B S Raghavan

Meeting India's security challenges

Updated on: Mar 15, 2011

In my last column (March 14) I pointed out how the absence of a national security doctrine for India constituted a dangerous vacuum and stressed the urgency of the Government coming out with one. In this column, I wish to set out the considerations that should weigh in formulating such a doctrine in the form of a skeletal outline which might at least provide a stimulus for further thinking.

Any security doctrine is predicated upon an exact delineation of the security environment. Very often, security policy planners take the prevailing security environment as a given, and work around it while drawing up the security parameters. They fall for this mistaken approach because it is the least demanding and is mostly banks on conventional wisdom.

Changes in environment

Instead, security planning should be a dynamic, proactive process, of which the central goal should be to bring about changes in the security environment itself so as to reduce the extent and severity of the threats to the country and maximise the gains in terms of peace, stability and economic and social well-being of the people.

For instance, by being focused on adopting a policy of accommodation, understanding, goodwill, and friendship towards its neighbours in a spirit of self-confidence and self-assurance, India can do a lot to transform the heated security ambience into one of mutually fruitful co-opetition (a blend of cooperation and competition).

Any amount of creative energy, innovation and ingenuity spent on such a forward thrust by leveraging the country's stature deriving from its democratic credentials, military prowess, past accomplishments and diplomatic capabilities is worthwhile for several reasons. First and foremost, it forces the country's ruling dispensation, combining within itself the political class, the policy makers and the Defence and security establishments to do some fresh and original thinking, and have a scrutinising second look at the validity of old assumptions, fixations and obsessions.

Haemorrhage of resources

Second, to the extent it enables jettisoning of the baggage found to be of no use in the current context and foreseeable future, it helps in the reordering of priorities in tune with the newly fashioned security landscape.

Third, it stops the haemorrhage of resources in Defence build-up, para-military, police and intelligence establishments, and insuring against surprises by constant readiness against attacks, and helps re-direct resources for the country's overall progress in raising the quality of life of its people.

Fourth, the very fact of a country demonstrating its willingness to reach out and build bridges will have a multiplier effect among other countries, especially those with whom the relations were previously tense, by lifting the levels of trust and faith in each other, and thus work to the benefit of all.

The most vital point to remember in all this is that security itself has become indivisible. The lethality of any conflict or confrontation, whether inside or outside the country, is today of a scale that merits the apt acronym MAD (mutually-assured destruction). To borrow a verbal barb from Winston Churchill, all the idiot children have the matches. It no longer makes sense to compartmentalise security into internal or external or ignore the impact of food, energy and livelihood security, and indeed, of the economic milieu as a whole.

A casual, case-by-case approach to Defence or security policy, overlooking the importance of dovetailing it with the country's total planning effort and economic, industrial and agricultural policy framework is clear invitation to disaster.

Finally, the Government should promote an informed debate on security issues by taking people and Parliament into confidence. A strong and enlightened base of citizen awareness is essential to guard against the Government acting on momentary prejudices and impulses. Forging a national consensus on vital and sensitive issues of national security is an invaluable adjunct of security policy formulation, as it will be reflective of the nation's collective will that no one dare trifle with.

Published on March 22, 2011

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