The Taliban’s reconquest of Afghanistan resulted in Pakistan and China jumping into the ground to welcome the newly formed Taliban regime, a move that is backed with the intent to counter any Indian presence in the region. This is a disturbing and threatening development in the geopolitics of the South Asian region. As an emerging leader in South Asia and the World alike, India stands at a precipice of navigating and controlling this rising threat from her neighbours.
These recent developments have forced India to rethink its policy towards Afghanistan. India raised its concerns of Afghan soil being used for terrorism, though Taliban had assured India but the notorious Haqqani group, which is backed by Pak’s ISI has emerged as a powerful section in their government The Haqqani group has been responsible for attacks against Indian assets in Afghanistan including an attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul.
The emerging Chinese threat has brought states together. The recent QUAD summit in the United States focused around global peace and partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, with PM Modi stressing upon peace in the Indo-Pacific region at QUAD summit and in his speech at the UNGA. As an Asian power, India is missing out on a comprehensive National Security Strategy (NSS). This article traces the need and feasibility of carving an NSS out for the subcontinent.
Image: QUAD group photo Credits: Twitter, Narendra Modi
According to the US Office of the Secretary of Defence, the NSS is a document that provides discussion on proposed uses of all facets of US power needed to achieve the nation's security goals. It is obligated to include a discussion of international interests, commitments, along with defense capabilities necessary to deter threats and implement US security plans.
The NSS identifies a state’s national interest, threats (Terrorism, Cyber threats, Non-Contact Warfare, Climate Change, Pandemics and so on) and objectives. Based on the scope of this document, a strategy is devised to deal with issues related to political, economic, internal and external security. It helps in orchestrating instruments of national power (military, economic, diplomatic) to achieve the set objectives.
Arvind Gupta, former Deputy National Security Adviser (NSA) said the absence of a National Security Strategy in India is due to lack of political consensus in the country on national security issues, including the most important external and internal security threats and challenges. According to the Ministry of Defence’s 2007-2008 annual report, a draft National Security Strategy was prepared and it was forwarded to the National Security Adviser.
Though in elections, national security has always emerged as an important issue, very little action and implementation has been seen by different Governments at the Centre. An attempt was made by Congress to publish a National Security Strategy in 2019, which was a part of its election manifesto; it was prepared by Lt Gen DS Hooda (Retd) and it is called the ‘Hooda report’. Apart from this, the political establishment is yet to see a holistic security analysis and report.
In the United Kingdom, a National Security Council was formed in 2010, and was tasked to draft a ‘National Security Strategy’. The draft highlighted four key elements:
(1) The strategic context
(2) Britain’s role in this context
(3) Risks to security and prioritization of risks
(4) National response to these threats.
The National Security Strategy of the US published during Donald Trump’s Presidency in 2017 was based on his America first policy and was called as an ‘America First National Security Strategy’ with four pillars i.e. (1) Protect the Homeland, the American people, and American way of life, (2) Advance American prosperity, (3) Preserve Peace through Strength, (4) Enhance American Influence.
The document highlighted threats from North Korea, through their use of ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMD) and based on that, a priority action was devised to deploy a ‘layered missile defence system’ focusing on North Korea and Iran. Similarly, the document also identifies ‘bioweapons and pandemics’ as a threat to the US and the priority action would be to detect and combat biothreats at their source and support biological innovation.
Image: National Security Strategy, US
India, currently, is faced with a threat from Non-Contact Warfare and a priority action to deal with it is being devised.
Non-Contact Warfare: A threat of the global battlefield
After the recent Combined Commanders’ Conference (CCC), the Indian Prime Minister laid out a set of directives which included drafting a doctrine for Non-Contact Warfare (NCW) which will be overseen by a task force headed by the current Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat. The concept of NCW relates to any warfare which involves the integrated application of all national resources with a major part played by technology to degrade, disrupt or destroy systems/targets, while ensuring minimum physical contact of own forces.
In the wake of the crisis in Afghanistan, the need for an NCW doctrine has become imperative for India. Leaders of Western nations have highlighted the threat of the Taliban-led Afghanistan becoming a breeding ground for terrorism. India is a country which faces a very realistic threat from a destabilized Afghanistan after the Taliban made statements over their intention and right to "raise its voice for Muslims" in Kashmir. An inflammatory statement such as this is fodder for the propaganda machinery in Pakistan, which is always on the lookout for an opportunity to cause unrest and disturbance in India. This also raises heavy concerns on the Afghanistan-Pakistan-China nexus that could prove to be dangerous for India’s security and sovereignty.
Recent trends in the rise of non-kinetic attacks on Indian soil raised an alarm amongst the government and security agencies. On June 27, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded within a gap of six minutes inside Air Force Station Satwari in Jammu where the intended targets were the air traffic control (ATC), parked helicopters and radar. Such an attack is remote for the conspirator and allows them to undertake limited risk and achieve maximum effect, if successful.
Image: Drone attack Jammu Base
As a response to the attack, the Indian Armed Forces initiated a process of acquiring 10 counter unmanned aircraft systems (CUAS). The Indian Air Force (IAF) asked for the main weapon of the Made in India anti-drone system to be a Laser-based Directed Energy Weapon with soft and hard kill capabilities.
A very important facet of the NCW spectrum is the use of technology and the internet by terror outfits for malicious intentions. Recently, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said that its investigations revealed that ISIS has been attempting to spread its footprint in the country through constant social media propaganda and latent advancement of its ideology. These Extremists operate from overseas and make use of encrypted social media platforms to lure people into their ideologies and sinister intentions.
General Rawat had said, earlier this year, that India cannot rely on borrowed strength and be import-dependent to win future wars and should focus on indigenous production and technology to become a true regional power. He added that in order to be ready for the forthcoming wars, India must prepare itself for innovative ways of NCW that includes information operations, stealing of intellectual property rights and economic inducements.
Image: General Bipin Rawat
This ever-changing, evolving and somewhat obscure new battlefield poses great threats to all democracies and needs a well-defined and comprehensive strategy to help tackle it. A formal strategy and a structure that supports Jointmanship among security agencies along with the three Defence forces of India would be essential to averting attacks of any nature. Encouraging technology and embracing it in the defence infrastructure would help us to gain the upper hand in the NCW space.
The National Security Strategy for India should reflect the values and beliefs of the state and it is important to have a NSS to ensure public awareness and understanding regarding security issues. Inculcating elements like Non-Contact Warfare are important to build a response to safeguard India. In a world that only looks poised to become more violent and threatening, it is important to start preparing well in advance for a future calamity. While the NSS can lay down what India’s priorities are on paper, there is also a crucial need for the Indian Government, India’s Forces and Security agencies, along with the private sector to work in tandem to ensure that her borders are well-guarded, her skies are safe and her waters are sealed.
Book: The New Arthashastra, a security strategy for India (page no. 24-30), Edited by Gurmeet Kanwal
National Security Strategy of the United States of America, December 2017