook of Indian politics, ed. A. Kohli, and P. Singh, 81–90. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Biehl, H., B. Giegerich, et al. (eds.). 2013. Strategic cultures in Europe: Security and defence policies across the continent. Springer VS: Potsdam.Google Scholar
  9. Booth, K. 2005. Strategic culture: Validity and validation. Oxford Journal on Good Governance 2(1): 25–28.Google Scholar
  10. Buzan, B., and O. Waever. 2003. Regions and powers: The structure of international security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Checkel, J. 2008. Process Tracing. In Qualitative methods in international relations: A pluralist guide, ed. A. Klotz, and D. Prakash, 114–129. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Checkel, J.T. 2006. Constructivism and EU politics. In Handbook of European Union politics, ed. K.E. Jorgensen, M.A. Pollack, and B. Rosamond, 57–76. London, Sage: Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chitkara, M.G. 2003. Hindutva pariwar. New Delhi: A.P.H. Publishing Corporation.Google Scholar
  14. Dueck, C. 2006. Power, culture and change in American grand strategy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Finnemore, M. 1996a. National interests in international society. London: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Finnemore, M. 1996b. Norms, culture, and world politics: insights from sociology’s institutionalism. International Organisation 50(2): 325–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Finnemore, M., and K. Sikkink. 1998. International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization 52(4): 887–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Frey, K. 2009. Guardians of the nuclear myth: Politics, ideology and India’s strategic community. In South Asian cultures of the bomb, ed. I. Abraham, 195–212. New Delhi: Orient BackSwan.Google Scholar
  19. Ganguly, S. 1999. India’s pathway to pokhran II. International Security 23(4): 148–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ghosh, P.S. 2000. BJP and the evolution of hindu nationalism. New Delhi: Manohar Publishers and Distributors.Google Scholar
  21. Gilboy, G.J., and E. Heginbotham. 2012. Chinese and Indian strategic behavior: Growing power and alarm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Glenn, J. 2009. Realism versus strategic culture: Competition and collaboration? International Studies Review 11(3): 523–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gray, C.S. 1999. Strategic culture as context: The first generation of theory strikes back. Review of International Studies 25(1): 49–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gray, C.S. 2006. Out of the Wilderness: Prime Time for Strategic Culture. Washington: National Institute Press.Google Scholar
  25. Haglund, D.G. 2011. ‘Let’s call the whole thing off’? Security culture as strategic culture. Contemporary Security Policy 32(3): 494–516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hansen, T.B. 1999. The saffron wave: Democracy and hindu nationalism in modern India. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hooghe, M. 2004. Political socialization and the future of politics. Acta Politica 39: 331–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hudson, V.M. (ed.). 1997. Culture and foreign policy. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Hymans, J.E.C. 2006. The psychology of nuclear proliferation: Identity, emotions, and foreign policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jaffrelot, C. 1996. The hindu nationalist movement in India. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Jaffrelot, C. 2005. The sangh parivar: A reader. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jaffrelot, C. 2007. Hindu nationalism: A reader. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Johnston, A.I. 1995. Thinking about strategic culture. International Security 19(4): 32–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Johnston, A.I. 1999. Strategic culture revisited: reply to colin gray. Review of International Studies 25(3): 519–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Katzenstein, P.J. 1993. Coping with terrorism: Norms and internal security in Germany and Japan. In Ideas and foreign policy, ed. J. Goldstein, and R.O. Keohane, 265–295. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Katzenstein, P.J. 1996. The culture of national security: Norms and identity in world politics. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kennedy, A.B. 2011. India’s nuclear odyssey: Implicit umbrellas, diplomatic disappointments, and the bomb. International Security 36(2): 120–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Klein, B.S. 1988. Hegemony and strategic culture: American power projection and alliance defence politics. Review of International Studies 14(2): 133–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lantis, J.S., and D. Howlett. 2013. Strategic culture. In Strategy in the contemporary world, ed. J. Baylis, J.J. Wirtz, and C.S. Gray, 84–101. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Lapid, Y. 1989. The third debate: On the prospects of international theory in a post-positivist era. International Studies Quarterly 33(3): 235–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lapid, Y., and F. Kratochwil (eds.). 1995. The return of culture and identity in IR theory. London: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  42. Narang, V. 2014. Nuclear strategy in the modern era: Regional powers and international conflict. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Neumann, I.B., and H. Heikka. 2005. Grand strategy, strategic culture, practice: The social roots of Nordic defence. Cooperation and Conflict 40(1): 5–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Norheim-Martinsen, P.M. 2011. EU strategic culture: When the means becomes the end. Contemporary Security Policy 32(3): 517–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ogden, C. 2010. Norms, Indian foreign policy and the 1998–2004 national democratic alliance. The Round Table-The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 99(408): 303–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ogden, C. 2014. Hindu nationalism and the evolution of contemporary Indian security: Portents of power. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Perkovich, G. 2000. India’s nuclear bomb. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Pervez, M.S. 2013. Security community in South Asia: India–Pakistan. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. Puri, G. 2005. Hindutva politics in India: Genesis, political strategies and growth of Bharatiya Janata Party. Delhi: UBS Publishers Distributors Pvt. Ltd.Google Scholar
  50. Reijn, J.V. 2013. Intelligence and strategic culture: Essays on American and British Praxis since the Second World War. In Intelligence and strategic culture, ed. I. Deyvesteyn. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Sagan, S.D. 2011a. The causes of nuclear weapons proliferation. Annual Review of Political Science 14: 225–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sagan, S.D. (ed.). 2011b. Inside nuclear South Asia. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  53. Schmidt, P., and B. Zyla. 2011. European security policy: Strategic culture in operation? Contemporary Security Policy 32(3): 484–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schweller, R. 2003. The progressiveness of neoclassic realism. In Progress in international theory, ed. C. Elman, and M. Elman. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  55. Singh, J. 2013. India at risk: Mistakes, misconceptions and misadventures of security policy. New Delhi: Rupa Publications.Google Scholar
  56. Snyder, J.L. 1977. The soviet strategic culture: Implications for nuclear options. Santa Monica, California: Rand Corporation.Google Scholar
  57. Solingen, E. 2007. Nuclear logics: Alternative paths in East Asia and the Middle East. New Jersy: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Varadarajan, L. 2004. Constructivism, identity and neoliberal (in) security. Review of International Studies 30(3): 319–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Veer, P.V.D. 1994. Religious nationalism Hindus and Muslims in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Veer, P.V.D. 2002. Transnational religion: Hindu and Muslim movements. Global Networks 2(2): 95–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Waever, O. 1995. Securitization and desecuritization. In On Security, ed. R.D. Lipschutz, 46–86. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Williams, M.C. 2007. Culture and security: Symbolic power and the politics of international security. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Management and TechnologyLahorePakistan

Personalised recommendations