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  • Rakshitt Bajpai & Ravi Shanker Pandey

The Hooda Document: Expanding the Contours of National Security 

Introduction

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has held in the case of Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Assn. v Union of India that “the security of the nation is of paramount importance and this involves the security of the States as well”.[i] The Hooda Document plays an important role in framing a uniform structure of a National Security Strategy for India. It also “attempts to address and align India’s security and foreign policy ends with ways and means. The document prioritises reforms to address social equality, technological disruptions and higher defence management as critical national security imperatives”.[ii]


International Relations & National Security

The Hooda document proposes a dynamic framework which is amalgamated with the concerns pertaining to international relations. Ranging from the emergence of ISIS to the permanent membership of India at UNSC (United Nations Security Council), the document vividly deals with expanding the contours of national security. It is proposed in the document that, for India to secure its rightful place in global affairs, it must deal with the polarization of power in political, economic as well as an ideological arena. This document describes the Indo-Sino relations as “Long Term Strategic Rivalry”. Since India is a growing market, therefore it harbours the interest of the market sensitive Chinese government. The document explains as to how the market sensitive China is planning to use various new road corridors by the means “One Belt One Road” initiative. Also, due to the fact it wants to support Pakistan to help counter India by isolating it from the rest of the world which has also been reflected in the “String of Pearls[iii]” theory. The smart step which the document suggests is that at some point of time, India should allow China to expand its trade nexus by means of Indian ports and all this should be conveyed through a diplomatic channel. As far as the neighbouring states are concerned, the relations we share with them also have a deep impact on the dynamics of our National Security. The issue of Kashmir is a major source of conflict between India and Pakistan. India needs to adopt a long-term strategy to deal with the issue of terrorist organizations operating under the support of Pakistan’s ISI. “This National Security Strategy emphasizes that India must be prepared for unilateral, limited military actions against terror groups in Pakistan”[iv]. Other than this, India needs to maintain its title of “Big Brother” among the various South-East Asian countries. This document provides us with foresight into certain emerging issues which might affect India’s security in the future like the Afghan refugee problem.

Pacification of Existing Conflicts

Issue of Kashmir: Irrespective of what the history of the Kashmir dispute has been, the Hooda Document emphasizes on the need for a combined and comprehensive politico-military strategy. The important factors disturbing the peace in the Kashmir Valley is the issue of radicalization of the people in addition to increasing support for the militants. According to recent media reports, “as many as 139 militants have been neutralised by the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir in the first eight months of this year, according to the defence sources”.[v] However, at the same time “there has been a steady rise in the number of youths taking up arms in the valley since 2014 onwards as compared to 2010-2013 when the figures stood at 54, 23, 21 and 6 respectively”[vi]. The document suggests creating a hospitable environment for the integration of the Kashmiri population with the rest of the country.


North-East Insurgency: The same needs to be done in order to curb the insurgency in the North-Eastern states of India. However, here the Seven-Sisters are a bit far away from the mainland and connected by means of the 22 km Siliguri Corridor. Most of the terrorist groups have already surrendered their arms due to the counter-insurgency operations of the army, now the primary task is to ensure proper development of such remote areas which can be brought about by improving road connectivity, communications and the availability of healthcare as well as other resources to the people from the mainland. As pointed out correctly by Lt Gen. Hooda “killing terrorists is an integral part of military operations to ensure that the state does not descend into chaos. However, this is not the primary measure of success or conflict resolution. Serious efforts are required for countering radicalisation. There is a need to initiate structured programmes that bring together civil society members, family groups, educationists, religious teachers and even surrendered terrorists in an effort to roll back radicalisation[vii].”


Left-Wing Extremism: the problem of LWE is one of the biggest national security threats and must be treated differently. The government has successfully controlled the frequency of such attacks through the coordinated effort of the different States and the CAPF’s involved in Anti-Naxal Operations. However, the issue with such operations is that of acquiring credible information, considering that the tribal people are already deprived of the basic resources and have been subjected to oppression and exploitation from the Zamindars and the mining industry. They perceive this movement as a fight for their rights and a revolution. On the basis of such philosophies, some left-wing extremist leaders are able to organize the tribal people into guerrilla force and use them for an entirely different purpose of serving their personal political agenda. In order to deal with this issue, the document suggests gaining the confidence of the tribals and use it to gather credible intelligence in order to carry off the operations.

Emerging Threats & Changing Horizons of National Security

There has been a drastic change in the factors affecting India’s national security. The novel challenges to the national security warrant long-term control measures as they will sustain longer, due to their cross-border impacts.


