Talk on ‘National Security and Foreign Policy’, at the OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF on 02 Aug 2019

Dear Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Professor (Dr.) Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), Professor (Dr.) Y.S.R. Murthy, Registrar, O.P. Jindal Global University, Dear Students, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Dean for inviting me to deliver the Distinguished Lecture on the occasion of commencement of new academic session of the Jindal School of International Affairs. It is an honour to be at the OP Jindal Global University, which in a short span of time since its founding, has assumed a global profile.

Universities are the cradle of learning. They are also the nurseries for nation builders. I am reminded of a letter, which Jamshedji Tata wrote to Swami Vivekananda in the 1893. The two gentlemen had met on a ship which was taking them from Yokohama in Japan to Vancouver in Canada. Vivekananda was at that time a 30 years old Hindu monk with little visibility. Although a spiritual person, he was conscious of the fact that India needed to make a transition from trading to manufacturing if it was to make progress towards self-sufficiency and development. Tata was impressed by Vivekananda’s zeal and farsightedness. He wrote, “I very much recall… your views on the growth of the ascetic spirit in India, and the duty, not of destroying, but of diverting it into useful channels”. Tata was at that time thinking of setting up a research institute of science for India. He requested Vivekananda to become the head of the institute and health channel “ascetic spirit” to cultivate sciences, natural and humanistic.

The point here is that our universities should cultivate, nurture, and channelize the “ascetic spirit” into education and research. That way, India will become great again. I am sure OP Jindal University is playing that role of turning out a generation of national builders that India needs so urgently.

Now let me come to the topic of discussion today, namely National Security and Foreign Policy.Even a cursory glance at India’s long history shows that Indian have been travelling far and wide to most corners of the world mostly as traders. professionals, and disseminators of knowledge. India is getting increasingly integrated with the world. Likewise, India has also been open to the external influences and adept at Indianising them. In the modern context, India has begun deeper engagement with most regions of the world. Therefore, foreign policy becomes an important component of India’s overall policies. It is closely linked with India’s prosperity and national security.

Those who follow India’s foreign policy would have surely noticed that in the last five years, national security has emerged us one of the most important drivers of our foreign policy. Several new concepts and ideas have been introduced in our foreign policy vocabulary. The concepts like ‘SAGAR’ and the ‘Indo-Pacific’ have heralded the maritime dimension of India’s foreign policy which had been neglected for a long time. Defence cooperation has been given high priority. Engagement with the rest of the world has been deepened.

Emerging Challenges

Despite impressive performance on the foreign policy front, we should not be oblivious to the emerging challenges. The next five years will be very critical. Turbulence in the world is likely to increase further. The complexity of the security challenges will increase. Humans will face competition from technology as Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning mature. The New World Order, based on a new balance of power is taking shape. Its contours are not clear but most likely we will see increased tensions between the US and China on multiple fronts. We will witness continued Russian efforts to regain its glory, eruption of more trade and technology wars, frequent recurrence of economic crises, dysfunctionality in multilateral institutions, the beginning of a new arms race, enhanced cybersecurity challenges due to Internet of Thing, crisis of global commons, fury of climate change, backlash against globalisation due to growing global inequality. All these will have security implications for India.

The regional situation may also take a turn for the worse. Several regions of the world are tense. There are no credible regional security architectures. We are already seeing a dangerous situation developing in the Gulf; denuclearization of the Korean peninsula looks difficult; Chinese are being tested in Hong Kong; Chinese coercion of Taiwan is increasing; the ASEAN is under tremendous Chinese pressure, the crises in the Gulf and Middle East are becoming intractable, Brexit has dealt a blow to European unity, Trans-Atlantic alliance is under stress, the Arctic is becoming a hot spot of tensions.

The global economic situation is also precarious. The ill-effects of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis are not yet over. The US-China trade war could trigger further crises. The existing economic and financial institutions may not be sufficient to deal with the outbreak of a fresh global economic crises.

Climate change is unfolding in unexpected ways. It is an existential threat. Prolonged droughts, intense floods, heat waves, and furious cyclones are linked with climate change. Each such event tests the resilience of people and governments. Climate-induced migrations can cause many conflicts.

Following the demise of the INF treaty and the uncertainty over the further renewal of the New Start Treaty, a fresh arms race may be triggered. New technologies like the drones, hypersonic glide vehicles, artificial intelligence, 5G, and machine learning could lead to new weapon systems and intensify the arms race. The entry of Lethal Autonomous Weapon System in military calculus would prove to be highly destabilising. The conventional norms of behavour, the CBMs, etc. are difficult to arrive at as consensus building is becoming difficult.

National Security & Foreign Policy

Modi 2.0 foreign policy and diplomacy will have to be prepared to deal with a host of new security challenges of a turbulent world, which is already upon us. Defining and protecting the national interest, navigating through the uncertain global and regional environment, maintaining the independence of decision making, and strategic autonomy will be the key foreign policy tasks. These tasks have always been there, but they take on new urgency when the world is becoming turbulent.

We also have a conceptual challenge. How do we see the world? Will it be bipolar or multipolar? India must define its place in the world. We have not done enough thinking on this aspect of our foreign policy. Surely, we must protect our interests. But we must also contribute to global peace and stability, protection of the environment, and a harmonious world. Some years ago, we saw ourselves as a ‘leading’ power. What does it take to be a leading power? Do we have the wherewithal of a being leading power? Capability building will be a major challenge before us.

