Challenges to Indian Security
K. Subrahmanyam, Convenor, NSAB
It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to be asked to deliver this memorial lecture to recall the services of the first Indian Chief of Army Staff. At that time the office was still called the Commander in Chief. I met him briefly as an IAS probationer in 1951 when he visited the Metcalfe House IAS Training School. Otherwise, I had no opportunity to meet him or interact with him. I joined the Defence Finance in 1954 and thereafter developed continuous and intense interest in India's defence. In those days some two-three years after he laid down his office you heard in the corridors of the Army Headquarters stories of his punctiliousness. "Kipper would not have approved of it" was the usual comment when there was the slightest dereliction from form or the high meticulous standards he expected in matters of decorum. I have heard it said that the he did not approve of an officer carrying the round cylindrical tin of cigarettes. It must be a flat cigarette case that fitted tidily in the side pocket of the uniform jacket.
But the story I cherish most about General Cariappa as he was then, was his encounter with Mahatma Gandhi. While undergoing the course in the Imperial Defence College in London as a major general in early 1947, General Cariappa was quoted as advocating that Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jinnah should meet to work out a solution without partitioning India and in any event division of the Indian Army should be averted. Gandhiji criticised him for a military man expressing views on politics in his weekly column in The Harijan. When General Cariappa returned to India he called on Gandhiji who was staying in the Bhangi Colony. When he reached Gandhiji's cottage, the meticulous solider took off his shoes before entering the hut. Gandhiji who knew enough about soldiering having served in the battle field in South Africa during the Zulu war, told him that his shoes were part of his uniform and therefore it was not proper to take them off. The General replied that according to the Indian tradition a person did not wear shoes in the presence of a deity, mahatmas and saints. After some polite conversation, General Cariappa came to the point. He told Gandhiji, "I cannot do my duty well by the country if I concentrate only on telling troops of nonviolence, all the time, subordinating their main task of preparing themselves efficiently to be good soldiers. So I ask you, please to give me the child's guide to knowledge-tell me please, how I can put this over, that is, the spirit of nonviolence to the troops without endangering their sense of duty to train themselves well professionally as soldiers. "Gandhiji replied, "You have asked me to tell you in tangible and concrete form how you can put over to the troops the need for nonviolence. I am still groping in the dark for the answer. I will find it and give it to you some day." You will find this story in Pyarelal's book "Mahatma Gandhi: the Last Phase". Pyarelal was Gandhiji's private secretary at the time.
This was the honest answer of the apostle of nonviolene to the first soldier of the independent India. He did not have an answer on how to defend India using nonviolence. This happened in December 1947. Next month the Mahatma was assassinated. Even as Gandhiji was searching for an answer how to use nonviolence in defence, he approved and indeed strongly supported the use of the Indian Army to defend Kashmir against Pakistani invasion. Brigadier L.P. Sen obtained Gandhiji's blessings before he flew down to Srinagar to assume his command.
It would have required enormous moral courage on the part of General Carriappa to raise the issue of nonviolence in defence with the Mahatma. It is a pity that this exchange between the Mahatma and the General had not been publicised widely. This exchange made it clear that Gandhiji who successfully practised nonviolence in the offensive mode vis a vis the British Raj which was on the defensive, had not solved the problem of application of non-violence to defence and therefore, as was demonstrated in Kashmir, was prepared to support the use of the Indian Army in defence. Even today this exchange has not been made known to most of the people in the nation. If that had happened, the wide-spread belief that Gandhian values were responsible for the neglect of defence in the earlier years of our freedom would not be there. In fact, Gandhian values and approach have been used as a convenient alibi by people who did not understand Gandhi. The Mahatma, as he himself made clear often, was not a pacifist. He always maintained that violence was better than cowardice.
I start with this exchange between General Cariappa and the Mahatma because even 53 years after our independence there is no clear understanding among our leaders, our political class, our bureaucracy, business establishment and intellectuals about the nature of the security problems India faces. This is illustrated by the fact that though India has declared itself a state with nuclear weapons and the National Security Advisory Board's nuclear doctrine has been publicised, there has been no significant debate on this vital security issue in the country among the political parties and in the parliament. So is the case with the Kargil Review Committee's report. This is the situation after this country has fought five wars. The problem with our country was not the Gandhian approach and values but our centuries old indifference to who rules us. There is a well known saying "What matters if Rama or Ravana rules". That was why a few hundred horsemen descending down the Khyber Pass could overrun the subcontinent. The East India Company could use Indians to conquer India. When Queen Victoria issued her proclamation in 1857 it was widely welcomed. Even today the same indifference permits a largely corrupt political class to be elected and deny this country the pace of growth and prosperity it deserves. An American writer has highlighted that Indians lack the tradition of strategic thinking.
