Threats to­day are com­plex and in­ter­con­nected: Chi­dambaram


The Fi­nance Min­is­ter P. Chi­dambaram de­liv­ered the K. Subrah­manyam Me­mo­rial Lec­ture on “In­dia’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity—Chal­lenges and Pri­or­i­ties” at the In­sti­tute for De­fence Stud­ies and Analy­ses (IDSA) re­cently and here are ex­cerpts from the talk: “Un­til re­cently, we had taken a very com­part­men­talised view of na­tional se­cu­rity. Each threat to na­tional se­cu­rity was neatly fit­ted into one com­part­ment. The first, of course, was a war with Pak­istan. That was fit­ted into a com­part­ment and was meant to be de­terred, or de­fended, through the might of our armed forces. A war with China was and re­mains un­think­able, and there­fore that threat was fit­ted into an­other com­part­ment and re­served to be dealt with through a mix­ture of en­gage­ment, di­plo­macy, trade, and po­si­tion­ing ad­e­quate forces along the bor­ders. Be­yond Pak­istan and China, we did not per­ceive any ex­ter­nal threat to our se­cu­rity. Other threats such as com­mu­nal con­flicts, ter­ror­ism, Nax­al­ism or Maoist vi­o­lence, drug ped­dling and fake In­dian cur­rency notes (FICN) were bun­dled to­gether un­der the la­bel “threats to in­ter­nal se­cu­rity” and were left to the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs. Some threats were not ac­knowl­edged at all as threats to na­tional se­cu­rity and th­ese in­cluded en­ergy se­cu­rity, food se­cu­rity and pan­demics. K. Subrah­manyam was one of the ear­li­est to ar­gue that we should take a more holis­tic view of the threats to na­tional se­cu­rity.

“A close ex­am­i­na­tion of the threats to na­tional se­cu­rity will re­veal that each one of them is con­nected to one or more other threats. For ex­am­ple, the threat of ter­ror­ism is con­nected to the threat of pro­lif­er­a­tion of arms, in­clud­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion. The threat to the se­cu­rity of our sea lanes is con­nected to the threat to en­ergy se­cu­rity. Low-in­ten­sity con­flicts have a di­rect bear­ing on so­cial co­he­sion. Tech­nol­ogy se­cu­rity will be the key to build­ing new in­sti­tu­tions. Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, es­pe­cially those caused by cli­mate change, can wreck food se­cu­rity. Pan­demics and dis­eases, if un­con­trolled, can di­min­ish our ca­pac­ity to de­fend the bor­ders against our ad­ver­saries or to de­feat the mil­i­tants within the coun­try. Na­tional se­cu­rity is, there­fore, caught in a com­plex spi­der’s web and un­less we recog­nise that each strand of this web is con­nected to other strands, we would not be able to do jus­tice to our fun­da­men­tal obli­ga­tion to pro­tect and de­fend the se­cu­rity of the na­tion.

“De­fend­ing and pro­mot­ing na­tional se­cu­rity stands on three im­por­tant pil­lars: firstly, hu­man re­sources; se­condly, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy; and thirdly, money. “

China in­vests heav­ily in se­cu­rity

“High growth in China in­evitably trans­lated into higher ex­pen­di­ture on se­cu­rity, and as a log­i­cal corol­lary, a high de­gree of se­cu­rity. In the same speech, Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao said, ‘Mil­i­tary pre­pared­ness has been en­hanced. The armed forces have greatly en­hanced their ca­pa­bil­ity of car­ry­ing out their his­toric mis­sion in this new stage in the new cen­tury, and they have ac­com­plished a host of ur­gent, dif­fi­cult, dan­ger­ous and ar­du­ous tasks.’ The re­sults of higher ex­pen­di­ture show up in the hard­ware. Ac­cord­ing to the Stock­holm In­ter­na­tional Peace Re­search In­sti­tute (SIPRI), China has nearly 62 in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles (ICBMs). China is re­port­edly de­vel­op­ing the JL-2 SLBM for its new strate­gic sub­marines, four of which are al­ready sail­ing while two more are un­der con­struc­tion. In­dia has pur­chased one from Rus­sia that is used for train­ing pur­poses.

“There are re­ports that China has com­mis­sioned its first in­dige­nously ren­o­vated air­craft car­rier, un­veiled its fifth-gen­er­a­tion stealth air­craft (the J-20 and the J-31) and tested an anti-satel­lite weapon once, and a mis­sile in­ter­cep­tor twice. There is also a report that China has devel­oped a strate­gic heavy-lift trans­port air­craft. China has a space lab in or­bit and it also plans to launch 100 satel­lites dur­ing its on­go­ing five-year-plan from 2011-15. Twenty space­craft will be launched this year, in­clud­ing its third Lu­nar probe and a manned space­craft that will dock with China’s space lab. There are indi­ca­tions that by 2020, China may have more than 200 space­craft in or­bit ac­count­ing for about one-fifth of the world’s to­tal. Th­ese ex­am­ples are suf­fi­cient to em­pha­sise the point that sus­tained high growth is the key to be­come, if a coun­try aims to be­come, a “com­pre­hen­sive na­tional power”.

“I con­clude by as­sert­ing that there is no sub­sti­tute for sus­tained growth over a long pe­riod of time if In­dia should at­tain the sta­tus of, at least, a mid­dle-in­come coun­try. It is only sus­tained growth that gives as a chance to tune the growth model in favour of in­clu­sive devel­op­ment. With­out growth, there will be nei­ther devel­op­ment nor in­clu­sive­ness.”

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