Does India have a comprehensive, clearly enunciated national security strategy? Does India need such a strategy in its nuclear weapons-dominated, unstable external security environment, and an internal security scenario vitiated by foreign sponsored insurgencies? the answer to the first question is definitely 'no' and to the second, an unambiguous 'yes'. National security demands integrated planning and co-ordinated use of India's political, military, diplomatic and scientific resources to advance its core interests Unfortunately, India lacks a long-term national security strategy despite the pressing problems it confronts.
“Cheshire puss,” she began rather timidly… “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the cat.
– Lewis Carroll (Alice in’ Wonderland)
The Cheshire Cat made its point perfectly well. All major endeavours must be based on a clear.sense of purpose. The idea is elemental, but one that is little appreciated and often ignored. Does India have a comprehensive, clearly enunciated national security strategy? Does India need such a strategy in its nuclear weapons-dominated, unstable external security environment, and an internal security scenario vitiated by foreign sponsored insurgencies? the answer to the first question is definitely ‘no’ and to the second, an unambiguous ‘yes’. Certain broad objectives, principles and policies have undoubtedly shaped the Indian approach to national security issues since independence. These have varied from time to time depending on the prevailing security environment. However, they have never amounted to a well-conceived national security strategy that is an integrated whole and has specific objectives with a clear operational linkage. In the absence of a formally stated long-term national security strategy tied to viable operational plans, policy-making tends to be based on emerging situations and is, hence. mainly reactive. In view of the extreme complexity and interdependence of various elements of national security and the organisations responsible for it, there is an inescapable need to draw up holistic, time-based plans of action, with a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach, that safeguard India’s national interests and have relatively clear, well-defined objectives. “It is time India defines its national security interests clearly and pursues them relentlessly.”
Since strategies depend on the threats and challenges confronting a country, it is first necessary to evaluate these over the mid- and longterm periods. Threats and challenges have a dynamic of their own and are never easy to predict with any certainty. They appear, disappear and re-appear when least expected and in a form and manner that invariably comes as a surprise. Hence, the strategies once drawn up can never be treated as sacrosanct and need to be reviewed periodically to fine-tune them in line with the changes occurring on the geo-strategic landscape. Their progress of implementation needs to be monitored on a regular basis so that mid-course corrections can be applied when necessary. The aim of this article is to evaluate present and emerging threats to India’s vital interests in the prevailing nuclear environment, establish the need for a formal national security strategy and endeavour to recommend a comprehensive, dynamic national security strategy for India.
Era of Strategic Uncertainty
The 20th century, on which the curtain rang down some time ago, was perhaps the bloodiest century in history. Two world wars, the spectre of nuclear weapons, numerous small wars and insurgencies and, in the last few decades, many ethnic conflicts, ensured that the last century of the 2nd Millennium remained mired in violence. The peace dividend that was expected to accrue after the Cold War ended in 1991 failed to materialise. Instead, numerous small wars and insurgencies broke out all over the world, such as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Somalia, Rwanda, Kampuchea, Chechnya and East Timor. In a world that continues to be in a state of transition after the collapse of bi-polarity, new challenges and threats to national security are constantly emerging. While conventional war is becoming increasingly unviable as an instrument of foreign policy, sub-conventional conflict and armed violence have become more prevalent.
The end of the Cold War has led to what may be characterised as an era of strategic uncertainty. Defence planning has become more difficult in several ways. The sources and types of conflicts for which planning must be carried out have become more diverse and less predictable even as the number of potential adversaries continues to grow. The range of missions that armed forces need to undertake is expanding to include those likely to be assigned in sub-conventional conflict, including low-intensity border wars and insurgency fuelled by foreign powers. And, the global security agenda has expanded in functional terms. Yesterday’s peripheral challenges such as the security of energy sources and the threat from mass migrations now compete with conventional threats for a share in the defence pie. Systemic changes in the structure of the global economy, communications and military technologies are likely to alter the strategic stakes. These changes in the security paradigm are changing the strategic terms in which policy makers, military leaders and defence analysts must address long-term defence planning so as to evolve defence capabilities that will be relevant to the emerging threats.
Though national security is still essentially an amalgam of political, economic and military components of the state, there has been gradual erosion in the primacy of the state itself as the main player in geopolitics. While, at one level, regional groupings like the European Union have subsumed some of the functions of the state, at another, terrorist warlords and ethnic chieftains are emerging as powerful entities. Large MNCs are increasingly taking protective measures to guard their commercial interests across national boundaries and may soon raise their own private armies. International NGOs are also gradually becoming a force to reckon with in eroding the sovereignty of nation-states. Paradoxically, despite all these changes, nuclear weapons have continued to remain central to international politics as the predominant currency of military power, though reliance on other weapons of mass destruction is declining.
The global balance of power is shifting gradually but inexorably from North America and Europe to the Asia-Pacific region that is poised to become the new strategic centre of gravity in international politics. Some commentators have even declared that the 21“ century will be the Asian century. (Some Indian commentators have averred that the new century will be an Indian century.) For the first time since the commencement of the industrial revolution, the single largest concentration of economic power will be found not in Europe or the Americas but in Asia. However, despite its formidable economic power, the Asia-Pacific region will remain a relatively turbulent region beset by internal conflicts and political transitions and subject to continuity insecurity due to a changing external security environment and increasing militarisation. The following factors support this assessment:
• A large number of countries in Asia are passing through political transition by way of changes in the prevailing systems of governance and societal transformation.
• The threat of potential inter-state conflict hangs large over the Asian continent as unresolved territorial and boundary disputes and competing claims to sovereignty continue to haunt interstate relations.
• There is an ongoing increase in the general level of militarisation.Burgeoning conventional military capabilities and new developments in weapons of mass destruction with associated delivery systems are a destabilising factor.
•The inevitable long-term trend is that the traditional security regime that maintained a relative balance of power in Asia after World War II will be increasingly at risk.
However, it must be stated that though many old boundary and territorial disputes are yet to be resolved, these are mostly latent and are unlikely to be the cause for a sudden conflagration. The real emerging challenges to security are from terrorism, ethnic diversity, the proliferation of small arms, narcotics trafficking and religious extremism and these need to be addressed with concern and vigour. In fact, narco-terrorism will be a primary concern in the next few decades. The concept of an emerging Asian security framework envisages a system of ‘competitive cooperation’ within a matrix of ‘cooperative security’. Like China, India is likely to emerge as a major economic and military power. India would seek cooperative and constructive engagement with all major powers. A closer SAARC-ASEAN economic linkage and a shared interest in maritime security will develop as trade across the Indian Ocean increases rapidly.
Regional Instabilities and Islamic Resurgence
India’s regional security environment has been destabilised by the collusive nuclear weapons-cum-missile development programme between China and Pakistan, the strident march of Islamist fundamentalism, the diabolical nexus between narcotics trafficking and terrorism, the proliferation of Small Arms and a host of other vitiating factors. Afghanistan’s endless civil war and its tense relations with Tran and the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Pakistan’s gradual slide towards becoming a ‘failed state’, Sri Lanka’s continued involvement in the vicious Tamilian insurgency, Bangladesh’s struggle for economic upliftment to subsistence levels, the Tibetans’ struggle against state repression and the Myanmar peoples’ nascent movement for democracy, are all symptomatic of an unstable and uncertain security environment in the Southern Asian region.
The continuing civil strife in Afghanistan poses perhaps the most serious threat to peace and stability in the Southern Asian region, While the Pakistan-supported and equipped Taliban militia has consolidated its hold over large parts of Afghan territory,’ Ahmed Shah Masood is still holding out in the Panjshir Valley. Abdul Rashid Dostum’s Northern Alliance, propped up by tacit support from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, the CAR states bordering Afghanistan, and by the physical presence of approximately 20,000 Russian troops north of Afghanistan’s border, can still influence the final military outcome in Afghanistan. Iran has not withdrawn all the troops that it massed along its eastern border with Afghanistan in 1998-99 and the likelihood of the present impasse breaking out into an armed conflict cannot be entirely ruled out. After the expiry of the United Nations Security Council deadline to hand over Osama bin Laden by November 15, 1999, there is a possibility that the US may once again launch cruise missile attacks on bin Laden’s terrorist hideouts inside Afghanistan. This will further aggravate the already vitiated regional security environment.
