Takshashila Institution hosted Rear Admiral Sudarshan Shrikhande on the 6th and 7th of June,2019, who gave a talk on ‘the Peloponnesian War’ and ‘Sea power and Indian Maritime Strategy’. Rear Admiral Shrikhande has commanded numerous ships (Rajput, Kora, Nishant) and has held prominent positions such as Defence Advisor to countries such as Australia, Fiji, Tonga. The admiral’s extensive knowledge and personal experience made the talk engaging and insightful.
The first session of the talk dealt with ‘The Peloponnesian War’ (431–404 BC) which was an ancient Greek war fought by the Delian League led by Athens against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta. The admiral began by discussing historical account of the war by the Athenian general and historian, Thucydides, who is considered to be the father of political realism. He is also the writer of ‘The History of Peloponnesian War’ and is known for his impartial outlook which is devoid of moral commentary. The views of other historians such as Clausewitz, Colin Grey, George Marshall were also brought up. The admiral explained that the need to study a war which is literally ‘Greek’ arises because this war has significant consequences in reshaping the Greek world. A diagrammatical representation of the concepts of war, warfare and strategy helped in enhancing the understanding of concepts. The admiral drew parallels between the historical references and the contemporary geo-political situation. This made the discussion relevant.
The second session of the talk dealt with ‘Sea power and Indian Maritime Strategy’. The session started off with the admiral elaborating on how weaker powers bridge the power asymmetry through the use of force. This was followed by a discussion of the economic costs of war, trade alliances, how it is essential to move beyond the conventional understanding of oil trade choke points and how they play a role in shaping maritime strategy. The significance of maritime power was emphasized by explaining that it helps a state to choose its neighbours.
The admiral expressed his views on India’s maritime strategy including the recent joint doctrine of 2017 giving an insightful thought that ‘people with ideas prevent innovations’. The talk ended with a comparative account of the advantage and disadvantage of sea power and air power.