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Paper No. 507                                 16/08/2002

by B. Raman

What are the threats to India's national security in the short, medium and long-terms?  How has the Government of India been meeting them?  Have there been any conceptual and qualitative changes in the National Security Management (NSM) since the present Government came to power in New Delhi in 1998? To what extent the changes have been beneficial to national interest and to what extent have they fallen short of the expectations and requirements?

2. Before attempting answers to these questions, the following general observations regarding the evolution of the concept of national security since the First World War need to be made: 

* First, till the First World War, national security was viewed largely in military and political terms.  The commonly held perception was that threats to national security would mainly arise from the armed forces of State adversaries and their attempts to cause political destabilisation.  After the triumph of communism in the USSR and other countries and the increasingly active role of International Communism in promoting ideological subversion and extra-territorial loyalty in the name of ideological solidarity, there was increasing realisation  that the threats need not necessarily be only of an overt military nature, but could also be covert and para-military operating through surrogates and that such covert threats could come from State as well as non-State adversaries.

* Second, the attempts of International Communism to promote economic disruption in non-Communist States/societies through strikes etc and of the allied powers during the Second World War to cause a collapse of the economy of Nazi Germany through covert methods such as printing and circulation of German currency notes in large numbers led to greater attention being given to likely threats to the economic security and well-being of a nation, which could undermine its capability to ward off military threats and prevent political destabilisation and ideological subversion.  In recent years, the globalisation and the networking of the world through information infrastructure have multiplied and magnified likely threats to the economic security and well-being of a nation.  Globalisation, networking and easy and affordable access to modern information technologies have placed in the hands of non-State actors awesome powers of economic disruption and destruction.

* Third, the encouragement of Islamic fanaticism by the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the 1980s to use it in its covert war against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan and against International Communism in the Islamic World did set in motion the beginning of the collapse of Communism as an ideological force, but it replaced International Communism with an even more pernicious subversive and destructive force called International Islamism, which like International Communism, encourages extra-territorial loyalty---not in the name of ideological , but  religious solidarity--- and justifies the use of suicide terrorism in the name of jehad against non-Muslims.  International Islamism recognises no national frontiers and justifies the right of Muslims to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction to protect their religion.  Whereas in the past, nuclear weapons were seen by States merely as a weapon of deterrence to deter the use of similar weapons by their adversaries against them, the mushrooming non-State actors inspired and brain-washed by International Islamism view them as weapons of intimidation to weaken the will of non-Islamic States/societies to resist the advance of Islamic fundamentalism.

* Fourth, non-State actors posing threats to national security have arisen not only from International Communism and International Islamism, but also from democratic societies such as those of the USA and the European Union countries.  The mushrooming non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) and think tanks, liberally funded from abroad, mainly from the USA, play as active a role in promoting US/Western national interests and in undermining nations which are not subservient to the USA as the front organisations of International Communism did before the collapse of the USSR in 1991 to promote the national interests of the USSR and the ideological interests of communism.  The USA, which rightly prides itself as the most healthy democracy in the world, does not hesitate to back the most undemocratic States and rulers for promoting its national interests. Its backing for the Shah of Iran before 1979, its  role in keeping former President Suharto of Indonesia sustained in power for nearly three decades and its current backing for Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's military dictator, are typical examples of such US actions. In India, any perceptible observer would have noticed how since the Pokhran-II nuclear tests of 1998, the USA, while overtly expanding its co-operation with India in various fields, has been covertly funding and encouraging elements which are prepared to create doubts in public mind about the national security policies and objectives of the present Government.  Such covert actions were previously confined to malleable elements in the North, particularly in New Delhi, but  in recent months these have been extended to the South too.

3. The above observations are not exhaustive.  They are cited mainly to illustrate how NSM has become increasingly complex, requiring knowledge, expertise and organisational infrastruture of a kind totally different from what has been available hitherto.  In India, the problem has become even more complex than in other countries because of the external origins of most of the threats to out internal security.

4. Amongst the external factors endangering India's internal security, one could cite the following: 

* Pakistan's post-1981 use of terrorism as a weapon to achieve its strategic objectives against India and its  post-September 11, 2001, emergence as the new hub for the activities of religious terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden.

* The failure of the Nepalese Government to deal effectively with the activities of the ISI from its territory and to counter the Maoist insurgency.

* The inability of the Bhutanese and Myanmarese Governments to stop the use of their territory by Indian insurgent groups.

* The suspected complicity of the military-intelligence establishment of Bangladesh with its Pakistani counterpart in assisting Indian insurgent and terrorist groups.

* T he future policies and tactics of the LTTE.

* The reported spread of pan-Islamic ideas by bin Laden's Al Qaeda and its associates to the South-East Asian countries as brought out by the recent arrests of Al Qaeda cadres/sympathisers in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Since South-East Asia has a large number of Muslim migrants of South Indian, essentially Tamil Nadu, origin, the emergence of pro-bin Laden networks in this region and their likely contacts with and assistance to Islamic extremist elements in South India such as the Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu and Kerala should receive close attention.

5. Musharraf, who is regarded by many as a good tactician, but a poor strategist, personifies the quintessecence of the Pakistani military mindset charaterised by an inbred hostility to India, partly due to a feeling of insecurity and partly due to a continuing rankling caused by memories of the 1971 defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in the then East Pakistan.  Even the feeling of psychological parity with India consequent upon its acquiring a nuclear and missile capability has not enabled it to get over this hang-up.  This mindset sees in Kashmir a means of catharsis.

6. For it, Kashmir is important for four reasons---religious, territorial, economic (the source of the rivers irrigating Pakistan) and psychological ( to avenge the perceived humiliations of the past).  In  the military's perception, through its sustained proxy war waged in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) since 1989 through the surrogates of the pan-Islamic Pakistani jehadi organisations, it is, for the first time since 1947, nearing the position of being able to change the status quo in J&K in Pakistan's favour without having to wage a full-scale war and if it misses this opportunity by succumbing to outside pressure to give up the use of terrorism as a weapon against India, another opportunity like this may not come its way again.

7. Hence, Musharraf's present determination to continue supporting and using the jehadi outfits whatever be the external consequences. Like past Pakistani political leaders, he too is banking on the continued ambivalence of the West's counter-terrorism policies---- namely, if he continues his co-operation against terrorists posing a threat to the West in general and the US in particular, their pressure on him with regard to terrorism against India will not go beyond a certain point and his resisting or evading that pressure will not entail punitive consequences for Pakistan from the rest of the world. There is, therefore, unlikely to be any qualitative change in the military's use of terrorism against India in the future unless India itself imposes punitive consequences on Pakistan, either through overt or covert actions or a mix of both. 

8. Certain other aspects relating to the post September 11, 2001, situation in Pakistan  have to be highlighted.  The first is the  increase in cash  flow due to the resumption of multilateral assistance by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB); generous bilateral assistance by the West and other countries; US cash payments for the logistic support extended to the US troops in Afghanistan (US $ 220 million so far); generous rescheduling of bilateral debts (US $ 32.5 billion) with long grace periods and the increase in remittances by non-resident Pakistanis (NRP) through legal banking channels.  Fears that the continued use of the hawala channel for remittances could attract the suspicion of the counter-terrorism agencies of the West have contributed to a doubling of the remittances through the legal banking channels.  In addition, in order to maintain a comfortable level of reserves, the State Bank of Pakistan continues to buy US dollars from the kerb market at the same high level as before October 7, 2001.  As a result of this increased cash flow, the foreign exchange reserves have tripled to nearly US $ Six billion.  Thus, Pakistan has now the required hard cash  for fresh military purchases.