The most urgent international issue in Afghanistan is Pakistan’s continued, visibly overt, military support to the Taliban militia and the unprecedented covert support that Pakistan is providing to prop up and perpetuate a fundamentalist and fanatical Islamist regime. If the Taliban experiment is allowed to succeed, the virulence of Islamist fundamentalism will soon reverberate all over the Southern Asian region, including the CARs. Pakistan continues to disregard the fact that the first country to be seriously affected by the triumph of the Taliban variety of Islamist resurgence will be Pakistan itself. Whether Pakistan’s present military regime will show a greater understanding of these fundamental security issues than the Nawaz Sharif administration did and whether it will be able to rein in the mullahs, remains to be seen.
Taliban’s consolidation of gains in Afghanistan will have major consequences for India. As per Pakistan’s Jammu and Kashmir game plan, up to 1,500 to 2,000 Taliban mercenaries are likely to be pushed into J&K to give a nudge to the so-called jehad. The ratio of the requirement of security forces to militants, to achieve a semblance of control, has stabilised over ten years of ‘proxy war’ at approximately 20:1. Hence, another 30,000 to 40,000 troops will be required tor counterinsurgency operations in J&K if the Taliban hordes manage to infiltrate as per Pakistan’s current planning. Clearly, India needs to adopt a proactive strategy to ensure that the Taliban does not continue to rule Afghanistan and that the Taliban militia is disbanded under international supervision. The campaign for a strong and stable Afghanistan under a truly representative government has to be fought on all fronts – political, diplomatic, moral and, if necessary, military.
External and Internal Security Environment
The Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir J&K) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) at Siachen Glacier, are perpetual flashpoints between India and Pakistan due to their active nature. Further violations of the LoC, such as the intrusions engineered by Pakistan in the Kargil district of J&K in the summer months of 1999, have the potential to lead to full-scale conventional conflict. With a hawkish military “chief executive” in power in Pakistan, the recurrence of such misadventures has gained credibility. India’s unresolved territorial and boundary dispute with China and an un-demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC) on the Indo-Tibetan border do not augur well for long-term peace and stability between these two Asian giants. There has been an almost unending influx of migrants from Bangladesh into India’s northeastern states. Hence, good border management will remain a major security imperative for many decades to come.
Though there has been a gradual reduction in the enhanced levels of post-Pokhran II intrusions and patrolling activities by the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) border troops along the LAC with China, there has been virtually no progress on the resolution of the major territorial and boundary dispute. While the Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement (BPTA) of 1993 remains in place, the confidence building measures (CBMs) agreed upon in 1996 are yet to be translated into practically viable ground level measures even though the stalled Joint Working Group meetings have since been resumed. The LAC continues to remain ill defined and ambiguous and its early ‘clarification’ on ground and map still appears to be a distant goal. The only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn is that China is apparently in no hurry for further progress on these substantive issues and that it suits China to put them on the back burner for some more time.
China’s unjustifiable opposition to India’s nuclear weapons programme, its continuing nuclear and missile collusion and defence cooperation with Pakistan, its support to the military regime in Myanmar, its assistance to the LITE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) in Sri Lanka and increasing activities in the Bay of Bengal, its attempts to isolate India in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and its relentless efforts to increase its influence in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, are all pointers to a carefully orchestrated plan aimed at the strategic encirclement of India. Clearly, China poses a long-term strategic challenge to India as a competing regional power in Asia. India needs to take this reality into account and distinguish between what China professes and what it actually does.
India has also been saddled with a long-drawn low intensity conflict (LIC) in J&K and the northeastern states where Pakistan is continuing to wage a proxy war’ against India by actively aiding and abetting insurgencies. Militancy in Punjab, though dormant at present, could also come to the fore again if the state exhibits signs of being complacent. The ongoing People’s War Group agitation in Telangana, the tensions simmering in the Ramnad coastal belt of Tamil Nadu, fuelled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), are keeping the pot boiling in southern India. The occasional violent outbursts of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the Ranvir Sena, among other such organisations in Bihar, the latent movements for autonomy in Uttarakhand in Uttar Pradesh and Gorkhaland in West Bengal and the increasing fundamentalist Islamic influence along Rajasthan’s border with Pakistan, will ensure that India’s internal security remains in a state of flux for decades to come, particularly when Pakistan loses no opportunity to provoke internal problems.
The future of nuclear deterrence constitutes a crucial facet of India’s security. India has for long lived under the shadow of China’s nuclear weapons. China is rapidly modernising its nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and is “quite openly proud of its emerging MIRV (multiple, independently targeted re-entry vehicle) capability for which it has coined the slogan ‘one arrow, three stars’.” Most of China’s nuclear weapons are known to be short-range, battlefield or ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons! and a large number of them are deployed in Tibet. China’s Strategic Rocket Wing was formerly called the Second Artillery. Since China has already signed a de-targeting agreement with Russia and the United States (US), the nuclear weapons in Tibet, particularly the short-range ones, constitute a threat-in-being to India. It would be in India’s interest to offer a mutual ‘no first use’ agreement to China as a confidence building measure (CBM).
Other Asian powers with nuclear weapons include the US (due to its forward military presence), Russia and Israel. India and Russia enjoy a good relationship based on a mutuality of interests. Neither India nor Russia sees the other’s nuclear weapons as an existing or a likely threat. With Israel, India now has a burgeoning defence equipment procurement relationship. The growing menace of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism poses a common problem that requires a coordinated approach. Israel’s nuclear weapons are primarily meant to underwrite its survivability asa nation-state in a perpetually hostile environment and are unlikely to ever pose a strategic challenge to India. After President Bill Clinton’s Indian sojourn in March 2009, the US and India now have a relatively warmer strategic relationship than during the Cold War period when the US had seen India as leaning towards the Soviet Union and had itself tilted towards Pakistan. However, the US still sees India’s nuclear weapons as an unacceptable violation of its non-proliferation agenda. Many Indian analysts have expressed the view that the continued presence of nuclear weapons at Diego Garcia, an Indian Ocean island only about 1,800 kilometres from Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin, India’s southernmost tip), and on board ships and submarines of the US Navy’s Indian Ocean Fleet, constitutes a threat-in-being to India. Such an impression has not gained currency without reason and the issue merits closer examination.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has increasingly tended to see many new threats from diverse sources. Among these, India has often been cited as a potential source of security problems for the US. A Pentagon report entitled Proliferation: Threat and Response, released by Secretary of Defence William Cohen in November 1997, referred to “the threat perceptions posed by ‘two nuclear powers’ — India and Pakistan. It refers to their potential to use chemical and biological weapons if their 50-year old rivalry flares for the fourth time.” In all fairness, it must be stated that the focus of the report was on Iraq; however, the reference to India stirred a hornet’s nest. In another Rand Corporation report Sources of Conflict in the 21 Century: Regional Futures and US Strategy, scenario prepared for the Pentagon predicts a nuclear conflagration over Kashmir in 2006 after “the insurgency in Indian Kashmir has become unmanageable” and Pakistan “launches major attacks all along the international border, accompanied by an intense air campaign.” As Indian forces “continue to press forward, Pakistan detonates a small bomb on an Indian armoured formation in an unpopulated area of the desert border region… India’s response is by destroying a Pakistani air base by a two weapon nuclear attack. Pakistan then attacks Jodhpur with a 20-kiloton (kt) Weapon and demands cessation of hostilities. But India strikes Hyderabad with a weapon assessed to be 200 kt and threatens “ten times’ more destruction if any more nuclear weapons are used, Pakistan then offers a cease-fire in place. The Rand report was intended to serve the long-range planning needs of the US Air Force and has visualised an inescapable role for it in a future Indo-Pak conflict. The report states: “For example, imagine a situation in which several densely populated South Asian cities have been struck by nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan in an ongoing regional conflict. The United States would surely be called upon to lead relief efforts and the US military would be at the leading edge of any response.”
In a report entitled 1998 Strategic Assessment, prepared by the National Defence University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies and presented to General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in August 1998, shortly after the nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan, India, Russia and China were “dubbed as large transition nuclear states with economic potential, population size and technological capacity to challenge the US military might.” The report characterised these three countries as US security strategy ‘wild cards’ and recommended “encouraging these countries to reform and become integrated into “core” US alliances, while maintaining the capability to respond to dangers and ‘destabilising behaviour’ of these nations.” The report painted a “worst case scenario’ in which the three states could “encourage instability, proliferation and challenge the US military supremacy.” In the same month, Jim Ryan, a Republican Congressman, “clubbed India and Pakistan with China and the so-called rogue states like Iraq and Iran and said these countries pose long-term danger to the United States.“ He wrote in an article in The Washington Times that, “China, India, Pakistan, Iran and other rogue nations… are arming their war machines with missiles capable of hitting cities in the US.”
There have also been reports of US war games in which India’s western seaboard is targeted with Tomahawk cruise missiles, followed by US Marine landings, even as nuclear armed submarines patrol the Arabian Sea and bomber aircraft from Diego Garcia stand by. However, not all US think-tank reports visualise a threat to American interests and not all such reports predict an inevitable US intervention. In his much discussed documented briefing Stability in South Asia, prepared for the US Army, while predicting “ugly stability” in South Asia in the decades ahead, Ashley Tellis has written that, “It is unlikely that the United States will intervene militarily in South Asia in the foreseeable future…” Indian defence analysts, who are normally more than willing to go the extra mile to accommodate US security interests, even though US analysts have always had great difficulty in comprehending Indian security concerns, find these reports alarming. What concerns them even more is that the US might miscalculate and that it may launch a cruise missile and even a nuclear attack occasioned entirely by misperceptions. K. Subrahmanyam has written:”…The weapons are a threat and that needs to be countered by India acquiring similar systems… There is also a need for India to acquire sea denial capabilities, both conventional and nuclear powered submarines, which will be a deterrent against navies with unfriendly intentions coming close enough to Indian coasts to pose threats to our cities and infrastructure.” It is for these reasons that the US nuclear weapons and launch platforms in India’s neighbourhood are perceived as a threat-in-being.
The transition of India and Pakistan to the status of states with nuclear weapons (SNWs) has led to many misgivings. In particular, the bogey of Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint has been raised by vested Western interests and Southern Asia has been classified as an unstable region. The termination of the 1999 Kargil conflict through mutual agreement has conclusively proved that such views are merely hype and hoopla and have little substance. Though nuclear weapons in Pakistan are under the control of the army that now also holds the reins of power, India has no reason to believe that the Pakistani Generals will act less responsibly than the political dispensations in power in other nuclear weapons states when they know clearly that unleashing the nuclear genie will certainly lead to the end of Pakistan as a nation-state, regardless of the damage that India might sustain. India’s interests lie in actively pursuing universal nuclear disarmament even while developing a credible minimum nuclear deterrent to meet the country’s security needs.
Emerging Security Challenges
Even as India grapples with diverse external and internal threats to its security, many new challenges are emerging on the security horizon.Before the dangers evident in them can be addressed, the emerging threats need to be identified and understood. The major emerging threats are outlined below:
• Increasing demands for electric power to meet the requirements of industry and the growing population will make energy security a primary concern. Energy security will be particularly important in future, as fossil fuels will become more and more inadequate for the nation’s increasing energy needs. Domestic oil production has been declining while the demand has been rising steadily.
Hence, oil will continue to be a strategic resource and the security of India’s oil supplies from abroad as well as that of all oil reserves and installations will need to be ensured.
• India’s growing population and the likelihood of mass migrations into India, for example from Bangladesh, will threaten the existing food reserves and endanger food security. The nation will find it extremely difficult to cope with successive failures of the monsoon, if they occur, and the consequent famine-like conditions that are likely to prevail. For almost a decade now, the monsoon has been bountiful in most parts of India. Quite obviously, this cannot continue for long and the law of averages will catch up sooner rather than later.
• The ravages of global warming and changing monsoon patterns are likely to deplete India’s water sources and threaten water security even as the increasing population, rapid industrialisation and the enhanced requirements of irrigation raise the demand for water. The Tata Energy Research Institute has estimated that the demand for water will almost double from 564 billion cubic metres (bcum) in 1997 to 1,048 bcum in 2047.” The situation will be further exacerbated when the Himalayan nation-states begin drawing more water for their own consumption. The amicable sharing of the Ganga River waters between India, Bangladesh and Nepal has already been posing problems. Successive droughts have ravaged some of India’s western states during 1999 and 2000 mainly due to groundwater levels having fallen to extremely low levels.
• Information warfare is another emerging threat through which, besides nation-states, non-state actors, individual terrorists and even disgruntled elements within a state can play havoc with a nation’s telecom, banking, stock exchanges, power grids, railways and air traffic control infrastructure, besides military communications and networks. The prevention of large-scale damage through a complex cyber-security system requires an inter-departmental approach in concert with industry and private entrepreneurs and can only be undertaken by a duly empowered apex organisation.
• The threats to India’s maritime security are increasing exponentially as the world turns more and more towards the exploitation of ocean resources for food, energy and raw materials. This long- neglected aspect needs to be incorporated in the management of national security so that India’s ocean resources in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) are not poached at will by state and non-state actors. Increasing piracy at sea and the possible use of India’s island territories by terrorist organisations and for trade in contraband goods are other serious maritime threats.
• Security of the environment is another emerging challenge. The continuing increase in the population will threaten the already depleted forest resources as the area of cultivable land comes undef pressure. Also, over exploitation of the oceans may upset the delicate marine balance. Increasing urbanisation is causing its Own environmental problems. Soil erosion in some areas, specially in hill states due to the impact of deforestation, and the irreplaceable loss of vital nutrients due to the tendency to harvest three to four crops a year in some other states, will eventually lay waste vast areas of cultivable lands and severely curtail agricultural production.
• In future, the Indian government will have to increasingly plan for the security concerns of the vast Indian Diaspora, particularly the migrant Indian population employed on temporary work permits in the Gulf countries. The Gulf War in 1990-91 had resulted in the most massive airlift since the Berlin airlift as over 100,000 Indian workforce personnel had to be evacuated from Iraq. The increasing persecution of ethnic minorities of Indian origin in countries like Pakistan will create its own tensions and may force India to intervene in future. The May 2000 coup In Fiji, where the Indian minority was specifically targeted, may be a pointer of the shape of things to come.
Still newer challenges that are emerging include those from organised crime and narco-terrorism. India is flanked by two of the most notorious narcotics producing regions in the world — the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan; annual production approximately 2,500 tonnes) on the west and the Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand; 1,500 tonnes) on the east. Money laundering and the issue of fake currency by inimical neighbours are new problems to be contended with. The Asian financial crisis demonstrated that a nation’s currency can be undermined through external intervention and its economy can De destabilised.” The Ministry of Defence (MoD) Annual Report 1995-96 listed several other non-military ‘pressures’ on the national security environment which could not be ignored. These included ”…those relating to trade, intellectual property rights, environment, human The existing and emerging threats to national security are becoming, more and more complex to evaluate and manage in the prevailing era of strategic uncertainty.
Need for a Formal Defence Policy
These threats and challenges to national security require systematic evaluation by an apex body and the formulation of a comprehensive national security strategy to ensure that they are managed well and not allowed to spin out of control. Indian defence analysts have for long lamented the lack of a national security vision and strategy. With his characteristic frankness, K. Subrahmanyam minces no words in bluntly stating that, “It is now well recognised all over the world that India does not have a tradition of strategic thinking… mainly due to the incapacity of our political leaders and top civil servants to take a long-term view of national security. This is compounded by their consequent failure in giving a lead to the armed forces in preparing the country to face its long-term need for defence preparedness.” In Brahma Chellaney’s view, “The lack of an integrated, long-term national security approach stands out as the biggest failure of nation-building in the half-century that India has been independent. In the absence of such an approach, national security policy-making has been characterised largely by ad hoc decisions to meet new threats and realities.“”” M. D. Nalapat says that national security policy has generally been one of reacting to threats and events and, “A holistic view was avoided as this would have reduced the powers of the separate bureaucracies (in the home and defence ministries especially) dealing with the problem… this uncoordinated response to security threats is a major failing in the system.” And, K. N. Daruwalla asks, “Can a country have a military doctrine if it does not posses a Strategic one? If your overall objectives and goals are ambiguous and undefined (and never discussed), how can you lay down objectives for your armed forces? How can a military doctrine be embedded in such amorphousness?…..Since the armed forces are required to safeguard national interests, foreign policy objectives should go hand in hand with the development of the military machine.” However, Jasjit Singh has expressed the view that, “….the reality also must be recognised that (despite the absence of a formally articulated defence doctrine) the country has managed its defence and military affairs well during the past half century.”
Indian policy planners have traditionally fought shy of formally articulating the country’s defence and national security policies. Perhaps this reticence owes its origins to an innate sense of refraining from hurting the sensibilities of India’s adversaries and neighbours. In its Nineteenth Report, the Estimates Committee had recommended that the country should have a formal National Security Doctrine. When the standing Committee on Defence (1995-96) in the Tenth Lok Sabha enquired about the action taken on this recommendation, the Defence secretary replied:”….there is a policy; the only thing is that it is not written down as a separate document and published as such… As a matter of policy we have not published such a document and the Government has not been in favour of publishing a separate document. It is only the United States in my knowledge which annually publishes a document called National Security Doctrine. Non-publication of the document does not mean in any way non-existence of policy.” Replying to the debate in the Lok Sabha on the Demands for grants of the MoD, on May 10, 1995, Prime Minister P. V. Narsimha Rao, who was also the Defence Minister, stated: “We do not have a document called India’s National Defence Policy. But we have got several guidelines which are followed, strictly followed and observed… This policy is not merely rigid in the sense that it has been written down, but these are the guidelines, these are the objectives, these are the matters which are always kept in view while conducting our defence policy…”
Similarly, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) avers in its Annual Report 1998-99 that, “We view foreign policy as an integral part of the larger effort of building the nation’s capabilities: through economic development, strengthening social well-being and the quality of life and of protecting India’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security, not only in its defence and economic aspects, but in the widest strategic sense of the term.’ It says that India’s external relations are guided by “well established principles” which have formed the “basis of our foreign policy for decades” and “enjoy a broad national consensus, thus providing a strong foundation of stability and continuity.” However, the report does not spell out what those principles are in specific terms and how they translate into practical execution in furthering national interests and objectives.
It is due to this lack of a long-term national security perspective and the failure to initiate a public debate for the formulation of a national consensus on the vital interests, national security objectives and a synergised national security strategy, that the security pendulum has swung between the interventionist “Indira Doctrine” of the 1970s and 1980s on one end and the conciliatory “Gujral Doctrine” of the mid-1990s on the other. The Indira Doctrine stated that, “India will neither intervene in the domestic affairs of any state in the region, unless requested to do so, nor tolerate such intervention by an external power. If external assistance is needed to meet an external crisis, states should first look within the region (that is, to India) for help.” The ill-conceived IPKF intervention in Sri Lanka, as also the stand-off with Nepal on the trade treaty and the successful crushing of the coup in the Maldives could be attributed to the practical application of the Indira Doctrine (dubbed as a “muscular” foreign policy by some non-Indian South Asian commentators).The Gujral Doctrine reflected the recognition that India’s policies towards its smaller neighbours within Southern Asia should show greater concern for their security perceptions, instead of sticking to hard-line attitudes that have created tensions in the past. The essence of the doctrine was that India would not insist on reciprocity and would be prepared to go more than half way to improve its relations with its smaller neighbours. Inder Gujral, India’s Minister for External Affairs, expected the implementation of his ideas to result in a “fundamental recasting of South Asia’s regional relationships… to create a climate of greater confidence and close and mutually beneficial co-operation.””’ The two doctrines would require fundamentally different national security strategies to implement though these would not be mutually exclusive and would even overlap in certain areas. Radically different approaches to national security from decade to decade can only lead to a mismatch between capabilities and intentions and must be resolved through wider national debate.
The closest that government documents in India come to articulating national security and foreign policy objectives are the annual reports of the MoD and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). In fact, it was only with the 1997-98 annual report that the MoD for the first time spelt out India’s national security objectives. Commenting on this interesting development, Raja Menon wrote recently: “The Annual Defence Report Of 1997-98 has many welcome changes and for the first time, the notion of ‘sacred territory’ has been watered down. In all the previous years the role of the armed forces was depicted purely and solely as the “defence of our territorial integrity’, exhibiting a mindset that was not conducive to understanding coercive diplomacy, the manipulation of risk and the threat of military action.”
• In its opening chapter entitled “National Security Environment”, the Annual Report of 1997-98 stated that India’s national security objectives are served by:
• Defending the country’s borders as defined by law and enshrined in the Constitution and protecting the lives and property of its citizens against terrorism and insurgencies.
• Promoting further co-operation and understanding with neighbouring countries and implementing mutually agreed confidence-building measures.
• Working with countries of the Non-Aligned Movement to address key challenges before the international community and engaging in co-operative security initiatives such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
• Pursuing security and strategic dialogues with major powers and Key partners.
• Following a consistent and principled policy on disarmament and international security issues based on universality, nondiscrimination and equal security for all.
• Having a secure and effective deterrent against the use or the threat of use of weapons of mass destruction against India.
Post-Pokhran II in May 1998, in the 1998-99 Annual Report, the issue of deterrence against weapons of mass destruction was moved up from the last place to the second place in the national security objectives and was re-worded as follows: “Having a secure, effective and credible minimum deterrent against the use or threat of use of weapons of, mass destruction against India. The profile of this deterrent, including accurate and refined delivery systems, will not be circumscribed in range and payload by any outside pressure or influence but will be determined by the country’s threat perception at any point of time.” Also, a new sub-para on technology control regimes was added: “Insulating the country from the effect of individual or group restrictions on the transfer of material, equipment and technologies that have a bearing on India’s security, particularly its defence preparedness. This involves a greater emphasis on in-house research, development and production of the nation’s requirements and recourse to feasible alternative sources.” In the 1998-99 Annual Report, in the objective on the country’s disarmament policy, the phrase “based on the principles of supreme national interest” has been added after the words “and international security issues”. Curiously, the report refers to the territorial dispute with China as a “boundary” dispute.” A careful reading of the national security objectives enunciated in the annual reports of the MoD reveals a tendency to mix objectives with policy in some cases and shows that the objectives are mere statements of intent in others.
According to the MoD, ”… although there has been no specifically written document called India’s National Defence Policy, yet it has been articulated clearly and unambiguously through various policy statements over the years. The policy articulated since independence is as follows:
“That our military capability is to be so directed to ensuring the defence of national territory over land, sea and air encompassing among others the inviolability of our land borders, island territories, offshore assets and our maritime trade routes. Government have repeatedly made it clear that it is not our objective to influence/interfere/dominate (the) region on the basis of military strength.”
In a submission made by the MoD to the Standing Committee on Defence, it was stated that the following aspects “fully depict the national security interests”
• Defence of national territory over land, sea and air, encompassing among others the inviolability of our land borders, island territories, offshore assets and our maritime trade routes.
• To secure an internal environment whereby our Nation State is insured against any threat to its unity or progress on the basis of religion, language, ethnicity or socio-economic dissonance.
• To enable our country to exercise a degree of influence over the nations in our immediate neighbourhood to promote harmonious relationship in tune with our national interests.
• To be able to effectively contribute towards regional and international stability.
• To possess an effective out-of-the-country contingency capability to prevent destabilisation of the small nations in our immediate neighbourhood that could have adverse security implications for us.
Though national security interests and objectives have been spelt out in bits and pieces by the Government, in annual reports and while answering the queries of the Standing Committee on Defence, as brought out above, these have tended to change from time to time and have not been subject to direct parliamentary oversight. These policy statements are of a transitory nature and could sometimes even be based on the personal predilections of policy makers who may be In power at a given point in time. A case in point is the question of whether or not China poses a threat to India. It is well known that while the Defence Minister was reported to have named China as India’s number one threat, the Minister for External Affairs subsequently ruled out such an assessment. Hence, these transitory policy statements do not amount to a comprehensive, nationally debated approach that is sanctified by parliamentary consensus transcending the political divide.
Brahma Chellaney has written: “…it needs to be recognised that national security is much more than defence policy. The defence of India means the defence of its national interests. National security demands integrated planning and co-ordinated use of India’s political, military, diplomatic and scientific resources to advance its core interests Unfortunately, India lacks a long-term national security strategy despite the pressing problems it confronts. There is no integrated policy-making process that seeks to make specific policies compatible with each other…serious efforts have (not been) made to establish institutionalised methods so that policy-making is driven less by personalities and more by longterm integrated planning. A host of functional inefficiencies continue to burden Indian policy-making constricting any government’s ability to manage national security in a prudent, cost-effective and result-oriented manner…” Even the Kargil Review Committee Report has recommended an overhaul of the present “The Committee strongly feels that the Kargil experience, the continuing proxy war and the prevailing nuclearised security environment justify a thorough review of the national security system in its entirely.”
