Need for national defence policy Essential to protect the country’s interests

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  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Need for national defence policy
    Essential to protect the country’s interests

    by Rakesh Datta

    IN post-Independence Indian history, defence policy has never been invoked as a separate structured framework. Rather it has emerged in various ways by way of an individual leader’s philosophy or as a result of the ruling party’s political creed. Nehru’s inability to give a concrete shape to his broad defence policy for fear of militarisation gave India a policy of self-defence. While the latter was seen mostly under the shadow of neutrality or non-alignment, India unfortunately overlooked its basic need for defence.

    One significant reason for India suffering major reverses in most of the battles it has fought has been the poorly conceived policies of fighting wars. According to Prussian strategic theorist Clausewitz, “Policy is the womb in which war develops”. While India has been striving for a long time to have a pre-eminent position in regional politics, inadequate defence planning has led to the country being unable to acquire the requisite strength to achieve its objectives.

    Seeing things against the backdrop of the Chinese military philosophy, which considers the gun as the currency of power, has also put India in an extremely vulnerable position. We are unable to put forward any effective strategy to counter the threat. The lack of a national security strategy has put the Indian military at the receiving end or making it fight in a knee-jerk manner.

    In this regard, while the chances of open war, though its probability is very low, cannot be ruled out, our long uninterrupted experience of fighting low-intensity conflicts has not paid any dividend. The U S army and marine, on the other hand, have designed a counter-insurgency doctrine based on its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    The need for a proper defence policy for the country arises from considering several long and short-term perspectives in terms of providing what Walter Lippmann had said — that a nation was secure to the extent it did not have to sacrifice its core values and, if challenged, it decided to maintain them by achieving victory. This meant securing a peaceful environment by fighting terrorism, handling a low-intensity conflict or political instability in the neighbourhood as well as protecting the country’s frontiers, including having internal security. In this context, formulating a defence policy as designed by other big powers will not only give India the strength to deter exploitation by external forces, but also help understand the strategic environment in the region.

    It will also help in taking decisions about the size and shape of our defence forces, allocating adequate budgetary resources and deciding as to when, where and how we may use our military power. A clear defence policy and strong military capability will reinforce our political, diplomatic and economic power, including reassuring the neighbours of our invulnerability.

    India is a rising great power, the second largest democracy and the third largest economy in the world. So far as our military potential is concerned, the Indian Army, the Air Force and the Navy occupy the third, fourth and sixth positions, respectively, in the world. However, such a large force has merely become a usable commodity rather than holding any deterrent value.

    India’s acclaimed nuclear weapon capability is being circumvented by our adversaries. Our ‘No First Strike’ may be a good political statement, but it holds no value in military terms, especially when India’s immediate neighbours have a policy contrary to this. Until now no Indian government has ever released a national security policy for the country.

    When India has a maritime policy, a “cold start” strategy for the Army and a clear doctrine for the IAF, besides the nuclear policy, why is there not a comprehensive defence policy?

    In 1985, Narasimha Rao as Defence Minister had said in Parliament that we did not have a document called national defence policy, though there were several guidelines linked to that. The situation has not changed till now.

    Later in 1990, the then Defence Secretary had said that there was a document called the Operational Directive issued to the three Service Chiefs, and it was a fairly comprehensive paper. According to him, this again does not conform to a defence policy though efforts have been continuing to have such a document.

    The setting up of the National Security Council was one step in the same direction. He further said it should not be left merely to the Ministry of Defence or other concerned organizations. Rather we need to discuss the perceptions and the concept at various forums.

    Defence planning has been neglected for long in India. It has led to ad-hocism in decision making, adversely affecting the modernisation plans of the Services. Consequently, the military budget has been a smaller share of the GDP. Funds are surrendered every year for not buying military equipment. The key issue needing immediate attention is the revival of the five-year defence plan and better management and acquisition of human and material resources.

    Unless we have a broad-based national defence policy — taking into view matters relating to military planning, issues concerning border management, international operations, space management, an extended EEZ as well supply routes for meeting energy resources, internal security and terrorism — the various agencies like the armed forces executing such plans will remain devoid of a common reference document.

    A clear defence policy with strong military capability will equally reinforce our diplomatic and economic power to help the country’s emergence as a significant global player. India has been faced with a low-intensity war for a long time. We have been experiencing terrorist violence since the mid-sixties in the Northeast and there is no trained force to deal with this kind of threat. The government is actually clueless about how to deal with Naxalism which, according to the Prime Minister, is the biggest threat to the country’s security. At the same time, Union Home Secretary G.K.
    Pillai’s statement that the Maoist plan to overthrow the Indian state by 2050 is alarming.

    According to the Chinese, nations respect power, and have contempt for the weak. The comprehensive national power accumulated and projected by China has attracted Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in its orbital structure. Pakistan, on the other hand, is aggressively using sub-conventional warfare tactics against India.

    To safeguard our national interest, it is highly necessary to formulate a defence policy in a structured manner. It will not only help in reviewing our basic approach towards defence, but also lend the much-needed credibility to the defence forces, true to the Clausewitzian dictum that it is the policy that fights a war. n

    The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

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