NATIONAL SECURITY FROM HALF WAY ACROSS THE WORLD!
India has come of age in the realm of global economic and political architecture, notwithstanding a $10 billion contribution announced by Dr. Manmohan Singh at Mexico on June 20, 2012 so as to avert impending crisis in Greece and ease in Spain. However, India is a sort of an ‘adolescent’, coming out of innocent childhood, begun to face turbulence - of the global sweeps encompassing trade, political alignments, financial flow and technological interface. The US is strongly promoting a strategic alliance with India, after Pakistan failed to sustain strategic support due to unreliable power and political equations. The world at large is challenged due to newly developing ideologies winning power in hitherto stable Egypt and in a destabilizing Pakistan.
Being a founder member of (now non-existent) non-aligned movement - leading role played by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru – a philosophical and conceptual baggage still influence the Indian thinking, and what it considers international fair-paly. The proverbial ‘Eve’s Apple’ could not be resisted by ‘Adam’ resulted in a descent to earth to procreate and prosper. However, for many it was a sin (against heaven’s signboard ‘no plucking and eating of apples’), that both were sent packing. Is India ready to ‘bite’ the ‘apple pie’ – the readymade, packed, branded and franchised technologically brilliant machines of mass destruction. Will it be considered a sin! Or is it an opportunity?
Often India is considered, by south-Asian neighbors, a local bully and neighborhood urchin. Neighborhood relationships have a vast canvas – outright enemy, a muscular arm twister, does not allow neighbors to crossover imaginary ‘laxman rekha’ (line) in geo-political and economic domains and so on. However, due to sheer size and unique location – the world at large considers India as a favorable location to pin the ‘democracy-lamp-post’ so to speak. No, there is no country in the world to rival India – a large democracy while still being a relatively poor society and economy.
While India cherish being a lighthouse-of-democracy, can this be done by becoming South Asian warehouse to the technologically loaded arsenal, which would certainly scare the neighbors if not antagonize them. Further, in spite of a couple of wars with China and more recent ‘border-game-play’ between the two, media hype notwithstanding; what ‘a smile or two’ can achieve in restraining the Asian Giants (an elephant and a dragon); I am sure, cannot be achieved through ‘armored muscle flexing’. Indeed the ‘smiles’ are being caused by growing trade and business and it will be in the interest of the world that this process is not compromised.
The greatest strength of India lies beneath its population – youthful, progressively educating (albeit slowly) and skilling itself with knowledge that is needed to meet challenges of the 21st century. Expect a day not too long from now, when even China will be willing (the process has begun) to welcome Indian skilled manpower to work in the formidable industrial base that has been put in place since over 50 years of China’s economic reforms. Why should then India be a partner in ‘strategic defense trade’ initiative of the US?. Note also that the other ‘neighbor-enemy-country’ has access to same or similar technology and for the same source. It will be sensible for India to negotiate technology trade agreements with the US, which facilitate the larger, both local and global, technological innovation as well as mass production of goods and services, including certain types of dual use technologies. India has the potential to become a local production and training center for South Asia and beyond.
To understand the need for India’s security, need to know, who the enemy is? Is there an enemy at all! In the global context India is the most obvious oft-written name next to China. Is this not an indication of a newly evolving route to civilized partnership? Or does this indicate armament deterrent or strive to show the other, the door outside the evolving global coalitions.
Within the immediate proximity, are our disputes and disagreements with the neighbors, dominantly Pakistan, so severe that India has to arm itself by aligning with an eclipsing super power? Are they not other avenues to address these issues and recently there is a realization that ‘a smile or two at each other’ is promoting billions of dollars of cross-border trade; and savings through limiting arms pileup to feel secure. Certainly, therefore, the south Asian geo-political scenarios do not encourage India to engage in unusually large defense buildup.
Given India’s expanse, geographic, linguistic, religious and socio-cultural diversity is there a threat to national security from within, that it requires India to bite the ‘apple pie’? The real threat to India is from, illiteracy, disease, poverty and lack of civility, rather civic infrastructure which is essential for a democracy to mature. Further, radicalism of religious thoughts that have evolved from within, namely Hindu assertion, through both covert and overt design of (indigenous and unique) political ideology that religion can be mixed with democracy at the level of governance! On another scale, the evolution of a radical Islamic ideology that is concocting not far from the western borders of northern side of India, and an ideology that is erupted due to the shortsighted political maneuvering by the west in the past.
It is necessary, therefore, to continue and scale up interacting with the United States to strengthen the global economy. Partially this can be done by liberalizing the domestic market not only because the global business benefit, but also that the Indian citizens deserves the best that the world has to offer. India nevertheless has to be cautious that in doing so it does not export the jobs and import inflation and conspicuous consumption. Further, Indian reforms have to devolve and take the states in confidence and also enable the local governments, city corporations and private sector to take independent business decisions as opposed to the unilateral and ‘fit-for-all-sizes’ kind of economic and developmental policy of the national government.
On the security side, India is right within its limits to modernize its military and security system which is quiet normal for a country of the size of India. It has to also be alert and combat ready should such eventuality is thrust upon this nation. It is prudent therefore that India sources it ware and technology from multiple sources and diversify. Note that budgetary allocations to the defense services have remained unchanged in proportionate terms but due to phenomenal growth in government fiancés lately, the absolute size indeed has increased. I only wish that India feel secure enough so that a considerable amount of such finances are directed towards improving human development and reduce poverty.
Abusaleh Shariff is Chief Scholar at the US-India Policy Institute, Washington DC (since 2012) and President, Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy, New Delhi (www.crddp.in). He Was a Chief Economist at the National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi (1994- 2012). He also worked as Senior Research Fellow at the. Food Policy Research Institute, Washington D C 2008 -10. He was advisor (under a committee setting) to the Indian Prime Minister during 2004-6 and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India during 2010-11 in the areas of inter-state relations and inclusive development policy reforms. Was on teaching assignments at various levels between 1973 to 1994. Was on teaching assignments at various levels between 1973 to 1994. He was nominated to the 13th (Indian) Finance Commission by the Finance Ministry, Government of India.