Secure Borders – Accelerated Growth

The NSA’s recent remarks at the Rustamji Memorial Lecture underscore a critical dimension of India’s growth narrative that often remains underemphasized: the paramount importance of secure and well-defined borders. Doval’s assertion that India would have progressed faster with more secure borders is a stark reminder of the multifaceted nature of national development, where security and economic prosperity are inextricably linked. For a country like India, with its vast and varied geopolitical landscape, border security is not merely a matter of territorial integrity but a cornerstone of national stability and economic development. The NSA rightly highlighted that the responsibility of border guarding forces like BSF has become significantly heavier. The perpetual vigilance required to protect national interests and ensure sovereignty is a non-negotiable aspect of India’s defence strategy.
Historically, India’s borders have been contentious and fraught with disputes. From the rugged terrain of the Himalayas to the deserts of Rajasthan and the coastal boundaries, each frontier presents unique challenges. The legacy of colonial-era boundary demarcations has left India with several unsettled borders, notably with Pakistan and China. The adversarial dispossession that the NSA referred to has often resulted in conflicts and skirmishes, diverting resources that could otherwise have been channelled into economic development. The ongoing disputes, such as those in Ladakh with China and in Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan, underscore the persistent threats to India’s territorial integrity. These unresolved issues necessitate a robust security apparatus that can respond swiftly and effectively to any incursions. The resources devoted to defence and border security have significant economic implications.
Doval’s assertion that India’s economic progress could have been faster with more secure borders is not without merit. Secure borders create a conducive environment for investment, trade, and overall economic stability. Uncertainties and threats at the borders can deter both domestic and international investors, who seek stable and predictable environments for their investments. Additionally, resources that are heavily allocated to defence and border security could be reallocated to infrastructure, education and healthcare sectors that directly contribute to economic growth and development.
The present Government has recognised this intricate relationship between security and economic growth. Over the past decade, significant investments have been made to bolster border security through modern surveillance systems, improved infrastructure and better-equipped forces. This focus on security has also been complemented by policies aimed at economic self-reliance, such as the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, which promotes indigenous manufacturing and reduces dependency on foreign arms imports. India becoming a USD 10 trillion economy and the third-largest economy within the next decade is ambitious yet achievable. This growth trajectory is supported by India’s burgeoning workforce, advancements in high-technology sectors like artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and quantum computing, and the rise of defence and security manufacturing. These elements contribute to what he referred to as “comprehensivenational power,” a concept that encompasses economic strength, technological prowess, military capability, and geopolitical influence. The strides India has made in becoming a significant arms exporter, achieving USD 2.5 billion in exports, are a testament to the success of policies promoting self-reliance. This shift not only bolsters national security by reducing dependency on foreign suppliers but also positions India as a key player in the global defence market. Such achievements reflect India’s growing capability to protect its interests and project power.
While prosperity can enhance security to some extent, it also introduces new vulnerabilities. A thriving economy increases the stakes, making the protection of assets, infrastructure and technological advancements even more critical. Therefore, as India marches towards its economic goals, the focus on securing its borders must remain unwavering. This dual approach ensures that economic gains are safeguarded against external threats, creating a stable environment for sustained growth. The vision of a secure and economically robust India is not a distant dream but an achievable reality, provided that security and development continue to be pursued with equal vigour.