It clearly emerges that the manifold existing and emerging external and internal threats to national security demand a comprehensive and mature system for their handling and management. Present Government policies appear to reflect individual ministerial approaches rather than a holistic integrated approach. Coherence in application can only flow from a synergised national security strategy. Only an all-encompassing national! security management system can take into account all the prevalent inter-ministerial, inter-departmental and civil-military diversities. The emerging asymmetric threats require systematic evaluation and meticulous planning, so that long-term projections can be made in respect of military force structures and the development of the necessary capabilities.
Only when a comprehensive national security strategy is formulated to deal with the existing and emerging threats on a long- and mid-term basis, can the responsibilities of the armed forces and concerned government departments be clearly visualised. Based on the security objectives and the responsibilities assigned, the Services can review their organisational and force structures and make recommendations to the government to institute the changes necessary to translate policy into action. The virtues of long-term defence planning cannot be overemphasised. Ad hoc functioning on a year-to-year basis leads to imperfection in decision-making and tends to result in avoidable waste.
US Interests and National Security Strategy
Before attempting to draw up a list of national interests and a national security strategy for India, it would be instructive to take a closer look at the clearly articulated national security strategy of the US as a representative model of the free world.
The preface to the 1999 US annual National Security Strategy report, submitted in accordance with Section 603 of the Goldwater-Nichols Defence Department Reorganisation Act of 1986, identifies the following three core national security objectives:
• To enhance America’s security with effective diplomacy and with military forces that are ready to fight and win.
• To bolster America’s economic prosperity.
• To promote democracy and human rights abroad.
joint Vision 2010, a key conceptual vision statement of the US armed forces, provides an operationally based template for the evolution of the US armed forces for a “challenging and uncertain future.” The vision statement aims to develop quality people, trained, equipped and ready for joint operations – a military that is persuasive in peace, decisive in war and pre-eminent in any form of conflict. The vision statement provides a conceptual template for developing in the US armed forces a capability for dominance of the full spectrum of conflict in the 21st century, to meet the following enduring US goals:
• Protecting the lives and safety of Americans both at home and abroad.
• Maintaining the political freedom and national independence of the US with its values, institutions and territory intact.
• Providing for the well being and prosperity of the nation and its people.
The national goals, in turn, generate interests that must be protected and advanced. In the US, as stated above, these interests include enhancing security, promoting prosperity at home and democracy abroad. The US foreign and security policies lay emphasis on “ensuring strong relations with US allies, protecting rights of transit on the high seas and enlarging the community of free market democracies. The US expects to confront a variety of regional threats, including that of coercion and large-scale trans-border aggression against US allies and friends by hostile states. The US anticipates that failed or failing states may create humanitarian crises and instability in regions where the US has vital interests. The continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and advanced weapons technologies may destabilise some vulnerable regions, increase the number of potential adversaries and upset the delicate military balance in regions with long-festering territorial and boundary disputes. A variety of transnational dangers such as religious extremism, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, international organised crime and uncontrolled migration or refugee flows may threaten US security Lastly, the US foresees emerging threats to its homeland from other countries’ strategic arsenals, international terrorism, information operations and cyber attacks conducted by state and non-state actors. The US military is concerned that, because of its dominance in the conventional war arena, its adversaries are likely to employ asymmetric means to exploit its vulnerabilities. Adversaries may use unconventional approaches to undermine its strength and thwart its ability to respond.
Hence, the US military must be prepared for asymmetric challenges.
The US has drawn up the following strategic priorities to advance its core national security objectives:
• Help foster a peaceful, undivided, democratic Europe.
• Look across the Pacific as well as across the Atlantic.
• Ensure that the American people prosper in a global economy.
• America must continue to be an unrelenting force for peace from the Middle East to Haiti, from Northern Ireland to Central Africa.
• Continue to move strongly to counter growing dangers to US security: weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, international crime, drugs, illegal arms trafficking and environmental damage.
India’s foremost national interest is India’s survival as a nation state. Despite several wars and low intensity conflicts having been thrust on it by inimical external powers, India has successfully survived the first half century after independence. It is well known that India has no claims or territorial ambitions beyond its borders. Ample proof of this was provided After the 1971 war with Pakistan when India declared a unilateral ceasefire on the western border despite being in a position of immense military superiority after the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) surrendered at Dacca. The Indian armed forces also vacated all Bangladesh territories by March 1972. However, Indian territory remains under the occupation of its adversaries. Pakistan is in occupation of approximately 80,000 square km of the state of J&K since 1947-48 despite a United Nations resolution calling upon it to vacate. China is in occupation of about 38,000 square km of India’s Aksai Chin since November 1962. Also, Pakistan has illegally ceded 5,800 square km of Indian territory in J&K to China through which the Karakoram Highway has ben constructed.
India s first vital national interest is Independence and autonomy In decision-making. There can be no compromises with national level! decision-making in important matters, particularly those relating to national security. Whether it is the decision to sign the CTBT or to join the FMCT negotiations, Indian decision-makers must be guided purely by the national ‘interest and not by any extraneous considerations. The next vital interest in Order of importance would be to create a secure environment conducive lo India’s unhindered economic development. India should aim to achieve the status of a fully developed country by 2020-25 and the Indian Government must not tolerate any external interference in this national effort. The early resolution of the territorial and boundary dispute with China is a vital interest for India’s security and so is the resolution of the ongoing low intensity limited conflict along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) at Siachen Glacier. Ensuring that Pakistan’s sponsorship of trans-border and trans-LoC terrorism and insurgency in J&K and other parts of India is brought to an early end would also qualify as a vital interest. In fact, finding a long-term solution to the internal and external dimensions of the Kashmir problem is India’s foremost vital interest at present.
Another vital interest would be to ensure that a credible nuclear deterrence is firmly in place with China and Pakistan. If nuclear deterrence were to ever fail, this interest would be instantaneously upgraded to the level of a vital or even survival interest and immediate retaliatory action would be warranted. Parallel to this would be work towards total, universal nuclear disarmament and disarmament of other weapons of mass destruction. The protection of Indian citizens against threats to their lives and to care for their well-being at all places and at all times would be vital interests. Other vital interests would include a conflict and tension free internal security environment and the protection of key national infrastructure from physical and cyber attack. Effective control over and the protection of India’s airspace is a vital interest that cannot be compromised. As 97 percent of India’s trade (by volume) is ship-borne, the guaranteed, unhindered passage of Indian ships and foreign-owned ships carrying goods to and from India through India’s sea lanes of communications (SLOCs) would also be a vital interest and the Indian Navy would need to be structured ‘to ensure the protection of these SLOCs both during war and peace. India must spare no effort to defend its vital interests, including the decisive use of military force when necessary and appropriate.
Major interests are important but not crucial to the well-being of a country. Major economic, political and ideological issues that cause serious concern can be negotiated with adversaries even if the negotiations are protracted. Confrontation is rarely desirable to protect major interests. A confrontation free regional security environment is a major national security interest. An early end to the Afghan conflict and the resolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka would be major interests with diplomatic and military overtones. To enable India to exercise a degree of influence over the nations in India’s regional neighbourhood to promote harmonious relationship in tune with India’s national interests would be a major national interest. Safeguarding India’s interests in its two million square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is an important major interest. The maintenance of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace is a major interest that also has a bearing on the prevention of armed intervention and the establishment of military bases by inimical external forces in India’s regional neighbourhood. India would like to promote the United Nations (UN) as the world’s premier peacekeeping, peace enforcement and peace support organisation and continue its support to such operations worldwide. As a corollary, it is in India’s interest to oppose the growing tendencies to marginalise the UN since the end of the Cold War.
Another major interest is the resolution of internal ethnic conflicts with fissiparous tendencies and the prevention of terrorism, Linked with this are the proliferation of small arms and narcotics trafficking and Organised crime, including the circulation of fake Indian currency to undermine the Indian economy. Since these internal problems have a major external dimension, they need to be approached in a comprehensive inter-ministerial and inter-departmental manner at the national level in conjunction with the concerned state governments. Energy, food, water and environmental security are major interests that require synergised civil and military action plans at the national level. India must at all times maintain access to sources of energy supplies, natural resources and world markets for Indian goods. The prevention of demographic invasions from India’s neighbours would also qualify as a major interest. Promoting democracy abroad, particularly in the Southern Asian region, is as important for India as it is for the US. India would need to find ways and means to promote democracy in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and even Tibet without direct interference in the internal affairs of these countries.
A peripheral interest is one that does not seriously affect the entire nation’s well being even though it may be detrimental to the private interests of Indian citizens and businessmen. Peripheral interests are lower order political, economic and ideological interests. Concern for the well being of the Indian Diaspora could be called a peripheral interest.However, such interests may at times have to be upgraded to major interests due to the impact of the prevailing situation. The events in Fiji during the summer of months of 2000 when the democratically elected government was overthrown and the Indian minority was subjected to undue harassment provide an example. While the promotion of democracy abroad is a major interest, the promotion of secular values could be termed as a peripheral interest. Humanitarian interests would also qualify aS peripheral interests. China’s human rights violations in Tibet are of immense concern to India because of India’s long-standing affinity with the Tibetan people. Pakistan’s suppression of the human rights of the people of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan are also a cause for concern. [he people in these areas do not enjoy any fundamental rights and those in the Northern Areas have no representation or say In their governance. India needs to bring international pressures to bear on these countries to stop these wanton and unchecked human rights violations.
The two national interests that are most likely to determine whether a country would engage in war are serious military threats to its homeland and major potential dangers to its external environment. [he real test of the worth of a nation’s political leadership is to correctly assess vital national interests and the likely costs involved in upholding them. Failure to appreciate the intensity of an antagonist’s interest, or for that matter an ally’s stake, can lead to blunders in foreign policy and disasters in war. The United Kingdom’s invasion of Egypt in 1956, the US intervention in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, Argentina’s seizure of the Falklands Islands in 1982 and Saddam Hussein’s capture of Kuwait in 1990 are examples of such blunders. The US intervention in Vietnam Is a classic example of the political leaders deciding that the issue was a vital interest and merited armed intervention and the US Congress and public thinking otherwise. No issue that is not supported wholeheartedly by the public can be graded as a vital interest without the risk of ultimate failure if the use of force is resorted to. This is, of course, more true of open societies and modern democracies than of totalitarian regimes. India’s intervention in Sri Lanka in 1987 was not supported by the public and had finally lea to an ignominious abandonment without having achieved any strategic goals.
National interests cannot be easily sub-divided into vital, major and peripheral ones, as they tend to change with changes in the international environment and the prevailing situation at any point in time. [he subdivisions tend to be judgmental and even experienced analysts can and often do wrong. It must be recognised that various political leaders, government functionaries, scholars and academics would have their own concept of what qualifies as a vital, major or peripheral interest. It Is necessary to have a parliamentary and wider public debate on these issues to assess whether there is a national consensus. After that it should be left to the National Security Council and its various groups to evaluate India’s interests holistically and draw up a list that is both meaningful and achievable.
India’s National Security Strategy
National interests lead to the drawing up of national security objectives and the formulation of national security policies. India’s national security objectives have been adequately stated in the MEA Annual Report of 1998-99, reproduced above. The only aspect that really needs to be added is to strive to weaken the China-Pakistan collusive nexus in nuclear and missile technology and military hardware. It should be India’s objective to marginalise Pakistan’s military power by 2010-15 and eliminate its interference in India’s internal] affairs. India’s national security policies must be so formulated that India is in a position to provide leadership to other countries in the Southern Asian region so as to be able to exercise a reasonable degree of influence over their policies and actions to further its own security interests. India’s security lies in establishing a confrontation free external environment. For this, India must be prepared to use all elements and instruments of national power to influence the actions of countries that follow policies and initiate measures inimical to India’s national interests. Such policies would require matching strategies backed by necessary resources being devoted to diplomatic, military, intelligence and other efforts to achieve the desired objectives.
India’s strategic frontiers extend to Tibet in the north, the Central Asian region, including Afghanistan, in the north-west, include the Saudi Peninsula in the west, extend to Mauritius and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and the ASEAN countries in the east, including the Malacca Straits. India’s national security strategy must reflect India’s strategic interests in these regions. In the prevailing uncertain geo-strategic environment and unstable world order, with the primacy of the nationstate being gradually eroded, no country can afford to “go it alone” in organising its national security. “Even the US, the world’s only remaining superpower, has formulated a well-crafted strategy of alliances to further its wide-ranging security interests. in this age of globalisation and trade blocks, the trend is inexorably towards collective security. India too needs to form strategic partnerships with countries sharing a mutuality of interests to countervail its adversaries. India’s abhorrence for military alliances and its efforts towards pursuing a fiercely independent foreign policy have been well founded. However, India has found it difficult to singlehandedly eliminate or even reduce the external threats and foreign sponsored internal security challenges. India needs to establish strategic linkages with the US, Russia (as it will once again rise from the quagmire it is in at present to become a major power), Israel, Iran, Myanmar, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea to counter-balance China’s growing power and influence
One of the major reasons for the continuing violation of India’s borders and the destabilisation of India through proxy wars is the prevalent perception of India as a soft state that is if not unmindful at least not adequately concerned about its external and internal security. This perception is founded on India’s failure to exploit the advantages gained during the 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 conflicts with Pakistan and on its purely reactive handling of Pakistan’s proxy war over the decade of the 1990s. India’s continuously reducing defence expenditure throughout the period 1985-1999, even as the threats to its security increased manifold due to Pakistan’s nuclearisation in 1987 and its proxy war against India from 1989-90 onwards, also sent a message of being relatively unconcerned. Inimical neighbours have always exploited such weaknesses to their advantage and so has been the case with India. Quite clearly, India now has no option but to adopt pro-active strategies to deal firmly with the threats confronting its security.
While India’s nuclear doctrine of no first use and a credible minimum deterrent has been clearly stated, the strategies to be followed to give effect to this doctrine nave not been spelt out except in passing in the recommendations of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) while formulating a draft Nuclear Doctrine. In fact, till the time of writing, the issue is yet to be debated in Parliament. The first inescapable ingredient of India’s nuclear strategy would be overt signs of weaponisation — mere declaratory statements are not enough. If India’s “nuclear capability is to become a source of power and influence during crises rather than only a strategic deterrent to total war… (a) public stance on the actual nuclear capability, the range and accuracy of delivery systems, the kilotonnage of warheads… the authorisation (procedures) for launch, and the custody of codes and interlocks for authorising a launch,..” will be necessary. Having consciously abjured a first use doctrine, India’s retaliatory strike strategy has to be based on destroying the adversary’s large industrial and population centres if deterrence is to be successfully maintained. Only if the adversary’s political and military leadership is convinced that the cost of a first strike would prove to be unbearably high, will it be deterred from doing the unthinkable. If India’s retaliatory response strategy lacks credibility and the adversary is convinced that he can bank on an ambivalent Indian response, he may be tempted to risk a first strike. Deterrence is ultimately a mind game and turns on credibility.
Some other aspects that would enhance the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence include the establishment of a viable command and control system with well publicised procedures for nuclear decision-making, a clearly enunciated chain of succession, at least the partial transfer of the custody of nuclear warheads to the armed forces units designated to launch them and a well-conceived targeting philosophy. However, real credibility will stem from a demonstrated delivery system capability and an established programme for building the required number of missiles. While India’s delivery systems are adequate to retaliate against nuclear threats from Pakistan, India is yet to develop a 5,000 km class missile to retaliate against a Chinese threat and other threats that may manifest themselves in future. In fact, unless the N-5 agree quickly to adopt a time bound nuclear disarmament programme, only a remote possibility at present, India has no option but to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). Some commentators have written about such a programme named Surya but there has been no official confirmation. The status of the advanced technology vehicle (ATV) project for a nuclear powered submarine is also not clear. Unless India demonstrates the will to develop the required delivery systems and commits sufficient funds and efforts to their development, India’s nuclear deterrence will continue fo lack credibility.
