‘Without growth... we will be constrained in our ability to defend national security’

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SummaryExcerpts from the K. Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture delivered in Delhi on February 6

Until recently, we took a compartmentalised view of national security. Each threat to national security was neatly fitted into one compartment. The first, of course, was a war with Pakistan. That was fitted into a compartment and was meant to be deterred, or defended, through the might of our armed forces. A war with China was, and remains, unthinkable, and therefore that threat was fitted into another compartment and reserved to be dealt with through a mixture of engagement, diplomacy, trade and positioning of adequate forces along the borders. Beyond Pakistan and China, we did not perceive any external threat to our security. Other threats, such as communal conflicts, terrorism, Naxalism or Maoist violence, drug peddling and fake Indian currency notes were bundled together under the label, “threats to internal security” and were left to the ministry of home affairs. Some threats were not acknowledged as threats to national security and these included energy security, food security and pandemics...

A close examination of the threats to national security will reveal that each one of them is connected to one or more other threats. For example, the threat of terrorism is connected to the threat of proliferation of arms, including weapons of mass destruction. The threat to the security of our sea-lanes is connected to the threat to energy security. Low intensity conflicts have a direct bearing on social cohesion. Technology security will be the key to building new institutions. Natural disasters, especially those caused by climate change, can wreck food security. Pandemics and diseases, if uncontrolled, can diminish our capacity to defend the borders against our adversaries, or to defeat militants within the country. National security is, therefore, caught in a complex spider’s web and unless we recognise that each strand of this web is connected to other strands, we would not be able to do justice to our fundamental obligation to protect and defend the security of the nation.

Defending and promoting national security stands on three important pillars: first, human resources; second, science and technology; and third, money. I have placed money last, not because it is the least important,

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