9. While the spectre of an economic collapse no longer haunts the country, despite this increased cash flow, the economic fundamentals have not changed for the better.  Tax collection continues to be  below the target; foreign trade has been affected by lack of demand due to the recession in the West, the imposition of a  war risk insurance by many shipping companies and the resistance in the US from the textile industry and its supporters in the Congress to any significant reduction in the duty on Pakistani textiles; and foreign investors continue to shy away from Pakistan due to the nervousness caused by the war in Afghanistan and the bad law and order situation in Pakistan itself.

10. The law and order situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate despite the Army being in power  due to the following factors: 

* Continuing incidents of anti-Shia and anti-Christian  violence in Sindh and Punjab despite Musharraf's ban on the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), and the Shia extremist Sipah Mohammed (SM), the militant wing  of  the Tehrik Jaffria Pakistan (TJP), on August 14,2001, and  on the SSP  and the TJP on January 15,2002.

* Sporadic incidents of violence in Balochistan by elements, which are unidentified, but suspected to be the followers of Khair Bux Marri, the Balochi nationalist leader.

* The activities of the remnants of the Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and the various Pakistani jehadi organisations, which survived the war in Afghanistan and have taken sanctuary in Pakistan.  They initially entered the tribal areas in Balochistan, the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and are since reported to have spread out to Punjab, Sindh and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), including the Northern Areas (NA--Gilgit and Baltistan).  These remnants are suspected to have been responsible for the kidnapping  of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist, on January 23, 2002, and his subsequent murder, the grenade attack inside an Islamabad church on March 17, 2002, which killed five worshippers, two of them US nationals, the suicide explosion outside a Karachi hotel on May 8, 2002, which killed 11 French experts working in the project for the assembly and eventual construction of the Agosta Class submarine, the suicide explosion outside the US Consulate in Karachi on June 14, 2002, the grenade attack on a group of German and other tourists on the Karakoram Highway in July, 2002 and the recent attacks on Christian establishments in Murree and Taxila.

* Unrest in the tribal belt, particularly in the FATA, due to the joint combing operations for the survivors of the Al Qaeda and the Taliban by Pakistani security forces, assisted by US communication experts and counter- terrorism professionals from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

11. The activities of the remnants from Afghanistan pose a special dilemma for Musharraf.  He needs them for his continuing proxy war against India; at the same time, their unbridled attacks on Western, particularly US, nationals and interests have been creating difficulties in Pakistan's relations with the West, making the latter more receptive to Indian pressure for making these elements and the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan the new focus of their war against international terrorism.   He has not been able to find a way out of this dilemma.

12. Despite signs of disquiet over Musharraf's hesitation to act against their terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory lest he thereby damage or even lose a valuable ( in his perception) asset in his proxy war on India, the USA and other Western powers continue to look upon Musharraf as their best bet in Pakistan for the time being. They do not as yet share India's perception that he is untrustworthy, despite his failure to carry out his commitments for determined action against the jehadis made by him in his televised address of January 12,2002, and his evasive response to their repeated requests for co-operation in smoking out the remnants of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other anti-Western jehadi groups from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

13. In the USA's perception, Musharraf is modern in his outlook as indicated by his oft-repeated, though not yet implemented, determination to control and modernise the curricula of the madrasas; his restoration of the joint electorate system; and his plans to give technocrats and women  a greater role in the governance of the country and to dilute the role of the feudal aristocracy in the electoral process by prescribing university graduation as a minimum qualification for contesting the elections.

14. They do not share India's perception of his proximity to the religious fundamentalist parties and look upon him as the only leader, political or military, capable of preventing Pakistan's nuclear and missile assets from falling into the hands of anti-Western terrorists.  His manipulation of the referendum and doubts about the sincerity of his repeated promises to hold free and fair elections as scheduled in October, 2002, have caused unease in the European Union countries, but not, to the same extent,  in the USA.

