In the absence of a National Security Strategy document that has been promised umpteen times but has never seen the light of the day, ministerial speeches and statements provide a bird’s eye view of the government of the day’s strategy or ends, ways and means chart in India.
Dissuasion and Deterrence to facilitate security, interests abroad and global commons broadly appears to be the same.
The key note address by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurating the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the National Defence College (NDC) on November 05 outlined some of the broad principles of national security opening the two-day Webinar held on 05-06 Nov 2020. These were more in the nature of principles of national security thus strategy may have to be derived by analysing the key content. Here is a perspective.
Firstly the Ends – these have been defined in what the Defence Minister’s statements calls as four principles which are (1) secure territorial integrity and sovereignty from external threats and internal challenges. (2) Create secure and stable conditions that facilitate India’s economic growth (3) secure interests abroad including the overseas Indian community (d) securing the global commons.
By the very nature of the function of a modern state – securing of people, territory and interests the ends are indisputable.
In some ways these are also ambiguous given the territorial and boundary disputes faced by India. This was evident in the present standoff between India and China in Eastern Ladakh. How is territorial integrity and sovereignty to be defined in the context of differing perceptions of the Line of Actual Control, aspiration to secure Aksai Chin and Gilgit Baltistan?
There is a dilemma of the minimalist and the maximalist construct that arises and may face further challenges in terms of identifying the ways and means.
The Ways as derived from the Defence Minister’s speech would indicate deterrence and dissuasion. On deterrence Mr Rajnath Singh says, “perhaps the most fundamental lesson that the roller coaster of the rise and fall of nations taught us was that peace cannot necessarily be achieved by a desire for peace but by the ability to deter war. Unfortunately, the mere desire to seek peace, if not reciprocated by others, does not necessarily succeed in building a harmonious environment in a world beset by conflicting ideas of security, sovereignty and national interests.”
Deterrence is mainly directed at the adversaries such as China and Pakistan. Deterrence would also include the nuclear given that the two are also armed with nuclear weapons.
Deterrence could prevent further encroachment on national territorial sovereignty – again the lack of well defined borders may pose a dilemma.
Deterrence from terrorist attacks by an adversary that is Pakistan has also been identified as such. For this purpose it has been stated that, “options that were considered un-implementable in the past,” a reference to, “surgical strikes,” on land and by air on terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan have been employed.
For securing of interests abroad and the global commons collaborative [and thus dissuasive] partnerships remains the ways as the Defence Minister of Raksha Mantri states, “Our strategic partnership with the U.S. is stronger than ever before,” and highlighted India’s strengthening partnerships with Japan, Australia, Russia, France and Israel,Cultivating a favourable regional environment is also a key construct as the Defence Minister highlights “Neighbourhood First,” to forge a relationship of mutual-respect and mutual-interest,” which as per Mr Rajnath Singh has succeeded except for the case of Pakistan due to the terror follies of the Western neighbour.
Similar partnerships have been built with partner countries in West Asia, South East and East Asia. Mention of some of the key partners in the outer periphery has been made as the Defence Minister says, “It is a result of this initiative that we have enhanced the scope and quality of our relations with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman in the West and with Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea in the East.”
Deterrence involves capability building and measures towards creating these were outlined.
For conventional military capability acquisition of state of the art weapons systems indigenously is desirable. For this purpose the option is of, “forging partnerships with major OEMs who are keen to invest and build in India. Our vision for Make in India for defence manufacturing is being implemented with the long-term of making India more self-reliant.”
This is clearly a work in progress.
Coordination and jointness of structures with appointment of Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Department of Military Affairs and the proposed theatre and functional commands is another aspect highlighted. The larger synergy of bringing all agencies under the Ministry of Defence under one platform is also an essential facet which may require attention. The recent spat between the Army and the Ordnance Factory Board on faulty ammunition is a case in point.
Ways and Means Internal Security
The ways on internal security envisages neutralising terrorism through development, justice to the aggrieved and political settlement and also, “willing[ness] to challenge status quo, if the status quo becomes a tool for the exploitation of helpless citizens and the provisions of governance,” a reference to the repealing of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir as the special status was seen to be exploited by separatists and their supporters to create an environment for promoting splits.
Deriving national security strategy from principles outlined by the Defence Minister covers only some basic facets, hopefully this is the framework of a documented version which has in depth coverage particularly of the MEANS as India is likely to face a huge capability gap with a fast modernising China and growing dependence on imports which will remain expensive and are not spares proof.