Talk by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director VIF on Emerging Dimensions of India’s National Security at IMPRI on 13 Jul 2022
Talking points
  • Covid-19, Climate change and Russia-Ukraine war have introduced new urgencies in India’s national security concerns. As disorder in the world emerges, India’s security challenges will also require newer dimension.
  • Traditionally, India’s security concerns have been;
    • China, Pakistan, China-Pak nexus.
    • Cross border terrorism, radicalisation and extremism, narcotics, drug trafficking, human trafficking
    • Maritime and coastal security
    • Border security
    • Technologies related challenges; Cyber, space security, AI/ML
    • Insurgencies in North-East, Left wing extremism,J&K,
    • Khalistan, communalism and economic security.
  • In varying degrees, these concerns remain valid. However, some of them have been exacerbated due to rapid change in the technological landscape.
  • The Chinese aggression against India in Galwan in 2020 has had a fundamental impact on India-China relations. China violated the peace and tranquillity accord of the 1990s thereby changing the agreed understanding on the LAC. Today there are heavy troop deployments on the close to the LAC on both sides. This is unprecedented. India-China relations cannot return to their normal state without ‘disengagement’ and ‘de-escalation’. This has been made clear by the External Affairs Minister to his Chinese counterpart. While India is concerned about China’s aggression, China, on the other hand is concerned about India’s growing security cooperation with the US.
  • China’s assertiveness and aggression has transformed the Indo-Pacific. The emergence and consolidation of the Quad, the formation of AUKUS, the infusion of Australia in Malabar naval exercises, India’s deepening defence cooperation with the Quad member countries particularly with the US, India’s deepening security cooperation with France and UK both of which are showing interests in the Indo-Pacific are India’s response to the Chinese assertiveness in the region.
  • The armed forces have to be prepared to deal with the emerging challenges. The pace of defence reforms in India aimed at increasing indigenous defence production has picked up. The ‘Make in India’ programme is likely to enhance India’s defence capabilities. India is seeking partnership with western countries. New start-ups in India are increasingly focussing on defence technologies. Apart from the DRDO, the armed forces are now nurturing and engaging the young start-ups for niche technologies (like Drones, for instance).
  • Russia’s war in Ukraine is likely to cause disruption in Indo-Russian defence cooperation. India will need to diversify its sources of defence supplies.
  • India-Pak relations are in deep freeze and likely to remain in that state for the foreseeable further. The political and economic instability in Pakistan casts a long shadow on India-Pak relations. The return of the Taliban also exacerbates India’s security concerns. India centric terror group like LeT and JeM continue to remain entrenched on Afghan soil. Pakistan’s deals with TTP will make the region even more volatile.
  • China-Pak nexus is taking on new dimensions. Apart from the military dimension, economic strategic dimensions have been added and their partnership. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has given assess to China to the strategically important region of the Indian Ocean. With many CPEC projects in a limbo, Pakistan has been caught in a debt trap. Pakistan is imploring China to restructure its debts. This increases China influence in Pakistan. Pakistan has become a client state of China.
  • India cannot ignore the Eurasia dimension of its national security. Central Asia is unstable as the recent developments in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan demonstrate. The return of Taliban can potentially destabilises the region. Extremist elements can reassert. Many of these continue to be based in Afghanistan.
  • Indian border state of Punjab can be affected due to the recent activation of the Khalistan movement by Pakistan. Incidents of infiltration of drugs, guns and ammunition from across the border have increased.
  • Acutely disturbed by the Indian move to abrogate Article 370 concerning and reorganise the J&K state, Pakistan has stepped up its support to Kashmiri militants.
  • The Russia-Ukraine war has created a global food, energy fertiliser and financial crisis. The high cost of oil, natural gas and fertiliser imports has placed a huge burden on India’s current account deficit. This could impact further economic growth.
  • In India’s neighbourhood, Sri Lankan economy has collapsed and Pakistan economy is in deep crisis. Nepal is vulnerable. Political, economic and social instability in the neighbourhood has major security implications for India-potential refugee crisis, emboldening of Jihadi elements and demands on India’s limited resources. India has emerged as first responder in various crises in the neighbourhood. In future too India will have to play a role of a stabiliser.
  • Russia-Ukraine war has several important lessons for the Indian military. For instance, the assumption that the future wars will be short needs to be re-examined. The performance of Russian equipment would need to be reassessed. The role of long-range artillery, anti-tank missiles, hypersonic glide weapons, drones, cyber warfare and information warfare will need to be studied.
  • Despite India’s growing security cooperation with several countries, there is an acute realisation that India will have to fight its wars alone. Further, it will have to find a suitable balance between different military domains, namely, land, air, oceans, cyber and space. India will have to the ready to incorporate drone technology and counter drone measures in its warfighting doctrines. The navy will have to be strengthened for its role in the Indo-Pacific. India will also have to attain a measure of self-sufficiency in new dual use technologies.
  • On the internal security front, India will have to be cautious. While there have been significant economic achievements in the last few years, the problems of demographic imbalance, social cohesion, hate narratives, communalism etc needs to be addressed. India will also have to be wary about external forces trying to tarnish India’s image and undermine its unity and cohesion.
  • The salience of non-traditional security issues like the pandemic and climate change has made India’s security environment even more complex. Dealing with frequent natural disasters takes a heavy toll on human, financial and economic resources.
  • The world is also at an inflection point. The degree of disorder in the world has increased. A fresh thinking is required to deal with new security challenges. We need to remain ahead of the national security curve.

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