By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch (Retd)
National security implies not only safeguarding territorial boundaries but also shaping the environment so that the nation is able to build a cohesive, egalitarian, technologically efficient and progressive society with a good quality of life. It is an aggressive blend of political resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability of natural resources, and finally military might.
On the other hand, defence strategy is focused on the protection of the state and its citizens from direct and indirect military threats and actions. The belief that national security implies military security and that a National Security Strategy (NSS) pertains only to defence strategy is naive.
A NSS could have numerous facets, some major ones being: economic security, political security, military security, personal security, food security, community security, health security, energy security, technological and information security, environment security and the like.
Evolving the NSS is a multi-dimensional exercise that among other issues includes exploration of geo-strategic environment through net assessments to bring out the strategic and military balance in comparative terms encompassing present and future international security settings and conflicting national interests of global and regional powers; outline contours of future threats and challenges emanating from the environmental scan; NSS perspective and future military strategy, and force restructuring imperatives and concepts, constituting threats and capability evaluation, resource allocation and restructuring the roadmap.
Defining the NSS requires to be followed up by articulation of defence / military strategy in the form of Strategic Defence Review (SDR). The NSS could be a broad-based guideline or alternately have both classified and non-classified segment with former not placed in public domain.
In the US, the NSS is a document prepared ‘periodically’ by the executive branch that lists the national security concerns and how the administration plans to deal with them. The document is purposely general in content, and its implementation relies on elaborating guidance provided in supporting documents like the National Military Strategy.
Measures to ensure national security include diplomacy to rally allies and isolate threats, marshal economic power to elicit cooperation, use intelligence services to detect, defeat or avoid threats and espionage, and protect classified information.
India has not defined a NSS in the last 74 years since Independence. However, according to sources, the team led by the National Security Advisor (NSA), tasked in 2019 to work out the NSS, has reportedly produced the document which is awaiting approval by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Logically, it should be announced in the near future unless the CCS wants changes to be made.
This NSS could well be broad-based and generic in content being the first such document in India.
In today’s world, technology is developing at such rapid pace that if a country doesn’t keep pace it impinges seriously on national security. The recent drone attack on an IAF base in Jammu on June 27, 2021, is just one example, what to talk of the vast technological advantage our prime adversary China enjoys over us.
The fast paced scientific and technological developments require adequate futuristic planning, speedy development, constant corrective action and continuous forethought. Panic acquisitions and imported technologies have their own constraints and can hardly meet operational requirements adequately.
Ironically, the Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap (TPCR) 2018 issued by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) which gives an overview of equipment that is envisaged to be inducted into the Indian armed forces up to the “late 2020s” does not mention anti-drone systems, leave aside technologies like quantum communications and the focus required on artificial intelligence.
It appears to be a cut-paste copy of TPCR 2015 (first such document) with slight improvement. The then Defence Minister (now Finance Minister) may not have even looked at it.
Cyber security is becoming more and more vital for national security. Hackers, phishing, malware, viruses, automated tools, e-bombs, logic bombs, EMP / HPM attacks are threats that make critical infrastructure and distribution systems highly vulnerable. Critical infrastructure is vital for the essential functioning of a country. Incidental or deliberate damage can have a serious impact on the economy and essential services. China’s cyber attacks on our health infrastructure and vaccine producing facilities during the ongoing pandemic highlight the dangers to national security.
Cyber attacks are getting more organized, disciplined, aggressive, well resourced and sophisticated. Effects of errors and omissions are increasingly catastrophic. Significant extraction of critical, sensitive information and planting of malicious software is happening on regular basis. Cyber attacks can be launched by nation states, terrorist groups, hackers and criminals for disruption, espionage or monetary gains. We need to focus beyond data loss prevention, intrusion detection and prevention system, security incident and event management, firewalls and antivirus to proactive measures. For example, do we have the ability to paralyze China’s C4I2 Infrastructure?
National security is sought through a combination of hard power, soft power, and economic opportunity. The economy underpins each of these by providing funding, human and other resources, capital, products, and an appealing culture and economic model.
A political economy of global security approach stresses both domestic and transnational economic actors and market processes that affect security outcomes in both traditional security spaces and new security domain. Economic security in the context of international relations is the ability of a nation state to maintain and develop the national economy, without which other dimensions of national security cannot be managed. That is why countries with sound economies like the US and China host sound defence setups.
Without doubt, economic capability largely determines the defence capability of a nation, and hence a sound economic security directly influences the national security of a nation. But at the same time, it is as important to understand that the right balance must be found between the economy and defence of a nation state—especially like India with hostile neighbours and volatile borders.
Not balancing both in the correct manner and neglecting defence for decades is what has brought India to the present state—conventionally more or less at par with Pakistan and at an disadvantage compared to China.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that conflict will be five dimensional—aero-space, land, sea, cyber and the electromagnetic. Information dominance and information assurance is as important as land, sea, or aero-space superiority. Space combat, cyber-space combat, radiation combat, robotic combat, nanotechnology combat will add to the forms of combat. Where are we in all this vis-à-vis China?
-The author is a veteran of Indian Army. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda