Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 26 June 2024

India needs the anchor of a National security strategy

Relevance: GS Paper III

Why in News?

The new Union government must address key national security issues, such as building another aircraft carrier, implementing theaterisation, and managing relations with the U.S. and China.

More About News:

  • The government should adopt a holistic approach to national security, avoiding piecemeal reforms to prevent wasting resources and undermining national goals. India should commit to writing a National Security Strategy (NSS).
  • Most powerful states publish some form of national security strategy. India does not. Consequently, its capability investment decisions are made by haggling between the military services. 
  • Plans and priorities get stuck in well-worn grooves, and are never systematically re-evaluated. Grand strategic vision becomes concentrated in the hands of a few individuals at the apex of government, where it gets hidden behind closed doors, or crowded out by other political whims.

Many Strategic Risk:

  • India cannot afford to be so reactive. The world is throwing up a slew of strategic risks, from climate change to pandemics, which require decades of coordinated policy effort to address.
  • China alone represents an unprecedented array of interconnected challenges, from an explosive naval build-up, to geoeconomic clout in South Asia, to leverage in global supply chains
    • And even distant conflicts, from Ukraine to Gaza, are revealing new technologies and tactics of war that will invariably spread to India’s neighborhood. 
  • India must adopt proactive measures to address global strategic risks like climate change and pandemics, necessitating coordinated, long-term policy efforts.
  • India needs a regular process to make sense of this tumult and plan for it.

A blueprint for expanding power:

  • A regular and well-crafted NSS would give India five critical benefits that it currently lacks. 
  • First: First and logically foremost, it would force the government to undertake a comprehensive strategic assessment — a review of the country’s threats and opportunities, and a stocktake of global security trends.
    • Such a periodic review would force New Delhi to spotlight evolving challenges, such as the growth of the Chinese navy, even though it does not pose an urgent and lethal threat today. 
    • In the absence of an NSS, long-term threats will be neglected until they pose an immediate and grave threat — when they will be much harder to manage.
  • Second: An NSS would provide a coherent framework for long-term planning.
    • Strategic competition requires intense work in peacetime to conceptualize how to secure India's expanding interests and deter adversaries. An NSS would help develop requisite military capabilities and international partnerships.
    • A rigorously done NSS would give the government an overarching strategic blueprint for decision-making.
    • The NSS would help adjudicate between competing demands from different military services, such as choosing between a new aircraft carrier for the Navy or a new infantry division for the Army.
    • Without an NSS, scarce resources may get wasted on vanity projects with comparatively little strategic value.
    • In the absence of such a process, military services may be left scrambling to fill capability gaps with emergency procurements.
  • Third: An NSS would provide an instrument for signalling to friend and foe alike. It would help to clarify India’s strategic intent declaring that, 
    • For example, India takes seriously its role as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean, so that it will counter armed coercion against other, smaller countries.
    • Equally valuable, an NSS would also clarify India’s policy for its partners, highlighting areas of converging interests, or explaining the limits on cooperation to help mitigate instances of mismatched expectations.
  • Fourth, An NSS would create a mechanism to synchronize efforts across various government arms.It would provide the Integrated Defence Staff and future joint organizations a clear top-down mandate.
    • The NSS would help better align the work of the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy. It would establish common goals and plans for national security agencies beyond the military.
    • The NSS would enable better daily coordination at the working level between Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs, and intelligence agencies.

Issue of accountability

  • Finally: An NSS would introduce a novel accountability tool, to ensure that the bureaucracy adheres to the political leadership’s intent, and that the government’s policies are as transparent as possible to Parliament and the people. 
  • The citizens of India have a legitimate need to know how their government is planning to safeguard their national security, and how well it is performing.


Some national security strategies are better than others. A fully effective strategy should be a public document issued with the imprimatur of the Prime Minister, because its purpose is to synchronise efforts widely across government, and credibly signal the government’s political intent throughout the country and the world. A strong NSS would not automatically resolve conflicts between various arms of the government, but it should at least identify trade-offs and opportunity costs, so that political leaders can make rational decisions for long-term growth. In that way, an NSS would offer the intellectual scaffolding that is absolutely necessary for India to become one of the world’s leading powers.

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