One of the critical aspects for India is to identify the strategic landscape which might be comprising of terrestrial, marine, space, cyber, and psychological aspects. Furthermore, the developments in artificial intelligence, biotech, machine learning, and data mining needs comprehensive plan of action which can help India in meeting future challenges. For country as large as India and with such a large population, it is important that the larger strategy community in India must look for building scenarios so as to plan for a longer time horizon and understanding processes. Only then the necessary manpower and required resources are met within desired time period. It is important to create an ecosystem which can build scenarios and work on meeting those scenarios in future.
India has worked on its strategic partnerships, comprising now of more than 33 countries, as critical strategic partners but it is important that India must also identify select strategic partners which can help it in developing itself as a formidable superpower. In such a context it is important that India must start drafting a comprehensive national security strategy which can help in long term capability planning and thereby allocation of both financial and material resources.The ongoing tensions which China on the border and increased tensions with Pakistan on the issue of terrorism and Kashmir issue , showcases that India needs to work on marginalising those antagonistic powers so that it can meander its policy and strategic objectives in a better way.
The larger national security strategy requires a concrete and comprehensive approach related to domestic, external, economic, and ecological challenges. The ecosystem which is required for comprehensive security of a nation also requires developing acumen with regard to disruptive technologies. India has been scouting for partners for developing its capacities in quantum computing , under sea gliders, subsurface radars and sensors. While much has been debated with regard to China’s ‘String of pearls’ but there has been laggard approach in developing the counter strategy ( such as double fish hook strategy proposed by the author ); even though many Indian strategic thinkers state they that they do not subscribe to China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy.
While much debate has started within India with regard to security and growth for all in the region with an acronym of SAGAR but in terms of subscription India’s Indo Pacific Ocean Initiative has slowly found more subscribers with countries such as Australia, Indonesia expressing their interest in such an initiative. India has also entered into logistics support agreement as well as white shipping agreement with the number of countries in its periphery but in order to capitalise on that it needs to workout a larger strategy which can integrate its coastal priorities, maritime security, and aspirations for becoming a major regional power in maritime domain.
Much has been written with regard to the Five Eyes Project which is primarily an intelligence network comprising of US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. India has been looking for joining this network but given the priorities of participating nations, it is unlikely that any Asian nations would be able to join it. Therefore, it is important that India should start its own Asian Five Eyes project which should comprise of technologically sound and capable countries/ economies such as Japan, Israel, Taiwan, and Korea joining this grouping.
In order to address emerging maritime security challenges, India will have to revisit the plan of action which was proposed by Sardar KM panikkar who clearly stated that for maritime security India must create a steel arc from Socotra islands in Yemen to the northern tip of Indonesia.India’s military modernisation need to accelerate the acquisition process.This requires focus on project based acquisitions , and it should seriously look into life cycle costs and long term capability plan with a joint man ship among the three armed forces.
India was expected to come out with its national cyber security strategy in 2020 but till date it has not seen the light of the day which shows non seriousness on the part of the larger establishment in addressing the cyber threats which leads to data pilferage and attacks on critical installations within India. Even if India comes out with the national cyber security strategy it needs to be re evaluated and assessed every 2 years. With the privatisation of space sector , it is important that the better regulatory mechanisms and larger plan of action should be worked out. Even with the modern warfare there is focus on developing sophisticated and complex systems such as light helicopters and light battlefield tanks.
Within India there is need for more R&D allocation in the gross domestic product of India if it wants to be a technologically sufficient country. It is one of the countries which has the meagre allocation of R&D in both civil and military sectors. One of the reasons is the reliance on technology transfer and licensed production. India also needs to work on integrated information networks in the military domain and sophisticated encryption for military communications.
With more stress on blue economy, the marine sphere is going to get more intense particularly in terms of exploration of resources and with the possibility of rare earths likely to be found on ocean surface, the tensions are going to be get more complicated. The role of underwater systems ,both for military and civilian purposes, is going to get more profound and therefore developing counter tech is critical.
India needs to work on developing its own psychological warfare because at times this creates challenges among the armed forces and the general public which starts believing in a certain narrative. For India, which is a large populated country , human security particularly in areas such as bio and agro is going to get more complicated in near future. In terms of defence manufacturing India has still been dependent on a number of countries for sourcing its raw materials and importing critical components. This needs to be reduced through Make in India initiative and developing the tech ecosystem which is the most important requirement for India.
The initiatives which has been undertaken at the level of Quad countries which includes Indo Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative needs to be studied further and India need to workout its role so that it can gain some insights and develop its own capacities . For India, a comprehensive national security strategy also requires building a workforce and a group of academics and strategic planners which can give birth to new ideas and develop the required discourse and direction for the future of the country.