In view of the doubts expressed by leading Indian nuclear scientists like Dr. P. K. Iyengar regarding the viability of the thermonuclear test carried out in May 1998” and the need for more tests if weapons in the megaton class or even 200 kiloton (kt) fusion warheads are to be developed, India will have to develop a suitable strategy to find a way around the CTBT to enable further testing without inviting a fresh round of sanctions and international opprobrium. In case India’s nuclear warhead capability remains confined to 15 to 30 Kt fission warheads, it will lead to the sub-optimal utilisation of India’s meagre fissile material stockpile. With negotiations for the FMCT staring it in the face and the likelihood of an early agreement being reached, India would be hard put to stockpile adequate fissile stockpile for the total number of warheads that its retaliatory strategy and targeting philosophy may require. These are the tough issues confronting the development of a potent nuclear strategy. While there are no easy answers, a determined diplomatic stance and a tough negotiating position with some hard bargaining can achieve the desired results. The world is gradually getting used to the idea that a “cap, reduce, eliminate” policy is no longer feasible and that India’s nuclear weapons, born primarily out of the need to safeguard national security, cannot now be rolled back.
Simultaneously with developing a credible nuclear deterrent, India must continue to pursue its nuclear disarmament efforts. The best nuclear strategy would undoubtedly be the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. However, this is one aspect in the affairs of mankind where progress will continue to be excruciatingly slow. This will have to be vectored into India’s nuclear calculations. India must also seek to discuss and agree upon mutual nuclear risk reduction measures (NRRMs), particularly with China and Pakistan. Since neither China nor Pakistan is willing to negotiate a mutual no-first-use treaty with India, it would be in the interest of all the protagonists to ensure that sufficient safety checks are mutually in place to reduce the risk of knee-jerk responses in situations of panic and accidental nuclear war. The holding of discussions for NRRMs need not be linked to the lack of progress on other issues of concern such as a halt to Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in India. The possibility of the unleashing of nuclear weapons, even if unintended, is too horrific to make its reduction contingent upon other political and diplomatic considerations, no matter how deeply vexatious the issues concerned might be. The first aim of a well-rounded nuclear strategy should be to ensure that deterrence does not fail, whether by design or by default, and that the nuclear genie remains tightly bottled up — as it has been since August 1945.
It is apparent that India’s world view has changed since Pokhran-!! to one that is more assertive and more willing to reach out to safeguard national security, even if the new thinking is not very clearly and lucidly articulated officially. Indian defence analysts are becoming increasingly more forthright in spelling out specific policies and actions to reduce and gradually eliminate the manifold threats and challenges to national security. Bharat Karnad strongly advocates that Vietnam should be propped up as a nuclear counter to China to ensure the same level of discomfiture to China as China’s collusion with Pakistan is causing to India.“ He rationalises that India would not be violating any international treaties in offering nuclear know-how to Vietnam and the international opprobrium that is bound to result would be justified in terms of India’s larger security interests. He recommends that India must exploit the growing antiPakistan sentiments in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan and that India should sponsor and support an Azad Kashmir Liberation Front and provide its members “diplomatic, political and moral support” exactly like Pakistan claims to do to Kashmiri militants.
Bharat Karnad is also of the view that India’s special operations capability needs to be increased to about a division worth of Special forces troops to sustain covert special operations inside POK on a longterm basis to counter Pakistan’s proxy war through pro-active trans-LoC operations. Appearing as a defence analyst on a TV programme,” Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar (Retd.), Director, United Service institution of India, New Delhi, recommended that trans-LoC operations be launched by the Indian army to raise the cost for Pakistan to sponsor foreign mercenary terrorists for operations in J&K. Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former Defence Minister and a member of Parliament, has publicly demanded “hot pursuit” operations across the LoC to stop Pakistan’s trans-LoC terrorism.” Ever since Lashkar-e-Toiba’s brutal massacres in J&K on the night of August 1, 2000, in which 100 innocent people were killed, there has been a spate of editorials and opinion pieces in leading Indian dailies demanding hot pursuit and other trans-LoC operations. Leading Indian analysts like Brahma Chellaney have questioned whether a strong, stable and prosperous Pakistan is in India’s interest.
It is emerging quite clearly that the limit of tolerance of the Indian people has been crossed and there will be greater demands on the government in future to adopt pro-active trans-LoC measures to put an end to Pakistan’s proxy war against India. ”… India will have to exploit Pakistan’s weaknesses with a strategic blueprint that incorporates military, political and unorthodox elements. The main aim should be to start hitting Pakistan wherever it will hurt and whenever it least expects such counteraction.” Since it is necessary to raise the ante on the LoC, India will have to be prepared for a larger conventional conflict with Pakistan that may not remain confined to the LoC and may spill over to the international border. Hence, India’s strategy must be to further develop its conventional superiority to fight and win a limited war with Pakistan in a nuclear environment. Victory in such a limited war should be measured not through inflicting a comprehensive military defeat on Pakistan, as that in any case is not possible below the nuclear threshold, but by destroying a substantial portion of Pakistan’s war waging potential so as to marginalise the Pakistan army as the force majeure in Pakistan’‘s polity. It should be clear to all perceptive observers that the real problem between India and Pakistan is not the Kashmir issue or any other issue but the Pakistan army that drives Pakistan’s foreign policy and is the progenitor of Pakistan’s proxy war strategy to “bleed India through a thousand cuts”. The early marginalisation of the Pakistan army should be a major national priority.
With China India faces a “capabilities-intentions” dilemma. While China has systematically resolved its long-standing, complex and seemingly intractable territorial and boundary disputes with Russia, Vietnam and the Central Asian Republics through protracted negotiations in a spirit of mutual accommodation and there is peace on these borders, it has shown remarkable intransigence in following the same approach with India. China continues to profess its willingness to resolve its territorial and boundary dispute with India through peaceful negotiations. Despite the Border Peace and Tranquillity Agreement signed in 1993 and the Confidence Building Measures in the military field mutually negotiated in 1996, there has been little change in the ground situation. China either fails to or does not deliberately wish to accept that the best confidence building measure would be to first delineate on the map and ground the Line of Actual Control (LAC). As long as the LAC is not clearly demarcated, border clashes can occur between the two opposing armies at any time in the disputed areas and these can lead to another border conflict. Though there is a fair possibility of such a conflict between the two nuclear-armed adversaries being fought below the nuclear threshold, it could rapidly escalate to nuclear exchanges that may not remain limited to battlefield targets. China is known to be engaged in modernising its armed forces and acquiring offensive conventional capabilities, including the creation of rapid reaction forces based on strategic airlift. It is also engaged in developing information warfare capabilities. Since China has successfully resolved its territorial disputes and boundary problems with most other neighbours, the new capabilities would be available to be used against India.
The only deduction that can reasonably be drawn is that China wishes to put its territorial dispute with India on the back burner for the time being, while it consolidates its economic and military power and is engaged in resolving the Taiwan dispute and in settling its claims to various islands in the South China Sea. Michael D. Swaine and Ashiey J. Tellis have written that the basic logic underlying China’s “indefinite postponement” approach has been to “steadfastly avoid conceding any Chinese claims with respect to the dispute, while simultaneously seeking to prevent the dispute from vitiating the pacific environment that China needs to complete its internal transformation successfully.” Swaine and Tellis list several advantages of this approach:
• it positions China as a conciliatory state seeking to resolve all outstanding disputes peacefully.
• it does not increase the demands on China’s military’s forces at a time when the PLA is relatively weak and when the Chinese economy needs all the breathing room it can get.
• it prevents balancing coalitions from arising against China in the event Beijing pursued more coercive strategies.
• And, it delays the resolution of these disputes at least until the balance of power changes substantially in favour of China. At that time, both simple usurpation and coercive bargaining might become more attractive, although it is unclear today whether the Chinese leadership would conclude that the benefits of such actions easily exceed the costs.
