Vimarsha on National Security: Challenges and Responses a talk with General (retd) VK Singh
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The former Army Chief General (retd) VK Singh, addressed a distinguished gathering at the VIF’s monthly Vimarsha series of talks by eminent persons, held on 24 September, 2012. He enlightened the audience about the broad spectrum of security challenges currently facing India, through a stimulating yet incisive talk, captioned ‘National Security: Challenges and Responses’. Putting the session in perspective, Shri AK Doval KC, Director VIF, remarked that after independence India inherited a security doctrine which was essentially Western; it had Western values and political philosophy superimposed on it and the entire security edifice was built around one single political philosophy i.e. protecting the colonial interests of the British. He also alluded to the fact that that the failure to reform quickly led to the debacle some years later. The Director, however, underlined the need for not just reform but the complete transformation of India’s security apparatus, visualising changes taking place elsewhere as also envisioning what may come tomorrow.

Giving a broad overview of what encompasses India’s national security, General VK Singh highlighted that the concept of national security, under the changed circumstances, entailed a whole range of issues: economic, diplomatic, political, power projection and myriad other things that go into making the spirit of a nation. More specifically, it is about transforming the nation into a wholesome state that can withstand all kinds of threats and challenges, whether external or internal. While the General insisted that the core principles underlying India’s national security remain intact, he urged the intelligentsia to take a wider view of security. He also viewed that India’s national security needed to cater for her desire to carve out a distinctive place for herself in the broader regional and global arena. In this context, shaping up the immediate neighbourhood becomes a top national security imperative. He, however, regretted that India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis her neighbours were such that they created more confusion and left the neighbours confused. India needs to be more cautious and pragmatic when it comes to dealing with smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka, Nepal and others.

Speaking of external threats, General Singh said that coping with China remained by far the biggest challenge for India. The unsettled border provides a leeway to China. China’s growing proximity with Pakistan, however, poses even a greater challenge to India. Growing Chinese infrastructure development along India’s Northern borders has also created apprehensions about China’s intentions. Further, there is also a possibility of Chinese goods flooding the Indian market via Wal-Mart and other international retailers. He underscored the need for a proper policy response to cater for any eventuality arising out of China’s possible courses of action.

While the former Army Chief touched upon a wide spectrum of national security challenges, including the Af-Pak situation and its possible fallout for India, insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir and India’s Northeast, support to various terrorist and insurgent groups from across the border, governance deficit leading to growth in left-wing extremism, maritime security challenges etc., he also underscored the imperatives for India’s military modernization, especially the need for developing greater synergies between the civil and the military, removing potential bottlenecks in defence procurements and achieving greater indigenisation in defence technologies through collaborative efforts between the Government, the private and the academia. Threats emerging in cyberspace and outer space have added new dynamics to national security. India needs to develop robust mechanism to prevent these threats and also to launch counter offensive whenever needed, General VK Singh Said.

Gen. VK Singh’s talk was well received by the audience and resulted in a lively question answer session. Gen. Singh again emphasized the need for being well prepared to meet the likely security challenges in both the long term and short term perspectives.

Report prepared by Sanjay Kumar

Event Date 
September 24, 2012
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