The Big Picture: National Security: Poll Issue In the ongoing electoral battle, National Security has come out as a major poll issue. Both national parties have given ample space in their respective manifestos to the issues related to National Security. While the ruling party BJP is trying to attract the voters by highlighting it's track record on tackling internal and external threats, the main opposition congress has also recently released it's vision document on national security. So what are various dimensions of National Security and how much of it is being covered by the political parties in their manifestoes, vision documents and campaign speeches. Dimensions of national security

  • National security has two dimensions – internal and external
  • The external dimension implies the defence of the territorial integrity of the country against war or external aggression and it includes a country’s foreign policy and relations with other nations.
  • The internal dimension includes aspects which are not secure within the country like energy, food, water, cyber security, police reforms, law and order etc.
  • There are some fundamental aspects of national security which when covered would cover all other aspects of security.
  • Only a secure environment can enable the government and the citizens to function in a proper manner.
Rights of people and political parties
  • People have a right to know about all the dimensions of national security.
  • Political parties are also within their rights to put across to people through their manifestoes what plans they have and what they intend to do once elected.
  • But some of the parties talk only about the limited aspects of national security.
Challenges to the defence forces of the country
  • The budget allocated for the defence forces have decreased over the years.
  • Also the allocated budget have never been fully spent.
  • The air force has only 30 squadrons instead of 42 squadrons.
  • The naval forces do not have enough submarines and minesweepers.
  • The armed forces also do not have enough guns although the induction has already started.
  • The policy framework formed by the Ministry of Defence forms the fountainhead of defence forces in the country which is mismanaged.
  • The service chiefs are held accountable for their respective services but they have not been given any powers. But the ministry of defence and finance which are manned by civilian bureaucrats decide the policy framework and allocate budget for the defence forces and have all the powers but have no accountability.
  • Western countries like Britain, France and USA, about half of their Ministry of defence are composed of officers who belong to the armed forces. China also has a higher percentage of defence officers in their defence ministry while Pakistan takes it to 100%.
  • India is perhaps the only country which does not have even one military officer in the ministry of defence.
  • Till today, the government has never formulated a national security policy.
  • Though we have the largest defence staff in the world, 97% of the defence goods are imported.
What should be done?
  • There are many tiers of defence reforms that are required.
  • There should be a Chief of Defence Staff who can advise the government on its requirements like the spending priorities, relation between the revenue and the capital expenditure etc.
  • Laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should continue in places having challenges to internal security like Left Wing Extremism, insurgency etc.
  • Instead of putting across a national security policy in its election manifesto, the party should have implemented the national security policy when it was in power.
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