The recent use of Pegasus “snoop ware” which employed remote surveillance software allegedly developed by Israel based company NSO is one such instance where the threat emerged from cyber-attack on the database of prominent personalities in India.[viii] The Hooda document takes these kinds of threats into consideration, including the technological disruption resulting out of AI, advanced robotics and IoT (Internet of Things). It warrants the governments to adopt new technologies with certain precautionary measures. On the other hand, for cyber threats, it notes the Symantec’s study on Online security breaches in India which ranked India on the 4th, holding it to be the accounting for at least 5 % of the global security breaches.[ix] However, with the Union Cabinet’s clearance of Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 on 4th December, the wariness expressed in the document has been dealt with, to a greater extent.[x]


On the issue of energy security, as per the document, the Indian policies should be planned to cope with three transitions- the low carbon transition, the market transition and the transition of energy access. The document suggests establishment of a Strategic Petroleum Reserve to monitor the oil imports from each exporting country, separation of energy and infrastructure market from the umbrella of PSUs to third party intervention in the field in three core areas namely- energy (production, transportation and distribution) and liberalisation of gas market to meet the target of Indian government for increasing by 2030, the share of natural gas in the energy production from 6 % to 15 % against the global average of 24 %.[xi]


As per a recent report on climate change, India ranks 5th in Climate Risk Index, globally.[xii] The document, states that “the next wave of immigration will be a result of climate change and the factors of conflict and economic opportunities will lose their prominence”. A similar effect in the affairs of environment and climate can be observed in the emergence of Syria War in 2011 resulting out of droughts. Climate hazards severely affect infrastructure, health, water and food security, which in result affect economy and developments and military stations.[xiii] To deal with the catastrophe, it is paramount to carry out a risk assessment and develop integrated policies, dedicated to the preservation of nature. The National Action Plan on Climate Change adopted by India has a vital role to play in this regard.[xiv]


Economic Security: the document talks of independence of RBI and to focus on managing national debts, in order to sustain in the global arena. Progressive taxation and infrastructure development are important measures to remove the bottlenecks to the development of a nation. Subsequently, there’s a need to prevent the devaluation of the Indian rupee, improving fiscal measures, development of non-conventional sources of energy with the help of initiatives like ISA (International Solar Alliance) and investing in off-shore oil exploration.[xv]

Demographic Pressure: Although the population of youth will continue to increase[xvi]up to 2050, whether it will translate into a demographic dividend is a moot question which requires significant deliberation.[xvii] A lot of work is still left to be done in the field of gender equality and rural employment. The Hooda document proposes education and skill development as the most powerful means to address the state of affairs.

Reforms Suggested by the Hooda Document

This document has laid down a number of suggestions which are very dynamic in nature. From the involvement of agencies like the Border Road Organization to bringing the Indo-Tibetan Border Police under the command of the army at the Indo-China border to name a few. Such suggestions can be said to be different from the conventional reforms which are suggested by national security experts worldwide.


Apart from dealing effectively with the existing conflicts these solutions also bring within their ambit the various means of reconstruction in post-conflict areas. It also suggests reforms regarding improvements in R&D as well as Defence-PSUs which have gained momentum through the “Made in India” initiative. This has been beneficial in solving a lot of indigenous problems related to national security like the preventing infiltration during snowfall after introducing special fences designed by “Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE)”[xviii].


There have been many issues regarding the National Security Council as despite consisting of experts of national security, it is an advisory 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 organisations, such as the Strategic Policy Group”[xix]. Since the role of Intelligence agencies is very instrumental in preventing terror attacks, it is crucial to restructure the entire framework of Intelligence agencies to increase their efficiency. The document suggests reforms like establishing Intelligence as a separate institution akin to policing for which there are police academies, in the same manner, a “Career Intelligence Cadre” should be established to serve the purpose of training officers specialized in this field. The need to prioritize “Human Intelligence”[xx], gathering of information through a nexus of field agents, over technical intelligence has also been expressed which will increase the credibility of the information. The same has been suggested for the purposes of cyber warfare, where a separate “Cyber Command” needs to be set up, having specific accountability for Cyber-Warfare.


The document introduces the challenges regarding dominance in Space. As far as conflicts in space are concerned, the technology has not become so advance and by the time laws regarding space are being developed, India should prepare to defend itself from attacks beforehand.  This document has also suggested a number of reforms for the system of Policing in India as they are the first responders so it’s important to ensure that they take the right step at the right time.


Conclusion

The Hooda Document adopts a holistic approach towards the challenges of maintaining National Security. It incorporates the basic elements which can be used for bringing about uniformity in National Security Strategy. Though, the solutions mentioned in the document still need reinforcement through existing legislation on National Security to gain legitimization. However, the document is purely theoretical and lacks a pragmatic approach while dealing with the above-mentioned challenges. It falls short of addressing how any agency can undertake such measures in the presence of various covert and overt obstacles whether cultural, religious or political. Nevertheless, this document provides a firm base to devise better policies and legislation dealing with National Security of India.

 

[i]Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families Assn v Union of India (2016) 14 SCC 536.

This blog is a part of the RSRR Blog Series on National Security Laws. By Rakshitt Bajpai and Ravi Shanker Pandey, 2nd Year(s), Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNLU)

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