In Nov 2023, media reports
revealed that India has commenced the process of formulating a National
Security Strategy (NSS) after extensive deliberations by the military and
strategic community. The National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) is
currently compiling inputs from various central ministries and departments to
create the draft, awaiting final cabinet approval. The specific timeline for
the strategy's completion remains uncertain, though multiple ministries have
already submitted their inputs to the NSCS.
An NSS is a comprehensive
framework formulated by a sovereign country to protect its core interests, in
the face of evolving challenges. It serves as a guiding plan for a nation's
security, defence, and foreign policy, offering policymakers objectives and
methodologies to achieve national goals. Regular updates are essential for the
NSS to address both traditional and non-traditional threats, holding
stakeholders accountable for their roles.
Despite previous attempts, India
lacks a written NSS or even a National Security Doctrine. Existing military and
nuclear strategies, along with the outdated Raksha Mantri's Operational
Directive of 2009, currently fulfil this purpose. The NSS, needs to stem from a
doctrine and transforms into an executable policy. While a doctrine provides
principles and beliefs guiding decision-makers, a strategy structures execution
for goal achievement and a policy offers principles guiding decision-making and
While doctrines are more
permanent than strategies, they must also remain flexible to cater for changing
paradigms and major conceptual shifts. Doctrines must also be reviewed
periodically to ensure that they remain relevant and do not become dogmas. And
with every update in doctrine, the strategy must also be reviewed.
With this in view, the need for a written document seems essential.
The Indian Constitution and
its Linkages to National Security
The Indian Constitution serves as
a foundational document outlining the principles and structure of the state.
While primarily addressing legal and governance frameworks, it substantially
influences the NSS. Guaranteeing fundamental rights and duties, the
Constitution requires the NSS to protect citizens' rights within constitutional
bounds. It also includes directive principles guiding state policy for a
socio-economically just and reasonable national security framework. The
allocation of powers between the centre and states necessitates shared federal
efforts in areas like border security and disaster management. Emergency
provisions for war or armed rebellion outlined in the Constitution should be
considered by the NSS, ensuring a balance between the national security imperatives
and democratic principles.
Elements of NSS
The creation of such a document
would entail a comprehensive geo-spatial, geo-demographic and geo-political
scan to bring out the current state of the country and the world along with alternate
futures that could pose themselves. There will be a requirement for a wider
consultation with experts and ministries, diverse inputs, and a need to predict
the future and examine potential scenarios. National Security is a multifaceted
domain and rather than addressing only military threats it would include the
Territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Counterterrorism and internal security.
Diplomacy and international relations.
Strategic infrastructure development.
Technology and innovation.
Resilience and disaster management.
Public awareness and civil-military cooperation.
Multilateral engagement and governance.
Nuclear policy and non-proliferation.
Strategic planning and adaptability.
Ethical and legal framework.
Potential Benefits of the
National Security Strategy in India?
A written NSS is crucial for
India’s national security, offering a strategic approach to navigate the
complex global security landscape. It guides military and defence reforms,
providing a holistic view of national security threats and a path for
addressing them. To cover a wide range of challenges, including non-traditional
ones a written NSS is considered essential for strategic planning. Some other benefits could be:
Policy and decision-making guidance.
Public awareness and confidence.
Coordination and integration.
Adaptability to changing threats.
Whole-of-The Nation’s Approach.
The Choice of Publicising the
NSS will be a very sensitive
document and it is likely that there could be political hesitation to put the
contents in the public domain. Also
taking ownership of such a strategy will be daunting and the thought could go against publicising
it. The decision to make the NSS of India publicly available will be a complex
and nuanced one and hence the following pros and cons should be considered:
Considerations for Publicising
It facilitates communication of the government’s
vision and priorities.
Enhances transparency, thus permitting clarity to
citizens on the nation's security priorities and strategies.
Can serve as a detterence, showcasing the
nation's capabilities and determination.
Foster awareness and engagement among citizens, encouraging
a sense of shared responsibility for national security.
It holds the government accountable to the
public by offering insight into its security decision making process.
It helps build public confidence in the
government's ability to handle security challenges.
Helps in shaping public perception and understanding
of security threats and challenges.
Allows experts, think tanks, and academia to
contribute valuable insights, enhancing the overall capacity to address
Publicising the NSS.
Could impede safeguards thus leaking classified
information compromising national security.
Could reveal sensitive information to the
Could provide adversaries with insights that
could be exploited.
Could have a risk of misinterpretation or
miscommunication of complex security strategies by the public.
Certain nuanced aspects of the NSS may pose
challenges for the public to fully comprehend.
Adapting to changing security scenarios may
require adjustments to strategies, which could be challenging.
Keeping in mind the issues
discussed above, the publication of a written NSS does seem like a must and the
need of the hour. To mitigate the
confidentiality issues, there could be two versions of the document: one for
public consumption and as a signal to external stakeholders/adversaries of our
intentions and methodologies. The other
would be a classified version for the various security agencies to act upon. Hence,
striking a balance between transparency and safeguarding classified details
thus stands out as most crucial and having the two volumes would take care of
all such concerns.
A written NSS would provide a
clear and comprehensive framework for national security policies, objectives,
and priorities. It would enhance transparency, aid in communication, and serve
as a reference point for all stakeholders. In addition, a written NSS can
facilitate better coordination among various agencies, enhance accountability and
contribute to long-term strategic planning.
The creation of a written
document spelling out the country’s NSS is a very mammoth and herculean task
fraught with numerous challenges. Governments
have been hesitant to put the NSS in writing, mainly because of concerns about obligation
traps, potential criticism, or rigidity in decision-making. The compliance of NSS
with existing legal frameworks, including international agreements and domestic
laws, could pose challenges. Assigning the resources assets which are limited,
to implement the NSS amidst competing budgetary demands could also be difficult.
The bureaucratic differences within the Ministry of Defence and other
government agencies and the military may face diverging opinions and hinder
effective coordination and cooperation among various stakeholders.
The rapid high-tech developments
in the fields of artificial intelligence, space, biotechnology, and cyber
security presents a challenge in keeping the NSS updated and relevant. Adapting
the NSS to address current security threats, such as cyber threats, terrorism,
and other non-traditional security issues, remains a persistent challenge. Addressing
internal security issues, such as insurgency, terrorism, and communal tensions
would also add to the complexities. Managing nuclear deterrence and ensuring a
credible nuclear strategy requires careful consideration.
India’s reactive methods to address
security challenges contrast with the preferred proactive approach. Building a
national security culture that emphasises the importance of a NSS and
systematic thinking about security has been a gradual process, due to lack of
The NSS would also examine the
current shortfalls in India’s capability and suggest measures to strengthen the
essential elements of national power. Weaknesses in capabilities will leave the
nation with an inability to convert the vision into reality. As the strategy is
pursued, the nation could be faced with unexpected challenges. However, if the
basic tenets are followed, progress is assured.
In conclusion, the imperative for
a documented NSS for India is clear and compelling. It serves as a foundational
framework to address diverse security challenges, safeguard the nation's
interests, navigate a complex security landscape, and contribute to regional
and global stability. The drafting and effective implementation of such a
strategy are crucial steps in ensuring India's security and prosperity in the
21st century. However, the path towards a strong NSS is not without hurdles.
Political consensus, resource deficits, and the need for continuous
modification to dynamic global changes pose substantial challenges that need to be met.
[ India to bring in a National Security Strategy: what is it, why is it important, https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/india-to-bring-in-a-national-security-strategy-what-is-it-why-is-it-important-9014489/
Explains: What is a National Security Strategy and why India must have one,
 India’s National Security
 India’s National Security