National Security Strategy


  • 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.