B S Raghavan

Holistic vision for India's security

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on March 28, 2011

The vision for a country's security and the mission for policy planners drawing up a security doctrine are necessarily guided by its civilisational characteristics, cultural traditions, historical experiences and geographical endowments.

As regards India, its time-honoured civilisational values were firmly rooted in peace, tolerance and harmony among individuals, communities and nations. The literatures of every Indian language consistently hold out the maxims that the whole world is one, and it is incumbent on everyone to work for the well-being of all.

As the former President, Mr Abdul Kalam, never tires of pointing out, “In 3000 years of our history, people from all over the world have come and invaded us, captured our lands, conquered our minds.

From Alexander onwards, the Greeks, the Turks, the Moguls, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch, all of them came and looted us, took over what was ours. Yet we have not done this to any other nation. We have not conquered anyone. We have not grabbed their land, their culture, and their history and tried to enforce our way of life on them.”


Is there a case for factoring into India's security doctrine the principles of respect and tolerance that had been the hallmark of Indian culture , and the trust and the open heartedness with which the people had been imbued from ancient times?

Are they utopian notions which, according to a school of thought, have actually, often, done incalculable harm?

It is undeniable that the world of the 21{+s}{+t} century bears no correspondence to the conditions that prevailed millennia ago.

It is also true that the security doctrine in today's context cannot do without a practical and realistic SWOT analysis, taking account of the tremendous advances in science and technology, the cut-throat nature of the realpolitik that has come to dominate relations among nations, the each-country-for-itself-and-the-Devil-take-the-hindmost syndrome, the craving for quick fixes and short cuts and the mind-boggling destructive capacity of the military hardware at the disposal of each country.

Abdul Kalam has been clear-eyed and unambiguous in his vision for India on this count also. While acknowledging the greatness and nobility of Indian traditions, he has been emphatic that: “India must stand up to the world. Because I believe that unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. Only strength respects strength. We must be strong not only as a military power but also as an economic power. Both must go hand-in-hand.”

To paraphrase it from a slightly different standpoint, a holistic vision for India's security, while recognising the importance of armed strength, will have to be built on other types of strengths as well, of which economic strength constitutes only a part. Again, strength is not something that is readymade but will have to be determinedly striven for.

Rich dividends

In the process, it should be possible to turn around even factors taken to be weaknesses. For instance, India's population has every prospect of being converted into human capital by sustained attention paid to making education accessible and affordable to all, with an accent on skills development and entrepreneurship.

China had, in fact, drawn on its large population for its offensive infantry tactic of “human wave attack”!

On another plane, the same daunting demographic profile can help the country reap rich dividends by capitalising on the upsurge of the effective demand for goods and services from an expanding middle-class. With the security of a gigantic domestic market, India can ignore any brow-beating or blackmail on the international stage and pursue its own self-contained and self-reliant policies conducive to the buttressing of its national interest.

Finally, the vital role of India's geographical endowments — the mountain ranges, the long coast line, the river systems, a continent-size landmass home to incredible biodiversity — and the limitless natural wealth and rich resources they signify in respect of their symbiotic relationship with both internal and external security, cannot be underestimated.

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Published on March 25, 2011
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