Changing dimensions of National Security

Issue:

Geo-politics, strategic and technological developments keep adding uncertainties and new dimensions to national security.

The nature of conflicts and the objectives of war are changing. There are new combat theatres, such as cyber and space. While nuclear and high-level conventional wars cannot be entirely ruled out, recent trends show greater likelihood of sub-conventional, hybrid and limited wars. The number of such conflicts has increased substantially in the last few years.

India’s security challenges:

India has a difficult neighbourhood and a full spectrum of security challenges. India has over 4,900 km long unresolved borders with two major neighbours. Both are nuclear armed. Over the years, they have established a strong strategic nexus/alliance against India.

On May 14, China’s leader Xi Jinping, in the presence of 29 foreign leaders in Beijing, unveiled the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. Audaciously ambitious, OBOR envisages the economic as well as military supremacy of China. It will reshape the world order, and place China firmly at its summit.

Issues with China:

In the last few years, China has extended its claim to the whole of Arunachal Pradesh. Already occupying Aksai Chin and Shaksgam part of Gilgit-Baltistan, it has shown no desire to resolve the boundary dispute, or even to delineate the line of actual control. Its geo-strategic pincer around India has come closer and stronger. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), if and when it succeeds, will be a regional game-changer. It would affect our relationship not only with Pakistan, but also with Central Asia, and even Afghanistan, which has remained neutral on this specific issue so far.

Issues with Pakistan:

The legacy of Partition continues to fuel its unremitting animosity towards India. Kashmir and terrorism are only an expression

In dealing with Pakistan, India now have to consider China, the US, and even Russia. China has been equipping Pakistan with strategic and conventional military capabilities. With CPEC, it is only a matter of time before we see more Chinese boots in Pakistan to protect their assets and personnel. The US will continue to provide support to Pakistan, so long as it remains entangled in Afghanistan. The developing Russia-Pakistan military bonhomie indicates that India can no longer take Russia for granted.

Important non-traditional security challenges:

  • The lack of strategic and security awareness of our ruling elite;
  • Partisan politics over national security issues which includes drawing the armed forces into political cross-fire
  • India’s defence management.

What need to be done?

  • The requirement to re-organise the Ministry of Defence, its business rules and appointment of a CDS has been talked of ever since the Kargil war. This has been recommended by the Kargil Review Committee in 1999, the Group of Ministers in 2002, and the Naresh Chandra Committee in 2012.
  • It is essential to develop, prioritise and optimally employ inter-services capabilities and promote jointness in the armed forces. But vested interests and government unwillingness have successfully dodged this important national security challenge.

Conclusion:

India’s security challenges are less traditional war threats, more diffused and ambiguous. What is worrisome currently is not just the external threats, but India’s weakening from inside: Weakening institutions, poor governance, sharpening political, social and ethnic divides, internal security, and lack of strategic vision and thinking. India needs more aware and saner political leadership to handle both the external and internal factors, with soft as well as hard power, and with as much consensus as possible.

Countering national security challenges and decision-making can no longer be dealt with in silos. These challenges require multi-disciplinary vertical and lateral consultations, and much faster decision-making.

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