National Security Should Be Made Of Sterner Stuff – IV


Since I began writing the series titled above, a curious mix of complimentary and encouraging messages, as well as downright critical and mocking messages, have come to me. I didn’t expect much else from a readership made up mostly of the “avatar services” that I deliberately chose to turn against. Indeed, the responses – or in most cases a quiet silence – were quite telling. At least 75% of the readers who made up the “avatar services” chose to be silent, about 20% both questioned me and warned me for what they considered – not without substance – an exercise in futility of confronting a gigantic monolith that had been established by “divine intervention” and can never be moved.

The warning calls were that not only would I be subject to wickedness and wickedness, but that I can forget any favor of dispensation for a very long time. Of course, I didn’t respond to such warnings by saying that I was fully aware of what I was getting into when I embarked on the exercise, or that I don’t remember a particular “off-the-road”. » favors that were returned to me even though I had chosen to be « as I normally am », submissive!

But there was a tiny 5% of readers who not only supported my efforts but actually encouraged me. However, at least one person who reads my articles asked me – even though he felt that I was combative – to elaborate on what I felt was the definition of what characterized “national security”.

It was a great suggestion and one that I couldn’t ignore. After all, the person who so advised was my senior friend of many years Ashok Prasad, IPS (Retd). He questioned (and I feel quite correctly) whether I myself was fully – or even peripherally – aware of what constituted “national security” before I began to disapprove of the current generation of officials. security in India for not paying proper attention to the noble concept!

Ashok Prasad

I had first sought to assert to him that I did not need to be a practitioner myself to be critical and that a doctor had every right to prescribe abstention from smoking to a suffering patient. of a lung condition despite the fact that the doctor himself is a chain smoker. But Ashok Prasad’s experience in “avatar service” and perhaps even his fondness for me (I may be completely wrong in my last assessment!) was unerringly compelling.

For an officer and a gentleman who has traversed India and abroad in the service of India, from being a Superintendent of Police in Naxalite infested Karimnagar in undivided Andhra Pradesh to becoming the Director General of Police of a sensitive state like Jammu & Kashmir which punctuated and concluded with plum assignments in the Intelligence Bureau, the last of which was a surprise ending as the first organization’s special director, integrity, insight, understanding and conduct of Ashok Prasad’s state art has been unparalleled.

However, his ability to say “no” to off-beam policy recommendations was not only a rarity, but a liability in more ways than one. It may have cost him – by his own admission (and that of many others who admire him!) – positions that would otherwise have been won due to his commanding professional competence. Anyway, my recent tirade against “avatar services” – which needs no emphasis included the service in which Ashok Prasad also served quite admirably – urged him to undertake hours dialectical interface with me that raised aspects that cannot be easily ignored. After all, the question of defining “national security” is as important (if not more!) than the fact that it “should be made of tougher things”. Indeed, he and I debated the concept for several years and while there was no great influx of an even greater statement that conveyed every nook and cranny that constituted “national security”, it was increasingly furthermore clear that in the discourse of India’s context, the concept can at best only be defined in an encapsulated manner.

Indeed, there would be a multitude of opponents and conflicting opinions even when a “definition” is reached after careful consideration. Therefore, as I wrote in my second installment of this series (, it there may not be one dramatic mantra (mantra seer) for an anthem that constitutes India’s national security or even an anti-terrorism doctrine for the nation! Or perhaps, as I said in my previous speech, “national security” can never be conceived in infinite space and time, that its ever-changing spirit can only be understood when a particular situation or a state of affairs like Mumbai 2008 or even IC 814 hijacking leads to it manifesting.

Anyway, it was interesting to participate in a real Ashok Prasad tutorial on our country’s national security. He informed me that he had once told one of his superiors that “India’s internal security is determined from outside”. If a correct thought is granted to the simple sentence, then it would be considered as the mantra. After all, in the context of India’s internal security – at least of the traditional type – if countries like Pakistan and Myanmar were to disappear from the face of the earth, much of India’s traditional internal security problems India would also disappear! But would that be tantamount to asserting that the country’s internal security would then be “boldly protected”? Can it be said that the conflict situation which continues to beset the North-East and Kashmir only appeared as a result of external incitement? While it is not a question of saying that the anti-Indian forces have encouraged belligerence at these two ends of India by fishing in troubled waters, the fact is that the dissonance broke out before there was an “external determination”! The hostile neighborhood has only fueled the fire!

Take the case of ULFA. If one were to play devil’s advocate and for a moment voice ULFA’s argument for a “sovereign Assam”, then the “Yandaboo Treaty of 1826” can be seen as the start of the insurrection with supporters of this which demanded ‘sovereignty for Assam’ stating that the treaty was between the British and the Burmese and therefore with the exit of the colonial rulers from India, Assam should be restored to the pre era -Yandaboo! As preposterous as it sounds, there is at least one undersized constituency in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division and China’s Yunnan that believes in waging war on the Indian state !

What about left-wing extremism which, at least in my view, is to a large extent determined by India’s own internal social dynamics? Ashok Prasad’s tutorial also provides useful case studies and since his catalog of specialization is Naxalism, one of the aspects we have attempted to discuss is ways and means of countering left-wing extremism. In our many years of debating this aspect, one of the best counter-terrorism methodologies emanating from Ashok Prasad was the four ‘Ds’. Even if it was in the context of the fight against Naxalism, the quadruplet of letters – to a large extent – determined how the succession of “D”s could constitute a full-bodied but elegant counter-terrorism strategy.

I confess that I am finishing a book on the need for an anti-terrorism doctrine for India. Indeed, it’s been going on since I first wrote an article titled “Template for Anti-Terror Doctrine” nearly 17 years ago for the security journal Aakroch (October 2005, Volume 8, Number 29). But the frequent tutorials that came to me from the fertile mind of Ashok Prasad along with the fact that events kept overtaking theory and vice versa made the delay welcome. In any event, the four “Ds” are simply:

  • Defend: Protect the assets of the establishment
  • Destroy: dismantle the opponent’s organization
  • Defeat: Defeat the enemy’s ideology


  • Refuse: create an environment that prevents the revival of the opponent’s ideology and base of support

How to get to the “D’s” is, for the national security student in me, in the realm of tactics. Therefore, if a paradigm has been reached, the “riddle-solving” aspects – in the language of Thomas Kuhn – would be a normal scientific enterprise. The fact that there may be (as in scientific revolutions) a later period (to paraphrase Kuhn) where science (or in Ashok Prasad’s case the four D’s) may find itself without justification for observable fact which in an earlier period was held to be successfully explained would amount to a paradigm shift. To this end, the description that “India’s internal security is determined from the outside” needs to undergo a recalibration. Or, the search for a definition of what constitutes national security (at least within its internal security framework) must be one that also incorporates the reasons for the eruption of internal dissension inside India that are “determined from within”.

Jaideep Saikia is an internationally renowned conflict analyst and well-known author of several best-selling books on security and strategy. He is also the only Asian member of the Irregular Warfare Initiative, West Point, USA.


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