Eminent experts participating in the session on ‘National Security Strategy’, moderated by Western Army Commander Lt. Gen. Surinder Singh, felt that the strategy, which had long eluded the country in the absence of political will, was all the more important for India, which found itself in a unique situation, sharing borders with its two nuclear armed adversaries working in tandem.
Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Vijay Oberoi (retd.), while strongly advocating a formal, declared National Security Strategy, pointed out that in the absence of a clear cut objective before the country, and well defined roles of various arms of the government in different situations, there could not be effective cohesion between them towards achieving the defined goals. He did not mince words when he said, “Strategy is the opposite of crisis management, and the latter, unfortunately is what the country is all about. Till date we have only one strategy in place, the nuclear strategy that too is a draft strategy.”
Adding to this, the former Army Chief, Gen. VP Malik (retd.), while listing out various occasions since independence when the political leadership of the times had let down the country, said even after the Mumbai attack, the Parliament attack and the Kargil intrusion, the government had failed to roll out a well defined strategy to counter Pakistan. “If the country has continued to chug along despite facing various travails and tribulations all this while, it is because of the resilience of its people and professionalism of its strategic arms, including the armed forces,” he asserted.
Earlier, speaking on the subject, Lt. Gen. Aditya Singh (retd.), who had also been a member of the National Security Advisory Board, said a framework of the National Security Strategy had been prepared by the board but it never saw the light of day. He said a think tank he was part of had now prepared a National Security doctrine, which could be considered by the government.
In another session on ‘Military Diplomacy – The Indian Perspective’, moderated by Gen. Malik, he said greater participation of the armed forces in the decision-making process in military matters both in the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Defence would pay rich dividends to the country. But, while the External Affairs Ministry over the past 10-15 years had been appreciative of the important contribution the armed forces could make in such a decision making process, the same could not be said for the Defence Ministry, he maintained.
Dwelling on the stellar role played by the Indian armed forces in various UN peace-keeping operations, the importance of joint exercises held with the armed forces of other big and small countries and the significant contributions of military attaches in various Indian embassies abroad, the panellists felt that as a strong Asian power, aspiring to be a world power, India needed to raise the bar in these indulgences to showcase its pre-eminent position on the world stage.
Sharing his experiences as a military attaché, Lt. Gen. SR Ghosh (retd.) stressed the need for attaching area specialists from within the armed forces to the military attaché for more effective military diplomacy with countries of deployment. He was all for high visibility, all-services exercises with foreign powers to send across a powerful message of India’s capabilities to its adversaries.
Maj. Gen. MP Bhagat (retd.) recounting the role of the Indian armed forces under his command in UN peacekeeping operations in Somalia, which was rated the best among all other powers participating in the mission, felt that Indian forces were better equipped than those of other world powers since our men were thorough professionals, compassionate and more enduring.
All the panellists, including Lt. Gen. HS Lidder (retd.), felt that India could not hope to become a great world power till the time it changed from a reactive country to a proactive country. Lt. Gen. Lidder felt for a thaw in Indo-Pakistan ties direct official dialogue between the Army chiefs and DGMOs (Directors General of Military Operations) of both countries should be given a shot. Creation of hot lines between them alone was not enough, he added.
Emphasising on the overriding importance of space and cyber warfare as the fourth and fifth dimensions of new age warfare in the session ‘New Frontiers of Warfare’, moderated by former Western Army Commander Lt. Gen. KJ Singh (retd.), the panellists, including Lt. Gen. VK Saxena (retd), an expert on unmanned warfare, Col. RK Tyagi (retd.), expert on cyber warfare, Ajay Lele, expert on space warfare, and Dr. (Mrs) Manpreet Sethi, expert on nuclear warfare, felt that this techno warfare would dominate the wars of the future and no country could afford to lag behind rapid developments in these areas.
Stressing that there were ethical issues involved in these new frontiers of warfare which needed to be debated in depth at the international level, the experts felt that India should keep itself abreast of all developments happening in these fields and timely prepare remedial measures so as not to be taken unawares in case of countries like China or Pakistan resorting to unethical use of these warfare tactics in contravention of international laws and conventions.