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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Redefining National Security  

The search for alternative dimensions of security has been engaging the attention of strategic analysts since the end of the cold war era. It is now generally recognized that national security implies not just the territorial and traditional military security of the state. The comprehensive security of a nation encompasses, besides military threats from other states, the whole gamut of environmental, economic, social and a host of other non-military security concerns which are broadly clubbed together as Human Security. In the ultimate analysis, human security implies security through development. It relates to the quality of life of citizens which impacts on human development. The importance and relevance of human security vis-à-vis security in the conventional military sense is one of the key issues today in security management discourse in a developing country like India, because it is closely connected with non-military threats and national security in its totality.

The crisis of governance is a major threat to security in all the countries of South Asia in varying degree. All the symptoms of this crisis, viz., lack of transparency and accountability in Public services, all pervasive corruption, breakdown of the Rule of Law, regional disparity in socio-economic development, poverty and alienation of ethnic and religious minorities are evident in India even though nearly six decades have passed after Independence. The governing elite have paid inadequate attention to non-military threats to security which are no less important than the traditional military threats to the country's territorial integrity.

Unlike China where national power is defined not only in terms of its military concerns, but also the political, social and economic concerns of the Chinese state, India lacks a strategic culture. India has not been able to formulate a viable doctrine of comprehensive National Security. Most Indians believe that our strength lies in our old civilization and the tradition of survival against all odds. In today's world, this belief is flawed. Sustained socio-economic development is an important determinant in the calculation of a nation's strategic potential. A moderately high average annual growth rate of 7 to 8 percent is not good enough to ensure that India will become a truly important player in Asia and the Indian Ocean region in the foreseeable future unless there is significant improvement in the social sector, viz., healthcare, housing, literacy programmes, poverty reduction and so on. The National Intelligence Council of USA has predicted in its report "global trend 2015" that by the year 2015, India will be a major power with large military capabilities and a dynamic economy, but the widening gulf between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' will be a source of domestic strife with more than a quarter of Indians remaining in dire poverty. Indeed, all the indicators of economic security of the citizens of India paint a gloomy picture in the years to come.

The preamble to the constitution of India promises a life of dignity to all its citizens along with social, economic, political justice and equality. But the governing apparatus has failed to implement these noble ideas and protect the Fundamental Rights to life, liberty and security of individuals. Without doubt, out achievements are many. But sixty years after independence, the Human Development score card is unquestionably poor. India ranks 134 out of 182countries in UNDP's latest Human Development Report. Although India has taken the 12th place in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the World Bank figures for 2005 and 4th place in terms of purchasing power parity, close to 300 Millions Indians still live below the poverty line. The World Bank's 'Global Economic Prospects For 2009' has calculated that the percentage of people living below poverty line in India is just ahead of sub-Saharan Africa and predicts that 25 per cent of India's population will be surviving on less than $ 1.25 a day, the international poverty line benchmark in the year 2015. Nearly one fifth of the population is chronically hungry and half of the world's hungry live in India. 40 million children are not in primary school and India's adult literacy rate is just behind Rwanda's and barely ahead of Sudan. Bangladesh, Vietnam and Honduras, all poorer countries, have lower infant mortality rates than India. Our close neighbour, Srilanka ranks much higher than India in the Human Development Index (HDI) where Life expectancy at birth is 74 years compared to a lowly 64 years in India.

Regrettably enough, there is no dearth of ideas or even allocation of resources in the field of rural development, healthcare, housing and job creation. The Indian governing class has failed to implement the grandiose plans. Nearly ninety percent of every rupee spent has never reached the poor and the marginalized. It has been siphoned by the corrupt politician-bureaucracy-organized criminals combine. The crisis of governance has given rise to public cynicism which is steadily altering people's attitude towards the governing elite at the Centre and the States. Consequently, there is noticeable decline in the capacity of the State to enforce decisions or implement plans. If this trend cannot be reversed by ensuring that fruits of economic reforms and globalization are distributed evenly, then the relevance of the world's largest multi-party democratic system will diminish further with adverse consequences for the country's internal cohesion & stability. The collapse of the once mighty Soviet Union has demonstrated that internal weakness, not external aggression, can break up a powerful country with unmatched military & nuclear arsenal. The USSR failed to eliminate the historical ethno-communal incompatibility and the genuine grievances of the Slavs, Baltic, Trans-Caucasian and Central Asian peoples. It somehow managed to convey the illusion of a homogeneous Soviet State by virtue of a repressive dictatorial political system. As a result, when the authoritarian communist system collapsed, different regions of the country promptly asserted their independence. The Soviet Union ceased to exist even though it possessed an unrivalled military machine matching the United States missile for missile, not because any other country attacked it but because of its own long suppressed internal problems which could not be taken care of.

The primary threat to our security in the conventional sense no doubt comes from other states, notably China and Pakistan. But these traditional military threats coexist with and are, in fact, often overshadowed by asymmetric non-military threats emanating from various non-state actors such as transborder terrorists, religious fundamentalist groups, drug and organized crime syndicates, illegal migrants, human traffickers and so on. Since independence, communal, caste and ethnic violence has threatened the unity and integrity of the country. The highly disruptive power of ethno-Communal threats to the process of nation - building has been seen in the last decade of the 20th Century when nearly a dozen ethnically defined states appeared on the world map. The South Asia region has the world's largest number of religious, ethnic and linguistic groups. In the Indian sub-continent, the creation of Pakistan and the subsequent emergence of Bangladesh have amply illustrated the disruptive power of ethno-communal threats to a nation's integrity. The civil war in Srilanka, the insurgency in Kashmir and the sub-national movements in the North-East of India are constant reminders of the new dimensions of intra-state threats to national security. The Maoist insurgency in Nepal and the Naxalite terror in thirteen Indian States have posed an additional challenge to the Indian security establishment. These movements strongly underscore the need to adopt a multi-pronged strategy of accelerated economic development, improved delivery mechanism, enhanced employment opportunities side by side with revamped police force and intelligence machinery.

That India has managed to survive as a plural, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society in the face of all these challenges is truly remarkable because it is the most diverse society on earth with more than a billion people, half a dozen major religions, more than a dozen major languages, hundreds of castes, sub-castes and classes and great potential for intra-state conflict. The reasons for India's survival have to be seen, paradoxically enough, in its apparently chaotic multi-party parliamentary democracy. Authoritarian regimes, as argued before, achieve a superficial illusion of harmony by suppressing all manifestations of strife. On the other hand, democratic systems permit articulation of diverse group interests and thereby provide safety valve of sorts for tackling the problems of sub-nationalism and ethno-communal elements. But eventually such a state must be able to mitigate the genuine grievances of the disadvantaged segments of the population by providing good governance.

The process of uneven economic development in an era of communication revolution invariably generates unfulfilled expectations of people in the peripheral and vulnerable remote areas of the country. The resultant sense of alienation is easily exploited by hostile foreign countries to threaten the country's security. The problem becomes acute in large open societies like ours which permit crystallization of group interests and political mobilization along ethnic, communal, linguistic and caste lines. These fault lines more and more threaten and destabilize the state as the State fails to govern effectively. Thus, there is a vital link between good governance and national security. It is hardly surprising therefore that conflicts within the State seem to outnumber inter-state conflicts today in many parts of the developing world.

Comprehensive security implies a state of well being in which individuals or groups enjoy freedom from the fears of poverty, hunger, ill health and unemployment besides the fear of losing his or her life as a result of wars or terrorist attacks. A nation, in the final analysis, is as secure as its poorest, most depressed and most disadvantaged citizens feel they are. The changing preferences of the Indian electorate and the predominance of regional, socio-economic, ethnic, religious and caste issues rather than big national issues during elections highlight the importance of citizen's security as perceived by the common man today. Globalization and economic reforms have the inherent danger of accentuating inequities and widening the rich-poor, urban-rural divide. Even the Communist party ruled authoritarian China is no exception to this rule. In the liberalization regime, the rolling back of the State in the economic field has to be balanced by its redefined and greater role in the social sector so that the development dynamics can benefit the poor and the deprived, In other words, market based reforms have to rest on the solid foundation of improved human security.

It must be added, however, that there is no inherent conflict between citizen's security as defined above and traditional military security of the State. In fact, one must complement the other. It is nobody's case that the Indian state today can afford to go slow on the modernization of its armed forces or lessen its vigil against external aggression. The defence, foreign affairs and the security establishment must be fully prepared to take recourse to hard options in supreme national interest whenever necessary. There is no need to lament or be apologetic about assertive realism in our defence or foreign policy while dealing with crisis situations and aberrant neighbours. Besides strengthening the defence forces, the government has to revamp the entire security management apparatus and its intelligence establishment. There is no system of legislative oversight of intelligence activities. The country urgently needs an institutionalized system of performance audit to ensure accountability of the agencies. Unlike many countries in the west, our intelligence agencies are obsessed with secrecy and hardly ever draw upon the vast pool of talent and expertise in the outside world in the academic circles, retired professionals, think tanks and the private sector. This calls for a paradigm change in security culture.

Comprehensive National security implies that we should be able to secure our frontiers, territorial waters and the skies against threats from external enemies and at the same time improve the quality of life of the citizens so that the country remains secure against various non-military threats which have great potential for jeopardizing the country's unity and integrity.


Kalyan K. Mitra
Former Principal Director,
DG Security, Cabinet Secretariat.


The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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