India’s National Security: Here’s why the annual review becomes imperative in today’s world

New Delhi | Published: January 8, 2017 6:06:04 AM

This 15th annual volume, in a series of national security reviews, is brought out by the Foundation for National Security Research. (PTI)This 15th annual volume, in a series of national security reviews, is brought out by the Foundation for National Security Research. (PTI)

Why does an annual review of national security become necessary when national interests are putatively enduring? Our crisis-punctuated times further problematise the complexity of the global order. While transcending global forces make borders irrelevant, chauvinist national voices loudly proclaim the need to fortress state borders and make them non-porous. Technology simultaneously shrinks the world into a global village and expands it in the virtual realm. The pursuit of stability and order in these circumstances of flux requires frequent recalibrations of security concerns. Therefore, the need for an annual review of national security. This work is further justified for a country whose leaders believe that the time has come to claim its seat as a great power.

This 15th annual volume, in a series of national security reviews, is brought out by the Foundation for National Security Research. This edited collection of essays harnesses insights from national security ‘practitioners’—defence personnel, diplomats, intelligence officers, business leaders, and academics—to offer a snapshot of India’s security domain(s). In the first half, editor Satish Kumar undertakes a comprehensive survey and analysis of India’s security concerns, along with global security trends. Besides being an eminent scholar in the field of international relations, Kumar, as director of FNSR, has been associated with this project from its very inception. It is a testimony to his scholarship that the level of analysis moves beyond mere foreign policy concerns and takes due account of Kenneth Waltz’s third image—the international environment.

Threat to India’s security is posed by both ‘changing global imperatives’ and ‘internal security’. The deterioration in the global security environment, largely contingent on the policies of major powers, is evident in the escalation of continuing conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. The Islamic State and its fillip to the phenomenon of kinetic jihad ensure that battlelines are no longer restricted to the border and the quotidian public spaces—parks, airports, schools, stadiums and malls— emerge as new sites of violence. In light of the above, India needs high levels of robust diplomatic and administrative acumen to meet its very specific challenges, like China-Pakistan cooperation, to build an economic corridor, entry of the private sector in the defence industry, and counter-insurgency operations.

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A new feature of this volume, a chapter on National Security Assessment, is a corrective to the analytical complacency that characterises most studies on national security. Kumar outlines India’s national security architecture by improvising Kautiliya’s Mandala model. The era of globalisation necessitates this tweaking, as conventional geographical boundaries are inadequate as standalone analytical categories. The concentric circles of India’s security architecture are identified as: the arc of hostility (Pakistan and China), the arc of stability (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Maldives), the arc of security (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines), and the arc of global governance (United Nations, World Trade Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, New Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank).

Clearly, the premise of all the contributors is the fact of India’s growing economic and military prowess and the need for the world to acknowledge it. From the perspective of the citizen, the book’s casting of poverty, climate change, and radicalisation of youth as non-traditional (internal) security threats could be a double-edged sword. The securitisation of these issues expunges them from the realm of politics (therefore democracy), whereby they cease to be matters of individual/community rights. However, even though securitisation reduces social problems to law and order ones, it is a tempting seductive discourse that serves to highlight and bring notice to these issues. If today this is the only way that these issues will grab the attention of policy makers and be legitimised as urgent, then so be it. The identification of climate change as a threat multiplier becomes a context to argue for not just long-term planning, but also of recognising the significance of ‘neighbours’. Poverty and rural distress are used to underline the need to revitalise the agrarian sector by providing institutional support to the Indian farmer; to address the problem of radicalisation of youth, stringent state measures must be accompanied by civil initiatives to mitigate socio-cultural alienation of youth.

The book’s thesis is that India needs ‘to carve out its rightful place in the world’. In pursuit of this, India has identified 30 bilateral relationships and taken them to the level of strategic partnerships that signify a multi-sectoral ‘supra normal’ engagement. It is also seeking a leading role in world affairs, the UN Security Council seat a case in point.

The audacity of a post-colonial society’s advocacy of non-alignment in the cold war environment was not bereft of the pragmatic element of realpolitik. The notion of interdependence and appreciation of the ‘inside-outside’ (domestic and external environment) relationship have informed the conceptualisation of India’s national security since independence. Global forces of technology and the market have only accented this aspect and fact of interdependence and inter-linkages. Today, India’s claim to the status of a great power is made on the grounds of its economic and military prowess. There is not even a pretense to register the claim on account of being the moral and ethical voice, as personified in the conceptualisation of non-alignment. The book reflects this discursive shift in India’s national security articulation.

The author, Rina Kashyap is head of the political science department, Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi

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