Mrs Subrahmanyam, Mr Shashi Tharoor, Mr Jai Shankar, Admiral Jacob, Mr Sharma, Mr Mishra, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am deeply honoured and privileged to have been invited to deliver the 4th K Subrahmanyam memorial lecture of the Global India Foundation. The title of my talk is “Securing India';s Insecurity: Emerging Vulnerabilities in an Interconnected World”. For me Mr Subrahmanyam and National Security were synonymous.
Writing for the first combat paper in May 1981 published by The College of Combat, at the request of the then Commandant Gen Sundarji, Mr Subrahmanyam wrote, and I quote: “It must be highlighted that the discussion of nuclear weapon in third world context in a generalised way is inappropriate. China, India and Pakistan are not typical third world countries. Secondly resort to a nuclear weapon is not likely to be routinely undertaken anywhere in the world much less in the third world context. Nuclear weapons constitute one of the four categories of the Weapons of Mass Destruction, the other three being biological, chemical and radiological weapons. While, therefore, India may be compelled to acquire nuclear weapons in order to exercise deterrence against potential adversaries in our neighbourhood who have or are likely to have nuclear weapons, while it is necessary to take note of the trend in the globe to increasingly legitimise the use and threat of use of weapons through the NPT and of the tendency to develop war fighting doctrines, we should also bear in mind that these are not ordinary weapons of war but keys to genocide and constitute a perpetual menace to mankind and humanity."
Every word of what K. Subrahmanyam wrote in 1981 resonates in today’s world. This is because he was pragmatic. He had the foresight to understand that if the western world is going to treat nuclear weapons as a currency of power then India must have them because this is the only language the world understands. But India’s and the world’s vulnerability because of nuclear weapons can only be overcome if the lexicon and grammar of the nuclear debate revolves around his core belief that nuclear weapons are not for war fighting and a world without nuclear weapons is a safer world. He was right.
A great man, a great thinker, I cherish the few opportunities that I had in his company. He exposed the west, he talked about their hypocrisy during the cold war, he criticised the West for sanctions against us after the Pokaran tests. He was the man India was destined to have at the right time and at the right place. I compliment Global India Foundation for organising this annual lecture and request it';s distinguished members to ensure that every year, more and more of what Mr Subrahmanyam said and what he did gets put across to the rest of the world because he was a man of many parts and we are delighted that he was amongst us. ';Bomb Mama'; to his grandchildren and ';Kasu'; to his peers, he was truly a great thinker. We pray for his soul to rest in peace.
Let me start by debunking a myth. I am a soldier and there is a common perception that we are often raring for a fight. This is furthest from the truth. The acme of skill is to win without fighting. If you fight to win, it means you have lost somewhere strategically. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Kautliya and one among the 21st century doyens of strategic thinking, K. Subrahmanyam, have all said this in their own ways.
Around 2,000 years ago Kautilya said that any country could face or is likely to face four types of threats. These are: an external threat externally abetted, an external treat internally abetted, an internal threat externally abetted and internal threat internally abetted. Of all the four types of threats that a country might face, the last is the most dangerous — an internal threat internally abetted — because it is like a cobra lurking in the corner. If you see it, kill it. Subsequent analysis has shown that the internal dimensions of any system or organisation are twice as powerful as the external one. Today we face all of them in one form or the other.
Let me jump 2,000 years and come to Henry Kissinger. His recent book ';World Order'; published a few months ago has over a dozen pages devoted to India, much of it to Kautilya and Arthashastra. He concludes, ``India will be a fulcrum of twenty - first century order: an indispensable element, based on its geography, resources, and tradition of sophisticated leadership, in the strategic and ideological evolution of the regions and the concepts of order at whose intersection it stands."
Today we find ourselves in a cusp, caught between the need to tackle Kautilyan vulnerabilities, and the Kissinger hypothesis that India represents the fulcrum of the twenty first century world order. Much has to be done to move from we are to where we should be. It all boils down to challenges and opportunities
It is my understanding that for long we have assumed that National Security and National Defense are synonymous. I believe this is not true. National Defence is only a subset of National Security. A country that can be defended is not necessarily secure.
Therefore what is National Security? It is an amalgamation of soft and hard power, focussed development of human and material resources, public understanding and support of people and arriving at a political consensus. When all this begins to happen, India can say it is moving towards National Security.
What is National Defence? National Defence deals with sovereignty, territorial integrity, ability to control and contain internal disorder, react to manmade or natural calamities, meet international obligations. Therefore, National Defence cannot be confused with National Security.
National Security is a much larger combine, much larger than tanks, guns, ships and aircraft and therefore not just limited to the Guns versus Butter debate. That is not National Security. And I believe people like me who had an opportunity to be in uniform for 40 years have not had either the opportunity or the inclination to articulate this to rest of the countrymen. Because if National Security is what I have said, then it is everyone’s business.
Each one sitting in this hall has a stake in National Security and if you begin to ask what is being done for me, then the answer should be - you have to contribute in ensuring the nation becomes secure. And therefore for any legally constituted democratically elected government, the first call of duty is to ensure the security of its citizens and if that is not done in a comprehensive wholesome manner then something is missing, something is wanting.
