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Needed ASAP: A National Security Policy

January 27, 2022 17:37 IST
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In 2020 India was compelled by China to change its national security strategy.
From counter-insurgency, which the army has been focussed on for years, we shifted to conventional war, observes Aakar Patel.

IMAGE: The Indian Army's incomparable soldiers patrol the Line of Control near Poonch at an altitude of 7,000 feet in thick snow. Photograph: ANI Photo

Pakistan has released its National Security Policy 2022-2026, a document co-authored by its National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf, but acknowledging input from several government entities.

The policy articulates what it sees as Pakistan's vision and priorities and provides a detailed implementation framework.

About half the document was released to the public and half kept classified.

The document emphasises economic security and says that traditional security is only a means to achieving economic prosperity.

It speaks of health security, climate change and water stress, food security and gender security.


It refers to terrorism with these words: 'The most acute form of efforts to undermine stability and national harmony of a society is terrorism.'

The internal security policy objectives are 'ensure writ of the State in all parts of the country to guarantee security of life and property of all citizens. Prioritise combatting terrorism, violent sub-nationalisms, extremism, sectarianism, and organised crime. Ensure Pakistan remains a secure destination for intellectual activity, businesses, investors, and visitors.'

Externally, it says it will 'seek regional peace through normalisation of relations in our immediate neighbourhood on the basis of mutual respect and sovereign equality.'

Pakistan is on the threshold of change because of a corridor China is building connecting China with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

This will help connect Pakistan to Central Asia, especially if Afghanistan is stable.

Our government should be studying the document (and also trying to access those parts which are classified) to see if it needs responding to and whether our national security policy is affected by this.

Unfortunately, for this to happen we must first have a national security policy which we do not.

Lieutenant General Prakash Menon (retd) has noted that, for several decades, India's political guidance to the military had been oriented towards Pakistan as the immediate threat.

But now that the Chinese threat was at the doorstep, this has changed.

The political objectives expected to be achieved by the military resided in a 2009 document called the 'Raksha Mantri's Directive'.

That directive, General Menon wrote, 'continues to lack parentage for the lack of a coherent National Security Strategy. The Defence Planning Committee, headed by the NSA, was assigned this task two years ago. Nothing has emerged so far.'

He adds that 'in essence, the Directive is shaped by inputs not flowing from requisite logic and awareness. Only the adoption of and adherence to the dictates of a politico-strategic approach can provide the desired inputs.'

In 2018, the government created the Defence Planning Committee.

This was to be chaired by current National Security Advisor Ajit Kumar Doval and include the foreign secretary, defence secretary, chief of defence staff, three service chiefs and secretaries of the ministry of finance.

It had the enormous tasks of looking after 'national defence and security priorities, foreign policy imperatives, operational directives and associated requirements, relevant strategic and security-related doctrines, defence acquisition and infrastructure development plans, national security strategy, strategic defence review and doctrines, international defence engagement strategy', and so on.

It met once, on May 3, 2018, and does not appear to have met after that.

Our national security advisor is not a scholar like Moeed Yusuf, but a man of action and a man of the field.

This is true of the rest of the government also.

In January 2021, a think-tank put out a paper by a retired general. He wrote that the changes introduced in the military gave an opportunity for the government to display its strategic and military acumen.

Unfortunately, the report concluded that the chief of defence staff was 'yet to articulate a defence strategy'.

In 2020 India was compelled by China to change its national security strategy.

From counter-insurgency, which the army has been focussed on for years, we shifted to conventional war.

The late Chief of Defence Staff General Rawat (who along with the current army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane was a counter-insurgency expert) accepted in June 2021 that China was now India's primary threat: 'When you have a larger neighbour, which has got a better force, better technology, you obviously prepare for a larger neighbour.'

This has upended what is called the Doval Doctrine, which posits that terrorism is India's primary national security threat and that Pakistan is the primary adversary.

In February 2021, India and Pakistan made a surprise joint announcement that they would 'strictly' observe a ceasefire at the Line of Control.

This was a surprise because earlier the Indian government and its ministers had made aggressive statements against Pakistan.

It was clear that events in Ladakh had done two things.

First that India would shift focus away from the Line of Control on the west to the Line of Actual Control on the east.

Before Galwan, of the army's 38 divisions, 12 faced China, while 25 divisions were deployed on the India-Pakistan border with one division in reserve.

After the reassignment, 16 divisions would face China.

A total of 200,000 Indian troops were now on the China border, fully stretching the army and reducing India's military options.

Secondly, India has been forced to shift its resource from the navy to the land border.

This has been accompanied by a demotion of the so-called Quad alliance with Japan, Australia and the United States and the militarisation of another alliance (AUKUS) against China between the traditional allies Australia, United Kingdom and America.

All these changes have come because of external pressure and not because of a national security policy.

Meaning that we are being compelled to act in a particular way rather than being in control of things and anticipating them.

These are the things to think about when we look at Pakistan and its new National Security Policy 2022-2026.

Aakar Patel is a columnist and writer and you can read Aakar's earlier columns here.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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