This essay discusses how, in today's world, national security is the soul of a nation.  India being one of the only two existing civilizational states faces a multifaceted security challenge in the 21st century while the global order undergoes a massive change and the countries fight for their prominence in the international community. For India, the idea of… Read More »

This essay discusses how, in today's world, national security is the soul of a nation.

India being one of the only two existing civilizational states faces a multifaceted security challenge in the 21st century while the global order undergoes a massive change and the countries fight for their prominence in the international community. For India, the idea of Nationalism emerged way before its transition into the Nation status.

However, with time, the significance and the prominence of the idea have eroded and transformed into rather polarized and radicalized forms. While the reasons may be an amalgamation of factors but in absence of all those, the biggest challenge we face is that of National security threats. After all, no entity, however powerful it might be, wants to mess with unity and integrity.

National security threats can be from external factors, such as Pakistan and China as in the case of India, and Internal factors such as left-wing extremism. while there are legislations to counter these challenges but they remain far from being adequate.

China, although our biggest rival exemplifies how nationalism ensures national security and promotes collective growth. The Indian armed forces on the other hand remain the inspiration and stalwarts of patriotism that exemplify nothing can beat unity that is bound by a refined form of nationalism, patriotism.

National Security: The Soul of a Nation in the Contemporary World

Atra janma sahasrāṇāṃ sahasrairapi sattama

Kadācillabhate janturmānuṣyaṃ puṇyasañcayāt

The above verse from Vishnu Purana enunciates – It is only after many thousand births, and the aggregation of much merit, that living beings are sometimes born in Bhárata as humans.

Bharat or India is one of the only two remaining civilizational states in the world that have survived centuries of cataclysms – natural, territorial, social, economic, and cultural. And this civilizational history of our land continues to remain an undeciphered enigma, buried layers deep in time, even in this 21st century where technological advancements dominate every aspect of the human life cycle.

India is the beautiful amalgamation of cultures that adorns the land, strengthens it, and makes it stand out amongst the commonalities of the international paradigm. With time the territorial identity of India transitioned to that of a Nation from a civilization identity. According to the political definition of a 'Nation' – It is a cultural-political community that has become conscious of its autonomy, unity, and particular interests.[1] A nation is thus a collective identity of a community with a common historical root.

With the concept of nation, comes inextricably the idea of Nationalism. In the case of India, this idea of nationalism long preceded the acquiring of its Nation status.

India's history of nationalism is as old as its history of foreign invasions, but the roots of modern Indian nationalism can be traced in the collective uprising of a community against British imperialism when the people of the subcontinent felt the dire need to revive our civilizational roots after centuries of exploitation. However, the concept of Nationalism that existed during the freedom struggle, a unifying force beyond every social and cultural barrier, now lies unconscious in the pages of history books. Today nationalism is a mere façade for counter-philosophies like Communalism, casteism, socio-economic differences, provincialism, and ethnocentrism.

Because after all, it was Nationalism that brought the Indians together for a common cause and forced the imperialists out, and made India a force to reckon with. But what could be the reason for this disappearance? Political indifference? Inaccessibility to the civilizational history? Lack of cultural literacy? Misinterpretation of the ideology?

Well, it's certainly a combination of these factors. For the idea of nationalism to thrive, there needs to be a feeling of oneness amongst its citizens, an unadulterated unity beyond any differences. There needs to be a sense of acknowledgment and acceptance of differences. There needs to be a prioritization of the national identity over the ethnic identity. Because in absence of all these, the biggest challenge we face is that of National security threats. After all, no entity, however powerful it might be, wants to mess with unity and integrity.

Over the years, since 1947, India has faced challenges both from internal and external factors, sometimes as a challenge to the territorial integrity of the nation, and sometimes as the disturbance of the socio-cultural equilibrium by some antisocial elements. The best part is that none of these could actually stop India from becoming the 6th largest economy all set to jump up to three more positions by 2030, while simultaneously projecting the halo of its venerated ancient wisdom across the globe and contributing its bit to the regulation of bilateral or multilateral affairs in the welfare of the global community.