Even in National Defence the paradigm has changed dramatically. There is the conventional versus unconventional, symmetric versus asymmetric, open versus urban, regular versus irregular, state versus non state, proxy versus anonymous. The ingredients of National Security and National Defence are changing as never before. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Since National Security is a wholesome concept, let us examine the emerging threats to National Security in an increasingly interconnected world. First, geographically placed as we are, we have neighbours because of whom we have a `vulnerability interdependence’. Their vulnerability will have a spillover effect. Terrorism and its linkages is one such vulnerability. Since we are close to its epicenter, we will have to brace ourselves to limit and handle its spin- offs, in every way that we can. Furthermore, its internal abetment has sinister ramifications ..... a la Kautilya.
The second is refuting a western construct. Samuel Huntington is its most famous exponent. Its underpinning of a ';conflict of civilisations'; may be true for some parts of the world but India must remain a confluence of civilizations. Any Indian literature, terminology and lexicon that gives prominence to this western construct does great injustice to our sense and our sensibility. It is a threat we have to individually handle and not comfort ourselves into thinking that some state apparatus will handle this problem. We represent a confluence of civilizations and that is where we ought to stay.
Third is the war of ideas. The Arab spring saw violence and chaos. In Delhi it led to a new political party coming into power. If the ideas articulated by people are brought to every home by the fourth estate, and the fifth estate, they gather momentum, they challenge the status quo, and if successful, they alter the status quo. Our security lies in the peaceful transition, and wisdom in the belief that change is inevitable and all the good that it brings have to be harnessed in non violent ways.
Fourth, media has a great ability of creating a perception. Truth has a great inability of not being time sensitive. So when perception is reaching the goal post, truth is still putting on shoes. And by the time truth has put on shoes, perception has moved away somewhere else. It does not matter after that. And therefore we have to find the balance.
Fifth, cyberspace. It is an anonymous threat. It can impact transportation, power grids, banks, and telecommunications. Stuxnet was a very simple virus to ensure that the Iranians don’t get to multiple centrifuge capability. Anonymous threats are looming and if you mindlessly articulate or forward everything, you might be a victim of a threat which for an individual is not so severe, but cumulatively put together, it can create huge opportunities for somebody else to exploit.
Sixth, blogging - this is the fifth estate. It has wholesome value for spread of credible data and information. There is great value when the material being uploaded is authentic, justiciable, correct and appropriate. It could become a Frankenstein if individuals or groups with vested interests use it as a tool, to confuse, and confound. If this happens with incessant speed and rapidity then it will be difficult to monitor, and handle. Individuals have a role in supporting its use and must contribute to ensure that the state can perform.
Seventh is military technology. When I was young, military technology was streets ahead of civilian technology. Today civilian technology in use is streets head of military technology. A single I-phone has more processing power than all the space and ground segments put out by NASA to get Neil Armstrong to the moon and back.
We need to ask if there is a threat looming in relation to our backwardness in technology because 16 per cent of GDP is no level for manufacturing to be for a developing country like India. The PM’s Make in India initiative is both timely and appropriate. Defence offsets may be one way to hasten the pace of this worthy initiative. Also, the distinction between military and non-military dual use technology is very narrow. So, offsets can be used judiciously to raise the threshold levels of available technology.
All this will require rare coordination. At present such coordination is in its infancy. Unless this is thought through well, with the guidance and support of those who have worked the system, and iron out the ';why-we –are-where-we-are';, hyperbole and lip service will takeover. Manufacturing in India or manufacturing for India or make in India is not just a slogan. It has to happen. It has to happen for employment and better employability, it has to happen for higher level of threshold technology, it has to happen to make sure that we are secure; Dependency is not a great security idea.
While these threats emanate from inter connectedness, we have to tackle Kautilya’s threats that have linkages with the haves and have-nots of our society.
First, water. Water is going to lead us to a turbulent future and we need to be conscious of it. Like everything else, it starts with each one of us knowing our responsibility towards its consumption and wastage.
Second, Energy; we will have to integrate all sources to make sure we do not become power shy; if we are going to be power shy, it will retard growth and lead to Kautilya';s impoverished-disaffected cycle.
Health, the third one, is becoming expensive and not readily available at the block and village level. It is a threat that cannot be wished away.
Fourth, education is not linking to employment. The CII started a skills initiative in 2005. We made the point then about the need for a four-collar work force -- White collar, we have enough of them; Grey, the knowledge worker; Blue, the factory worker who is skilled and re skilled at regular intervals for better and superior outputs; and, Fourth, the rust collar worker - all other skills fall in this category. We have enough of white collar workers but need more of other categories because in a rapidly ageing world, the demographics are such that India will be the only place where some resource will be available for skill and employment. We need to gallop in this area and monitor the progress regularly. For the moment there is too much talk, and if there is too little delivery, a threat will incubate and an opportunity of a lifetime for the nation will go waste.
Fifth, technology and the R & D deficit. As the world is globalising, countries with deployable dual use technology are closing ranks. India won’t get technology easily even if it offers to pay for it. To cite two areas of concern, biotechnology is transforming medicines, agriculture, energy and materials. There are 2,000 drone companies in the world. Where are we? We haven’t invested enough in R & D and today we are insecure in this vital cog.
Sixth in this category is climate change. If there is a 9 degree Fahrenheit increase in world temperature, mass migration will take place. Most of Bangladesh will move towards the North East where population density is considerably less.
Last but not the least - inequity. Draw a map of India in your mind and drop a vertical from Allahabad. All metros of India, including the upcoming ones, are west of this line. Is it therefore surprising that this vertical line is also the Maoist belt? Anecdotally, I was talking to someone about the Look East policy and his answer was why don’t you look at your own east?
Mr. Subrahmanium in his Kargil Review Committee talked about higher defence management. The follow-on Arun Singh Committee, of which I was the Army Member, recommended that joint structures be raised so that over time we are in a position to graduate to higher levels. As a consequence, The Andamans Command, The Strategic Forces Command, and the Defence Intelligence Agency were approved by the Group of Ministers, and raised. A Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS) was also recommended, however it';s creation continues to be debated. In the last 12 years we have not moved forward. Recently the Defence Minister mentioned the likelihood of its fruition. This was heart warming news.
The absence of a complete and sound higher defence management structure lowers our response and readiness to National Security threats. And let me explain to you why? There is land and there are armies, water is navy and underwater capability requires a submarine force. Air is air force, space is spacecrafts and now you have cyber space. The great asset about cyber space is that it integrates the other five. Standalone capability of any one force is only additive to the other. Now space and cyberspace with their integrative potential can generate exponential power. They multiply the power of each of the stand alone systems, as never before. A wholesome look at national security coming from a higher defence organisation capable of looking at the spectrum in a united way, will give us many bangs for the same buck. Jointness has waited too long to happen.
The budgetary allocation for Defence at current levels is well under 2 per cent. There is a case for higher levels of support. My argument is that why are we not multiplying even the modest allocation? Why are we allowing it to be fractured away in small pieces, where the some of its parts is not equal to its exponential value? We have to make a change. All over the world, army, navy and the air force fight for their own turf; it is the political class that gets together to say, “We need to do it, we have to do it, we will do it, we should do it soon." The sooner, the better. The architecture that is to follow can be concurrent or phased. Thought needs to be given to gradually integrating the current forces to Theatre Commands. The Germans, who parented the idea of ';Blitzkrieg';, espoused the idea of ';fist better than fingers';. Why are we not being able to do it at a more rapid pace after years and years of analysis and understanding?
Today';s defence allocation falls under the budgetary head of non-plan expenditure. Can you plan with a yearly allocation of non-plan expenditure? Can such a system help build an over-the-horizon perspective? Some thought has to go towards this. I believe optimum and planned defence expenditure is an engine for national growth. It will raise the threshold of technology. If it raises the threshold of technology the services will get a bigger bang for the same buck. And, in addition, there will be spin- off benefits of dual use technology, more jobs, and a better quality of life with the deployment of dual technology for civilian use.
The services create a skilled and disciplined work force capable of multitask supervision. Nearly 70,000 servicemen retire between the ages of 39 and 45 every year and are available to be utilized by the civilian sector. We are also talking of ';Skilled India';, ';Make in India'; ';Digital India';, ';Swachh Bharat'; and ';Clean Ganga';. One of the handicaps in providing the desired momentum to these programmes is the non availability of a disciplined, motivated, and energetic workforce to deliver these campaigns. Since defence expenditure is an investment in this retiring workforce, why not get them second employment to help supervise all these initiatives? They are a national asset, created by public expenditure, once securing our borders, now they could well be tasked for all the campaigns that help reduce our anxieties towards insecurity.
A question that was central to Mr Subrahmanyam’s thinking was the nuclear debate. He often talked about the lexicon and the grammar of the nuclear debate, reminiscent of the Cold War era, - utterances like mutually assured destruction, recessed deterrence, limited response and so on so forth. He did what he could to bring us to a certain level. Let us be responsible for changing the lexicon of the debate. Talk of tactical nuclear weapons and the response to it is doing the rounds. This seems infructuous. A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon. Nobody should ever use it. It is not for war fighting. If you begin to talk about framing a response to tactical nuclear weapons, you are telling the world there are two types of responses. Let’s get the lexicon and the debate right. This country does not eye anybody else’s territory, we are a status quo power we are happy with what is legitimately ours. If forced we will fight tenaciously for what is ours. Nuclear weapons are not for war fighting.
We can carry forward Mr. Subrahmanyam';s legacy and not allow dogma to override as Dhruv, his grandson, has said and which, I am sure, his son S. Jaishankar, the current Foreign Secretary, talks about although he may not be able to do it in public. Our contribution to his great legacy is to carry the debate forward. A world free of nuclear weapons - no matter how idealistic the proposition - is something that he started, and something that we must see to a finish.
A secure India is good for world peace, the region, and for the generations who will follow.