Call for national security doctrine

New Delhi : Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran has called for a national security doctrine to provide a long-term assurance of security in an era of rapid changes to prevent ad hoc responses coloured by political compulsions in invoking “national security” to suppress the voice of dissent in every matter.

He says the constant review of India’s security institutions and processes cannot be left at the discretion of political leadership or be subjected to the veto of the security agencies who have no interest in exposing own failings and weaknesses.

Pointing out the misuse of the term “national security” by the predatory governments to wield power without responsibility, Saran decries the government justifying policies that abridge the rights of citizens to hide misgovernance and incompetence. He particularly points out the shortcomings in the defence preparedness and intelligence capabilities camouflaged in the noise of blaming adversaries for their aggressive behaviour.

He asserted that spotlight is turned on by the governments to suppress reports on own failure on the ground that they may compromise the national security. Historians are denied access to archives that are decades old on the alibi that the national security will be undermined.

What an irony that the citizens in a democracy are not trusted with the knowledge that can permit them to assess the performance of those who govern and rather making them fearful and anxious by suppressing information on the ground of the national security, the former foreign secretary said.

He pointed out that the issues that do not directly relate to national security, such as data on river flows, the public access is denied because such data is deemed to be sensitive. He regretted that the opportunities for corruption exist because the facts can be hidden on the ground of the national security, pointing out that this has been evident in several defence deals over the years.

No wonder that the comprehensive report of the task force on national security on both domestic and external fronts that was submitted in May 2013 has never been put in the public domain. Saran said the previous UPA government as well as the present NDA government are wary of publicising the report with the excuse that our adversaries will be alerted on our security gaps and that the government is already taking action to implement its various recommendations.

He says this is a specious argument as without transparency, there is less incentive to move with a sense of urgency to implement corrective measures.

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