15. The USA's short-term objective in the region is to eliminate the terrorists who pose a threat to American lives and interests and to ensure the durability and stability in Afghanistan of a regime friendly to the West and malleable by Washington DC.  Its medium and long-term objective is to develop the Afghanistan-Pakistan route as their favoured exit for the oil and gas resources of Turkmenistan and the other Central Asian Republics (CARs) in order to avoid the Russian and Iranian routes.  The importance of Pakistan, from this perspective, gets enhanced.  Already 30 per cent of the oil and gas industries in Pakistan are estimated to be controlled by US companies and their interest in oil and gas pipelines from the CARs to the rest of the world through Afghanistan and Pakistan would have an important influence on the policies of the US Administration towards Pakistan.

16.The set-back suffered by Pakistan in Afghanistan due to Musharraf's volte face in abandoning the Taliban is unlikely to be permanent.  There is likely to be an erosion in the influence of the Tadjik and Uzbeck dominated Northern Alliance in the governance of the country in the months to come as the USA and other Western countries show greater sensitivity to the demand for increased representation to the Pashtuns in the governance.  This could also redound to the advantage of Pakistan, enabling it to recover at least part of its lost influence in Kabul to the detriment of India.

17. There are still many imponderables in the situation in Afghanistan. Small groups of the remnants of the Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani jehadi  organisations continue to indulge in sporadic attacks on the forces of the international coalition, particularly in the Pashtun majority areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.  Warlordism, the curse of the post-1979 Afghan society, is showing signs of revival, again mainly in the Pashtun belt. Hamid Karzai's leadership continues to be weak and his authority is not felt outside Kabul and there are reports of the recrudescence of the  ego clashes even inside the Northern Alliance.  The economic benefits of the generous aid flow from the outside world are yet to percolate down to the common people, reportedly resulting in their going back once again to opium cultivation as the main source of their sustenance.  Unless these negative tendencies are reversed, which is likely to be a time-consuming process, the US objectives may not be fully accomplished.

18. The following three aspects of the return to favour of Pakistan in Washington's eyes should be noted: 

 * Prospects of a permanent and substantial US military and intelligence presence in Pakistan.  The US Air Force already has a sizeable presence in Jacobabad in Sindh and in Pasni and reportedly in Dalbandin too in Balochistan.  The US Army and Navy reportedly have a small presence in Karachi to facilitate movement of logistic supplies coming by sea.  Communication and counter-terrorism experts of the US intelligence community have been based in Pakistani territory to monitor the communications of the terrorists and to assist their Pakistani counterparts.

* Prospects for the revival of the pre-1990 military supply relationship.  The US has started removing restrictions on the sale of not only spare parts for the equipment sold in the past, but also fresh arms and ammunition to Pakistan under the pretext of strengthening its counter-terrorism surveillance capability.  These weapons and other equipment, including surveillance aircraft, which are ostensibly meant for use on the Afghan border, would ultimately turn up on the Indian border.  Fresh sales till now have been limited to articles such as surveillance aircraft, helicopters and communications equipment required for better border security management on the Afghan border.  Washington DC has turned down for the present Musharraf's repeated requests to replenish his Air Force by initially handing over to Pakistan the F-16 aircraft ordered by Pakistan before 1990, but impounded under the Pressler Amendment.  The present US reticence in respect of supply of fresh F-16s capable of being converted as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons, which could add to Pakistan's offensive capability against India, may not lost for long.

* The increased cash flow from the US, which has amounted to US $ 920 million so far (actual disbursements), including the payments for the logistic facilities.  This could enable Pakistan to step up its military purchases from elsewhere.

19. China's role has thus far been politically correct.  While repeatedly reiterating its appeal to both the countries for mutual restraint and resumption of dialogue, it has avoided any formulation in its reactions which could be interpreted or misinterpreted as siding with Pakistan.  At the same time, it has taken action to expedite the delivery to Pakistan of aircraft and other military equipment, which were already in the pipeline, while projecting that these deliveries were routine and in fulfillment of long-pending contracts.  According to reports emanating from the US, attributed to its intelligence community, China's missile supply relationship with Pakistan continues in disregard of the US pressure on Beijing to terminate it.

