Enter the world of nakedness

India’s security establishment needs a generational upgrade

It has always been this blog’s position that the India’s security establishment has to learn to operate in a world where information in pervasive. Many contemporary boo-boos—not allowing (previously) mobile telephony in border areas, the blocking of blogspot, the presidential agonising over Google Earth, the non-availability of accurate maps, the panic over pen-drives, and quite obviously, the attempt to seek exemption from the Right to Information act—can be traced back to an ossified mindset that has long passed its expiry date. Indeed, the failure to develop security policies that are in tune with the times represents a much bigger security threat than the information itself.

K Subrahmanyam—who is almost 80—gets it, where many of his younger counterparts don’t. He points out that the national security policies must adapt to the profound changes occuring in the world today.

If India is to be one of the balancers of power and play a global role, our intelligence agencies should have capabilities to monitor all major transactions of the other major powers, both between themselves as well as towards this country. That capability needs to be created in our agencies, which are at a very incipient stage of development in terms of playing a global role.

Therefore, the issue is much bigger than adopting a more vigilant attitude towards FDI coming from China and some other countries of concern. Intelligence agencies have to prepare themselves for their global role instead of fighting petty turf wars. But the global roles for the different intelligence agencies, their pace of expansion, their capabilities have to be defined by an expert committee. Unfortunately there are very few past leaders of the intelligence, foreign service and the national security bureaucracy who have displayed adequate understanding of the present globalised balance-of-power international system. That should, however, not hold us back from making the effort to equip our intelligence agencies adequately for the strategic role they have to play. Without such agencies with global capabilities, our politicians and bureaucracies will not be able to meet the challenges of the future. [IE]

Foreigners may find it ironic that India—a knowledge-industry superpower—is yet to use its own strengths to adequately meet its security challenges. There is, of course, no irony when you consider that the knowledge industry’s growth came despite the government. Yet, much as the knowledge industry needs a conducive government now, the government too needs to leverage on its knowledge industry—not least in the area of national security.

4 thoughts on “Enter the world of nakedness”

  1. Nitin, isn’t K. Subrahmanyam a gem when it comes to strategic thought – although I don’t agree with all he says. Did he ever write a memoir? Our country would be better off if we have few more Subrahmanyams in civil services.

    While not disagreeing with you, intelligence at its core is another just bureaucracy and will produce only if there is demand for their output. Beyound our South Asian neighbourhood (and that too mainly because of terror), the leaders in charge (both UPA and NDA) give no indication that they want intelligence on any issue from any country (not the Chinese or the Americans).

    It’s one more Nehru’s legacy of strategic naiveté that we’re unable to shed after more than two generations.

  2. Chandra,

    Yes. He’s the real realist.

    He’s not written his memoirs and his books are generally written in the 70s and 80s. Shedding Shibboleths is a oft cited work.

    I hope he considers writing his memoirs or better still, an authoritative text on the conduct of strategic affairs.

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