The collaboration between the government and the people is required in the sphere of security as well – citizens have to realise that national security was not the concern of the government alone and that their contribution to it was of great significance, writes D.C. Pathak
National security is about protection of the nation’s physical boundaries, its citizens and its information assets. Our defence forces deal with any open attack or aggression of an enemy, the police machinery takes care of the safety and security of the people and the national security set up based on Intelligence agencies protects our national secrets against the hidden designs of the adversary to access them.
In an era of proxy wars, covert attempts to cause sabotage, recruit agents from among our own citizens by turning their loyalties or gain unauthorised access to ‘protected’ information – which is the classical definition of espionage – have made the counter-intelligence charter of India’s national Intelligence agencies a lot more complex and large – requiring a timely review of their tasks, capabilities and resourcefulness.
There has been a significant consolidation and expansion of the national security set-up in the Modi regime under the watchful eye of the National Security Advisor.
Security is not a one-time event and the new geopolitical developments, large scale induction of technology in security and the newer threats to cyber systems – all make for rapid upgradation from time to time through a competent appraisal.
The rise of terrorism and faith-based radicalisation of our own nationals have taken the call of internal security closer to the ground and given a new-found importance to the need for citizens to have a good idea of the threats facing the country, act as the eyes and ears of the nation and become a voluntary contributor to the safeguarding of national security. This should be considered a part of the mandate of the Age of Information that lays down that being well informed was the prerequisite of success in any sphere – one therefore, had to read both opportunities as well as the risks in the environment at any given time.
It follows that there has to be a strategy of creating awareness of national security dimensions among the people at large. Those in the job of handling governance should be the first recipient of any programme formulated for this objective.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that on the initiative of NSA the content for the Foundation Course – in which all officers of Civil Services of India including Indian Foreign Service, are put together at the LBS National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie for a few months of shared orientation – was enriched with the inclusion of a segment on India’s national security and strategic affairs.
These services provide the ‘steel framework’ of the country’s governance and their officers exposed to some crucial knowledge about the nation’s security concerns at the beginning of the career itself would be better placed to handle their responsibilities and also have the advantage of being able to coordinate with their colleagues wherever required. The officers would go on to hold senior positions in organisations of strategic importance whose security would be of crucial importance for the nation.
The learning acquired at a younger stage stays forever and this was the logic behind the introduction of this new segment in the Foundation Course – for which some of the most experienced national security and strategy experts were invited to interact with the probationers. The policy has turned out to be extremely fruitful in terms of serving the cause of national security.
Another sphere where a general awareness of India’s security interests can help the nation on a long-term basis is an appropriate introduction of security education as a part of Civics and Humanities at a level where the students were mature enough to imbibe it.
The High School stage is perhaps the right occasion where this knowledge can be imparted more as an extension of the discussion on the rights and duties of a citizen as indicated in the Indian Constitution.
A simple add-on can be thought of for the current syllabus – it can point out the significance of geopolitical placing of India, the external and internal threats to national security and the country’s preparedness to deal with them. The exercise should be free of any political tint. If the classroom can be made an interactive place it would be more productive and reduce the tediousness of a serious sounding subject like national security.
The third instrument for popularising the idea of national security is to pitch it as a subject of education at the academic level – some universities in India have separate departments for security studies. The Centre has – at the initiative of Prime Minister himself – established the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) at Gandhinagar which is expanding fast as a premier national institute for training and research on defence, security and Police matters.
The RRU, formerly Raksha Shakti University, is a Central University and an institute of national importance which specialises in national and internal security education and has some of the best experts on these subjects on its roll.
Time has also come for making arrangements that would facilitate the process of informed citizens sharing their observations of a suspect activity or individual -from national security point of view – with the designated authorities without fear of running into any hassle as a consequence.
Even a communication made with anonymity should be looked at. External threats to internal security are translating on the ground – closer to where people live – such as terrorist activity, drug trade, attempts at radicalisation, appearance of strangers and bomb making.
The receiving point for this type of feedback from citizens should be centralised enough to keep the communicator from being identified too easily.
The US Homeland Security is reportedly using Fusion Centres to maintain information inflow from people on matters related to security. Ever since Warren Christopher, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State famously said in 1993 that ‘national security is inseparable from economic security’, there has been a closer rapport between corporate America and the CIA on the matter of garnering information of national security interest for the US from across the world.
Correspondingly this adds to the dimension of security awareness that all nationals engaged in globalised business interactions should have, in the interest of their own country. National security orientation is desirable in citizens working for the government, for the private sector and for civil society projects.
India is moving in the direction of Public Private Partnership in all spheres under the Modi regime – this is a measure of democratic governance and of the trust that the state had in the citizens. Awareness of the importance of national security facilitates this welcome advance.
Economic development apart, collaboration between the government and the people is required in the sphere of security as well – citizens have to realise that national security was not the concern of the government alone and that their contribution to it was of great significance.
No caste, community or regional identity can be above the national identity and this is to be specially remembered today since anti-India lobbies were out to play up ‘identity politics’ and negate the strength India had acquired as a functional democracy putting all citizens on the same footing through the secular principles of ‘one man one vote’, equal opportunity for all and the same protection of law for everybody.
Threats to internal security are permeating to the grass root levels making it important that credible security agencies in the private sector were suitably utilised for joint pursuit of certain national security tasks, that Centres of Excellence are established for training and research in PPP format as was recommended by India’s National Cyber Security Policy some years ago and that security orientation programmes were run for senior management in public and private enterprises, by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
There is no political play in safeguarding national security or in maintaining law and order – these are the prime responsibilities of the Centre and states respectively in our Constitution and a close liaison between the two is truly the hallmark of ‘Cooperative Federalism’ that India wants to head for.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are personal)