And standing in 2022, when the global dynamics is evolving rapidly, to keep up with its aspiration of re-establishing its "Vishwa Guru" status, and becoming a global superpower from the South Asian region, it's of high priority for India to establish the coherence between its collective development as a nation and the individual development of its citizens across every social hierarchy. This in turn will ensure the internal security threats are kept at minimal and India is even better prepared to counter the external security threats. After all, when one's own home is secure, one can fight and conquer any and every external predicament!

National Security

The most ancient chapters of history hold the precedence of a leader protecting his people. The only difference is the evolving nature of the threats that they get exposed to. Over time the concept of the territory became more comprehensive and the demarcations gained clarity, bringing into light the ideas of nation, state, and nation-state, and thus emerged the need for a more comprehensive approach at ensuring of territorial security and thus the security and safety of the people residing in these territories – the emergence of the concept of 'National Security'.

The expression of National Security has transitioned over time from the traditional and rather narrow idea surrounding the state-level application of force, focussing more on the military prowess, to a much broader concept encompassing social, political, economic, environmental, and even human.

In the most basic terms, the concern for the security of the lowest common denominator of every society, namely the 'human being', has resulted in the development of the concept of 'human security', which focuses on the individual. Therefore, the definition of security is definitely broad – and is related to the ability of the state to perform the function of protecting the well-being of its people. This formulation harks back to the days of Chanakya and Arthashastra.[2]

Defining National Security is a challenging task, as the definitions vary from Walter Lippmann's (1943) "A nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interests to avoid war, and is able, if challenged, to maintain them by war"[3] to what National Defence College of India defines as "National security is an appropriate and aggressive blend of political resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability of natural resources and finally the military might".[4]

National security thus deals with the government of a country to provide and ensure protection to the state and its citizens against all "national" crises by various means such as diplomacy, economic power, political power, military power, etc. The concept, however, remains considerably ambiguous owing to the ever-evolving nature of threats that are difficult to contain as definitions. National Security is manifested in the form of a 'National Security doctrine' and an effectively curated 'Foreign policy'. These help the government in the identification and prioritization of a country's geopolitical interests.

As in the case of India, national security is influenced primarily by two factors – Internal and External. While the external factors mainly constitute historical, geographical, and demographic imperatives arising as a result to the events in the South Asian region which has its own set of political and strategic complexities, the internal factors mainly constitute the noncongruence in the perception of a collective identity amongst communities.

In one of his interviews to ANI, the first CDS of India, Late Gen. Bipin Rawat quoted, "Indian Army is fully ready for a two and a half front war."[5] The same can be seen in China and Pakistan being the primary instigator of external threat to India, while the country ails from recurrent insurgencies in various parts, especially Jammu and Kashmir and the North-Eastern part of India.

The perception of security threats further varies from that of the Uniformed personnel to that of the civil research scholars. While the former is more inclined towards the traditionally pre-defines internal and external threats or the challenges posed by the evolving nature of hybrid warfare keeping aside the non-traditional threats, the latter is more interested in brainstorming about the non-conventional perception of security that includes issues like lack of education, huge population, unemployment, caste or religion based polarisation, lack of social cohesion and harmony, etc, which is a potential impediment towards an all-inclusive growth.

External security threats

India has a history of a number of foreign invasions and is not alien to the security challenges posed by external factors. However, since the transfer of power from the British crown to the Indian Government in 1947, this set of actors has become narrower, although quite recurrent. The partition of 1947 and the subsequent birth of Pakistan marks the inception of the constant vulnerability of India's territorial integrity, coastal security, and the security of its Island territories.

This was further amplified with China's active participation in repeated violation of India's territorial integrity and instigation of Pakistan to continue the same. Not only are these two countries, who happen to share a close friendship, are our principal source of external security threats, but being armed with nuclear weapons is what intensifies the threat. The unique geostrategic location of the subcontinent and the porous borders and coastline poses a further challenge. Another major source of external security threat is Terrorism and proxy war.

