National Security Concept and its Evolution- Talk By Dr Arvind Gupta at the Naval War College, 10th August 2021
Talking Points
  • The national security concept is wide-ranging, builds upon threat perceptions, geostrategic location, capacities and many other factors. Each country has its own understanding of its national security interests.
  • In 1999 the government order setting up the National Security Council talked about an integrated approach to national security which would include external threats, order management, technology, economic security, internal security et cetera. Since then, environment security, cyber security, climate change, disasters, pandemics, demography, terrorism, maritime security, organised crime, ecology and biodiversity, food energy and water have also become a part of national security discourse.
  • India has a complex security environment. It hinges upon: threats from Pakistan, China, Pakistan-China nexus, porous borders, migrations, cross-border terrorism, cyber-attacks, narcotics, arms smuggling, human trafficking, insurgencies and militancy is in JK, north-east insurgencies, and left-wing extremism.
  • India’s security environment is greatly influenced by global and regional balances. Further, internal and external security issues are interconnected. Cross-border terrorism is an example. Migrations, refugee flows from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Tibet; privacy and illegal fishing, terrorism from maritime spaces, coastal security et cetera are live threats. India is presently involved in a military stand-off with China which is being resolved through diplomatic means.
  • Non-traditional security issues are becoming bigger and bigger by the day. Dealing with them requires special skills and approaches. Essentially, India needs to build its resilience to mitigate the impact of non-traditional security issues.
  • As we speak, the pandemic has had a major impact on India’s security. We were hit by 3 simultaneous crises which had national security implications: India China military stand-off; a steep fall in India’s GDP during 2020-21; and a health crisis of unprecedented proportions. The Indian Armed Forces were deeply involved in relief and rescue measures. In addition, India was also hit by several cyclones of massive ferocity during this period. So India’s hands were full dealing with traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
  • The rebalancing of power equations, the rise of China, the deepening of Russia-West chasm, instability in india’s neighbourhood, the weakening of globalisation leading to rupturing of supply chains, the relentless march of technology, the reckless destruction of biodiversity, the erosion of nuclear deterrence, the invention of new weapons, attacks on critical infrastructure through cyber means are factors which impact India’s security. We have to continuously deal with a mix of traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
  • In our own neighbourhood, China’s footprint is expanding to India’s disadvantage. China’s well-controlled initiative and its offshoot China Pakistan Economic Corridor are destabilising for India. The Gilgit Baltistan region is now swarming with Chinese projects and people. The raising of 50,000 strong forces to protect the China Pakistan economic corridor projects is also a matter of concern.
  • Taliban have returned to power in Afghanistan. The sudden collapse of Kabul was unexpected and holds many lessons. Terrorism will get further boost as the Taliban come to power. Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan will increase. India’s $ 3 billion worth of investment is in danger. A vast amount of arsenal left behind by the Americans has fallen into the hands of the Taliban. An unstable Afghanistan will have a major impact on India.
  • Pakistan has doubled its efforts to internationalise the Kashmir issue, particularly after the 5 August 2019 developments. China has organised debates in the UN Security Council on the Kashmir issue. Pakistan continues with its proxy war.
  • Tensions in Taiwan Strait have increased. India’s security and prosperity is deeply intertwined with stability in the Indo Pacific region.
  • China is making forays into the Indian Ocean. Its occupation of the islands in the South China Sea has destabilised the region. US-China tensions in the region are deepening. Cold War rivalries are back.
  • In the extended neighbourhood, West Asia continues to suffer from civil wars in Yemen and Syria, Iran is of the competition for supremacy, Shia Sunni sectarian divide, the continuing sway of ISIS and other terror groups. The Middle East equations are also changing with the signing of Abraham accords. India remains dependent on oil from the Middle East as well as remittances. What happens in West Asia will have an impact on India too.
  • India’s initiative to initiate a debate on maritime security agreement in Security Council is a realisation that India’s national security understanding is now expanding.
  • The recent trends show that India’s continental and maritime security interests are getting increasingly interlinked. We will have to have an integrated approach to our security. It is not just the two front scenario on the continent that is beginning to materialise, maritime security is yet another front that is opening up.
  • India’s response is multipronged, indicating fresh thinking in the policy circles. Some of the headline initiatives include Neighbourhood First, Act East, Look West, connect Central Asia, the Quad, the Indo- Pacific Oceans initiative, SAGAR, Act the Far East etc.
  • Fresh thinking is happening on all fronts, multipolar world, opportunities and challenges, strategic partnerships, engagement and outreach, deeper level defence cooperation,
  • Policy shift includes the appointment of CDS – jointness, theaterisation, defence manufacturing, space and cyber commands, thrust on infrastructure etc.

India needs institutions to do national security planning. The global and regional security environment needs to be scanned thoroughly and professionally. More resources are needed. National security management needs to become more professional; India cannot afford to rely on others for its security. We need to become self-reliant in security matters.

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