Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 29 January 2024

In today’s tech-savvy times, the importance of combining shaastra (knowledge) with shastra (weapons)

“Sweat saves blood; blood saves lives, but brains save both”.  - Field Marshal Rommel

Relevance: GS III (Security)

  • Prelims: National Security Strategy for India;
  • Mains: Significance of Universities in developing National Security Strategy, Challenges due to current geopolitical situations;

Why in the News?

The recent proposed National Security Strategy needs to target 10 Indian universities in the global top 100 rankings, according to some top officials.

What is a National Security Strategy?

  • A National Security Strategy document outlines the country’s security objectives, and the ways to be adopted to achieve these.
  • Updated periodically, it defines traditional, non-traditional threats and opportunities while introducing accountability of agencies tasked with the implementation of such responsibilities.
  • In a nutshell, a National Security Strategy would guide the military as well as critical defense and security reforms with strategic implications, providing a holistic view of the overall national security, the threats and the roadmap to address them.

The Current Dilemma:

  • India is facing changing geopolitics, with the US accelerating China's global economic integration and the US National Security Advisor aiming to hobble China's capabilities by placing "foundational technologies behind a high fence." 
    • China is responding by banning Tesla cars and Apple phones from army bases due to sophisticated cameras, mics, and cloud backups. Xi Jinping's dual circulation means using Chinese when possible and foreign only if necessary. 
  • Pakistan's garrison state refuses to abandon their so-called 1,000-year war on India, despite it poisoning their republic.

India’s need for a new National Security Strategy:

  • A National Security Strategy for India has figured multiple times in military discourses and has long been discussed in the strategic community, but has failed to see the light of day despite three past attempts.
  • According to some top officials, the complex nature of the various traditional and non-traditional threats, especially when rising geopolitical tensions have given way to uncertainties, urgency was felt to draft a national security strategy. It is now dated and hence needs to be revised.
    • Some experts have also highlighted that major military reforms should ideally flow from a national security strategy.
  • Without a well-defined strategy, military reforms would be like “putting the cart before the horse”.

About new National Security Strategy for India

  • The proposed National Security Strategy for India aims to accelerate domestic defense production and must include the goal of having 10 Indian universities in the top 100 global university rankings. 
  • The distinction between civilian and military technology is eroding with the advancement of technology, and universities play a crucial role in developing knowledge and weapons. 
  • India's performance in global university rankings could rapidly improve with 5 interventions, including:
    • Overinvesting in 20 government universities: In large research offices, industry liaison offices, incentives for extramural funding/marching grants.
    • Merging independent research labs into these institutions: Paris Saclay consolidated 19 smaller institutions in 2015 and catapulted to Rank 1 in continental Europe and Rank 15 globally in ARWU.
    • Scaling and concentrating government research funding to universities: America’s $48 billion National Institute of Health and $8.6 billion National Science Foundation give 80 per cent to Universities; 40 universities get more than $250 million each, and all have top global rankings.
    • Incentivizing corporate research at local universities: 200% tax deduction for research when at least 25% of the R&D budget is spent at Indian universities.
    • Providing performance-based funding: Rs 1,000 crore annual fund to grant untied money to departments/institutions with the most significant improvement in research metrics and rankings.
  • While global university rankings have been criticized for being popularity contests and unreliable, they matter as 71% of universities have a ranking goal, 68% use them as a tool for management, and 50% use them for publicity. 
  • China has 71 universities in the top 500 QS rankings because they began targeting rankings early.


Why is global university rankings a helpful goal? 

  • Rankings make value judgments: Global university rankings are popularity contests (peer surveys), unreliable (variables are poor proxies for quality), incomplete (teaching quality missing), ideological (one-size fits all), and unequal (top 10 countries account for 60% of top 500). 
    • Hence it makes valuable judgments by valuing learning for living or earning, equating the value of education with the graduate’s salary, and the language of customers in universities. 
  • Indian scenario: Among universities, 71% have a ranking goal, 68% use them as a tool for management, and 50 per cent use them for publicity. 
    • Indian institutions currently engage with five rankings namely - NIRF, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Shanghai, US News, and Times
    • Reverse engineering the QS Top 300 universities suggests what matters is size (average 25,000 plus students with 2,600 plus faculty), budgets (the top 100 have $2 billion, double the next 100, triple the next 100), age (youngest is 40 years old), and internationalization (19% of students). 

Case Study:

1) China:

  • China has 71 universities in the top 500 QS rankings because they began targeting rankings early: 
    • In 1995 (Project 211 with 100 universities), 1996 (international collaborations), 1998 (Project 985 with nine universities), 2007 (Project 985 expanded to 37 universities), 2009 (C9 league), 2012 (scientific evidence for the impact of international collaboration), 2015 (project double world-class launched when QS methodology changed), 2020 (Chinese government requests move away from citations), and 2022 (double first class).

2) United States of America:

  • American universities have had deep military partnerships; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) contributions to World War II included radars for planes, ships, guns, airports, and the Long-Range Navigation (LORAN) system
  • Crucial to this partnership was Vannevar Bush, the first dean of MIT’s School of Engineering, who left in 1939 to become chairman of the National Defense Research Committee and the Office of Scientific Research and Development
  • It’s hardly a coincidence that Bush’s first MIT doctoral student, Frank Terman, long-time dean of Stanford’s engineering school, midwifed Silicon Valley and its deep military connections.

 Initiatives taken by Government:

  • India’s security space is already transforming with intelligent procurement, spending shift to capex, lower average soldier age, integrated commands, cross-border strikes, abrogation of Article 370, QUAD partnership, etc. 
  • The proposed Defence Technology Council is a great idea; chaired by the Prime Minister, it will have an executive committee chaired by the Chief of Defence Staff and will include the Principal Scientific Advisor, three service chiefs, academics, and industry representatives. 
    • Partnering with universities will also improve project management; the CAG recently flagged that 67% of the 178 defence projects evaluated didn’t adhere to timelines.


The military leaders have glorified “charging into the valley of death” and known that ‘Shaastra’ and ‘Shastra’ are siblings. Targeting imperfect global university rankings for national security is debatable, but inevitable. India is improving at building companies, but better choreography between universities and government will help us build industries. 


Mains PYQs

Q. Analyze the multidimensional challenges posed by external state and non-state actors, to the internal security of India. Also discuss measures required to be taken to combat these threats. (2021)

Q. Keeping in view of India’s internal security, analyze the impact of cross-border cyber-attacks. Also, discuss defensive measures against these sophisticated attacks. (2021)

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