The hype created about uncertainty of the outcome of election 2019 has ended with the nation re-imposing its faith in the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and expressing satisfaction with the performance of the government led by him. The new government has been sworn in, is firmly in saddle and has begun its work from day one. The nation was watching with expectation as to who become the four most important members of the cabinet to form the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
PM Modi nominated the two tallest leaders of the party to head the sensitive departments of Defence and Home while a seasoned diplomat with a grip on India’s relations with China and India got the external affairs and an economist and ex-defence minister was entrusted with Finance. PM’s decision was hailed by one and all. All these ministries form the pillars of national security and by putting those in capable hands Modi signalled the intent of the government to ensure paramountcy of national security as one of its main focus areas.
National Security formed an important issue during the campaign. Modi government is keen to prove that it was not a mere electoral rhetoric but the government is very serious and sincere about it. Accordingly, the first meeting chaired by the new Home Minister was about J&K and he also spent considerable time that day with the Governor of the state who is also running the current administration in the state. Similarly, the Defence Minister wasted no time in visiting Siachen and Kashmir to get first hand views from the operational commanders.
.National Security is the responsibility of the government for which it is required to enact a policy to safeguard nation’s territorial integrity, its cultural identity, protect the interests of its nationals across the globe and develop capability to influence global as well as regional affairs. National security is all encompassing, wide ranging and includes non-military dimensions as well. It includes defence, diplomacy, data security, energy security, economy, climatic issues including water, food security, internal security, national resources (both natural and human resources) security, maritime security, and cyber and space security. Accordingly, the threats, risks and challenges are manifold and across the spectrum.
Unfortunately, we lack a cohesive response due to lack of a comprehensive national security strategy. India is inching towards becoming a Vishwa Guru and a formidable power. It is therefore imperative that the government formulates a National Security Doctrine to begin with. From the doctrine will flow the National Security Strategy. To stake our claim as a formidable power we have to ensure that we have enough means militarily and otherwise to ensure protection of our vital national interests and national security objectives. There is a need to identify weaknesses and gaps in our security structure and take measures to plug them. National Security Strategy will enable different stake holders in the government to carry out an “ends versus means” analysis and prepare the perspective plans for their respective ministries.
National Security Advisor (NSA) plays a crucial role in the enhanced national security structure. He not only acts as the advisor of the Prime Minister but also acts as a coordinator between different ministries to give comprehensive advice to the PM. With wide ranging spheres of security and some of them overlapping, coordination is needed. The PM has shown confidence in the present NSA and honoured him with a Cabinet rank. The moot question is should the NSA be accountable to the Parliament also? A national debate on the issue is needed.
There is a need to develop India into a military power. Without a strong military, no nation can claim to be a formidable power. Our military suffers from neglect and needs to be modernised. The existing deficiencies and future requirements to cater for newer conventional and. non-conventional threats need to be made up. Procurement procedures need to be made efficient and accountable. We also have to be prepared to meet challenges from the neighbourhood. Any instability in the neighbourhood will have effect on India as well. We need to develop capability for regional intervention as well as for regional and maritime projection. Adequate deterrence capabilities across all spectrum from sub-conventional to nuclear will make us a perfect military power. This will also be adequate to meet the threat of two and a half front war. The entire exercise demands higher allocation for the defence budget. The current allocation of 1.5% of GDP is grossly inadequate, in fact, it is barely adequate for India to remain a military force. In order to make it a military power higher budgetary support of 2.5-3.5% of the GDP is needed.
‘Integration’ and ‘joint man ship’ is the need of the hour as all future wars will be fought jointly. Nation needs a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to provide single-point advice to CCS on military matters. In order to overcome the political differences and inter-services rivalry, the government would be required to take the legislative route as was done in America through Goldwater Nicholas Act. In an integrated tri-service environment, the present system of geographical commands by respective services will lose relevance. Integrated tri-services theatre commands are needed to synergise the capabilities of all the three services. The British inherited command and control structure including the Ministry of Defence need drastic reforms. A total amalgamation of the three service headquarters with MOD to enable entrance of service officers in MOD to utilise their domain expertise is a big challenge for the government. It was one of the major recommendations of Kargil Review Committee but for a few cosmetic changes no concrete measures have been put into effect to remove the anomaly.
A sound and modernised intelligence network, indigenization of defence industry, R&D, creation of strategic assets including their command and control, a talented pool of manpower with analytical skills for understanding and interpreting ongoing changes in the world and their implication on India’s security, capabilities to counter hybrid threats and absorption of future technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI) , Internet of Things (IOT) and Internet of Weapons (IOW), robotics, cyber and space warfare, historical research and scenario building capability are the other challenges the government will have to address.
As an emerging power, the need is not to only ensure our maritime security but to emerge as a formidable maritime power. Indian Navy has a major role to play in the Indian Ocean. A modernised and net-worked Air Force not only acts as a force-multiplier but also acts as a deterrent.
On the internal security front, the biggest challenge and top most priority is Jammu & Kashmir. A comprehensive J&K policy to bring permanent and lasting peace in the state to include strategy to counter Pak sponsored proxy war including terrorism, action against terror support network, terror funding and financing, purging of compromised and radicalised elements in state administration, police and education department, regaining the confidence of Kashmiri youth through good governance, removal of regional disparities and treating Jammu &Ladakh as equal stake holders. Left Wing Extremism (LWE), though on decline, continues to be a challenge.
India is increasingly coming under the threat of global jihadi terror outfits. ISIS is trying to increase its footfall through ISIS affiliated and ISIS inspired local groups. The network is vast and spread across the country. Radicalisation is the root cause. A comprehensive national policy to counter radicalisation and for de-radicalisation is needed urgently. Implementation of the policy and its monitoring would be a big challenge for the government.
Modernisation of state police forces continues to be a weak link in the chain of national security. Modernised and well-trained forces can act as a trip-wire against sabotage and other internal security threats.
With the changing geo-political environment, on-going trade war between China and the US, growing “assertiveness” (my way or highway) of USA and re-emergence of ISIS, makes it imperative for us to give top priority to national security. History bears testimony to the fact that no nation can emerge as a regional and global power through “soft power” only.
The author is a Jammu based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst. The expressed views are entirely personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]