New Dimensions of National Security

 C.V. Narasimhan


      The advent of nuclear weaponry, with the dropping of the first atom bomb on the  6th August, 1945, in World War II, dramatically changed the concept  and modalities of international warfare.  Likewise, the instant and total destruction of the mammoth World Trade Centre complex in New York  by suicide-airplane bombers on the 11th September, 2001, has fundamentally altered the concept and dimensions of national security.  International rivalry has now shifted its focus from external aggression to internal subversion.

       2.  How strong are we as a ‘nation’ to plan and effectively thwart the attempts that are, and will be, continuously made by hostile forces to disrupt and subvert our national set-up and bleed us internally towards incurable anemia ?  The word ‘nation’ must first carry with it a distinct identity of which the people of the nation will be proudly aware, emotionally and intellectually. Components of our country’s identity include the heritage and  culture of our civilisation which has a continuity over several millennia, the value-system that permeates our social life, manners and customs, our concepts and perceptions regarding God-head, religious pluralism, an awareness of the spiritual dimension of life and a feeling of universal brotherhood. All these contribute to our identity as a nation. It is not the Constitution or the government that gives the identity.  It is the people who constitute the nation. It is these principles of life and living that hold them together.  If these principles come under attack, then our identity as a nation will get blurred, if not obliterated, and the security of the nation will be in serious jeopardy.  In this context we may recall what our present Union Minister Sharad Pawar had said in August 1991 soon after he had taken charge as Defence Minister in the then Union Cabinet.  The Press people asked him: “ What do you see as the main issue before us? ”.  His reply was sharp and  forthright.  He said: “ The main issue is how to keep this country together”.  We should ponder over the implications of this statement, made after 40 years of Independence !

     3. With the sprouting of democratic instincts and urges all over mankind, power has effectively shifted to people, and the world has entered the age of trade and commerce on a global scale. Dominance in trade and commerce is now the primary objective of leading nations.  Economic power is what matters now in international relations.  In this battle for economic supremacy, the developed nations have a head start, with USA at the lead. Our country is among the developing nations and poses a potential threat to the developed nations on the economic plane. Our progress on the economic front will be slowed down if our administration is constantly beset by disruptive activities within the country.  This is precisely what is happening now and what would definitely please the leading countries that are ahead of us on the economic plane. This,in fact, sets the scenario for hostile forces to plan their strategy focussed on internal disruption to weaken our country.  The real danger to national security in present  times is from internal subversion and not from external aggression. While our defence forces are well equipped and motivated to deal with external aggression, we cannot be so sure if our administrative system  is adequately protected against all possibilities of internal subversion. Countries which are hostile or unfriendly or suspicious towards us will naturally encourage factors which tend to destabilise our administration.  They would certainly not like to destroy us economically since that would deny them a ready and growing market for their products.  They would only like us to be the middle class buyers while they remain as the upper class producers and controllers of the world market. This is the harsh reality we have to contend with.  

      4.  The unstoppable advent of globalisation and privatisation has brought in its wake freer and easier travel and residence of foreigners across national boundaries under the garb of normal international trading and commercial activities.  Commercial deals that are directly struck by the corporate bodies across the world may be notionally ‘cleared’ by the concerned governments but it is well known that politics in every country is very much influenced by the ‘big-business’ people of that country.  In all such deals, the commercial interests will tend to over-ride ‘national and patriotic’ considerations.  This kind of ‘corporate sector – centered’ commercial activity across the world will naturally throw up some risks to national security, which may not be readily visible outside but would be detectable by a ‘patriotic and penetrating’ eye.  When such developments take place it is only a knowledgeable, vigilant and nationally motivated Parliament that can safeguard national security.

      5.  In the context of internal subversion we have to reckon with the festering problem of ‘Terrorism’ that is troubling us in different parts of the country. Different terrorist groups function in different areas with different ideologies, but they have the ‘ripple-effect’of inducing similar murderous militancy by mafia gangs and goons in other areas, causing alarm among the common people and shattering their faith in administration. The ‘political’ twist that was given to POTA which led to its repeal is very unfortunate. Existing laws and procedures are not adequate to meet the growing problem of organised and collective violence in the country. POTA has to be replaced by another comprehensive Act with adequate safeguards against misuse. The recent provisions added to to the existing laws after the repeal of POTA do not appear adequate for the purpose in view.

       6. In the changed scenario , more than the defence forces, the police will now have a greater and continuing role to safeguard national security. In that context the following points would need special attention :

      (i) Good intelligence is required for effective anti-terrorist measures. People -friendly police alone will be able to get this intelligence at the ground level. Police reform as recommended by NPC must get top-priority for implementation to refurbish the sagging image of the police and make them people-friendly.