Mr Altaf Gauhar an eminent Pakistani Columnist, who was information adviser to General Ayub Khan, wrote a series of articles in the Pakistani daily Nation in September and Octoberr 1999 after the Kargil War under the title "Four Wars and one Assumption". He argued that Pakistan started all the four wars under One assumption which was articulated by General Ayub Khan. The latter genuinely believed "as a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and place." Today Pakistani generals write about bleeding India through a thousand cuts. They have been talking about fatigue setting in the Indian Army because of its continuous deployment in counter-terrorist operations and its efficiency as a fighting force in consequence. Lt General Javed Nasir, the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence Wing wrote in early 1999 that "the Indian Army is incapable of undertaking any conventional operations at present, what to talk of enlarging conventional conflict". It was this mindset which led to the Kargil adventurism.
This country has been facing a nuclear threat arising out of China's proliferation of nuclear weapon capability to Pakistan from mid-seventies. Even as Prime Minister Moraji Desai renounced India's nuclear weapon option and nuclear testing in the UN Assembly Special Session on Disarmament in June 1998, Pakistan on October 5, 1999, in News International, the present Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Abdul Sattar, the former foreign minister, Agha Shahi and former air chief Marshal Zulfikar Ali Khan have disclosed that Pakistan conceived its nuclear weapons programme in the wake of its defeat in 1971 war and it was India-specific. They also assert that the value of Pakistani nuclear capability was illustrated on at least three occasions, in mid 1980s, in 1987 at the time of the Indian Army exercise, operation Brass Tacks, and in April-May 1990. The Kargil Review Committee Report confirms the 1987 threat officially conveyed to India through Ambassdor S.K. Singh, posted in Islamabad, and of fears of possible Pakistani nuclear strike in 1990. Yet the country's media, academia and the Parliament have not bothered to discuss the nuclear dimension of the security issue. It would appear that one of the most difficult challenges to Indian security we face is the general indifference to security on the part of our elite.
Recently the Times of India managed to obtain a copy of the History of 1965 War, compiled by a team of historians commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and put it on the internet. Though this history was ready for public release in later eighties and the Ministry of Defence and Army headquarters were keen on releasing it, its publication was vetoed by the Committee of Secretaries. This highlighted that among our bureaucracy and political leadership there is not adequate appreciation of using history of past wars, campaigns and lessons derived from them as learning aids. Even today, 37 years after the report was submitted to the government, the Henderson-Brookes Report is still being kept under lock and key. This secrecy is not attributed to concern about national security. It arises out of callous indifference to national security and laziness to go through the original document and decide whether its release would in any way adversely affect our security. Same approach is holding back the release of the history of 1971 war as well.
Such indifference to history also comes in the way of the development of correct understanding and appreciation of the adversary's mindset. In the absence of such understanding, assessments of the present and future course of actions by the adversary military leadership becomes, that much more difficult. All this arises out of a non-professional and generalist approach to national security on the part of our political and bureaucratic leadership with some rare exceptions. The Kargil Review Committee has recommended that the National Security Council, the senior bureaucracy servicing it, and the service chiefs need to be continually sensitised to assessed intelligence pertaining to national, regional and international security issues and therefore there should be periodic intelligence briefings to the Cabinet Committee on Security with all supporting staff in attendance. There is reluctance both on the part of politicians and bureaucracy to devote time and effort for the purpose. It is considered adequate if people are briefed when the need for it arises. This attitude is similar to the one exhibited by some political leaders who raised the question as to what was the threat that developed in 1998 that necessitated the nuclear tests. In this approach there is a deplorable lack of understanding that the best way of tackling a threat is to anticipate it well in advance and to be well prepared to meet it. Starting preparations to counter a threat after it has materialised is the surest way of inviting disaster. That means there is no understanding of the concept of lead time needed for preparations. This indifference to carry out regular periodic assessment of security threats on the parts of our political class and bureaucracy and communicate it to the nation is at the root of overall insensitivity of our media, academia, parliamentarians and the public at large to the problems of national security. This Indian mindset is not a secret to our adversaries. Therefore, they cannot be blamed if they attempt to exploit this weakness of ours. When I refer to bureaucracy it includes the uniformed community as well.
This tradition of not anticipating the threat in advance and not being prepared to meet it and to attempt to counter it after it had assumed serious proportions is what Air Commodore Jasjit Singh calls the Panipat Syndrome. The rulers of Delhi waited till the enemy advanced down to Panipat and then went out and gave battle. It would seem that the political and bureaucratic class of independent India had not drawn any lessons even from the three battles of Panipat, let alone the recent wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971.
Yet another serious challenges this country faces to its security is the tendency of our political class and the media, to a certain extent, to politicise issues of national security in a partisan manner. In all mature democracies, basic issues of national security are kept above party politics. If there are debates in the US on issues like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) that is not about national security but about the nature and extent of offensive posture to be adopted to advance their foreign policy interests. In those countries since there are frequent alternating changes of parties in government and opposition, the ruling party generally keeps the opposition informed of major developments in the field of national security. In India this does not happen.
One can understand our Prime Minister keeping the development of the nuclear weapon a closely guarded secret not shareable even with their own senior cabinet colleagues. However, when the tests were conducted in May 1998 it was obvious to every well informed person, that while the credit for taking the decision to test should go to the ruling coalition, it could not have developed the weapons in the 53 days it was in office. That credit should go to those parties which provided the previous Prime Ministers. If only the ruling coalition had displayed enough grace to invite those former Prime Ministers to be present while making the announcement, the nuclear issue would not have created the controversy it did. While the previous Prime Ministers had a compulsion to keep the programme a secret, there was no reason why they could not have educated their party men on the realities of the international nuclear order. Even today no political party leadership exerts itself to educate its members and its second and third rung leaders on international and national security issues. The result of this pattern of behaviour is that the Congress party indulged in severe criticism of the nuclear tests when the maximum contribution to the developments of nuclear weapons and missiles were by Prime Ministers belonging to that party.
This politicisation reached its peak during the Kargil conflict and continues to this day with adverse consequences for our national security. During the previous wars in 1948, 1962, 1965 and 1971, there were failures of intelligence, assessment of intelligence as well as in policies. There was criticism of the government of the day by the opposition. Very rarely was the criticism directed against the army and individual officers, though various accounts of the campaigns do reveal serious mistakes committed including the dissolution of 4th Indian Division at Sela-Bomdila without joining battle. Yet, very rarely one saw the kind of campaign that is now being carried on in certain quarters. In a democracy, the conduct of defence in terms of policy, management and procurement must be subject to criticism. But the degree of personalisation of criticism now being generated cannot be termed as constructive. This, it would appear, is attributable to the politicisation of national security as part of extremely partisan politics. Many of those in the media are committed political activists and therefore their political commitment colours their reporting and comments. The earlier generations of media persons had their political preferences but were scrupulously objective in their reporting. Perhaps, this present phenomenon may prove to be a passing phase. Perhaps, it may not.
The Indian democracy can accept such criticisms. The only risk is our adversaries may be misled by them and indulge in adventurism. One may recall the Nazis were misled by the Oxford Union passing a resolution in the thirties that they would not fight for the king or the country. A few years later many of those Oxford graduates became the fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain about whom Churchill said "Never was so much owed by so many to so few." This kind of negative writing in our media might have led Pakistani generals to talk about the fatigue in Indian Army and initiate the Kargil adventure. Therefore, without in anyway departing from high democratic norms and abridging the freedom to report, the government and the Armed Forces have to carefully assess the impact of such reports and to take corrective action, where necessary in terms of information campagin. Transparency is the best policy and strategy. Unfortunately this is yet to be fully appreciated as is evident from the counter productive government security deletions in the Kargil report and holding back the appendices and annexures. Many of them were published documents in this country and in Pakistan.
This is an era of coalition politics and we have a coalition of over a dozen parties. Many of them are regional parties based on linguistic and even caste and communal considerations. With some rare exceptions most of the members belonging to these parties are largely interested in local issues affecting their constituencies and not very much in international and national security issues. This is understandable. Some of them become members of Parliamentary Standing Committees on defence and foreign affairs. One hopes that gives them some opportunity to widen their horizons. However, there is no institutionalised mechanism for their being able to acquire more knowledge and background in these fields. Unlike in other established democracies where there are a number of publications on foreign policy and defence issues by the Government every year outlining assessments and policies and periodic briefings, there are none in India except the routine annual reports which only give sketchy accounts of what happened in the previous year rather than what is likely to happen and what the country should be doing.
Again, in other established democracies there are think-tanks manned by specialists who have access to government information on a graded basis. Often, the think-tanks are given contracts for studies to be done for the government departments. They have to be provided all necessary information by the government to carry out such studies. In India, the government has a tradition of not even sharing the time of the day with any non-official, autonomous, academic institution. Often officials do not even share informaion with their colleagues who have a need to know.
Nor our media have many people who specialise on defence, though of late a start has been made. In the West, the defence and foreign policy establishments hand out every day so many stories, usually a tacit relationship develops between the government, its agencies and the media. Even while being critical the media in those countries does not have an adversial relationship with the government and its agencies on national security issues. This is not always the case here.
The net result of all these factors is inadequate attention to problems of national security. The responsibility for this situation rests squarely on the successive governments and the national security establishment. The NDA government began with a proclaimed commitment to national security of a much higher order than its predecessors and established a National Security Council, (NSC) a National Security Advisory Board and a Strategic Planning Group in 1998. A new beginning was made and there was a break with tradition in first setting up a Kargil Review Committee and then publishing its report. Then came the group of ministers to revamp the entire national security framework as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. The four task forces set up by them have completed their work and submitted their reports promptly. It is expected that the group of ministers will act equally promptly and come up with their recommendations. Hopefully the country is likely to witness a progressive revamping of national security framework for the first time since independence. That is encouraging news.
