Higher the CNP, Higher in World Order

If the idea is to move high up in the hierarchy of the New World Order, India needs to work on improving its CNP by plugging gaps in the technological, scientific, political and administrative realms and enhance the ability to mobilize and utilize strategic resources to realize national objectives

Special Feature

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retd)

World Order: World Order in simple terms is an international relations term describing the distribution of power among world powers, including the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), international laws, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, new international economic order and the like.

Some may consider the P-5 nations (China, France, Russia, UK, US) may be considered world powers since their veto can hold the UN and the world literally to ransom be it protecting terror-generating nations like Pakistan, terrorism or counter-terrorism.

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Two recent events have impacted the established world order of yore. China rejected the judgment of the Hague-based International Tribunal in favour of Philippines against China’s illegal territorial claims and the United Kingdom vote for BREXIT.

The world remains multi-polar though China is working assiduously for a China-centric Asia and for dominating the world overtaking the US. Concurrently, the US sanctions have pushed Iran, Russia and Myanmar into closer embrace with China.

The US sanctions have pushed Iran, Russia and Myanmar into closer embrace with China

The existing and likely global hotspots will include Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific. For the South-Asian region and India in particular, the China-Pakistan-Taliban alliance is the most dangerous one post the US troop exit from Afghanistan with the possibility of Turkey joining the trio. The Chinese aggression in Eastern Ladakh continues to loom large over India while the US is more interested in cooperation with India in the waters of the Indo-Pacific.

National Power

A nation that won wars was considered powerful. For winning wars, DIME was the buzzword; the convergence of four elements of national power—Diplomacy, Information, Military and Economics. DIME was to be a cohesive, multi-domain plan that was launched before the military conflict, which continued during the period of conflict and carried through after the conflict as well. But the nature of war has undergone drastic changes resulting in the following:

  • War is no longer an exclusive military affair.
  • Technology will remain important, but ‘people’ can provide asymmetric edge if invested in and empowered through decentralization.
  • Conventional forces and diplomacy by itself is no match to hybrid warfare which is an ongoing continuous affair.
  • Space, cyberspace and electromagnetic domains will be increasingly operationalized both in conventional conflict and hybrid war.
  • Enhanced use of stealth, hypersonic and unmanned platforms and information-cum-psychological operations will be the norm.
  • Success in conflict, especially against adaptive and agile adversaries, will require a shift away from kinetic to influence activity.
  • Increased use of state and non-state actors including for launching CBRN attacks will happen. Likelihood of tactical nuclear weapons usage will increase.
  • Soft power will continue to be utilized to facilitate achievement of political goals.
  • Exercising strategic restraint in hybrid war will be detrimental to national interests.

National power is no longer restricted to the military but also includes a host of factors like strength of the economy, human resources, availability of national resources, knowledge, science and technology and the like. Given the requirement of people-centric envisioning of goals and objectives, elements of national power would include: geography, natural resources—raw materials and food, population, economic development and industrial capacity, technology, military preparedness, ideology, and leadership.

Comprehensive National Power

Comprehensive National Power (CNP) is the comprehensive capability of a country to pursue its strategic objectives by taking the necessary actions internationally. It is the sum total of the strengths derived from a country’s existence and development which a country possesses or controls in a given period of time. CNP can also be defined as the degree of ability to mobilize and utilize strategic resources of a country to realize national objectives.

CNP can be calculated numerically by combining various quantitative indices to create a single number held to measure the power of a nation-state. These indices take into account both military factors (hard power) and economic and cultural factors (soft power). The calculations are akin to working out the Human Development Index (HDI).

The China-Pakistan-Taliban alliance is the most dangerous one post the US troop exit from Afghanistan with the possibility of Turkey joining the trio

The book ‘Comprehensive National Power—A Model for India’ by the United Services Institution (USI) of India explains how CNP is calculated and also shows various methods of calculation with various tables, charts, and diagrams.

Factors for calculating CNP include geography and natural resources, economy, military strength, internal cohesion, governance, human capital, science and technology, knowledge and information, foreign policy and diplomacy, and, national will and leadership. All these factors are consequential in denoting the power of a nation state in a given period of time or in the present environment. Since respective positions of various countries in all these studies vary, therefore, it is not possible to state exactly the position of India in the CNP index.

In 2003, the National Security Index (NSI) of 50 countries worked out by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) was published in the National Security Annual Review. The NSI is a composite index based on five different indices of development and national power. These are the Defence Index (DI), the Gross Domestic Product Index (GDPI), the Human Development Index (HDI), the Research and Development Index (RDI) and the Population Index (PI).

Based on the concept of national power developed by strategic analysts in the US and China, the NSI by the NSCS is a variant of the Chinese index and the American index made at the Rand Corporation. The latter index measures national power on the basis of national resources (technology, enterprise, human resources, financial/capital resources, physical resources), national performance (infrastructure capacity, ideational resources), and military capability (strategic resources, conversion capability and combat efficiency).

The NSI worked out by the NSCS ranked India at number 8 after the US, China, Japan, South Korea, Sweden, Russia and Germany. Pakistan ranked 49 in the list of 50 countries but in the DI Pakistan ranked 6, after the US, China, Russia, India and South Korea. It is important to note that the NSI and CNP indices underscore the point that real power lies in a country’s economic, technological, scientific, political and administrative capabilities and not just in its military and defence capability.

