National Security

  • National security has been described as the ability of a state to cater for the protection and defence of its citizenry. India’s national security is determined by its internal stability and geopolitical interests.
  • Originally conceived as protection against military attack, national security is now widely understood to include also non-military dimensions, including the security from terrorism, minimization of crime, economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber-security etc.
  • National security risks include, in addition to the actions of other nation states, action by violent non-state actors.
  • The National Security Council (NSC) of India is an executive government agency tasked with advising the Prime Minister’s Office on matters of national security and strategic interest.
  • The National Security Advisor (NSA) is the senior official on the National Security Council of India, and the chief adviser to the Prime Minister of India on national security policy and international affairs.


  • It allows preventive detention for months,if authorities are satisfied that a person is a threat to national security or law and order.
  • The person does not need to be charged during this period of detention.
  • The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.
  • It was promulgated on September 23, 1980


As per the National Security Act, the grounds for preventive detention of a person include:

  • acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
  • regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
  • preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.



  • Under the National Security Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
  • A person detained under the National Security Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.



  • The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.



  • The NSA has repeatedly come under criticism for the way it is used by the police. As per a Law Commission report from 2001, more than 14 lakh people (14,57,779) were held under preventive laws in India.


How Is It Draconian?

Typically, if a person is arrested, then he/she enjoy certain rights bestowed by the Indian Constitution. The person has to be informed of the reason for the arrest. Under Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the person arrested has to be informed.

  • However, in the case of the NSA, the person can be held up to ten days without being informed of the reason.
  • Sections 56 and 76 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) guarantee the detained person to be produced before a court within 24 hours. Apart from this, Article 22(1) of the Constitution allows the detainee to seek legal advice from a legal practitioner. However, under the NSA, none of these above-mentioned basic rights is permitted to the suspect.


Powerless National Security Council (NSC):

  • First, The National Security Council (NSC) set up in 1998 almost never meets, primarily because it is an advisory body, with the Cabinet Committee on Security being the executive body.
  • If the NSC is to be made more useful, the government’s allocation of business rules should be amended to give more powers to the NSC and its subordinate organizations, such as the Strategic Policy Group.

Second, the job of the National Security Adviser needs to be reimagined:

  • Even though the NSA plays a vital role in national security, he has no legal powers as per the government’s allocation of business rules.
  • The C. Pant Task Force in the late 1990s had recommended the creation of an NSA with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.



  • National Security Strategy or Policy (NSS or NSP) is a key framework for a country to meet the basic needs and security concerns of citizens, and address external and internal threats to the country.
  • The Indian state does not possess an overarching national security strategy (NSS) that comprehensively assesses the challenges to the country’s security and spells out policies to deal effectively with them.
  • A well-defined national strategy is a clear vision of the path that India must take in pursuit of its national vision. It also provides a guide for all organs of the state on the policy directions that they must follow.
  • Such a strategy must be executed within the parameters laid down by the Constitution of India and the country’s democratic political dispensation. 

Need for National Security Strategy:

  • A modern state confronts multiple and simultaneous challenges across several domains.
  • National security cannot be confined to the use of the state’s coercive power to overcome domestic and external threats. For example, threats to domestic peace and stability may arise from economic and social grievances.
  • A knee-jerk reaction may leave these grievances unaddressed while the use of coercive power exacerbates rather than ameliorates the situation. For instance, left-wing extremism in India is rooted in the persistent exploitation of tribal populations.
  • Similarly, the vulnerability of our borders is linked to a large-scale smuggling and contraband trade. Such threats cannot be dealt with solely through enhanced military capabilities without addressing the drivers of illegal trade.
  • For a modern state operating in an increasingly globalized world, the line between what is domestic and what is external is becoming increasingly blurred. For example, terrorism is a threat to domestic security but may have external links. Thus, a combination of domestic and external interventions may be necessary. 
  • It is only within a comprehensive NSS that such complex inter-relationships between domestic and external dimensions can be analysed and coordinated policy responses formulated. 

What NSS must do?

