National security, is that ambience, in which a nation is able to protect and promote its national values, pursue its national interests and aspirations, in spite of, or, in the absence of, external or internal threats, real or perceived. Threats to national security may impact on any aspect of a nation’s life, ranging from its territorial integrity and internal cohesion to its economy, political structures and institutions, diplomacy, national leadership, national character, morale and so on. The armed forces of a nation have a vital role to play in meeting these threats.
India’s National Interests
India’s national interests, simply stated, are as follows :-
- National sovereignty.
- Unity and integrity of the country.
- Democratic and secular polity.
- Economic development.
- Social and economic justice.
- Favourable world order.
- Preservation and promotion of our values.
Our Strategic Vision
Nations adopt a national strategy in order to attain their national interests or goals. Clarity of strategic vision is very important if the national strategy is to take the nation on an optimal course to its desired national objectives. Let us, briefly, examine our strategic vision.
We are one of the oldest civilizations on Earth. Nearly, a sixth of the human race is Indian. Our country occupies a strategic location on the southern promontory of the Asian land mass and dominates large expanses of the Indian Ocean including the routes to the oil rich Gulf region, South East Asia and the Orient. These intrinsic attributes qualify, indeed demand, that India be a major player at the world stage.By tradition, India has been a peace-loving and responsible nation. It has abjured aggression, espoused the doctrine of ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence, led the non-aligned group of nations and played a constructive role as a member of the United Nations. This tradition clearly suggests that India should aspire to become a benign and moral superpower, rather than one, whose brute strength or wealth alone, confer on it, its place under the sun. Any examination of our strategic environment must be carried out against the backdrop of our strategic vision and the long term plans and strategies needed to realise that vision. By such an examination, we shall be able to predict the strategic environment of the decades ahead, and arrive at the appropriate force structure and equipment profile for our Army of the future.
The aim of this article is to visualise the likely national security environment in 2020 with special reference to the threats and challenges that may confront us at that time, and arrive at the most appropriate force structure and equipment profile for the Indian Army of 2020.
While the focus in this article is on the Army, it must not be construed that the Army can fulfill its missions without the active partnership of the Navy and the Air Force. Joint, or preferably, integrated tri-service functioning in war and peace will be an essential pre-requisite for success in all our operations.
With this background, let us examine the geo-strategic environment we might face in 2020.
The Geo-Strategic Environment
Two major events, roughly a decade apart, have played a major role in shaping the current geo-strategic environment. The first being the demise of the Soviet Union. It brought the Cold War to an end, and conferred on the USA, an unchallenged pre-eminence in the world as the sole superpower. The second was the ‘9-11 Event’ – the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks on targets in Washington DC and New York. This impelled the USA to declare ‘War on Terrorism’, and attack Afghanistan and Iraq with a ‘coalition of like-minded countries’, with the purpose of ousting their regimes, which were sponsors of terrorist groups like Al Quaeda and were hostile to the USA. The USA believed that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The impact of these two events are now being clearly felt in international affairs and by all indications, appear to be long lasting. We need to take note of the following major ramifications, which are specially relevant to India :-
- The USA has become hegemonic. Her style of diplomacy is increasingly becoming peremptory and coercive.
- The UN has been sidelined by the USA, which, acts at will, ignoring the need for UN’s sanction.
- The USA has adopted the doctrine of ‘Preemptive Military Intervention’. In consonance with this doctrine – threats, whether real and present or, perceived, are not allowed to mature, by use of military force.
- The USA has drawn a list of countries, which are ‘of concern’ to it. Of these, it has dealt with Afghanistan and Iraq. North Korea and Iran await similar treatment by the superpower. Recently, India has voted in favour of a USA backed resolution against Iran possibly to secure military materials, nuclear technology and fuel for civilian purposes. If India resiles from her pro-USA stance in the late November 2005 voting, the USA may deny its expectations. This would amount to dictating India’s foreign policy.
- China is neither amenable to coercion nor susceptible to being ‘contained’. Besides, because North Korea is a protégé of China, the latter has a major role in USA’s dealings with that country. The USA has also economically engaged China, as it provides a large market for US manufactured goods. The USA believes too, that as the USA-China trade gets increasingly intertwined, the likelihood of an armed conflict between the two will correspondingly reduce.
- The European Union, despite reservations on the part of some constituents, is for purposes of realpolitik pro-USA.
- Russia, because of her present economic debility, is supporting the USA or, at least, not opposing her. It may become more independent in its attitude as its economy recovers, a process that has already begun.
- Pakistan is a ‘major non-NATO ally’ of the USA and also its frontline state for the ‘War on Terrorism’. The US has troops and aircraft on Pakistan’s soil. It has been permitted to set up bases in return for huge subventions and to bail out Pakistan from the brink of a near-collapse economic situation. In effect, Pakistan has become a client state of the USA with a less than independent foreign policy.
- Terrorism, religious fundamentalism, nuclear and missile technology proliferation are pressing concerns for the US. It believes that these could ultimately pose danger to its ‘homeland’, something about which the USA is hypersensitive, or, even paranoid.
- These are some of the ramifications of the two events i.e. the Soviet collapse and the 9/11 event, which shall continue to influence international relations in the next two decades or more. However, by 2020, some changes would have taken place with regard to the circumstances of the world’s principal nations. These are enumerated below :-
- The USA will continue to be the preeminent power. Nevertheless, her ‘edge’ over China would have reduced to a small margin.
- China would be increasingly inclined to join issue with the USA, taking into account its envisaged near-superpower status. However, she would not risk her new found prosperity by being over-assertive with the USA and thus risk war.
- India would have caught up with China and achieved parity with China in many areas, but not military.
- Pakistan will continue to be the USA’s client state, and in case the latter so presses, she may even enter into a comprehensive peace agreement with India. Otherwise, Pakistan would prefer to keep tensions alive with India in order to extract concessions and benefits from both China and the USA who will want an economically resurgent India to be reined in.
- The USA’s ‘War on Terrorism’ may prove to be endless as, though the enemy has been rightly identified, the means being applied are all wrong, indeed, self-defeating.
- Radical religion will pose problems for the entire world as such. As radicalism flourishes in less developed countries, by 2020, there would also be a large number of very poor countries with radicalism well entrenched.
After this brief estimate of the geo-strategic environment in, 2020, let us turn to India’s internal security environment.