National power is no longer restricted to the military but also includes a host of factors like strength of the economy, human resources, availability of national resources, knowledge, science and technology and the like.

Much progress has been made since the publication of the NSI by the NSCS and no recent calculations are available but it may be assumed that India perhaps remains behind the US, China, Russia, Japan and Germany.

The fact is that India has the potential to catch up with these countries—at least the last two—provided the voids are addressed, requisite policies evolved and implemented in a time-bound manner.

India in the New World Order

India is yet to define its national security strategy. However, its grand strategy ‘should’ be hinged on the following: unhindered economic growth, maintaining territorial integrity, emerging as a global economic, militarily and technologically strong nation, avoiding conventional conflict as possible, creating deterrence against and weakening the China-Pakistan nexus, protecting Indian interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere, open land access to Afghanistan-CAR, protect SLOCs and freedom of global commons, cripple China’s aggressive moves by forcing it to look inwards and balkanize Pakistan in conjunction with strategic partners, and generate effective global response to all forms of terrorism.

India is an emerging global power. The Vajpayee era slogan of ‘India Shining’ did not work well politically then but the present government is showcasing the same through the media without mentioning the slogan.

On the economic front, India is still managing the transition from a developing country to a developed one. The government had been talking of a $5 trillion economy by 2024 but that is illusory especially after China bombed the world with the Wuhan Virus and a third pandemic wave is expected in India. However, the World Bank has projected India’s economy to grow at 8.3 percent in 2022, even as its recovery is being hampered by an unprecedented second wave of the COVID-19.

The IMF sees India’s gross domestic product (GDP) growing by 8.5 per cent, 160 basis points higher than its earlier projection, in the next financial year (FY23). Should that happen, India will become the most rapidly expanding large economy in the world with China’s projected growth projected at 5.7 per cent. Economic prospects are therefore good, as are investment opportunities.

With increase in the size of economy, India is becoming more integrated with the world economy. Transactions costs in India are declining with deregulation and ease of business. Many Indian firms are investing overseas and becoming nascent multinationals. Global integration of the Indian economy will continue to increase.

Factors for calculating CNP include geography and natural resources, economy, military strength, internal cohesion, governance, human capital, science and technology, knowledge and information, foreign policy and diplomacy, and, national will and leadership

The crux will be how the money is utilized given that many populist schemes as part of vote-bank politics do not reach the ‘right’ or intended beneficiaries, enormous hidden expenditure on elections, writing off mammoth bank loans, and the corporate friendly taxation regime that is burdening more and more the very small percentage of taxpayers.

As per reports of February 2021, 4 percent of the taxpayers pay 60 percent of the total tax revenue generated. The contribution of tax revenue to the nation’s economy is apparent from the direct tax to GDP ratio, which stood at a 14-year-low of 5.1 percent as the total tax to GDP ratio was at 9.88 percent.

Militarily, India has much catching up to do with every annual defence allocation since 2014 being negative in actual terms.

The 2020 Chinese aggression in Ladakh has been a wakeup call but the equipping of the Armed Forces continues to be what SIPRI describes as in an “ad-hoc manner”. The exercise to rename the Service Headquarters as Integrated HQ (IHQ) of Ministry of Defence (MoD)— example being IHQ of MoD (Army) sans any worthwhile integration was naive.

The Armed Forces need to be integrated with the MoD which has not happened with the Directorate of Military Affairs headed by the CDS being more of a punching bag for the bureaucracy. The furore over ‘Theaterisation’ notwithstanding, military integration is vital without which operational concepts to enable ‘effective’ combat in the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains cannot be evolved and executed.

The government had been talking of a $5 trillion economy by 2024 but that is illusory especially after China bombed the world with the Wuhan Virus and a third pandemic wave is expected in India

In terms of science and technology, India has much catching up to do for equipping its Armed Forces with advanced war-fighting technologies like lethal autonomous systems, artificial intelligence (AI), stealth, hypersonic weapons, directed energy weapons, biotechnology, quantum technology, over-the-horizon targeting, enhanced surveillance and capability to rapidly analyze big data and decrypt high grade cipher. For this, the government needs to stitch together the national capabilities, not rely only on the governmental defence-industrial complex. Also our border infrastructure is coming up but is still far behind what the Chinese continue to rapidly expand across the border.

Management of social change, population control, insurgencies, and internal cohesion are major challenges for India which needs more emphasis. This brings in the need for responding to external support to terrorism and insurgencies in the same coin—at the sub-conventional level. Such a response must be employed both against China and Pakistan. There is need to shed ‘idealism’ in our foreign policy. This is the era of dirty war without rules and regulations. Practicing idealism in such an environment would always prove disadvantageous.

China is a devious bully which it has demonstrated time and again. China’s ‘string of pearls’ surround India, geographically spanning specific locales and employing all instruments of national power against us. China can never be our friend. The earlier we acknowledge it, the better. As any street bully, China will mount on our head if it smells any inhibitions on our part to stand up to it. Therefore, we need to call a spade a spade and shed the policy of ambiguity and denial. To this end, our leadership needs to adopt a more resolute approach towards China.

Finally, we need to identify what are the gaps in improving our CNP in terms of technological, scientific, political and administrative capabilities and address these speedily because enhanced CNP will take us into the hierarchy of the New World Order. There is no reason we cannot do this if put our heart and soul into it.

-The writer is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda