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National Security Challenges And Response

Updated: October 13, 2012 5:08 pm

When I chose the topic, the aim behind was that national security has shifted in paradigm from what it used to be. There was a time when national security was defined more in terms of how a nation solved the external threats but today national security looks at economic, diplomatic and political parts. It looks at what path projection a nation can do and it looks at myriad other things that go into making the spirit of the nation and that are the important part. It is the will and the spirit and how a nation evolves itself into a wholesome state which is able to stand all kinds of pressures to preserve its being and that is a very large segment that it would say is what a national security is doing. Actually there is no single acceptable definition of national security—you go around, you’ll find all kinds of definitions that are floating around. Some talk of how a nation can make itself strong enough to be able to carry on with what it wants to do the best.

Barack Obama said that the national security of US concerns the security of the States, its citizens, US allies and partners. He also said that it catered to a strong, innovative and growing economy. He wanted the US to be an economic power which is able to do a lot of things. He also talked of respecting value at home and around the world. He talked of an international order advanced by the leadership that promotes peace, security and opportunity through a stronger co-operation. It is a real wide field that he covers when security of his country is concerned.

Today there is a need to look at how we will see national security in wider view which helps us stand strong and make our nation capable. We have a neighbour in China which has done a tremendous amount of progress in all sectors. Its economy is moving. Militarily, it has been able to channelise enough funds the economy has given it. It has embarked on transforming its military to cater to a modern war. It has done great amount of infrastructural development. The problem in coping with China is that we are the only nation where the borders are not decided.

Thus there is a leeway available whenever it wants that it can raise an issue on the borders with us till the borders are not decided. There is no denying the fact that it is in our interest to cooperate economically for a simple reason that it gives greater diligence with a type of economy that is prevailing in our country. Coping with China is an issue which needs to be underlined and which needs to be taken note of what we need to do when the settlement of borders is concerned and what we want to do to be prepared for that eventuality if things go wrong. The second thing that we need to look at is the shaping up of the immediate neighbours. By this I mean all the countries that are our neighbours.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are called the epicenter of global terrorism. Various things come from there. We need to look at this area more pragmatically and more in term of how these various issues can be resolved there which result in disturbances. We are aware of the type of proxy war that is there in a part of our country, type of support system that exists and the type of instability that prevails in our neighbourhood due to global terrorism. And if we want peaceful growth and if we want our country to carry on with the path of progress, we need to look at this immediate neighbourhood on our west to ensure that this area does not remain as volatile as it is today.

We also have a neighbour with which we had an excellent relation and that is Nepal. Politically, things have not gone well. We know the type of instability that exists and somehow we have managed from very good relations to a place where we are struggling to ensure that the relations remain even. We need to watch this country for a simple reason that we have, historically, people to people and religious ties built into a relationship.

This is a country where free movement is permitted. It is a country which also comes in the news for various infiltrations that take place through Nepal. And there is a need in our security paradigm to look at various measures which will be able to ensure that relationship improves and comes on to a strong footing that we are able to hold off any threat that is taking place. Further east we have Myanmar. We have made good progress and we are trying to improve our relationships. Our problem is that relations were not predicated on realism. They were predicated on idealism. And that is why lot of times, we do not look at a realistic national interest with our neighbour and we land up in a situation where we create an aspect of conclusion and a mistrust in our neighbor where they do not understand what are our actual policies. Myanmar is an important country. Myanmar is a country which is our gateway to south east and it is a country where the common population looks up to India for various reasons.

It is a country which is on the path of transforming itself from what it was considered from a junta ruled country from what it was considered to be something different. And therefore it is in our national security interest to ensure that we have good working relations.

Our relationship with Bangladesh has seen many ups and downs. Again I think it is because we have not followed a strong and pragmatic policy that should have ensured that a country that was liberated by the common blood of Indian and Bangladeshi soldier should have been very very friendly. There was a time when when there was a huge amount of distress. At present, we have good relations and what happens in the future remains a question mark. As a national security aspect, Bangladesh is an important segment that needs to be looked at and needs to be given confidence that it trusts us on various things.

Going down further south to Sri Lanka, from relations which bordered on non-suspicion we came to relation where there was a great amount of trust which seemed to be there till we decided to vote on a motion on which we have never voted in UN on human rights. And again with Sri Lanka we have reached a state where there is a great amount of suspicion on how our internal politics can derail a perfect good relationship with a country. It will take some time to ensure that this distrust goes off because once the distrust sets in, it becomes very difficult to take it out because there are many interested quarters in our country that thrive on ensuring that such distrust is used for their own political interest. I think with Sri Lanka, a lot of efforts have to be made.

These are the external challenges. Now it is very important to look internally. In J&K the situation is improving and the number of terrorists has gone down. But the support structure that sustains the terrorists is still intact. The support structure that exists across the borders for training them is still intact. Therefore when we talk of peace, it should never be measured in how many tourists were born but should be measured in terms of how the support structure has been brought down, so that in future, the tap is not turned full time for parts. So J&K remains a question mark and remains sensitive that it is.

The separatists are still intact. They profusely display their cause and no effort seems to have been made to fight this ideology that remains there. And till the time we do not take measures against this ideology, we will always have a problem in the future.