Lest I sound overly pessimistic, we should recognize that a dynamic world will also be full of opportunities too. We are seeing an explosion in knowledge. India has a young population. We have a stable government and a visionary leadership. The youth of today is far better informed, far better connected and far smarter than in our generation. India can and should become a knowledge super power. In the last few years, India has been able to position itself as a significant power in the world. PM envisions India to be a $ 5 trillion economy in five years. Our achievements in space, ICT, pharma, agriculture, atomic energy are well recognized. We have been a successful democracy and a pluralist society of 1.3 billion. These are no mean achievements for a developing country like India. In the next five years, we have the chance to progress on the long journey towards acquiring a global status. But this will not happen unless we recognize the opportunities and go after them.

China and Pakistan will remain our key external security challenges. The strategic nexus between the two is growing. China will continue its rise despite occasional setbacks. Pakistan could slide further into chaos but may be saved time and again by the international community. The answer to both China and Pakistan conundrum is to build our capabilities. We will have to have a right mix of policies and resources to do so.

Security and development are seen as two sides of the same coin. Peace and stability in India’s immediate neighbourhood is essential for India’s own progress. We will have to find new ways of inducting our relations with the neighbours. Under the Neighbourhood First policy, India’s approach to the neighbourhood has changed and become far more proactive than before. India should share its development with its neighbours. In addition to the bilateral dimension, India places a great deal of emphasis on regional connectivity, trade, investment and economic cooperation. Beyond the immediate neighbourhood, India pays necessary attention to the extended neighbourhood. India’s Act-East policy has revitalized relations with ASEAN countries. Relations with West Asian countries have also expanded considerably. The safety of 9 million Indians in the Gulf is of paramount importance. Prime Minister has himself visited all the Central Asian counties. Efforts are being made to build Chabahar port and operationalize the International North South Trade Corridor to gain access to Russia and Central Asia. These steps and measures will not only enhance prosperity but also improve security.

While India has no military issues with its neighbours except Pakistan and China, terrorism and radicalisation, border management, illegal migrations, human and drug trafficking, sea piracy etc. pose serious security challenges. India, in consultation with its neighbours, will have to find solutions to these problems.

India has embraced the concept of Indo-Pacific, which, relatively speaking, is a new geostrategic concept. India’s geostrategic space extends from the western Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean upto the shores of Africa. In order to take care of our security interest, we will have to strengthen maritime security across vast oceanic stretches. Thus, India places equal emphasis on land as well as its maritime dimensions of national security. PM Modi has also given a concept of Security and Growth for All (SAGAR) in the Indian Ocean. He has spoken of Indo-Pacific as an inclusive concept.

India will have to have a foreign policy concept with a vision, a strategy, an action plan, and a roadmap. But that is not enough. We will need to enhance our implementation capabilities also. Foreign policy and its implementation requires a whole of government approach. Coordination between MEA, MoD, NSCS, Commerce, Finance, and others is weak and needs to be improved. This will require an overhaul of governments rules and procedures which are department-centric and discourage multi-disciplinary functioning.

Special mention may be made of defence diplomacy. In today’s day and age, well-focused defence diplomacy is essential not only to safeguard the nation’s interest but also to build regional structures with security underpinning. We need a complete overhaul of our defence diplomatic structure. In particular, the synergy between the MEA, MoD and the Armed forces will need to be improved.

India must realize that a strong economy and global engagement is essential for prosperity and security. India’s share in global trade is less than 2 percent. Our export form only 1.7 percent of global exports. Imports are rising sharply. A prolonged adverse balance of trade would hurt India. India would have to take a call on new FTAs, including the RCEP. Indian industry is apprehensive about the FTAs because it is not globally competitive. We will have to address this issue.

Technology has changed our lives. The impact of technology in shaping a new balance of power cannot be overestimated. Technology underpins the prosperity of the country. It is a double-edged sword. While we can benefit from technology in numerous ways, dependence on other countries for technology can, in the long run, prove to be counterproductive. We are seeing this happening in defence, in cybersecurity, in electronics. India has failed to capitalize on its strong human resource base. We must develop self-reliance in key strategic technologies. We would need to create a strong innovation eco-system in the country. The synergy between the government, academia and industry must be improved.

Many countries in the world are developing their soft power and using it in combination with hard power. India, which has considerable soft power, needs to learn how to strategize it for national purposes. Culture must be harnessed in foreign policy.


The concept of national security is much broader today than was the case earlier. A host of external factor impeach national security. Non-traditional national security issues like cyber, space, terrorism, energy, food and water have direct and indirect impact on national security. In order to deal with these challenges, a variety of tools will have to be developed. Foreign policy is a potent mechanism to either mitigate or deal with national security issues. International cooperation is necessary though not a sufficient condition for national security. We need effective foreign policy which takes cognizance of changing security environment in order to deal with national security issues.

We need good teaching and deep research to remain on top of the national security challenges that are emerging. Our universities must include foreign policy and national security in their curricula. The existing curricula on international relations in most universities are too academic, theoretical and not focused on national security. But how is the academic syllabus decided? We know that Western institutions and universities have taken a lead in evolving academic syllabi which are followed across the world. This state of affairs does not suit us. India is an emerging power. Our universities and our scholars must pay due attention to the teaching curricula and research themes which are important from our point of view. An Indian narrative on global issues must be evolved. Jindal School of International Affairs is an excellent place to do this. The Vivekananda International Foundation would be happy to collaborate in this venture.

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