After years of deliberations in the military and strategic circle, India has kickstarted the process of bringing in a National Security Strategy. The National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) is in the process of collating inputs from several Central ministries and departments to stitch together the draft of the strategy before seeking the final cabinet approval for it.
The discourse on National Security Strategy (NSS) has been going on in India for many decades. However, despite several half-heated attempts, there had been almost no progress or intent shown by previous governments in formulating such a strategy until now.
Several countries, including the USA, UK, China, Russia, and even our arch rival Pakistan, already have their national security strategies in place, but India was lacking on this front.
This strategy will outline India’s national security objectives and strategies to achieve them, addressing both conventional and non-conventional threats, risks, and their mitigation plans as well. The strategy is expected to be dynamic in nature, which could be periodically updated to adapt to ever-emerging threats and challenges.
This development is extremely important, as its coming against the backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions that have left the countries divided.
What is National Security Strategy?
A National Security Strategy, or NSS, lays down the security objectives of a country, defines its internal and external challenges and provides guidance on how to achieve its national objectives. It is supposed to serve as a guide for military and defence reforms and improve the overall national security.
India’s NSS will address a wide range of contemporary challenges, including economic security, food and energy security, information warfare, critical information infrastructure vulnerabilities, supply chain security, and environmental concerns.
Why does India need a National Security Strategy?
India’s Political, Strategic, and Military circles have been discussing the need for a comprehensive NSS for many decades.
In October, former National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon underlined the need for such a strategy for India. Speaking at the launch of the book India’s National Security Challenges, he said: “At least three attempts that I know of in past to produce a National Security Strategy. In each case, hesitation came not from professionals, but from the political level. I sense, but cannot prove, that they do not wish their hands to be tied.”
He said while introducing an NSS may take time, the Centre should bring a white paper on defence in the meanwhille.
Last year, former Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane also batted for a National Security Strategy. “Theaterisation is not an end, it is only a means to an end. That end has to be specified first in the form of a national defence strategy. That defence strategy, in turn, has to flow out of a national security strategy. Unless there is a national security strategy in place, to just keep talking about theaterisation is actually putting the cart before the horse,” he said at a talk at the 4th General KV Krishna Rao Memorial Lecture.
As India continues to move forward, the strategy’s development is expected to foster self-reliance and establish the nation as a global manufacturing hub.
Former army chief General N C Vij highlighted the need for an NSS in 2018, emphasizing the importance of providing political direction to the armed forces and revising the existing operational directive.
In March 2021, then Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat also voiced in favour of “defining” an NSS.
Why India does not have NSS yet?
According to the article of Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor of international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India’s hesitancy to release a National Security Strategy document may stem from revealing its stand that could irk potential adversaries.
Experts believe another reason could be differing views within various ministries and government departments. The former senior army officer told the digital outlet that India shied from defining an NSS as the government wanted to “avoid having to respond in a specific manner”.
Preventing ad hocism in policymaking, the NSS “commits the political leadership to a specific approach and forces the building of capabilities to meet the desired objectives,” Lt General DS Hooda (retd) wrote in 2020.