But while the structures may get reformed and updated, the problem of attitudinal change towards national security is beyond the scope of this group of ministers. That is a matter for political leadership at the highest level. The media has commented that the NSC set up in 1998 had hardly met. The NSC and Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) has, with one exception, the same composition in terms of five cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister. The Secretariat for CCNS is the cabinet secretariat while for the NSC it is the NSC Secretariat.
The two bodies have however totally different roles. The CCNS is a decision making body which has to focus on current security problems. It has also to approve decisions on current equipment procurement. The NSC has an advisory and deliberating role to develop long term future oriented perspectives and to direct the ministries to come up with their policies and recommendations to the CCNS and to monitor their implementation. Because of this role the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission is also a member of the NSC. In order to play this role effectively it needs long term as well as current intelligence assessments. Its deliberations and advice on long term policies will have to be based on such assessments. It would appear from the reports that NSC has not met, that in this country, without a tradition of strategic thinking and without interest in national security on the part of our political class, it has not been found easy to get over the inertia and switch to a culture of anticipatory planning for national security. There are many reasons for it. Our intelligence agencies have not been equipped and oriented towards long term forecasting. Our foreign service is mostly geared to react to immediate events. Policy planning has never taken off in that ministry. The Joint Intelligence Committee and long term intelligence assessments have never been given due importance because of the lack of interest in anticipatory security planning. The chiefs of staffs, being operational commanders do not have adequate time for long term future oriented thinking. The Ministry of Defence has burdened itself with house keeping functions of the armed forces which are best left to them and has not been conditioned and trained to think through long term international and national security issues. Therefore, there is not sufficient awareness in the government that the country is not equipped to plan long term national security policy. At best it is equipped only to carry out short term and current national security management. This is a crucial challenge to Indian security. Because of this grave lacuna the National Security Council is not able to function after it was formally set up two years ago.
The tragedy is that even the nature of the illness has not been diagnosed. Only the symptoms are being treated. That by itself, no doubt, is to be welcomed, but it will not produce a permanent cure. The situation is likely to become further complicated with the new role we have envisaged for India as a state with nuclear weapons, an emerging economic power on high growth trajectory, a strategic partner of major powers, a global player, an aspiring permanent member of the security council and an increasingly democratising and federalising polity. We are to achieve all these objectives as an open society.
There is inadequate realisation in this country that achieving these aims will amount to a major alteration of the status quo in Asia and the world and therefore there will be a lot of resistance to it from both within and outside the country and the interaction of forces hostile to such development within and outside the country. In conceptual terms, steering India towards the goals outlined above, smoothly and safely with minimum damage is the basic security challenge to India. If that task is to be successfully tackled there has to be a long term coherent thinking on the risks and threats we are likely to face and long term planning to deal with them. Let us enumerate the threats and risks and how to deal with them briefly.
The Indian leadership accepted the need for nuclear deterrence from early eighties when Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi initiated the nuclear weapons programme in response to Pakistan-China nuclear proliferation axis which had the tacit acquiescence of the US. India declared itself a nuclear weapons state after the Shakti tests in 1998. The National Security Advisory Board has come out with a draft nuclear doctrine. In my view, understandably because I was the convenor of the Board, the doctrine is the most logical, most restrained and most economical. But it is only a draft doctrine. Strategies, policies, targeting plans, command and control, all need to be worked out. It is not enough if the country has nuclear weapons. It should be able to project credible deterrence. Deterrence involves some aspects of transparency and others of opacity. Therefore there is an urgent need to work out the correct mix. A partially visible command and control structure is an essential ingredient in deterrence. Demonstration of capabilities is yet another. A robust and secure C4-1 system is the third. A clearly ordained political and military succession is fourth. A demonstrated involvement of political leadership in command and control exercise is fifth and so on. Not only should these issues be addressed. They should be seen to be addressed.
Fortunately, if we take him at his word, General Musharraf agrees with our Prime Minister that there are no significant risks of nuclear weapons being used in war between the two countries. Logically, he follows that perception with the proposition that even large scale conventional wars are unlikely. Our recent preparedness should further reinforce this perception of his. We should continue our efforts to dissuade him from thinking about a large scale conventional war by having a visible dissuasive capability. However, General Musharraf does not rule out proxy wars. Last year in April 1999, he predicted that while nuclear and conventional wars were unlikely the probability of proxy wars was on the rise. He was in a position to assert it most knowledgeably since at that time, his mercenaries were infiltrating the Kargil heights. His attempt at 'salami slicing' in Kargil ended in disaster. Therefore India should be prepared to face proxy wars in future as it has been doing for the past 17 years. Till now and as of today the proxy war is being fought by India on the basis of ad hoc improvisation. Surely there is scope for a comprehensive and integrated strategy against proxy war waged against this country. Counter terrorism needs societal mobilisation and effective intelligence effort. Various steps in counter offensive operations will have to be thought through, the most important being in the field of information campaign.
