Skip to main content

Ladakh standoff: India's National Security Strategy 'dithered, delayed', slow to take off

By Niki Sharma, Abhimanyu Hazarika*
The events at different points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on June 15, mark a new low in terms of foreign policy. It also presents the hardest challenge yet in terms of dealing with a crisis that threatens not just established border demarcations, but the morale and dignity of our forces and citizenry. The border fury is also a testament of how, despite several peace talks and agreements, there is no ironclad guarantee that the two countries will not have more such violent clashes at the LAC.
Weak military infrastructure and decision-making can mark a death-knell for India’s national and territorial integrity. Twenty-first century dependencies -- be it cultural, environmental, or economic -- among global powers must not overshadow the need to defend ourselves, and more importantly, save our soldiers from becoming casualties.
The issue, unfortunately, has no immediate means of resolve. Medium-term military-diplomatic moves and far-sighted policy endeavours can, however, make India better equipped to tackle such matters head-on, rather than defensively. Yes, banning Chinese apps is a step to assuage the immediate public anger after the death toll of the standoff was released. Nonetheless, far-sighted plans of action are needed for a viable solution to this grave issue.
Several attempts have already been made by the National Security Advisory Board to draft and submit a National Security Strategy (NSS), but it has only been dithered or delayed by different governments. The Defence Planning Committee was in 2018 formally entrusted with putting in place the fundamentals of an NSS, but it has been slow to take off.
A feasible and desirable approach to securing our nation’s security begins with a strategic review to ascertain security challenges for now and tomorrow, both internal and external, which develops into a comprehensive NSS. In future border standoffs and clashes, the strategy shall be the starting point to tackle the threats at hand, by specifying our capabilities required as far as force, technology and structures to deal with attacks are concerned.
The fundamentals of a county’s NSS entails crafting sound strategies that define a nation’s interests and ways to fix the cracks on the wall along with the means to avoid hitches and glitches in times of a crisis. Countries like the United States, Russia, and France have such documented strategies in place that lay down their needs, urgencies, red flags, and a process of tackling a crisis that yields positive outcomes. At times when raging public speeches and condolences prove to be futile, it is such strategies that help make challenging decisions.
It is critical that such a strategy is inclusive of and works in tandem with military strategy to modernise our current functional approach of being reactive, rather than preventive. Further, the NSS should also tackle multiple threats including riots and natural disasters, streamline and unburden institutions, have a coherent media policy, produce localised charters through interdisciplinary think tanks, adopt a dynamic neighbour-border policy, outline policies that advocate economic growth, prescribe central policies that emphasise decentralisation to non-urban areas, and strive for communal and ecological harmony. 
Banning Chinese apps is step to assuage public anger after death toll of the standoff was released. Far-sighted action plans are needed
While that might seem over-encompassing, contextualising it in a hypothetical handling of the Galwan Valley situation will make the intent clear. An NSS in place would:
  • handle preparedness for the altitudinal challenges along the LAC;
  • have inputs from intelligence and academic-oriented institutions as to the strategic and diplomatic means to proceed on each step of (de)escalation;
  • communicate details to the media as and when necessary but with transparency, so as not to lose the information war while dealing with the border battle; 
  • keep other neighbours informed or by our side in handling the issue; 
  • keep locals of adjoining districts in the loop of the situation as feasible, so rehabilitation isn’t a knee-jerk afterthought; and 
  • keep the economic and ecological fallouts of a violent clash there in mind. 
Before the bloody clash occurred at the LAC, a red flag had been wigwagging when minor stand-offs began taking place between the Indian and Chinese forces. A cogent strategy, in this context, would have avoided the puncturing of military and political wheels.
For situations of the present kind along the LAC, the NSS must include and go hand-in-hand with specialised units and tactics. At our conflict-ridden borders in the mountains, the focus must revolve around reviving old projects. 
The lack of funds has delayed many military projects in India, and is a major crack on our wall. Considering the current border crisis, India cannot afford to stall any more military projects and force its way back to a semblance of normalcy at the LAC. 

Mountain strike corps

One such project and specialised unit, that has been ideated, conceptualised, tested, but put in cold storage, is the Mountain Strike Corps (MSC). The rationale behind the MSC was to carry out non-defensive operations tackling aggressors along the LAC in a more optimum manner; as conventional tactics of defense cannot be grafted onto current border fragilities. The MSC was never properly formed.
After the Depsang conflict at the LAC in 2013, India’s first mountain strike corps, of sorts, was formed but stamped as a non-defensive tactic against the Chinese. A version of this is envisioned by the current Armed Forces chief in the form of Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) -- brigade sized units that can be quickly mobilised to strike or defend across terrains as escalations demand. As opposed to an MSC, however, the size of the units would mean diversion of resources from other corps in case of a large-scale conflict or the anticipation of one.
Given that the MSC was to be established over a few years for fiscal prudence, linking its immediate benefit to the current crisis is easier conceived than explained. Nonetheless, given China’s expansionist posturing, India must put in place defensive capabilities with a core offensive potential, which is where the MSC comes in. The substantial cost (over 10 billion $) of setting it up can be met with savings accrued from the Shekatkar Committee’s suggested reforms.
If it were already in place, the Corps would have helped those at the border be ready. It would have had knowledge of Chinese activities through an ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) canvas of our neighbours. 
Terrain-adapted and battle-ready formations with quick air and land mobilisation would help respond to intrusions from a position of active defensive strength. Ideally, the MSC’s operationalisation should have coincided with the launch of China's Western Theatre Command. The MSC will be equally formidable in tackling Pakistan, another troubling neighbour with painfully consistent ceasefire violations along the border.
To paraphrase an expression, a sound national strategy in hand is worth two in the rival’s bush. Proactively and speedily implementing the processes and organisational regulations for the MSC and the NSS is called for; it will go a long way in ensuring that no more of our bravehearts are killed with barbed-wire sticks, stones or worse. Reports of mutual disengagement notwithstanding, the nation cannot afford to wait!
---
*Political science graduates with interest in defence affairs from the Asian College of Journalism