  • The NSS would enable the identification of critical infrastructure that may be vulnerable to cyber-attacks, and the development of human resources capable of identifying attacks and protecting and restoring critical systems.
  • There is a trade-off between enhanced security and the citizens’ rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and this must be clearly spelt out for the people of the country and well-considered solutions put forward. National security must not become a justification for a surveillance state.
  • Ecological degradation and climate change have significant impacts on national security. There may be direct consequences of the melting of glaciers on the deployment of troops at high-altitude locations on India’s mountainous borders. Sea-level rise as a result of global warming may inundate naval bases along the coasts. Therefore, the NSS must anticipate the consequences of ecological degradation and climate change, and formulate coping measures. 
  • Another oft-neglected dimension of India’s national security that must be integrated within the NSS is strategic communications. It relates to the indispensable need, particularly in a democracy, to shape public perceptions through constant and consistent public outreach and to provide a channel for public opinion or feedback.
  • National security may be adversely impacted by the spread of false news by hostile elements within and outside the country using social media. This will require strong and advanced cyber capabilities, which may have to be constantly upgraded to keep pace with rapid technological advance.
  • NSS for India needs to take a comprehensive approach, encompassing domestic and external and economic and ecological challenges, highlighting the inter-linkages and feedback loops among them and on that basis formulate a coherent template for multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral interventions.

Way Forward

  • Drawing up an NSS for India must be a key agenda for the government. This may be tasked to a group of eminent persons from different disciplines who could consider India’s national security in its multiple dimensions.
  • In a democracy, an NSS should be citizen-centric and must reflect the values and beliefs of the people; at the same time, it must seek to raise public awareness of and shape public perceptions about national security issues.
  • The NSS must take the Constitution of India as its guide and its objective should be the safeguarding and consolidation of India’s democracy.
  • Previous exercises undertaken to promote national security could serve as useful reference material for the NSS. These include the Kargil Review Committee report (2000), the Report of the Naresh Chandra Task Force on Security (2012), and the document entitled ‘Building Comprehensive National Power: Towards an Integrated National Security Strategy’ prepared by the National Security Advisory Board (2015).
  • A well-informed, vigilant and educated public opinion is the best assurance of national security. 

National security is a concept that a government, along with its parliaments, should protect the state and its citizens against all kind of “national” crises.

  • A national security doctrine helps the statesmen identify and prioritize the country’s geopolitical interests. It encompasses the totality of the country’s military, diplomatic, economic and social policies that will protect and promote the country’s national security interests.
  • India does not have any such doctrine.

Need for India to have aNational Security Doctrine:

  • Porous international boundaries, growing terror threats, increasing insurgency within country demand government to envisage and formulate a National Security Doctrine for India.
  • The existence of such a document will dissuade adventurism and will reassure our citizens that appropriate measures are in place to protect us.
  • Many of India’s national security inadequacies stem from the absence of a national security/defence vision.
  • It will not only become the basis for strategy-formulation, contingency-planning and evolution of SOPs, but also send a reassuring message to our public.
  • It is necessary in the face of having nuclear-armed neighbours, Pakistan and China.
  • To define India’s role in the world and its commitment to protecting the life, liberty and interests of its people.
  • The country should have an overall national security document from which the various agencies and the arms of the armed forces draw their mandate and create their own respective and joint doctrines which would then translate into operational doctrines for tactical engagement.
  • In the absence of this, as is the case in India today, national strategy is broadly a function of ad-hocism and personal preferences.

Challenges in implementing a National Security Doctrine:

  • There is a skewed national security decision-making structure that is driven more by idealism and altruism, rather than by realpolitik imperatives.
  • National security has suffered neglect for decades due to pre-occupation of our politicians with electoral politics.
  • Defining national interests in a multi-party democracy like India that has representation across the ideological spectrum has been hard to achieve.
  • Decisions of national security are taken in individual silos rather than cross-domain exchange as subjects are inter-related.
  • There is opacity in the functioning of Intelligence agencies for instance there is no credible external audit that happens.
  • The agencies that are to provide security cover and neutralise terrorist threats do not have a cohesive command and control structure.
  • There has been a gap in political pronouncements in our military capabilities — material as well as organisational.

Way forward:

  • 5 key areas in draft National Security Policy that Shyam Saran, former chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), has prepared and handed over to the government in January 2015: Domestic security, External security, Military preparedness, Economic security and Ecological security.
  • Strategic communication” is of overarching importance in National Security which must be improved. A command control and communication centre must be built.
  • The NSD should guide various doctrines related to external and internal security to fill a huge void in the higher defence management of the country.
  • The policy must go much beyond issues of national security and encapsulate the domain of constitutional rights as well.
  • It must take an all-inclusive approach to national security integrating diplomatic engagement, domestic economic discipline and amity among communities at home with military power.
  • We need to tailor our strategic defence doctrine to create long-term measures towards a deterrent based on severe retribution.
  • Emerging strategic technologies like Artificial Intelligence, robotics and miniaturised wars are likely to play an increasingly important role in future warfare, this must be taken care of.


  • Developing a National Security Doctrine is as much about the future vision of a country as it is about its past. The need of the hour is to put together a National Security Doctrine that should have political consensus, publicly transparent and should reflect the complex challenges facing the country. The doctrine must be accompanied by a national security strategy.