      (ii) Political intelligence is different from crime intelligence. The former is mostly handled at the Officers’ level in the intelligence agencies with their contacts at the political level. The latter, i.e crime intelligence, is best handled at the level of Sub-Inspectors and the Constabulary who have their ears to the ground and can maintain ‘contacts’ for getting information relating to the under-world. It is this crime intelligence that is vital for dealing with terrorists and militant gangs.  In the present set up the perception of the dimensions of national security and the motivation to serve its cause are not adequate at the lower levels in the police. A crash programme has to be launched to educate and motivate the police officers at the ground level in this regard , clearly underlining the national dimension of the matter.

       7. Coordination of intelligence relating to terrorists, arms smuggling, drug traffic and foreign-exchange racketeering is very important,  since these activities get interlinked by the concerned criminals for their mutual benefit. The recently constituted National Security Council and the appointment of a National Security Adviser are welcome steps, but they must actively coordinate all intelligence work in a professional manner and effectively direct follow-up action as well , and not merely sit back to review and assess reports coming up to them.       

       8. Concept of Civil Defence should be enlarged and developed . Comprehensive training centres for Home Guards, Fire-Services and C.D.Personnel  should be set up at regional centres throughout the country.

       9. The command and control system governing our modern weaponry gets technically and unavoidably linked with some sophisticated computer network  at some stage or the other. It is important to check how well prepared we are to protect this computer network from hackers breaking into it.  It is one thing to develop expertise to investigate after the hacking has taken place but it is quite another thing to adopt measures to prevent hacking. The vulnerability of our security set up to infiltrators and influences from outside has shockingly come to light in the recent exposures relating to one of our intelligence agencies. This aspect deserves special attention of the National Security Adviser.

       10. Poverty will be a growing problem threatening internal stability and security .As early as 1967 the then President Dr S.Radhakrishnan  had cautioned us in this regard. In his Republic Day speech that year he had said : “ Internal differences are crippling our democracy as sectional interests and regional pressures are increasing. A thermo-nuclear war is not the only threat to man today.. Because of the new developments of science and technology, methods of production and modes of consumption are changing. The poor people of the world demand their proper share in the goods created by human inventiveness and are not prepared to wait much long.  We  cannot preserve the status quo in order to retain a sense of stability.” In his Republic Day speech in 2000 President K.R.Narayanan had drawn  the country’s attention towards the phenomenon of “sullen resentment among the masses against their condition, erupting often in violent forms in several parts of the country ”. He cautioned  that  these voices of resentment should not go unheard. In a candid indictment of the dominant economic policies, he said :  “Violence in society has bared a hundred fangs as advertisement-driven consumerism is unleashing frustrations and tensions in our society.  The unabashed, vulgar indulgence in conspicuous consumption by the nouveau riche has left the underclass seething in frustration.  One half of our society guzzles aerated  beverages while the other half has to make do with palmfuls of muddied water.  Our three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation must provide safe pedestrian crossings for the unempowered India also”.  Present day policy makers at the top should take due note of these danger signals and accordingly devise appropriate ameliorative measures to cover the rural masses.

     11. The urban-centred rich will do well to avoid ostentatious and vulgar display of wealth which only provoke and sharpen the edge of resentment of the poor and the economically weak sections of society. The disadvantaged and frustrated youth of the country should not be provoked to perceive extremist and violent measures as a viable option for their redemption.

      12. There is too much politics in our community life in present times.  Politics thrives on divisive and exclusive factors, and is fuelled by centrifugal forces.  This is detrimental to the promotion of a strong national identity.  Cultural pursuits and other activities linked with the spiritual moorings of the people will be of great help in fostering national identity, but they are upstaged by relentless politics all the time. This position has to be reversed if national integrity is to be preserved.

     13. Educational process also should assiduously promote due recognition of national identity and awareness of the richness and continuity of our heritage and culture. Politicisation of the educational process in recent times is very unfortunate. It must be de-politicised and made national. The reported intention of the Central government to allow foreign investment in the educational sector should be very carefully examined for its possible adverse repurcussions in the long run. We should recall Thomas Macaulay’s infamous minute on ‘Education’ recorded in 1835 which had made the educational process in British India de-Indianise the Indian and give a western orientation to his thinking. This should not happen again.  Patriotic fervour among the rising younger generation must be built  up and not blunted.

      14. The very unity and integrity of our nation will be under increasing attack in a variety of ways, both overt and covert,  by hostile forces in the fast growing competitive commercial world in the coming years. Containment of disorder and violence arising therefrom should not be treated as a mere ‘law and order’ problem of the State concerned but should be viewed as a national problem by the Central government which has a direct responsibility to protect the unity and integrity of the nation. This has to be recognised by all the political parties and they should unanimously agree to include a new item  in the Union List of the Seventh schedule of the Constitution with the heading :‘National Integrity and Internal security of the Union and the States, including directions to the police in related matters “  This would be a significant step to safeguard national security.