Speech of Indian National Security Advisor; Mr Ajit Doval
at Core Group Meeting of Munich Conference 14 in New Delhi
By Colonel Ashok Kumar Singh
I take this liberty to write my critical review on the key note opening speech given by Mr Ajit Doval; National Security Advisor of Indian Republic at core group meeting of Munich Security Conference 14 held in New Delhi.
Core Group Meeting of Munich Security Conference is an important event to brain storm various issues of security facing the world. It is an event which is closely watched and analyzed by defense and security experts across the globe. Key note address of Mr Doval naturally carried a significant importance specially so as it was delivered by him in his capacity of National Security Advisor of new govt of Indian Republic.
Expectations from Key Note Speech
Mr Ajit Doval was expected to deliver his key note speech focusing on regional and global security issues with special emphasis on Indian foreign and security policy. Speech was expected to focus on global and regional security challenges such as the conflicts in the Middle East and the situation in Afghanistan after the 2014 NATO withdrawal, questions of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, cyber security, Euro-Atlantic and Asian regional security architectures as well as global governance and the role of emerging powers.
Brief of Speech Delivered
Mr Ajit Doval started his speech highlighting changing dynamics of security challenges wherein he identified three key factors. First; changes in relativity of state power and power differentials therein, second; changes in nature of conflict and concept of 4th Generation war and third; uncertainty in state response diluting doctrines, concepts and strategies.
In his speech NSA, taking further lead from concept of 4th generation war, focused on terrorism as a main threat to peace and spoke about prevailing disorganized global response to it. He further highlighted a need to have UN convention on terrorism and Indian efforts to reach on a consensus. He then took a snapshot on Pakistan for having not agreed on the definition of terrorism and killing of Osama bin laden in Pakistan. NSA laid importance on the role of USA and lauded their contribution. NSA though expressed his general concern on the conflict situation in West Asia but did not elaborate its impact in the region especially so on Indian interests till he was questioned in question answer session.
Mr Ajit Doval also highlighted importance of cyber, maritime and space security and then identified four key approaches or solutions to bring a stable peaceful situation. These four key approaches or solutions being first; strengthening the democracy, second; empowerment of people by bringing development, third developing good neighborhood relations and fourth technical integration like Indian digitations program for good governance.
In last he switched over to a military message by highlighting Indian stand of an effective and credible deterrence as an instrument to achieve stability and prevent conflicts.
Mr Ajit Doval at last took three questions concerning, first on Pakistan’s stand on freedom fighter versus terrorists stand, second Indian policy towards China in backdrop of solutions of democracy and developing good relations with neighbors and third significance of threat as posed by ISIS and Al Qaeda.
I went through the speech of Mr Ajit Doval as uploaded on Munich Security Conference website and present my critical review herein as an independent defense analyst.
Though Mr Ajit Doval delivered his speech off the script with help of notes confidently with a set pace in a vibrant tone but showed signs of restlessness wherein he shifted water glass without reasons, tempered with position of mike making his speech inaudible, made avoidable jerking and tilted actions of his head and laid avoidable extra but frequent intervening emphasis in sentences which he spoke. Though some of his actions may be attributed to his style but surely some did not convey a good body language as expected from a National Security Advisor. I do not wish to get into in depth over issue of body language except saying that such body languages are studied in detail by experts to get deep into the minds of such important speaker. He has to further strengthen the art of deception when he speaks.
If seen in the backdrop of expectation of Munich Security Conference as given above, Mr Ajit Doval failed to meet the same. He touched upon the subject in a hush hush manner even missing out certain key subjects. He had a right opportunity and forum to convey certain assuring messages to the worried world community of experts. Somehow he missed the opportunity. Whether it was by design or he took the opportunity lightly cannot be said with certainty. It could be that he avoided deliberately making any in-depth comments to keep people guessing and confused which in fact has become USP of Indian foreign and security policy.
Mr Doval laid the pace of his speech on certain accepted and un-debatable security challenges facing the world but lost direction when he focused on 4th Generation war as his accepted concept and went to extent of making prevailing military or security doctrines, concepts and strategies redundant in light of such war. Concept of 4th generation war was presented by Mr William S Lind, Colonel Keith, Captain Jhon, Colonel Joseph and Lt Col Gary in their article “Changing Face of War into Fourth Generation’ published in 1989 in Marine Corp Gazette. It was further explained by Colonel Thomas in his book “The Sling and The Stone” in 2006.
The concept of 4th generation war as only possible war has not been validated and accepted by any military including Indian army as it addresses a very narrow span/band of entire spectrum of war or conflict. Indian army classifies 4th Generation war as low intensity conflict but it doesn’t mean that possibility of high intensity or mid intensity wars/ conflicts can be totally ruled out. Doctrine, concepts and strategies of other wars still remain relevant. Why did Mr Ajit Doval emphasized only on 4th generation war or low intensity conflict making other doctrine, concepts and strategies redundant is beyond comprehension. I fail to understand that man of his stature will have no in-depth understanding of entire spectrum of conflict then why did he allow his police intelligence mind to dominate military thoughts?
Issue of non state actors as dominant and potent security threat is not the way Mr Doval has placed it in his speech. In fact behind every non state powerful group there is a recognized state sponsoring it? In military terms non state groups in fact are advance guard to the interest of state sponsoring it. They are created and sponsored by state with certain politico military objectives in mind as low cost option of proxy wars. US military in fact has a known policy of sponsoring such non state actors if it meets US interests. Same is the case with many other states like Russia, Pakistan etc including India. It is an accepted military practice to further national interests if possible by low cost option of proxy wars. Problem only arises when such groups in some cases become rogues and fail to deliver what they are expected to by asserting their independence. Like in case of Al Qaeda, LTTE or even Bhinderwale. Yes I do understand the compulsion of Mr Ajit Doval to be diplomatic but totally misrepresenting or ignoring fact is surely not in Indian interest. If India has dropped the option of non state actors meeting national interests then it should state so openly and demand same from others without naming them and in a diplomatic manner. It will strengthen India’s standing among world community.
Mr Doval said that terrorism is a tool in hands of vested interests and rightly so he emphasized it. I think Mr Doval or India should be realistic on the issue of UN convention over it. It will never materialize as it is not practical simply because terrorism is not only the tool of non state actors but also that of military. Indian air force’s air strike in Dhaka terrorized Gen Niazi in 1971 thereby forcing him to surrender early. Terrorism as tool targets mind. As brought out above if non state actors are sponsored by state actors then it will just not be possible for UN convention on the subject specially so when the word security scenario is increasing becoming fragile and volatile. In fact many of the powerful countries are re-arming or replacing/ modernizing their old arsenals including nuclear and new and new non state actors are getting sponsored as low cost option of proxy wars. Unfortunately world and India has to face it and it is just not possible to bring UN conventions for terror acts or any other military act only by non state rogue groups? So why to waste time on it? Keep your options open specially so when Indian army is asking govt about policy to bring formidable or unbearable cost on the sponsors of non state actors in neighborhood as response to their proxy wars.
Though Mr Doval talked about need for a global response to terrorism but failed to define Indian commitment to it except mentioning certain discussions in international forum. Just bringing UN convention will not eliminate terrorism; it will require discernible actions on ground. What are Indian commitments, NSA failed to clarify same though he talked about a collective global response.
Solution to security challenges which Mr Doval talked about are way off then available security solutions per se. Democracy is a political form of government. I really don’t know how and when Indian govt has assumed that world over democracy has been accepted as an established norm of governance. US which are a vibrant democracy does not support or promote democracy as the only option when it comes to promoting their interests. If India thinks that true democracy in China or Pakistan will bring solution to Kashmir or bring peace in region otherwise then I am sorry the given thought process is wrong. Indian may have to wait for next 50 years or so to get a settlement. India keeps cribbing about Pak army calling the shots in foreign policy and maintains a distance. Well Indian diplomatic army cannot and shall not treat Pak army as untouchable. That is not good diplomacy. Better would be bringing your military at par with Pak military structurally and open a new military diplomatic channel. Indian concerns should only be that whosoever signs any agreement with India, shall bring all stake holders in Pakistan on board and repeat of Shimla agreement shall not happen. So NSA bringing democracy to settle political or military disputes is beyond comprehension. Well it may be Indian point of view but world doesn’t behave like that. Just too bad but India has to accept it.
Yes issues of democracy, developing relations with neighborhood, development, empowerment, good governance and technical integration will have preventive impact on internal insurgencies. India may like to play a leading role in the region to bring peace and stability and she should do so. It would have been better if Mr Ajit doval had spoken more on foreign policy. India at one time had foreign policy of Panchsheel I think it is still relevant today. May be it is time to crystallize it in some form and name it. It will then become much easier for Indian diplomats to refer or mention it.
In the question answer session Mr Ajit Dowal stated that ISIS or Al Qaeda presently do not pose threat to India and as and when it happens India will take steps. Well that was a shocking answer. These groups are posing danger to world peace and tranquilities and that is beyond doubt. Indian NSA did not even consider them as a threat when the whole world is crying? Well I leave it there as to none of defense expert who listened to him will be convinced.
NSA did make a strong statement of an effective and credible deterrence as an instrument for regional stability but looks it was more targeted towards Pakistan.
In my view, Mr Ajit Doval NSA should have made right use of Munich Security Conference 14, to convey Indian stand on certain key security issues. The world is expecting India to make certain commitments to global war against terrorism. Somehow Mr Ajit Doval missed this right opportunity to make Indian stand clear. He did not even speak about subjects like Ukraine, South China Sea, Nato withdrawal from Pakistan. After hearing his speech I am left more confused about Indian security Policy then before. I expect Indian govt to bring some clarity on Indian defense and security policy and NSA has a big role in its framing.