The National Security Dilemma
As a right wing conservative party the present ruling dispensation has always projected itself as pro-active nationalist party that wishes to be itself seen as the primary guardians of “national security” and aspires for India to be regarded as a respected and active member of the international community with the requisite influence that its 1.2 billion population and $2 trillion economy deserve. Prime Minister’s push for a seat at the UN high table can best be understood in this light, the Congress had all but given up on this.
…the biggest danger that confronts us today, far more than the steep decline in the standards of governance or the ramshackle criminal justice system and rule of law that is prevalent, is the complete lack of credibility of the political class.
By its very definition “National Security” has generally been seen as “the ability to preserve the nation’s physical integrity and territory; to maintain its economic relations with the rest of the world on reasonable terms; to preserve its nature, institution, and governance from disruption from outside; and to control its borders,” as former US Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, put it in his treatise on the subject, Thinking About National Security: Defense and Foreign Policy in a Dangerous World, over three decades ago. The scope of this definition has been somewhat widened over the years to include not just defense of national borders but also security of citizens and protection of economic assets located abroad.
In this regard Mr. Narendra Modi has certainly been the most active Prime Minister, since Nehru, to focus on enhancing our image abroad through a slew of innovative measures, some of them even transformative. While such intentions are to be welcomed, we must not forget the simple fact that while mature democracies have the luxury to concentrate on the external issues and facets that impact them, emerging economies and evolving democracies must necessarily focus on threats from within, which in all probability leave them far more vulnerable. In our context, despite wars with both our major neighbours to protect our territorial integrity over the years, it is the fissiparous tendencies and socio-economic disparities that exist within that should worry us the most.
Yet, if we look at the manner in which the political class handles issues that impact our national security, such as inclusive economic growth, job creation, communal harmony, reservations, insurgencies and a host of other issues, one cannot but help feel that they only promise us, at best, “notional security”. They seem to have forgotten that well known dictum that talk is cheap, it’s action that counts.In fact, one can go so far as to say that for politicians talk is everything, and as experience has clearly shown it’s the rare one who even attempts to stand by what he or she may have stated. For example, how does a government, supposedly focused on development, indulge in disruptive activities like banning meat, or unnecessarily confront the opposition being fully aware of the angst and turbulence such a moves create, and yet expect to usher in transformative change? Is it serious about development or looking for a way out of having to perform?
…by having disrupted Parliament by some opposition parties have surely hurt our national interests far more than the puerile attempts by the terrorists being sent across by the Pakistani establishment.
Thus the biggest danger that confronts us today, far more than the steep decline in the standards of governance or the ramshackle criminal justice system and rule of law that is prevalent, is the complete lack of credibility of the political class. At the root of all this is the utter obduracy of the political class and their cohorts in business and administration to neither accept nor heed the very concept of accountability. To that one can add politicization of each and every issue for short-term and transient political gains, mainly to further their own personal agendas, even at the cost of national interest. So, while Prime Minister gives wonderful sound-bites in Town Hall meetings in the virtual world expounding on what tech honchos, the world over, want to hear, it is difficult to reconcile his words with allegations being made by a respected member of his own party with regard to sale of tickets to criminals for the forthcoming Bihar elections.
Other examples abound, take the manner in which Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, the Foreign Minister, quietly, without following due process, verbally changed Government of India policy for such utterly specious reasons as “humanitarian grounds”. As to how her Party, or the Government, failed to see the utter impropriety of her actions is difficult to understand, given that her husband and daughter are also, reportedly, in the employment of Mr. Lalit Modi. Similarly, by having disrupted Parliament by some opposition parties have surely hurt our national interests far more than the puerile attempts by the terrorists being sent across by the Pakistani establishment. Indeed, even criticism by the main opposition party president of what may become an historic accord between the Government and NSCN (IM), that has just been signed after 60 years of Naga insurgency, without even being fully aware of its contours, is a pointer to this sad state of affairs.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, if we are unwilling to accept the politicians we elect at face value, why should the leadership of other countries or corporate do so? Thus, for example, the Pakistani leadership is quite clear that whatever red lines we may lay down, we are in no position to enforce them and it is only a matter of time before international pressure forces us to resume our foxtrot together.
It is high time that we started playing on the front foot and that is certainly only feasible if our politicians focus on regaining their lost credibility through deeds and not just words. Prime Minister in his enthusiasm to inspire may do well to remember Mr. Abraham Lincolns’ famous words “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.