Terrorism is the omen that plagues the entire world, and India raised this issue before the United Nations way before the terrorist attacks against the USA in 2001. Highlighting the "state-sponsored" and "cross border" terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, India drew international attention to these state-sponsored and state-supported acts of terrorism being a pretext for waging war.

According to India, 'the world's greatest danger today is the spread of terrorism. When sponsored and supported by states, terrorism becomes another means of waging war. The international community must therefore resolve to combat this menace since it threatens the very basis of peaceful societies.'[6]

Previously, India has proven its prowess in the field of nuclear energy through the Shakti tests while simultaneously combating the US sanctions with conviction in its own nuclear energy aspirations. However, the Nuclear Factor remains another significant area of concern in India's security calculus. While India and China have already agreed upon a 'no first-use' policy, Pakistan is yet to be a part of this agreement and its chances of nuclear blackmail also remain slim as its own vulnerabilities remain subaltern to Indian capabilities.

Since 1947 India has fought five major wars – 4 with Pakistan and 1 with China. Except for the Kargil war of 1999, these were attributable to cold war politics. The United Nations, being entrusted with the maintenance of international security, has played a major role in prohibiting these wars and streamlining them to 'armed conflicts.' On one hand, it has aided in the regulation of the rule of war through various conventions, such as the Geneva conventions, but on the other, it has opened up pandora's box of hybrid warfare.

In a way, these external security challenges influence the internal security challenges of India.

Internal security threats

India is a diverse country. The cultural diversity that is now India's strength was once extremely difficult to consolidate under a single national identity. It was difficult but certainly not impossible. But unfortunately, India has encountered recurrent internal rebellion from certain secessionist forces. While ideological differences remain a prime cause of such challenges, at the same time external influence can't be negated either. The main motivation of the internal armed conflicts is to gain overthrow the political leadership, capture political power, and seek separation/secession or greater regional autonomy.

The Naga insurgency is one such example where despite the agreement of the Nagaland Peace Accord, signed between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) – Isak-Muivah faction in 2015, repeated ambushes are carried out between the Indian army and the insurgent group. Another example is that of the recent Manipur insurgency that cost us the precious lives of the Commanding officer of an Assam Rifles unit along with his family and jawans. Further, issues like narcotics and trafficking, money laundering, religious fundamentalism contribute to the financial and social security challenges. And how can Left-wing extremism or Naxalism be left out when we are dealing with internal security?

To counter these challenges there are certain National security laws, like section 124A of the IPC dealing with sedition cases, section 499 of IPC dealing with criminal defamation, the IT Act of 2000 to counter cybercrimes along the UAPA 1967, which mandates preventive detention. These legislations are primarily concerned with the internal security of India. when it comes to the external security challenges, the legislative backing is rather limited.

Apart from the Nuclear Doctrine of 1999, and the Indian Army's Land Warfare Doctrine 2018, there's the National Security Council that advises the PM on matters of national security and strategic interest. Keeping up with the current geopolitical occurrences, the need of the hour is that of a National Security Doctrine. The former chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), Shyam Saran, back in 2015 had proposed 5 key areas for drafting a national security policy – Domestic security, External Security, Military preparedness, Economic security, and Ecological security. There is an urgent need to tailor our strategic defense doctrine to create long-term measures towards a deterrent based on severe retribution.[7]

Nationalism And National Security

Nationalism and national security are inextricably linked with each other. While the feeling of oneness amongst the citizens over their national identity builds them stronger to endure and fight back any menaces posed by the external agents, on the other hand, extreme radicalized perception of this idea poses threats pertaining to the internal security of the country. Nationalism is inalienable to the security of the nation but does not necessarily ensure the same. There are instances when the ethnic identity supersedes the national identity, and that's when it becomes an impediment to our collective growth as a nation.

India – a civilization that gave the world concepts like "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" is now standing right in face of irony in striking a balance between nationalism and national security, both external and internal. The priority however should be to minimize the internal security threats. This can only be done by the establishment of an all-inclusive, bottom-up, developmental paradigm where even the most socio-economically backward communities can enjoy a collective development while being an active participant in the process. This further requires effective implementation of the government policies which is crucial because India already suffers from 'Policy paralyzes.'

