Vimarsha : New Templates For India’s National Security Management
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On 13 June 2019, Ambassador PS Raghavan, Chairman, National Security Advisor Board (NSAB) delivered a monthly Vimarsha lecture on ‘New templates for India’s National Security Management’ at the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF). Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, VIF, in his welcome address highlighted the relevance of security for the effective conceptualisation of the ‘New India’ campaign. National Security is a challenging task to conceptualise, but a vital one for the national security management of a country. National security is not open for the public discourse, which should be improvised. In spite of 20 years of National Security Council; the government has avoided to publish India’s National Strategy.

Amb Raghavan initiated his talk by providing the historical synthesis of national security architecture. For initial four decades, India’s national security strategy was based on the recommendations of Lord Mountbatten. This prolonged till 1990s, when the deliberations on the national security began. Soon, India was confronted with the Kargil conflict in 1999. Post-Kargil, a Group of Ministers plus 4 task forces were formed. In 2012, Naresh Chandra Committee also submitted its recommendations on national security.

While addressing 21st century threats, the pre-1999 national security framework falls short on various levels. There were gaps in intelligence coordination and analysis. There was lack of structures to manage infiltration, migration, smuggling, drugs; which are known to be non-traditional security threats. There were technological shortcomings, which could have been used for prediction and management of infiltration. While highlighting the role of media, Amb Raghavan said that, the Kargil War was India’s ‘first-TV-war’ which brought out vulnerabilities of security issues into the public domain.

Unlike Cabinet Committee on Security which looks into short term security issues, the National Security Council (NSC) was set up with an objective to develop strategies for long term security threats, comprehensively. It objective is to look into threats involving atomic energy, space, technology, global economy, energy and ecological security threats, internal insurgency, terrorism, communalism, regionalism, intelligence tasking, coordination and analysis. To manage the same, a set of co-ordinated entities like National Security Advisors (NSA), Strategic Policy Group (SPG), National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), and National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) were established. The ambiguities regarding the office of NSC were resolved gradually.

Taking into consideration the pitfalls, the NSA was given the charge of Intelligence Coordination Group, National Technical Research Organization, National Cyber Security Coordination etc. NSA is also a special representative for India-China border talks, assists PM on issues regarding foreign policy, defence, atomic energy, and spac, and enables dialogue with counterparts along with other strategic partners. He further stressed that national security goes well beyond borders for which it is important to integrate various strands of national security, foreign and economic policies. Moreover the current geopolitical flux has been posing new challenges. The conflicts have transformed from being land, water and air warfare to space, cyber, and information warfare. The patterns of insurgency and local movements are also dynamic in nature. These next-generation threats require synergizing efforts of various ministries with the right kind of man-power. The state needs to be innovative while recruiting national security professionals which can be from outside government, technical disciplines etc.

NSA has been upgraded to cabinet rank for better facilitation of national security matters. Further, there is a need for interaction between the national security establishments and strategic think tanks in order to make the research more in-tune with the reality. The speaker insisted that public should be briefed about the national security perspective, if not strategy.

There are also certain challenges that the government and the NSC is confronted with while managing security:-

  1. Coordination and turf struggles between the ministries and bodies is one issue.
  2. Federalism, privacy, freedoms and security concerns.
  3. Civil-military synergy and integration of higher defence organisation.
  4. Dealing with a potential technology driven cold war, for instance, 5G.

While concluding, Amb Raghavan called for a comprehensive approach which demands better coordination amongst all ministries and strong centre-state relations. In order to tackle the emerging security threats, he even called for a broader awareness of National security perspective and policies among the masses. Dr Gupta further added that along with the suggestions recommended by Amb Raghavan, there is also need to improve our expertise on legal matter.

Following in talk, Amb Raghavan extensively interacted with the audience and addressed the queries posed to him on various aspects of national security.

Event Date 
June 13, 2019

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