Defence Minister Rajnath Singh underlines non-traditional threats to India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 11 November 2022

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh underlines non-traditional threats to India

Although India has active borders with China and Pakistan and insurgencies in Jammu, Kashmir and Manipur, Rajnath focused on non-traditional threats rather than hard military ones


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 11th Nov 22


In a security environment where the government seldom puts defence policy in the public domain and successive governments have failed to create a National Security Strategy, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh delivered a convocation address on Thursday to the graduating National Defence College (NDC) course in Delhi. 


Such institutional speeches, especially those delivered at military training institutions such as the NDC, are carefully parsed by defence analysts the world over, for indications of strategic policy. Today’s NDC speech was no exception. 


The most striking observation that defence analysts arrived at is: Although India has active borders with two hostile neighbours – China and Pakistan – and combats long-running insurgencies in Jammu, Kashmir and Manipur, the defence minister chose to focus almost entirely on non-traditional threats rather than hard military ones.


Rajnath Singh called for concerted efforts of the international community to counter “grave” emerging threats such as cyber-attacks and information warfare. 


Highlighting the narrowing gap between internal and external security, Rajnath said that new dimensions of threats that keep evolving make them difficult to classify. He asserted that terrorism, which generally falls into the category of internal security, is now increasingly regarded as an external security threat, since the training, funding and arming of such organisations is being carried out from outside the country. 


The Defence Minister described the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyber-attacks as “a big concern”, with energy, transport, telecommunications, critical manufacturing industries and interconnected financial systems being vulnerable to such threats. 


Underscoring another non-traditional threat, he stated that “information war” has the potential to threaten a country’s political stability. This was now being done by shaping the opinion and perspective of the masses through the organised use of social media and online content generation platforms.


“The deployment of information war was most evident in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Throughout the conflict, social media has served as a battleground for both sides to spread competing narratives about the war and portray the conflict on their own terms,” stated Rajnath, identifying social media as the primary distribution channel.


The defence minister said the Ukrainian conflict illustrated how ripple effects could adversely impact the whole world. Together, Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world's wheat and barley, but this conflict had prevented grain from leaving the ‘breadbasket of the world’, leading to food crises in Africa and Asia.


Rajnath said that India also faced an energy crisis, with the Russia-Ukraine war leading to a disruption in international energy supply, raising the cost of energy import. 


Rajnath Singh reaffirmed India’s belief in a “multi-aligned policy”, which envisioned diverse engagements with multiple stakeholders, so that everyone’s concerns could be addressed. He termed it as the only way towards shared responsibility and prosperity.


“Strong and prosperous India would not be built at the cost of others… India does not believe in a world order where a few are considered superior to others. It is for this reason that when we partner any nation, it is on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect,” Rajnath said.


He was addressing officers of the Indian armed forces, civil services and from friendly foreign countries during the 60th National Defence College (NDC) course convocation ceremony.  

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