Ensuring horizontal development in even to the remotest corners of the subcontinent, in turn, will help with the nation's aspiration of self-sufficiency, create a strong sense of nationalism and thus drive economic security. Along with these, the introduction of the civilizational history to promote a feeling of oneness in the highly polarized times and sensitizing the citizen about the cultural difference and their acceptance will bridge the gap between the communities. Media also plays a major role in ensuring the internal security of India, thus it's important that they maintain transparency.

Once the internal security challenges are dealt with, it'd become easier to deal with the external ones as more time, manpower and resources could be channelized in dealing with the concerned actors. China however remains the single most eminent external security threat for India. It's basically the puppet master that not only influences Pakistan, but also influences the left-wing extremism in India, and uses them as pawns to impede India as its only contender in the South Asian region.

The recent skirmishes at the Galwan valley region and the continuous intrusions in the Arunachal Pradesh makes it clear that China has no intention, whatsoever to respect the territorial integrity of India. But for every Chinese 'string of pearls' strategy, India is prepared with a counter 'diamond necklace' strategy!

However, China is the biggest example of how a strong feeling of nationalism can not only aid in individual development but a collective development of a nation and ensure its internal security to help it become a superpower. And taking into consideration the Nash equilibrium, a re-emergence of history in form of another Sino-India war is highly unlikely. Hence the focus should be on developing Self-reliance and free ourselves from the import dependency on China while maintaining an effective diplomatic relationship.

The changing world order and the evolving nature of warfare is a matter of concern for not just India but the entire global community. Emerging means of warfare like Cyberwarfare, NBC (Nuclear, biological and chemical) warfare, infrastructural warfare, etc, demands up-gradation of a nation's capabilities not just to deter them but counter them as well.

India has always made sure to retaliate against any security threat with utmost precision and efficiency. The Indian armed forces have protected the territorial integrity of the nation even under as severe circumstances as in the Siachen glacier – the world's highest battlefield. With the indigenization of the defence production, export of indigenously produced BrahMos missiles and HAL Dhruv, an increased defence budget, especially the allocation for the Indian Navy and the LCA Tejas Mk1 all set to be displayed at the Singapore Air Show, India has left no unturned to enhance and establish its presence as a Military Superpower.

Moreover, the Indian defence forces are the most prominent embodiment of the most refined form of nationalism, i.e., an inherent patriotism that empowers them to stand undefeated at the face of any challenge and embrace martyrdom as the least form of sacrifice for their motherland. A nation inspired by such forces is bound to remain united in the spirit of nationalism.

The only thing that's required right now to ensure equitable and collective empowerment and development of its citizens is to nullify the influence of external forces and a diplomatic reintegration of the insurgents into the mainstream under the umbrella of nationalism, or more importantly, patriotism to reclaim our status as the 'Vishwa Guru'.

The end.

Rudrani Ghoshal of the University of Calcutta wrote the article on National Security: The Soul of a Nation in the Contemporary World. Her article explains the concept of national security and how Nationalism and national security are inextricably linked with each other.


  1. [1] Anthony D. Smith (8 January 1991). The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Wiley. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-631-16169-1
  2. [2] Outlook, "India's National Security Challenges" (The National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi), Available here
  3. [3] Romm, Joseph J. (1993). Defining national security: the nonmilitary aspects. Pew Project on America's Task in a Changed World (Pew Project Series). Council on Foreign Relations. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-87609-135-7. Retrieved 22 September 2010
  4. [4] Definition from "Proceedings of Seminar on "A Maritime Strategy for India" (1996). National Defence College, Tees January Marg, New Delhi, India. quoted in Paleri 2008
  5. [5] Article, "Army prepared for two and a half front war: Gen Rawat", Available Here
  6. [6] C.S.R. Murthy, "Assessing India at the United Nations in the Changing Context", International Studies 47(2–4) 205–223 (2010), Available Here
  7. [7] "National Security Doctrine" (InsightsIAS), Available here

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Updated On 5 Sep 2022 1:26 PM GMT
Rudrani Ghoshal

Rudrani Ghoshal

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