Insights into Editorial: A blueprint for a national security strategy
A National Security Strategy or Policy (NSS or NSP) is a key framework for a country to meet the basic needs and security concerns of citizens, and address external and internal threats to the country.
It is pertinent to ask, even today, whether India thinks about strategic affairs in a systematic, consistent and coherent manner or whether its national security runs on ad hoc arrangements and ‘raw wisdom’.
Human security involves basing the understanding of security on the needs of citizens, not just those of the government/State.
In addition to focusing on the effectiveness of security providers, many of the more recent, forward-looking NSS’s incorporate a number of key issues as a way of ensuring their relevance, public legitimacy, ownership, and sustainability, as well as facilitating their implementation and improving the efficiency of how security is provided.
Structural Reforms in National Security Planning:
More national security organisations are not the answer. Fundamental structural reforms in national security planning are needed.
For instance, Take the case of the recently constituted Defence Planning Committee (DPC) tasked to recommend policy measures to improve India’s defence capability and preparedness, and national security in general.
Not only does the DPC have too many responsibilities on its plate, it is also an advisory body.
More worryingly, there is a feeling among the armed forces that by having the NSA chair the DPC, the government may have scuttled the demands to appoint a Chief of the Defence Staff, an issue the Hooda document highlights.
Major shortcomings in India’s national security architecture:
There is a need to take a relook at some of our key national security institutions and revamp their functioning.
Powerless National Security Council (NSC):
- First, The National Security Council (NSC) set up in 1998 almost never meets, primarily because it is an advisory body, with the Cabinet Committee on Security being the executive body.
- If the NSC is to be made more useful, the government’s allocation of business rules should be amended to give more powers to the NSC and its subordinate organisations, such as the Strategic Policy Group.
Second, the job of the National Security Adviser needs to be reimagined:
- Even though the NSA plays a vital role in national security, he has no legal powers as per the government’s allocation of business rules.
- The C. Pant Task Force in the late 1990s had recommended the creation of an NSA with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.
- Over the years, the NSA’s powers have increased, even though he is not accountable to Parliament. The institution of the NSA today requires more accountability and legal formality.
The Hooda document:
There is a need to adopt the Gen. Hooda’s National security strategy document after internal consultations.
The guiding philosophy of the document is enshrined in the following sentence:
- This strategy recognises the centrality of our people. We cannot achieve true security if large sections of our population are faced with discrimination, inequality, lack of opportunities, and buffeted by the risks of climate change, technology disruption, and water and energy scarcity.
This is by far the most comprehensive treatment of National security in the Indian context.
The document offers a comprehensive definition of national security ranging from challenges posed by new technologies to social unrest to inequality.
Key Recommendations of the document:
Gen. Hooda’s National security strategy document defines security in an out-of-the box and inclusive manner.
A glance at the key themes shows how well-designed the document is:
- “Assuming our rightful place in global affairs”, “achieving a secure neighbourhood”, “peaceful resolution of internal conflicts”, “protecting our people” and “strengthening our capabilities”.
The key recommendations in the document are both timely and well-thought-out.
- On the issue of military jointmanship, it recommends that “the three services should undertake a comprehensive review of their current and future force structures to transform the army, navy and air force into an integrated warfighting force.”
- It argues that it would take “a cultural change in the way the DRDO is currently operating” to improve domestic defence production.
While discussing emerging national security threats, the document differs with the present government’s decision to set up a Defence Cyber Agency instead of a Cyber Command as was originally recommended.
On the Kashmir question too, the document seems to differ with the incumbent government’s muscular policy, and General Hooda’s words should be a wakeup call for everyone: Killing terrorists is an integral part of military operations to ensure that the state does not descend into chaos.
However, this is not the primary measure of success or conflict resolution.
Serious efforts are required for countering radicalisation. There is a need to initiate structured programmes that bring together civil society members, family groups, educationists, religious teachers and even surrendered terrorists in an effort to roll back radicalisation.
Let’s hope that this document is the beginning of a tradition in India of thinking about national security and strategy more systematically, consistently and comprehensively.