India’s former Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai thinks that the Nehruvian legacy in shaping the present scene in Indian security trends is changing due to India’s growing role in the global balance of power as the country is set to become not just a balancing power but a leading power in near future.
Participating in a book discussion on the Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security at Observer Research Foundation on 27 April, Mr Mathai felt the Nehruvian legacy had given India an aversion to the role force can play in shaping our country’s strategic interests. Indira Gandhi and Prime Minister Modi both while giving attention to the defence, and although different in nature, haven’t been able to change the paradigm of resource allocation to meet the security concerns.
Praising the book, Mr Mathai commented that it is bound to serve as premier and valuable addition to Indian policymaking.
Besides Mathai, the discussants included Dr. Abhijnan Rej, Senior Fellow, ORF. Also present were all the three editors — Prof. Sumit Ganguly, Dr. Manjeet Pardesi and Dr. Nicolas Blarel, as well as Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, the co-author of the Handbook. The session was moderated by Dr. Manoj Joshi.
Dr Abhijnan Rej, a quantitative expert, felt that the issues like expenditure on the armed forces are quite essential aspects to be considered. National security concerns still don’t hold a significant place in national politics, which it rightly should. Commenting on the lack of coordination between different departments of country’s defence institutional set up which are dominated by ad-hoc measures instead of national security requirements, he also criticised the newly constituted Defence Planning Committee, a national security strategy needs to be much broader than a national defense strategy.
The handbook comprises contributions from leading and rising scholars from across the world, covering a wide range of topics including the colonial legacy; India’s wars; strategic culture; nuclear security; and the role of space, cyber security, terrorism, insurgencies, intelligence, and civil-military relations; among others. It focuses on India’s external as well as internal security challenges, and traditional as well as non-traditional challenges to India’s national security, as also on the major theoretical approaches to India’s national security and on the relationship between national security and state making.
Dr Sumit Ganguly, who spearheaded the daunting initiative of bringing together contributions from across the world, commented that the book was propelled by the idea of Oxford Handbook of India’s Foreign Policy. Till now, no work sought to bring together experts from different fields in one sweeping volume that includes diverse perspectives. He said this volume was created to address the existing gaps in the literature and lack of a comprehensive work to refer to on the topic of India’s National security.
Dr Nicolas Blarel of Leiden University gave his insights into the structure and organization of the book. He argues that the book deals with the dichotomy of external and internal security on the one hand and the traditional and non-traditional aspects concerned on the other. However, he agreed that this dichotomy is increasingly becoming blurry. On the nature of liberalism in India and what it means for India’s security, he commented, that there is a need to address the increasing role of private economic actors in determining what security is and how it can be achieved.
Dr Rajeshwari Rajagopalan stressed on the crucial part played by India’s outer space security aspirations and capabilities, due to the changing strategic scenario in the Indo-Pacific region. She opined that a shift in India’s space policy has been seen since the early 2000s: it has become much more nuanced, and simultaneously, more ambivalent.
During the Q & A session, the questions ranged from the concerns over internal security apparatus and its capability to the question of considering economics as an aspect directly concerned with security for a nation.
This report was prepared by Parth Giri, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi