Over the past seven and a half decades India has grown multi-fold. It is a nation with a strong economy, democracy and a powerful military. Global leaders rush to initiate economic deals and gain a foothold into the growing Indian market. It is considered a net security provider in the region as also an important member of any security coalition in Asia. For ensuring continued economic growth, national security remains paramount. Other than 1962, India has displayed its ability to thwart any threats to its territory.
75 years of independence and India still possesses un-demarcated borders. Very few nations in the world face two nuclear powered adversaries, one on either side, seeking its territory, as India does. India has fought a collection of wars since independence, including the 1971 war, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh, yet has been unable to buy peace. Both its major adversaries, Pakistan and China, operate in collusion, in a desperate bid to destabilize India. In fact, with passage of time, India’s security threats have grown, rather than recede. These threats impact national development as scarce resources are diverted for enhancing national power to ward off security challenges.
India’s security threats are multiple, ranging from internal, external, terrorism and hybrid. Internally, apart from the Naxal movement in central India, there are insurgencies in the Northeast, some of which are currently latent, but have the possibility of being exploited by adversaries. Terrorism, a growing global threat, also impacts India, mainly J and K, which Pakistan continues to support and ferment. Local participation does exist, though numbers are not alarming. Cyber threats are ongoing as part of hybrid warfare. Informational warfare, spreading fake news and seeking to break the Indian social fibre remain a major concern.
The LAC with China and the LoC with Pakistan remain active and need securing. China has, in recent times, displayed an intent to grab Indian territory by resorting to salami slicing. India has been able to push Pakistan back and hold the Chinese at bay.The regional security environment, stemming from an unstable Afghanistan will impact India in the near to mid-term. South Asia will remain affected by regional disagreements, instability and a pushing China seeking to edge out Indian influence from the region.
What should India aim to do? To push back China, India must seek to enhance its economic power. Unless India grows economically, the gap with China will continue to rise. The larger the gap in comprehensive national power, the more adventurous will China act. Simultaneously, India must enhance its engagements with like-minded nations to build coalitions against China. The greater the global push against Chinese offensive actions the more China will be forced onto the backfoot.
The third aspect which India must consider is enhancing military capabilities, whether these be in terms of firepower, intelligence, UAVs, cyber or creating deterrence against any misadventures. In this, India must raise and equip its mountain strike corps for operations in Ladakh. Finally, India must continue developing its border infrastructure, an act which threatens Aksai China. Unless it threatens Chinese vulnerabilities, China will never back down.China respects power and that is what India should seek to project.
Pakistan has been deterred by Indian punitive punishments. It has been compelled to limit levels of terrorism on Indian soil. Simultaneously, external factors including a deteriorating internal security scenario in Afghanistan and its western provinces have placed brakes on Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. These brakes are likely to be temporary. The possibility of collusion between Pakistan and China remain high. India can no longer have the luxury of employing the army in controlling the Kashmir and Northeast militancy’s. It will have to train its Central Armed Police Forces to handle them, leaving the army to cater for external threats.
Internally, India must seek to engage in dialogue with Naxals and other groups threatening India’s development and internal cohesion. The government must climb down from its pedestal to seek a solution for lasting peace and amalgamating these groups into the mainstream. These groups are aware that they will not succeed and must be given an opportunity for dialogue.
In the immediate neighbourhood India must remain the nation which can be depended upon. Indian largesse has helped these nations grow and the process must continue. They must realise that aligning with India would ensure their development and India has no territorial ambitions beyond its own borders. Unless our neighbourhood is secure from Chinese influence, India’s security will always remain a matter of concern.
Management of defence at the national level is currently undergoing a transformation, an act which should have happened decades ago. This transformation should lead to the forces having a greater say in national security planning and decision making, rather than being relegated into the background as currently. This transformationshould enhance capabilities and ensure bang for the buck in defence planning and procurement.
No nation can secure itself if it is dependent on imports for building its military capabilities. There will always be riders and restrictions which can impact preparedness at crucial moments. In addition, availability of spare parts will be dependent on diplomatic ties. A strong internal technological and military production base is essential for a nation seeking to be a global military power. For long India depended on its ordnance factories and DRDO, output of which was poor in quantity and quality. This resulted in banking on imports. More impetus needs to be given for enhancing capabilities of the domestic defence industry.
National security and national development are two sides of the same coin. One cannot happen without the other. If India, as a nation has to develop, then national security is paramount. Funds for national security can only flow from economic development. A realistic defence budget must be the order of the day rather than resorting to adhoc allocations post emergence of a threat.
Over decades, India has developed in every sphere. It is a nation with potential to grow and be a major economic and military power. This would enhance India’s diplomatic outreach. However, its security challenges remain a stumbling block to development. Unless these are given due weightage, they will impact development.
The author is Major General (Retd)