20. The insecure conditions in Pakistan have not deterred Beijing from going ahead with the implementation of the various projects which it had agreed to assist during the visit of its Prime Minister Mr. Zhu Rongji, to Pakistan in May, 2001, such as the development of Gwadar on the Mekran coast in Balochistan into an international port to cater to the external trade of not only Pakistan, but also Afghanistan and the CARs; the construction of the Mekran coastal highway connecting the Mekran coast with Karachi; the development of the Saindak copper project; and oil and gas exploration.  China has not so far given any indication in public of any concern over the prospects of a permanent American military and intelligence presence in Pakistan and has not allowed Pakistan's co-operation with the US to come in the way of its historic relationship with Pakistan in the political, economic and military fields.

21.Against this background of post September 11, 2001, developments, it ought to be clear to any perceptible observer that the answers to the threats to our internal and external security from Pakistan have to come from our own mind and our own efforts.  It would be an illusion to think that the US would be genuinely interested in exercising pressure on Pakistan to change its policy towards India. The answer to the proxy war that Pakistan has been waging against India lies in New Delhi and not in Washington DC.

22. The right of self-defence of a victim State against a State-sponsor of international terrorism has been recognised in many UN resolutions and the policy statements of countries such as the US.  This right extends to carrying the counter-terrorism operations into the territory of the State-sponsor if political, economic and diplomatic means fail.  After the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, even the US recognised in public India's right of self-defence though it urged India to exercise self-restraint and give international diplomacy a chance to make Pakistan amenable to reason.  Despite India's self-restraint, international diplomacy has not produced results to its satisfaction.

23. The Government of India has till now not exercised its right of self-defence against Pakistan.  Unless this right is exercised effectively making Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism prohibitively costly to it, we are unlikely to see the end of the proxy war being waged by Pakistan against India.  It is here that the operational component of the plan comes in. There are two operational options available to any country which is a victim of State-sponsorship of terrorism directed against it. The first is the openly acknowledged  military option, either limited or full-fledged and the second is the unacknowledged and deniable covert option.

24. Terrorism is an unconventional warfare and the response to it, in thinking and action, has to be unconventional.  Sustained, deniable covert action directed against terrorists and their State-sponsor takes time to produce results.  The action being invisible and unattributable to the initiator  does not satisfy the public demand for action.  However, if skilfully carried out, it would result in the dilution of their motivation and in weakening the will of the State-sponsor.  India's neglect of its covert action capability has led to a situation where one finds that there is no intermediate stage between non-military and military options.

25. Unfortunately, in India, there is no proper understanding of the role and importance of covert action.  Seeing what Pakistan has been doing, we tend to equate covert action with terrorism and recoil in horror at the very mention of it.  For Pakistan, covert action means terrorism, but it is not so for democratic and civilised countries such as the USA, the UK, France, etc  all of which have and admit to having an effective covert action capability.

26. Covert action is identifying the sensitive points of the adversary  and exercising sustained pressure on those points through deniable means till results are achieved. It also means taking our right of self-defence into the territory of the State-sponsor and punishing it without the direct use of the Armed Forces.  The possession of an effective covert action capability and the willingness to use it, if and when necessary, is the only deterrent against an adversary such as Pakistan which thinks it can achieve its objective against India through covert action.  The creation of such a capability needs urgent attention.

27. The present Government came to office in New Delhi in 1998 with a better understanding of the increasingly complex nature of NSM and with a determination to change the NSM system to make it respond to the new needs of the country.  Among its welcome initiatives in this regard, one could cite the following: 

* The action to give ourselves a publicly demonstrated nuclear weapon capability, including the appropriate delivery system.

* The setting-up of the National Security Council (NSC), presided over by the Prime Minister, to review periodically at the highest levels the evolving threats to national security and to co-ordinate follow-up action at the political level.