Those who wage proxy war against this country take advantage of our weaknesses. The faultlines in our society are exploited. Our borders have been porous. Drugs, man-portable arms, terrorists, fake currency and illegal immigrants are able to pass through. Neither are our sea shores always effectively guarded. Seven tonnes of high explosives could be landed on Maharashtra coast in one instance. Our air space too was violated with impunity when arms were dropped at Purulia. This country has contributed the term 'politician-bureaucracy organised crime nexus' to political lexicon. Political cum bureaucratic corruption is rampant in the country because of the role money and muscle power play in elections. Corruption at lower levels cannot be effectively tackled when there is corruption at higher levels. A widely corrupt society cannot provide good and efficient governance. A corrupt and misgoverned polity is highly vulnerable from the point of view of national security. It is like a body affected by the AIDS disease. The immunity to resist infections drops and the body is liable to various kinds of diseases. Foreign intelligence agencies can make use of organised crime, like narcotics barons, money launderers and smugglers to infiltrate arms and terrorists. Some years ago, Pakistani press published an interview with one of their drug barons, Haji lqbal Beg, who boasted that he sends the drugs across to his friends in India who shipped it to Europe and America. A CIA report gave details of the activities of Pakistani drug barons and their transactions via India. They did not evoke much response in this country.
In 1997 in a talk in Georgia University, US Defence Secretary William Cohen said that since the US was going to build an unrivalled defence force he expected its adversaries to hit at US indirectly through international terrorism. In our case too, since we are reversing the trend of cuts in defence spending and are initiating programmes of defence modernisation, we should expect our adversaries to wage a campaign of terrorism and proxy war. The corruption and lack of good governance provide opportunities to our adversaries to exploit our vulnerabilities. Therefore there must be adequate popular awareness in the country of the fact that corruption and misgovernance are national security threats.
Cynics would argue that there is corruption all over the world including in many long established democracies. After all a company in one of the best governed countries in the world, the Bofors, indulgued in corruption in this country. The result of that corruption has been a virtual paralysis of decision making in our defence procurement for years with adverse impact on our preparedness. Those countries, however, even while having the same problem of corruption, do not have neighbours who wage proxy war and campaign of terrorism against them. Very few of them are as multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious ad multicultural as India is. Those who are corrupt and therefore look away for a consideration, from legitimate law enforcement and politicians who shield organised crime barons in exchange for large sums of black money to fund party coffers to contest elections, may not realise that their corruption amounts to treason and endangers national security. It is the duty of the state and the government to create that awareness.
As Indian economic development accelerates, one must anticipate the adversaries of India to target it and one of the ways in which it can be done is by subjecting the country's economic symbols to terrorist attacks as happened in Mumbai in March 1993. Mumbai recovered in a remarkably short time, but imagine the consequences and impact of such attacks simultaneously carried out in a number of cities of India. That would hit the business confidence of foreign investors. I do not want to convert this into a lecture on terrorism and proxy war and would only emphasise that terrorism can be directed against Indian economic development. Our long term anticipatory planning for national security must take this into account and our business community should be sensitised to this and their support be mobilised to deal with this threat.
The recent report on police reform brings out clearly how politicisation of police forces in the states has led to failure in law enforcement. I mentioned earlier how the resulting misgovernance is a grave vulnerability in our national security. But do we tell our political class this simple truth and what damage they are doing because of their wayward governance? This is not a political question but a national security issue.
The present Home Minister promised to bring out a White Paper on the activities of the Inter Services Intelligence Agency of Pakistan in this country. That was a welcome move and would have helped to sensitise our population to the threats of proxy war, terrorism and subversion they face. This would have contributed to societal mobilisation. But for reasons that are not clear or cannot be logically inferred, the publication of that White Paper has not happened. It is alleged that its publication would expose the sources of our intelligence agencies. It does not speak highly of our drafting and communicating skills if a White Paper on the activities of the ISI in this country cannot be published without revealing the sources. This again highlights the mindset which does not have a comprehensive understanding of national security and the need for societal mobilisation in defence of our security.
If we are able to initiate the process of long range future oriented assessments of threats and challenges to our national security what will be the areas of our concern? The foremost concern should be the security of our communications and the transactions in our economic institutions. There have been cases in the west where millions of dollars were robbed from banks by computer hackers. Recently after a visit to the United States the Minister Mr Mahajan said that our entire banking system could be wrecked by our adversaries if we do not take adequate precautions to protect our communications and that would be far worse than an atom bomb on a city. He was no doubt right. But unfortunately in this country there is not sufficient awareness about the need to protect our communications through encoding. Instead some vested interests are attempting to delay and derail efforts to increase the carrying capacity, the bandwidth for telephonic and computer communications. There, again, is no attempt on the part our of national security establishment to educate the population at large, both, on the need to rapidly improve our connectivity as well as the need for awareness to protect own individual communications.
If this is not done expeditiously, not only will the vulnerabilities to our economy increase in all negotiations between our economic institutions and outsiders we shall be at a disadvantage since the outside world is in a position to tap any information stored in a computer connected to internet and transmitted through telephones. Recently, France accused the US of allowing its business establishments to have access to information gained by their intelligence collection satellites meant for military purposes. I am afraid there is a lot of complacency in respect of this security challenge. It is felt that we have a large reservoir of people with skills in software engineering and we know all about it.
The revolution in military affairs (RMA) is the future of war, if and when it takes places. This is application of information and sensor technologies to improve the accuracy of weapons, obtaining real time information on the adversary and using the information superiority to protect and defend oneself and severely damage the adversary's capability to prosecute the war. One saw the application of some aspects of RMA during the Gulf and Kosova wars. But there is further scope for advances in this area. There are both offensive and defensive aspects in this field.
Arising out of these challenges is the issue of India preparing itself to meet them in terms of next generation weaponry which will incorporate information technology, microelectronics and sophisticated sensors. Today's defence production establishments under the Ministry of Defence are incapable of producing the next generation weaponry equipment. The private sector in India is today far ahead of defence production establishments in capabilities in these areas. Therefore planning to involve private sector in such defence production should start right now. Unfortunately there is not much evidence of either the Defence Ministry or the private sector being fully cognisant of the nature of problems they will be facing.
Till now security planners in India were attempting to carry out their tasks on the basis of their past experience or what they learnt from the industrialised countries. Often there was a time lag in absorbing the experience of industrialised countries after analysing what would be applicable to our security environment. As mentioned earlier, our understanding of national security was not future oriented. Even in the rest of the world where countries have a strategic tradition, the common saying till recently used to be that generals were used to preparing to fight the last war. It is no longer possible to deal with the problems of national security on the basis of past experience only, though that experience is very valuable as a learning process. Today's national security challenges call for thinking ahead to anticipate which state and non-state actors entertain hostile intentions towards our state, our society and our value systems and what they are likely to do and to devise ways and means of checking them. Therefore it needs future oriented research into international, national, political, social, economic and technological developments to keep abreast with the thinking of potentially hostile state and non-state actors. This is why in other countries national defence universities have been established and scholarly research is carried out to enable the national security establishment to keep a step ahead of the potential adversaries. Unfortunately the recognition that national security today calls for high intellectual inputs and is not a routine bureaucratic management exercise by both people in uniform and civilians, is yet to develop in this country. That raises further questions of training, periodic refresher courses, updating of knowledge and information for officers in the defence and intelligence services and to the civil servants. The present culture of generalism has become outdated and counter-productive.
There will be many in this country who will ask whether all this is necessary and whether these steps will not lead us towards becoming a garrison state. I am a liberal, totally abhor violence in any form, hate the nuclear weapons and would like nothing better than a world without enemies and weapons. I am committed to a good government, democracy, equal opportunities to all, affirmative action to speed up upward mobility of hitherto disadvantaged sections of society, an equitable economic order, secular and casteless society, total elimination of corruption and maximum human rights to every one. The issue is how to move towards that world. A section of our people argue that we should set an example to promote that world. I agree wholeheartedly. However, we are not living in an island continent without the rest of the world actively impinging on us. We cannot afford to ignore the intentions of others, benign and hostile, towards us. In the Mahabharata, Bhishma, lying on his bed of arrows, while in the process of choosing the moment of his death, taught Pandavas the principles of statecraft. He told them "Nobody is anybody's friend. Nobody is anybody's enemy. It is the circumstances that make enemies and friends. "Thousands of years later Lord Palmerston, the British foreign secretary reenunciated the dictum in words which every student of international relations is taught "There is no permanent friend, there is no permanent enemy. There is only permanent interest." In fact, in this country this dictum is better understood in domestic politics but no it so much in foreign policy. Therefore, while we should try to pursue a non aggressive policy, one of good neighbourliness and of friendship and cooperation and promote the concept of 'Vasudeva Kutumbakam' (the whole world is a family) we will not be fair to one-sixth of mankind if in the name of such professed idealism we sacrifice their security, safety and interests. Very often such posturing becomes a convenient cloak for incompetence and mediocrity.
This is where the Gandhiji-Cariappa interaction is highly relevant. Gandhiji was an apostle of nonviolence and went on a fast in 1948 to compel the Government of India to release the money which was Pakistan's due. Yet, he strongly supported the Indian Army going into action to save Kashmir because he found there was no alternative to the use of violence against wanton aggression. At another point, Gandhiji said forgiveness adorned a soldier, and added, but only the strong could forgive. A mouse being torn by a cat could not claim to forgive the cat, he argued. If the world is to be reshaped and values of peace, freedom, international cooperation and justice are to be promoted only the strong can do it and not the weak. One should have a realistic assessment of the international situation as it exists not as one would like to fantasise it to be. The international community has legitimised the nuclear weapons and the use of force without declaring war. When countries are harassed by international terrorism and proxy wars, by narcotics traffic and organised crime often posing as noble causes, the international community often looks away. In trying to counter these efforts to wreck and derail our development process, no doubt, excesses often occur. There can be no disputing that they should be curbed. But that cannot be done by abdicating the basic responsibility of the state to counter and overwhelm the criminal and anarchistic forces. There are grounds to complain that the problems of use of force in a fair and just manner with restraint and effectiveness have not been addressed. But that is part of the overall problem of indifference to issues of national security, incompetence and mediocrity in governance.
It is often argued that this country should not be spending money on armaments and national security efforts before tackling our poverty. Some others are of the view that because our poor have no stake in this country, society and polity and since our politicians have to reflect the views of the constituency of the poor, they are indifferent to national security. These are superficial and illogical arguments mostly meant as alibis for 'lotus eating' attitude of our political class. It is estimated in this country some 30 per cent of the people are below poverty line and 70 per cent are above it. One would therefore expect that 70 per cent should have a stake in national security and they should be on guard that external as well as internal hostile forces do not further disrupt our economic development. Secondly, if adequate resources have not been applied on the ground on education, health, water supply, housing and job creation, it is not due to disproportionate diversion of resources to national security but due to the fact, as stated by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, only 15 paise out of every rupee spent reaches the poor. The rest is siphoned off by the politician-bureaucracy-organised crime combine, which I have already termed as one of the major national security threats. Therefore those who overlook this diversion of resources meant for poverty alleviation and provision of basic needs through corruption and ask the country to reduce its national security preparedness are only helping the continuous robbing of the poor. Very often such lobbies are assisted by funds from abroad from sources which are interested in diverting attention away from the real reason for lack of speed in eliminating poverty, namely corruption and the imperative need for our national security preparedness.
In these circumstances the responsibility for rectifying the present situation, increasing the popular awareness of the problems of national security and initiating the whole package of measures to safeguard our security and accelerate the political, social, economic and technological developments which are two sides of the coin of promoting a just social order, is with the government and particularly the NSC.
The cabinet secretariat resolution No. 281/29.6.98/TS of April 16, 1999 stated "The Central Government recognises that national security management requires integrated thinking and coordinated application of the political, military, diplomatic, scientific and technological resources of the state to protect and promote national security goals and objectives. National security in the context of the nation, needs to be viewed not only in military terms but also in terms of internal security, economic security, technological strength and foreign policy. The role of the council is to advise the Central Government on the said matters".
If the NSC is not able to fulfil the role prescribed for it, that becomes a challenge to national security. Therefore it is necessary to analyse why it has not been able to fulfil that role and what could be done to ensure that the NSC can play that role.
The NSC and CCNS have two distinct and complementary roles. The NSC has to look to the future. According to the cabinet resolution the NSC is to cover external security, security threats involving atomic energy, space and high technology, trends in the world economy and economic security threats, internal security, patterns of alienation emerging in the country, especially those with a social, communal or religious dimension, transborder crimes and intelligence coordination and tasking. Broadly, it covers the areas I had earlier enumerated as those posing security challenges.
This task of the NSC cannot be carried out without a dedicated staff which will have adequate expertise and will be able to develop holistic future-oriented perspectives and submit them for deliberations of the NSC. In the light of those deliberations, the NSC will advise different ministeries and organisations to come up with their policy reommendations. Those, in turn, will be considered by the CCNS and decisions taken thereon. Unfortunately, this has not happened and the NSC has not functioned at all in the absence of a fully developed staff support. The present NSC staff was the old JIC staff with some marginal additions. That staff has to discharge its earlier function as the intelligence assessing body at a time when failure of assessment process has been under intense criticism. Further, the same staff provided secretarial support to National Security Advisory Board, the Kargil Review Committee and the four taskforces set up to review defence management, intelligence, border management and internal security. It is quite obvious that adequate thought has not been given to develop an appropriate staff for the National Security Council to function effectively. It is therefore not surprising that the council has not been functional.
The task cannot be performed by the ministries offering their inputs and their being coordinated. The ministries are focussed on the present and are not equipped to undertake a holistic long term view of various security issues. The generalist system of civil service in this country inhibits the civil servants acquiring the required expertise in most of the ministries. The country has not developed the culture of contract research and our civil servants are not used to sharing information which is necessary to have successful contract research. In fact information handling is an area of grave weakness with our civil services. As mentioned earlier they are reluctant to share even the time of the day.
It is understandable that for a country where the political class and the bureaucracy, including the uniformed one have not developed adequate familiarity with the total concept of national security, as is evident from the NSC being formed only 52 years after independence, there will be teething troubles, various infantile ailments and adolescent problems in the development of NSC and its full effective functioning. What is worrying and of concern is that it has not even let out its first cry since its birth. The amateurish experiment of V.P. Singh set back the concept of NSC by many years. One is worried that an NSC on paper without any activity will prove fatal to future holistic national security management in this country.