The other area is our North-east. We have had great success in some of the states. But some of the states are still in stage which can be called that they can go anywhere. There is rampant extortion in Nagaland. Besides that, in Nagaland if you were to take the strength of NSCN group, it is huge. At times you get an impression that there is some sort of parallel government seems to be functioning in that state. There is an urgent need for us as a country to ensure that this problem is settled at the earliest, otherwise this will become a huge security issue because of the huge interest of some of our inimical parts. The other state which sees violence is Manipur. And I always say that the multi community in Manipur is in a constant state of depression. And the reason is that it is a state that raised a tricolor when the country got independence but it never got the statehood till it decided to fight for. Today there are two major groups that are surviving. And more innovative technology is required to ensure that whatever success military gains out there is taken forward in bringing the two groups to the talking table so that the peace can be brought to this particular state.

In Assam, we saw a thing being ignited because the areas are very sensitive. The answers to the various issues of Assam lies in ensuring that the various groups that are armed and various groups that are vying for influence for various purposes are kept in check. If monitoring is not done well in time, if people do not react in a timely manner we will keep having such problems that we have had in Assam. I firmly believe that the recent state of Assam could have been checked well in advance. It was possible but if you look at the type of events that took place you will find that paramilitary strength was brought down during those days. There was a late reaction from even the troops on the ground despite the Armed forces special power act being in force. Somewhere our handling was wrong. I think that we need to handle the state of Assam in a better manner because of the demographic compositions it has. And if it is not tackled properly then we will land up in trouble.

One thing that turns us up the most and will confront us in coming years is what is termed politically correct as Left Wing Extremism or Naxalism and a large part of the country is affected. It is very interesting that in 1990, less than 50 districts were affected by Naxalism and as our new economic policies came in, today more than 272 districts are affected. And there could be more as more violence is being seen in these areas. As the difference between the rich and the poor grow and exploitation of various segments of the society takes place, Naxalism will find easy areas to prevail. Therefore it is a huge problem when national security is concerned. And a range of measures is required which should be able to address the socio economic problems and developmental concerns of the nation.

There are issues which affect the fabric of the nation and these issues subsequently transform on how the population behaves and takes up various things in different manner. And one of the problems that is affecting us and it has a great effect on the population is the corruption prevailing in the country. And corruption creates a ripple effect on the country. It leads to distortion and it leads to the fall of various standards which are acceptable to society.

It leads to what is happening today that is inflation and it has led to all kinds of agitation that is taking place. And as the agitation intensifies, as people get more demoralised and disoriented, as people lose confidence in the entities that command it becomes a right ground for left wing extremism or any such ideology to creep up. Therefore the national security paradigm encompasses various issues that afflict the nation like corruption, inflation and social disharmony that is promoted because of narrow vote bankers. All these add to the disharmony of the nation and thus form part of the national security paradigm which make the nation weak or strong. And more fractured and unstable a nation is, it becomes a good hunting ground of the people from across the borders, across the seas for exploitation.

Two more issues that need to be looked at through the national security prism. One is intelligence. I am talking about intelligence because any country which is caught unawares for any event will suffer. There is a need for a very robust mechanism which should be able to not only defend you from the cyber attacks but also give you the ability to retaliate with these people. And again there is a synergy required to deal with various people in this field rather than keeping this in competent mode with various institutions that are working.

One field that I feel is important for national security is reducing the defence preparedness and dependence on the foreigners. Till the time as a country we are capable of ensuring that what we want is mostly indigenous we will always be dependent on people who will exploit us whether in terms of politics or anything else. If after such a long time China which had no industrial base can become a large exporter of arms and ammunition, there is no reason why India should not have it. I visited Oman in 2005 and still they swore by ammunition that was provided to them in the 50s. They said that they had tried to get ammunition from other countries but the ammunition supplied from India was still the best. That is the quality that we need to create even for ourselves. But today the situation is opposite. Even our troops don’t trust the ammunition that they are using. Sometimes they are scared of using it because it goes off in the tank itself. We need to create a great capability that needs to show that we are able to ensure that no power in the world can twist our arms.

Therefore when we look at national security, we should not look at just the external security but also focus on the internal challenges. We are aware that historically that India was never conquered till the time internally we became weak, till the time internally we were fractured. Till the time we were one, we were able to have an India which was far stronger and unconquerable. And we only became slaves because of our internal weakness. This internal weakness is the most important ingredient of the national security. We cannot remain sick.

We need to do lot of work to ensure that internal strife is brought under control. The internal strike is a very wide field. It is not just the type of measures that we are taking but it also societal. JFC Fuller says- The true might of a nation is not so much on the strength of the army which is but a means of materializing its might but in the health of its spirit that is the national will to preserve itself from the dangers external and internal. I don’t know how many of you know that there was a report by NN Vohra when he was the Home Secretary. This task was created for one reason to find out measures in which criminal elements were entering in the country and there was a nexus between the criminal administration and the politics. And it goes on to examine the various aspects of the various agencies that were involved. The findings were very interesting. It was a very important report. Somehow it was not acted upon. There is a need to pay greater attention to the internal issues of the country so that nobody can exploit us in the name of religion, caste or creed or any other issue for which agitation is taking place. I just want to finish by saying that it depends on each one of us to ensure that we want national security to be given importance.

(Based on General VK Singh’s speech delivered at Vivekanand International Foundation, New Delhi on September 24, 2012)

By Gen VK singh

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