Comments

suranjana dhal said…
its high time for the government to come out with a policy to deal with the situation along the China border. This write-up is reflective of the expectation of the average educated Indian for a concrete action plan by the government.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

World Bank proved right, Narmada is already a destructive project: Medha Patkar

By Rajiv Shah  Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar has said that the World Bank’s independent review mission, which brought out the Morse Commission report , has been proved right: The Sardar Sarovar dam has not only failed to live up to the loud promises made for irrigating large arid areas of Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, those who were displaced and resettled in Gujarat are getting increasingly restive as many of them are unable to get the promised water for irrigation and some for drinking water too. While 50,000 families have been resettled in three states and 20,000 have received land rights as land or cash, the authorities have not calculated what should be done with 15,000 families, whose houses are acquired for Sardar Sarovar but following changing backwater levels of the Sardar Sarovar dam, they are denied rehabilitation, Patkar tells Counterview in an interview (part1*): *** Q: What is the latest position in your view as far as the Sardar Sarovar dam is concerned?

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

UK leader cites Indian farmers' struggle one of top global fights against neoliberal order

Counterview Desk  Jeremy Corbyn, member of the UK Parliament, former leader of the UK Labour Party and founder of the  Peace and Justice Project , in his  inaugural speech to the  Progressive International’s  Summit at the End of the World on May 12, 2022, has said, what is happening across globe suggests that "image of apocalypse -- bombs and raids, oil spills and wildfires, disease and contagion -- is a reality for people across the planet." In an adaptation of his speech, distributed by  Globetrotter , Corbyn, however, said, there are fresh examples action, too -- by Indian farmers forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three neo-liberal laws;  by workers, communities and activists against the top giant multinational Amazon's "greed and exploitation"; and by Latin American people's struggle to say "no more to the domination by imperialism, the destruction of their communities and the abuse of their environments." Stating that this is n

Why is NIOH-ICMR 'official' making false claims on silicosis?: Health rights NGO

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi, Dr Jagdish Parikh, trustee, health rights NGO People’s Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadodara, and Jagdish Patel, director, PTRC, have said that the claim being made for the use of biomarker for detection of silicosis raises concern about scientific tenacity of the diagnosis of the deadly occupational disease. The letter also objects to the reported claim by a top health official that it is possible to detect silicosis at the sub-radiological stage. It asks, “What is this subradiological stage of silicosis? We have not heard any such scientific term being used. Again, the report is using a term which is not found in any scientific literature so far. Is this term acceptable by ICMR? Is ICMR thinking of any explanation?” Text : This is with reference to our letter dated November 28, 2021. In our communication we had raised our concern about the scientific tena

Welfare? Govt of India spends just 19% of manual scavengers' rehabilitation budget

By Bharat Dogra*  While the Dalit community has been always known for higher levels of poverty as well as social discrimination, even within the Dalits there is a sub-section known for even worse levels of poverty as well as social discrimination. This is the section which was traditionally involved in manual scavenging. The shocking injustice they have suffered from over the years has been widely recognized leading to a ban on manual scavenging. At the same time there is urgent need for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging. Hence a self-employment scheme for the rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging was drawn up. The allocations and the expenditure for this scheme for the last eight years are shown in the Table below: Union Budget for Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of  Manual Scavengers (in Rs crore) By Budget Estimate we mean the original allocation made when the budget is presented. It is clear from this table that the actual expenditure

Custodial death of Muslim youth: Govt of India told to ratify UN convention on torture

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), Hooghly, West Bengal, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), has drawn to the custodial death of a Muslim youth following his torture in police custody after registering a "false case" based on manufactured records. Seeking "proper investigation" the whole incident, Roy in his plea insists, the incident legitimizes his organisations' long-standing demand "for immediate ratification of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment." Text : Here I want to draw your kind attention to one incident of custodial torture by the Deganga police personnel and the subsequent custodial death of one Muslim man from the Other Backward Class community in Dum Dum Central Correctional Home. The name o

This Maoist justified US, western Europe's anti-Soviet stance, even Bhindranwale

By Harsh Thakor*  A glaring example of the extent to which those seeking to identify themselves as revolutionaries can go in making odd compromises with those normally considered as “class enemies” in Marxist jargon is late Kondapalli Seetharamiah. Few know that this Maoist organiser two decades ago was so enamoured by the Chinese three worlds theory that he called for a united front with the United States and other western countries against what he considered Soviet social imperialism! This wasn’t the only “compromise” Seetharamiah made during his career as a revolutionary. On Punjab he took a most eclectical stand of supporting Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, thus soft-pedalling the terrorist Khalistani movement. Among his other opportunist alliances, about which few are aware of, include support to the Akalis in Punjab, on one hand, and the NTR Telugu Desam regime in Andhra Pradesh, on the other – all part of his anti-Congress thrust. Also known as KS, this Maoist started his career as