There is the Sanskrit saying 'Yadha Rajas Thatha Praja'-as is the king so are the subjects. If at the topmost political level there is an attitude of casual approach to national security one cannot expect the bureaucracy, the parliament, the media and others to pay more meaningful attention to national security except when the issue is used as a political football. President Truman talked of the buck stopping in his office. In our system the buck stops with the Prime Minister. Therefore, the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation of casual approach to national security vests with the Prime Minister and his immediate advisers in matters of national security. I am not saying it in a spirit of criticism. I am aware that last two years, have seen many steps forward in this area including the setting up of the NSC. I am pointing out the deficiencies with a view to help, not only to diagnose the problem but to prescribe the treatment. I have some credentials in this field. I have devoted more than 40 years of my working life to advance Indian national security in a holistic manner. I have advocated and campaigned for setting up NSC for the last 30 years. I would not like to see the experiment fail. Therefore let me detail my suggestions to activate the NSC.
I have gone on record that in my view it is difficult to do justice to both the responsibilities of the offices of the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and that of National Security Adviser. However, I shall not press that point any further. Whether the chief of a government can have his utmost confidence in one or more persons is a matter no one from outside can prescribe. It has to be left to him, though my preference is clear. If he chooses to have only one person to man both posts then the work has to be organised in such a way and structure and processes of the NSC should be so devised as to ensure smooth functioning of the NSC. There are very well tried out organisational principles to deal with the problem. Today there is a well established and adequately staffed Prime Minister's office. But there is no adequately staffed NSC office under the NSA. The present NSCS, the old JIC is part of the Cabinet Secretariat. Let its old name be revived and let it focus more effectively and exclusively on intelligence assessment. That is a full time and enormously burdensome responsibility. The NSA requires independent dedicated staff to activate the NSC.
The NSC must have a regular time table to meet on a prescribed day in a fortnight at the initial stage and once a week a little later. The members of the NSC will arrange their tour programmes keeping that regular meeting in view. The NSC should have comprehensive intelligence briefing in each meeting to be followed by a discussion. The Chiefs of Staff and intelligence chiefs and the concerned secretaries should attend these meetings. These discussions should be free for all ministers and official and should not follow the cabinet procedure where the official speaks only when spoken to. It is quite possible that the discussion that follows would generate perspectives for studies, sensitise the NSC to anticipate future situations and promote more intensive interaction at the top levels of bureaucracy. At the initial stage, with a staff which is new and still to acquire expertise, it may be necessary to set up task forces to come up with studies on various issues. In this respect the recent experiment of setting up task forces is a valuable one. In about two to three years time a reasonably well trained staff will be in place. Simultaneously, a number of autonomous think-tanks have to be encouraged and research in universities on national security issues should be supported. One of the problems we have is that the national security management is not looked upon as a long term issue in which the capabilities have to be developed over a period of time. Each Cabinet looks upon it as an issue limited to its term of office. The NSC or the Prime Minister should hold regular periodic meetings once in three or four months to brief other parties in the Parliament and keep them informed through a regular supply of literature. The NSC secretariat should also ensure that when major policy statements are made they are made available to all political leaders and bureaucrats and they should be informed that that was the government's policy and no pronouncements should be made in adhoc and off the cuff remarks. Therefore, a lot more attention has to be paid to the information policy of the Government on matters related to national security.
Perhaps I will be told in our system described by Professor Gallbraith as the only functioning anarchy, all this is not possible and I am out of touch with political realities. That, in my view, is an alibi for not making the necessary effort. That is an abdication of the responsibility of the leadership. For decades I was told that India could not afford to go nuclear, mostly by people who have not taken the trouble to study the subject.
This is the right moment to start the effort to make the NSC work. Thanks mostly to efforts of this government, India is entering an era in which it is called upon to play a global role and is poised to enter into a high growth trajectory. Therefore, it is the responsibility of this government to lay strong foundations for a national security planning structure and to start training cadres who will later on man the posts in that structure. The present cadre of generalist civil servants cannot do it.
The development of the awareness to initiate the tasks constitute the core challenge to our national security. The present 'stop-go' attitude of casual approach to it in normal times, and fingerpointing at the time of crisis, has got to change by leadership efforts. Bringing about these attitudinal changes, setting up an appropriate national security planning structure and organising the training of cadres are more difficult tasks than to test the nuclear weapons in May 1998. There is no point in just listing out various security challenges if the country continues to lack the mechanism to assess the long term implications of each one of those and plan our responses to them.
These vital challenges of bringing about attitudinal changes towards our national security and taking steps to get the NSC working have been neglected far too long. The country cannot afford to continue this way much longer without paying high costs. Let me hope that the leadership will pay immediate attention to these basic challenges.