B S Raghavan

National Security Doctrine for India

Updated on: Mar 13, 2011

It took 50 years after Independence for the Government to set up the country's first National Security Council (NSC) in 1998. When, around that time, Mr K. C. Pant was assigned by the NDA Government the task of preparing a blueprint for the Council setting out its functions and the composition, he seems to have come across my two-part article in The Hindu, published on August 11-12, 1989, in which I had drawn attention to the glaring gaps in India's security policy planning and suggested a format and charter for the Council to suit Indian conditions. An exchange of letters and a discussion between us followed, which led to the incorporation of at least some of the ideas I had been advocating. It is quite another matter that the NSC has not lived up to the expectations raised and has been in a moribund condition.

One of the very first projects undertaken by the NSC ought to have been the drawing up of a cogent and comprehensive national security doctrine for the country, taking into account not only the internal and external security environment and their inter-linkages and implications, but also the Constitutional, political, social, economic, financial, scientific, technological and business and commercial dimensions of national security.

Media flutter

The next anyone hears about any such exercise relating to security is the unveiling of India's nuclear doctrine on August 17, 1999 by the then National Security Advisor, Mr Brajesh Misra. It laid down the ‘fundamental purpose' of Indian nuclear weapons to be to deter the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons by any State or entity against India and its forces. It also declared that India will not be the first to initiate a nuclear strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail. It was good as far as it went but it was confined to only one aspect of India's overall security framework.

There was a sudden media flutter in March 2009 to the effect that “Forced into action by a dramatically changing security environment that has only worsened since the Mumbai attacks (26/11), the UPA government (had) started …drawing up a first-ever national security doctrine”. There has been no word since then as to the progress made in this direction. There has obviously been none for, on October 22, 2010, we find the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, calling for an “enlightened national security policy”, with the concept of contemporary national security being set “within a wider strategic and economic and social matrix”, and based on a holistic appreciation of the inter-related aspects and concerns impinging on a nation's overall well-being. He has also stressed the importance of modernisation of ‘defence doctrines', in view of the indispensable role of military power in buttressing the nation's stability and strength, and its ability to defend itself against armed aggression or insurgency.


It is strange that a country like India which had gone through crisis after crisis resulting from militancy, insurgency, terrorist attacks, dangers inherent, on the one side, in the unsettled border dispute with a neighbour with hegemonist ambitions and, on the other, in the nuclear arsenal of an anarchic neighbour falling into jihadi hands and imponderables on the global arena, should still be practising adhocism in managing its security imperatives.

Contrast this with the US where its NSC is vibrant and active and each President, on assuming charge, is required by law to make public the national security doctrine that his Administration intends to follow. For instance, the new national security doctrine of the Obama Administration has thrown overboard George Bush's policy of pre-emptive strikes and regime-change. It takes an all-inclusive approach to national security integrating diplomatic engagement, domestic economic discipline and amity among communities at home with military power to bolster America's standing in the world.

A national security doctrine for India is long overdue. The security establishment had better come up with one pronto!

Published on March 18, 2011

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