China may choose to settle the territorial dispute with India at a time of its own choosing when it is militarily far more powerful. It may opt to do this either through coercive diplomacy or even by seeking a military solution, It is in India’s interest to strive towards an early resolution of the territorial dispute with China so that India has only one major military adversary to worry about. India would also be able to re-deploy at least some of the 10 to 12 mountain divisions and perhaps four to six squadrons of the Indian Air Force from the Tibetan border in the east and the northeast to the western border to gain a decisive military edge against Pakistan. India may even be able to “downsize” a few army divisions and utilise the savings that will accrue for the long-overdue qualitative upgradation of the army. Perhaps these are the real reasons that compel China to drag its feet in resolving its territorial and boundary dispute with India so that it can support Pakistan, its friend and ally, to continue to destabilise India through its proxy war without fear of major military retaliation, India’s strategy should be to develop adequately powerful leverages to make it incumbent on China to act quickly to resolve the dispute between the two countries. Developing the strategic linkages mentioned above could do this. There would be immense advantages in commencing the sale of modern military hardware to Vietnam, including some quantities of Prithvi missiles with launchers under government-to-government soft loans. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) could provide technical know-how to Vietnam’s nascent armament industry. If it becomes necessary, India should also be ready to play the Tibet card, something it has consciously avoided doing for almost half a century since China launched its brutal suppression of the human rights of the Tibetan people. The Chinese people’s latent yearning for democracy could also be discreetly encouraged. The large number of multinational companies (MNCs) that are unhappy with their business ventures in China could be persuaded to invest in India instead through attractive offers. This would make both business as well as strategic sense.
Attempts to ensure a stable and peaceful external security environment would be meaningful only if internal security was first ensured. Throughout the last two decades of the 20th century, India’s handling of militancy has lacked a firm and well-coordinated approach. India’s reactive strategy of fighting Pakistan’s proxy war through security forces’ operations limited within its own territory has not produced the desired results. In addition to the trans-LoC pro-active measures mentioned above, India’s internal security strategy needs to follow a three-pronged approach. Firstly, all security forces’ operations in the states affected by armed militancy should be conducted in a comprehensively coordinated manner with well-streamlined procedures for the acquisition and sharing of intelligence.
secondly, there is an inescapable need to organise a national level paramilitary counter-insurgency force with the army’s ethos and standards of training and, at least initially, army leadership. Such a force could be based on an existing police force like the CRPF that could be designated as the Central Government’s primary counter-insurgency strike force. Its charter will have to be modified accordingly to relieve it of other law and order duties. Or, a new elite force could be raised from scratch for the purpose. The haphazard raising of additional police force battalions, guided more by turf battles rather than hard-nosed national security considerations, must stop.
lt is also imperative that the army’s involvement in counter-insurgency operations must be reduced gradually from the peak level of approximately 120,000 (six divisions equivalent) in 1998 as it is by now well recognised that the prolonged employment of the army for such tasks hampers its training and operational preparedness for conventional military operations. Ideally, internal security problems should be handled by the Ministry of Home Affairs without seeking the army’s help. However, in proxy war situations involving well-trained foreign mercenary terrorists equipped with sophisticated weapons, it may become necessary to deploy the army. Such deployment should be for short-duration surgical operations only and even then, the army’s specialised counter-insurgency strike forces like the Rashtriya Rifles (RR) should be employed and not regular infantry battalions. If the present level of Pakistan-sponsored militancy is not rapidly reduced to more manageable levels by trans-LoC pro-active operations, it will be necessary to increase the number of RR battalions to between 75 to 80 to reduce the involvement of regular infantry battalions. Finally, armed militancy can never be eliminated only through security forces’ operations. Ultimately it 1s a battle of hearts and minds and only a political solution can eliminate the root causes of militancy and assuage the feelings of hurt of the alienated people. The government must initiate a political dialogue with all parties concerned to find a lasting solution to the complex problems confronting the nation in J&K and the northeastern states while simultaneously expediting developmental activities. Good governance Is also an important ingredient of a successful internal security strategy.
Effective border management strategies go hand in hand with well conceived internal security strategies. The infiltration of well-armed mercenary terrorists from Pakistan, mass migrations from Bangladesh into lower Assam, narcotics and small arms trafficking across India’s vast land borders and long coastline, the smuggling of consumer goods and fake Indian currency from Nepal, the operations of ULFA militants from safe hideouts in Bhutan and the sanctuaries available to the insurgent groups of the northeastern states in Myanmar and Bangladesh, have all added to India’s border security challenges. While the BSF should be responsible for manning all settled borders, the responsibility for unsettled ind disputed borders, such as the LoC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo Tibetan border, should be that of the army. The principle of ‘single point control’ must be followed if the borders are to be effectively managed. Divided responsibilities never result in effective control. While full operational control on the LoC is already with the army, it is not the case on the LAC with China. On the LAC, the ITBP, which is under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), is responsible for the Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and the Uttar Pradesh segments while the army is deployed in Sikkim. The Assam Rifles, another MHA force but under the army’s operational control, manages the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh. On the other hand, on the Tibetan side, Border Guards divisions of the Chinese army under a single commander manage the entire LAC. The BSF must be withdrawn from its internal security commitments and reverted to border management that is its primary role. Ad hoc measures in utilising police forces for operational tasks for which they are not trained, invariably wads to the lack of a cohesive response to critical situations affecting National security and further complicates the resolution of existing problems.
Achieving self-reliance in critical weapons technologies is another important ingredient of India’s national security strategy. Stringent technology control regimes have been applied by the western powers as a consequence to India’s independent line on nuclear weapons even though India has behaved extremely responsibly as a nuclear power and has refrained from proliferating nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technologies, unlike China that is a signatory to the NPT and the MTCR. Though such technology denial regimes have only slowed down India’s quest for self-reliance and not stopped it altogether, the present dependence on imports for major defence equipment needs to be reduced quickly and eliminated by 2020-25. The efforts already underway in indigenous weapons research and development need to be further stepped up. At the same time, India should establish closer strategic ties with countries like France and Israel that may be willing to enter into joint weapons development agreements with India. The leverages provided by India’s weapons procurement programmes should be exploited to gain access to cutting edge defence technologies. Defence cooperation programmes need to be made more meaningful to establish strategic linkages with countries of consequence. [he full importance of military diplomacy and its vast potential in furthering national security is yet to be realised in India. Other important national security strategies that need to be instituted include those for maritime and energy security, food, water and environmental security and for security against organised crime and cyber terrorism.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the requirements of national security can no longer be met by the narrow and restrictive conceptualisation of defence against external aggression. Military might does not now constitute the predominant element of national power, though it remains a major ingredient. Economic strength has overtaken military power as the most important determinant of national status in the emerging polycentric world order. Spheres of influence and the military blocs of the Cold War era are being gradually replaced by economic and trade blocs. Though nation-states will continue to compete for scarce strategic resources such as oil, “trade wars” are likely to take precedence over armed conflicts in future. Indeed, the nature of warfare itself is undergoing evolutionary change.
In the post-Cold War era, the global security environment is characterised by strategic uncertainties as the ‘balance of power’ that prevailed up to 1990, is still to be replaced by a viable and stable world order. Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), especially nuclear weapons, still pose a potent threat. It will be quite some time before a state of equilibrium again prevails in international power politics. There has been a paradigm shift in the nature of conflict since the end of the Cold War. Of the over 30 conflicts in the last decade since the end of the Cold War, only a few have been inter-state conflicts; the rest have been intra-state, low intensity conflicts (LIC). LIC and operations other than war are replacing conventional conflict. Terrorism fuelled by religious fundamentalism, the menace of narcotics, information warfare, threats to energy, food and water security, mass migrations and fissiparous tendencies on ethnic lines are emerging as new challenges to national security. Clearly, a resilient and responsive national security management system is necessary to meet the emerging challenges. Even more important Is the development of a coherent national security consciousness and ethos so that disjointed knee-jerk reactions can be avoided as each threat manifests itself. When the only certainty on the security front is that nothing is likely to be certain in the secular future, it is prudent to develop wide-ranging capabilities that can be exploited to “meet emerging contingencies. Also, the decision-making apparatus needs to be made far more responsive to meet diverse and unpredictable emerging threats than it is at present.
Unless comprehensive inter-ministerial and inter-departmental national security strategies are evolved and skilfully implemented, India’s adversaries will continue to bleed the country through a thousand cuts for many decades to come. National power is meaningless unless the will to use it is demonstrated. India’s occupation of the moral high ground and its reliance on pacifist idealism for over half a century has not served it well and has created many security problems that are now becoming difficult to manage and resolve. In a world where international relations are deeply steeped in Realpolitik traditions, pusillanimity and timidity do not pay. If India is not to be bullied by much smaller nations that are themselves on the verge of becoming failed states, it must become more concerned about its national security. There can be no development if the security environment is not peaceful and stable.