* The setting-up of the Strategic Policy Group (SPG) presided over by the Cabinet Secretary (CS) and consisting of serving senior officials dealing with NSM to provide continuous inputs to the NSC.

* The setting-up of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) consisting of non-governmental experts to view the threats to national security from a long-term strategic perspective and make appropriate recommendations to the NSC.

* The upgradation of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Government of India into a dedicated National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) to feed inputs to the NSC and the SPG, to assist the NSAB in its work and to monitor the performance of the intelligence community.

* The setting-up of the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) to identify intelligence and operational deficiencies before and during the Kargil conflict and make recommendations to remove them.

* The appointment of Special Task Forces to make recommendations for revamping the intelligence community and for better border, internal security and defence management.

28. There is now a greater transparency in the NSM as compared to the position before 1998 as  could be seen from the following:

* The prompt release of the KRC report to the public whereas the report of the Henderson-Brookes Committee into the deficiencies in the conduct of the Sino-Indian War of 1962 have not so far been released to the public.

* The release to the public of the reports of all the Special Task Forces except that on revamping the intelligence community, which has been kept secret on the recommendation of the Task Force for valid reasons.

* The release of the Draft Nuclear Doctrine prepared by the first NSAB.

29. But, the transparency is still not up to the desired extent as could be seen from the following: 

* The public has not been kept informed on the follow-up action on the Draft Nuclear Doctrine.

* The recommendation of the first NSAB that an executive summary of the Annual Security Reviews prepared by the NSABs should be released to the public to create a greater awareness of the threats to our national security and to promote a well-informed debate on the subject has not been accepted.

30. Lethargic implementation has always been the bane of our NSM. The present Government has been more vigorous than its predecessors in ensuring proper implementation.  The Prime Minister's idea of appointing a special and small group of senior Ministers responsible for NSM to push through the implementation of the KRC report and the reports of the Special Task Forces was commendable.  This has kept things moving. There is greater movement now  than in the past, but the movement is still too slow for comfort.  Even the present Government is yet to break effectively the in-bred resistance in the national security bureaucracy to new ideas of NSM.

31. A major deficiency in our NSM continues to be the absence of a well-thought out, long-term policy on how we are going to deal with the threat from Pakistan, with International Islamism and with the threats to our national security from pan-Islamic organisations. These threats are likely to continue in the near and distant future.

32. How are going to deal with them? What are the options available---politically, diplomatically and operationally?  How to hit hard at Pakistan till it realises the futility of its present hostility and, at the same time, how to convince the international community of India's reasonableness by keeping open diplomatic or para-diplomatic channels of communication functioning despite hitting hard on the ground?

33. These questions have been discussed from time to time, but without  satisfactory answers being found.  Any long-term policy towards Pakistan has to be based on the principle of "keep talking overtly for the reassurance of the international community, but keep bleeding Pakistan covertly till our strategic objectives are met."  Talk, talk, hit, hit.

34. It was such a mix of policies, which produced results in Punjab. While continuing to maintain the dialogue channels functioning, India made Islamabad realise that it will pay a heavy price if it did not stop its interference in Punjab. We saw the results and there has been no major act of terrorism in Punjab since 1995.

35. It is the absence of such a policy which is responsible for our continuing problems in J&K. It is Musharraf, who is now doing towards us what we should be doing towards him---wanting and willing to talk to us overtly and willing to continue to make us bleed covertly whatever the international pressure and rebuke.  The result: The strong perception of India by the public  as rigid overtly and soft and unwilling to act covertly.

36. This perception has to be changed. The Prime Minister should set up a small Special Task Force on Pakistan and Pan-Islamic Terrorism, consisting of operational and diplomatic experts who had served in the Government, to come out within four to five months with a comprehensive policy paper on how to counter Pakistan's proxy war. The NSAB is too large a body to undertake such a task. The terms of reference of the proposed Task Force should be brief, pointed and hard-hitting. Vague and unfocussed terms of reference lead to an exercise in esoterics.  That has been our past experience. 

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India. E-Mail: