The subject of this article is the Indian National Security State. By which I mean those sets of institutions – governmental and private, known and secret, whose primary or major objectives are set around armaments – their production, procurement, research, maintenance, use and; wars – small, big, covert, overt, and preparation for them. I would argue that this National security establishment is Big, it is Dangerous and it is Ignored. It is big in the sense of its economic, political and social influence. It is dangerous, both by its existence and its activities to the domestic liberties and to the victims of the more overt violence of these establishments. And it is ignored by the intellectual class and media because they agree with and profess the basic underlying principles of this security establishment. Hence, they minimize or ignore the influence and harm caused by the national security state.
The basic underlying principles, or in some sense the ideology of the national security state is based on the concepts of Super Power and Modernization. In themselves these terms are quite empty but in historic setting they developed they prescribe a certain set of institutions to carry out certain activities to achieve certain goals.
The historic setting for the emergence of the contemporary ideas of Super Power and Modernization was broadly the West between two Great Wars and post-war de-colonization and the Cold War. By super power I mean the drive of all nation states to achieve a condition of relative and absolute superiority in economic and military terms, in comparison to other national states. This economic superiority does not entail in anyway that the society with the national border will benefit from the supposed economic growth. Inequality, financialization and wealth concentration, as we shall see, are parts of a national security capitalist state. Terms like “modernization”, too, do not have any strict meaning but the set of ideas that most influenced early era of Nehru’s India were those of Walt Rostow and his associates in MIT and John Hopkins in the United States . Walt Rostow, who was a major designer of the Vietnam War and by any sensible assessment was a war criminal, was admired for his theory of Stages of Development. He and Clark Kerr provided the ideological core to the managerial class of de-colonized states. Establishment of the Indian higher education system, with direct help from MIT and Hopkins after the 1960’s is an interesting illustration of this theme and desire.
These modernization theories, with their centralized states and heavy industrialization had their mirror image in the USSR with similar strong powerful state ideology and dependence on big and heavy industry. This setting was quite favorable for Indian managerial classes – the higher offices of the state. The consensus in Indian political and intellectual culture includes a believe in a strong Centre, militarization, and heavy industrialization. This is shared by the communists , the congress and the BJP; and with some divergence on strong center, even by regional parties.
Although, a systematic and critical study of Indian post-transfer of power intellectual trends within the political elite circles is of great value, I cannot attempt to produce it here. Before looking at the substantive part of the argument I would like to look at another essential concept.
It is not obvious what the “security” in National security entails. There are hints in the constitution and in other state documents; it talks about “national integrity,” “sovereignty” etc – in essence, the security of the state. For millions in this country the insecurities are at work, of low wages, and wage cuts, of housing, of health and of education, the insecurity from fear and uncertain future. For them security means alleviation of poverty and reduction in inequality, it means good health care and stable job structure, it means freedom from harassment. But for a minority it means more guided missile systems and new jets. And when there is a contradiction between the needs of two classes maxim of Thucydides still prevails, that, “the strong do what they can and the week suffer what they must.”
Security for the national security establishment is very limited and I will argue, below, that the security of the national security state makes the world more and more insecure.
Merchants of Death
We are told that India is a “developing country.” Any impartial observer will conclude that for most of the population the development is downwards. While the legacy of colonialism and subsequent American New World Order have all played a part in hampering the kind of economic and technological development envisioned by Indian elites, Indian National Security State has contributed more than it’s fair share in destroying nations’ development.
From a third world nation India is on the path of becoming, what some economists have termed a Fifth world nation . A country that lacks resources needed for repairing even key industries and that suffers a declining level of living. I have recently written about the declining level of living, here I will talk about the social costs of a national security state. Social costs are costs of an economic activity that are borne in some way by society at large.
One of the best definition of social cost of militarism is given by US President Eisenhower:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
This year Arun Jaitley, who illustratively heads both the Financial and Defense ministry, allocated more than INR 4 lakh crore for the military . Combined budgetary expenditure on health, education and social protection for 2018-19 is INR 1.38 lakh crore . It was the fifth largest spender on military in 2018, only behind United States, China, Saudi Arabia and Russia. While India ranks 130th in UN Human Development Index. When 42 states submitted report to the UN on their military spending in July 2016, the top 5 spenders, including India did not.
While the so-called Rafael controversy is about “crony capitalism,” “corruption” “over spending,” over few thousand crore, it is overshadowed by the INR 6 lakh crore to be spent just on “modernization” of military till 2025. [see 4] Also, to be kept in mind is that fact that modern attack aircrafts on reaching Mach 1.0 use fuel worth of INR 20,000 per minute, i.e. over INR 1 lakh in 5 minutes . HAL, one of 9 DPSUs employs 9,000 workers and 5,000 engineers. There are 141 Ordinance Factories and 200 major private contractors, plus thousands small private sub contractors under the Ministry of Defence and of Defence Procurment. DRDO has 52 labs and was allocated more than INR 6 thousand crore .
One illustration of the bipartisan support of intense militarism in Indian politics is provided by what UPA II did when “the Indian military faced a moment where it has to choose between fighting the debilitating effects of a slow economy after 2011 verses the pursuit of a largely Pakistan-specific military buildup.” [see 4] The report later notes that “India did not face any immediate threat from any neighbor beyond border and water disputes with Pakistan and China. But New Delhi all but closed that door with Pakistan and was not showing any particular urgency to resolve disputes with China”. About the effects on the economy the report continues: “The choices were tough for the country’s financial managers as well. The government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a reformer, chose to give priority to military expenditure over the task of jumpstarting the Indian economy” [lbid].
In addition to the enormous amount of money, infrastructure and man-power devoted to the National Security State (all this is not including the almost totally unaccountable intelligence agencies and their secret budgets ,) while actively and consciously making lives of millions more insecure, this establishment is consuming more and more intellectual and educational centers.
The recently published Draft Defence Production Policy states that “[a] High Level mechanism with involvement of Service organizations and HQIDS will be set up for identifying capability voids and defining critical technologies required for indigenous research/manufacturing in consultation with industry and academia”. Further, “This mapping will cover DRDO labs, other public sector laboratories, academic institutions and industry”. The negative effect on education and research are easy to imagine but this is in no way a new trend in fact as noted above the IITs, Birla’s BIT and other institutions of higher education were created with the aim of providing social engineer, who will identify the problems for the state and design solutions for them .
In recent decades, large swath of think-tanks and Private Security Companies (PSC) have immerged in India. The India Foundation is run by National Security Advisor’s son Shaurya Doval. It has as its Trustee Ex-Commander in Chief of Western Naval Command, Shekhar Sinha; and Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry of India; Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state in Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha; M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affaris; Ram Madhvan Varanasi, the Member of the National Executive and public relations in charge for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and; Shaurya Doval who is also the Managing Director of a capital marketing company Zeus Capital, on the Board of Governors.
The Observer Research Foundation, set up in 1990 has the following Advisors and Fellows: H.H.S Viswanathan, Indian Ambassador; H.K Dua, former MP and Media Advisor to the Prime Minister; J.M. Mauskar, former Central Pollution Control Board chairman; former Vice-Chief of Indian Navy; M. Ashraf Haidari, Director General of Policy & Strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan; IAS officer N.K. Singh; Russian politician Sergey Kurginyan; former Deputy National Security Advisor Vijay Latha Reddy and former RAW chief Vikram Sood [ORF Wikipedia page].
These and similar think tanks have a revolving gate between them and the National Security State. They are filled with people from the State offices and they suggest, prepare and shape the policies that are implemented.
Social spaces have also been taken over by the National Security State in form of private mercenary armies of varies strengths and different degree of professionalism. They are both of Indian and foreign origins. The G4S a UK based PSC provides security personals and systems to the Indian government, the coal industry, shopping malls, JNU campus . A G4S employee shot over 100 people, killing 49 in an Orlando nightclub in 2016. They were responsible for torture in Kabul and also worked with Israeli prisons and military checkpoints in occupied territories.  There are also indigenous Private Armies. Chief Minister Adithyanath’s Yuva Vahini and Rashtriya Samaj Sewa Samiti alone have about 10,000 soldiers.
Militarization of Police force is in the pipeline with help of private industry. An internal publication of Industry Chamber FICCI reported that “Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, envisions a tech-savvy police force capable of providing security to the citizens even as the physical and emotional needs of a policeman are given the credence they deserve from senior officers. The predictive policing requires modern technological capability and weapons to deal with complex crimes that pervade the society.” Adding that “[t]he private sector is keen to collaborate with the police force to beef-up the security of the country and its citizens.” 
All this development and new surveillance systems like NETRA, the fact that internal documents from the national security agencies generally have never been declassified and the external and internal data monitoring and collection agencies like NTRO should be seen in light of the state of civil liberties, censorship, privacy, criminal justice system and how they actually function in the country. The absence of debates on these topics in this context in India, compared to that in the United States, is almost absolute.
In conclusion, internally the Indian National Security State is very big, financially, in infrastructural and in man-power. It is harmful because of its opportunity cost on the people and society, i.e. lack of environmental friendly and climate resilient infrastructure, research in core sciences and primary tool industries, health care and quality education. It is also bad because of its corrosive effect on democracy by secrecy, militarization of society, degradation of educational and research institutions and disregard for civil liberties.
Some conceptual clarification before looking at the facts. A major part of the national security state is the armed forces. Even if we restrict the discussion of “peace” as defined as the absence of war, and do not include the various forms of institutional violence on individuals, it should be noted that India is a Permanent War Economy. A state where research, production, planning, and training for war is a major on going part of the state, even when the bullets may not be flying at any given time. This establishment and its processes are, at least theoretically, in service of assisting the armed forces. And generally the armed forces are supposed to secure the population from violent actions of other nation states and from attacks of non-state actors, internal and external. Only these two kinds of threats are supposed to justify and legitimize the massiveness of the establishment.
The border and water disputes with China and, conflict over Kashmir and similar disputes with Pakistan are real problems for everyone involved. But a close examination of recent conflicts with China and Pakistan show that the national security logic has only made the disputes worse and have hindered settlements. For example, The Doklam stand-off last year is presented in Indian media as a case of Chinese aggression while less emphasized and sometimes missing are the facts that “[t]his was not a direct territorial dispute between China and India, but India deployed military units on behalf of Bhutan, the only neighboring country with which China lacks diplomatic ties. The stand-off lasted over two months before the two sides extricated themselves from it. The chronic mistrust underlying what was essentially a small and localized crisis flared up again in December 2017, when an Indian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, drone) crashed on the Chinese side of the Sikkim section of the China-India border.” 
Bhutan few weeks after the standoff began was against Indian military involvement, it deliberately did not deployed its Royal Bhutanese Army troops side by side Indian soldiers and, China and Bhutan was interested in resolving the matter bilaterally. And it was noted that, “Bhutan, it seemed, has nothing to gain and everything to lose in this standoff,” also, “the question that was increasingly being asked was on why Bhutan was being dragged into the rivalry between India and China”. 
The Global Security report quoted above also didn’t fail to notice that “New Delhi all but closed that door with Pakistan and was not showing any particular urgency to resolve disputes with China.” I also believe that India’s official stance with Pakistan that talks can begin after Pakistan deals with “its terrorist problem” is unnecessary and unhelpful, but given the limited space I will not deal with the issue here.
There are workable suggestions being provided by peace activists and scholars. It includes strengthening already available international legal and institutional frameworks, while creating new regime of disarmament inspection and verification. And mechanisms of dealing with violations of these agreements. Also, a conversion from a permanent war economy to a civilian economy .
In case of non-state threats, or “terrorist” threats , there too is considerable evidence showing that minimizing this threat is not a priority for the national security states world-wide and in fact, that they directly and indirectly intensify the terrorist threat . I will argue that the Indian National Security State has only made this threat worse in India by its sledge-hammer approach of dealing with political problems and actively committing acts of terrorism itself.
A small group of researcher, led by anthropologist Scott Atran, has provided framework for looking at non-state radical terrorist groups and the empirical evidence supporting it. They conclude that, a sense of “Look, you’re on the outs, nobody cares about you, but look what we can do. We can change the world.” attracts the young individuals who are willing to take up arms for their “sacred values.” Most of these young men come from societies that have excluded them from economic, social and political participation and where they see no future. An objective reality of oppression and subjective sense of humiliation and feeling of alienation forms the backbone of a terrorist .
In Kashmir, too the acceptance and strength of terrorist organizations directly correlates to the amount of political and violent repression by the Indian State. The genuine grievances of Kashmiris have never been addressed by any state party and Indian state has taken away the platforms of peaceful settlement – as it rejects any need for a settlement. All this creates a sense of alienation and the reality of “you’re on the outs, nobody cares about you,” without which the terrorist organizations and groups cannot emerge or function. In addition to not addressing the real grievances, Indian state has committed major crimes in the region that in eyes of the terror groups, with some justification, legitimizes their own use of violence .
In 1996 Human Rights Watch reported that “Indian security forces have intensified their efforts against militant groups, stepping up cordon-and-search operations and summarily executing captured militant leaders. Alongside them, operating as a secret, illegal army, have been state-sponsored paramilitary groups, composed of captured or surrendered former militants described as “renegades” by the Indian government. Many of these groups have been responsible for grave human rights abuses, including summary executions, torture, and illegal detention as well as election-related intimidation of voters.
“While attempting to reassure the international community that they have taken steps to curb human rights abuses in Kashmir, Indian forces have in effect subcontracted some of their abusive tactics to groups with no official accountability. The extrajudicial killings, abductions and assaults committed by these groups against suspected militants are instead described as resulting from “intergroup rivalries.” But civilians have also been their victims, and the militia groups have singled out journalists, human rights activists and medical workers for attack. They have been given free rein to patrol major hospitals in Srinagar, particularly the Soura Institute, the Sri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital and the Bone and Joint Hospital. They have murdered, threatened, beaten and detained hospital staff; in some cases these abuses have occurred in full view of security force bunkers or in the presence of security force officers. They have also removed patients from hospitals. These abuses constitute clear violations of medical neutrality.” 
And recently UN High Commissioner for Human Rights brought out a report stating that, “[i]n responding to demonstrations that started in July 2016, Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries. Civil society estimates are that 130 to 145 civilians were killed by security forces between mid-July 2016 and end of March 2018, and 16 to 20 civilians were killed by armed groups in the same period. One of most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet-firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun that fires metal pellets.”
“Over 1,000 people were detained under the PSA (Public Safety Act, 1978) between March 2016 and August 2017. Human rights groups had warned Jammu and Kashmir authorities that minors were being arrested under the PSA in 2016 and 2017.”
“During the 2016 unrest, there were numerous reports of attacks on, and obstruction of, basic medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in Kashmir. Human rights groups claimed that days-long curfews and communications blockades also had a major impact on people and their access to medical care in Kashmir.”
“Impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances in Kashmir continues as there has been little movement towards credibly investigating complaints including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.”
For killing of civilians, use of human shield, attack on medical units and disproportionate use of force, the Indian state actions constitute crime under Protocol I of ICC, Common Article 3 of Geneva Convention, Article 18 19 21 and 21 of Geneva Convention and constitute war crime under 1998 ICC Statues Article 8(2)(b)(ix) and (e)(iv).
Acts of terror are crimes. And they must be dealt as such. The perpetrators must be arrested, given fair trial and sentences. Lack of such action is itself a crime and increases terror activities.
Any real attempt of stopping terrorism must include these steps by a nation state. 1) Serious attempt of addressing genuine grievances of the groups, 2) fair arrest, trial and sentence in case of non-combat captures, 3) stopping state terrorism. Indian and other national security states have so far failed to do this and have moved in the opposite direction of spreading more terror in name of stopping it.
In conclusion to this section, though the justification of National Security State is derived from security from internal and external non-state and state threats it is not clear if the institutional logic and practices of this establishment can ensure such a security. In fact, as I have tried to show, these institutions hinder actual peace processes by choosing more violent (and at times criminal) course of action. Hence, there is a need for strengthening and creating international institutions and mechanisms with aim of de-militarization, disarmament and economic conversion.
A Congealed Auschwitz
On January 13 2018, this message appeared on the screen of mobile phones, television sets and was heard on radio in Hawaii:
BLASSISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
38 minutes later it was announced to be a false alarm. But overwhelming evidence of nuclear accidents and false alarms suggests a similar and real alert might appear on our screens anytime .
In Bhopal 1,22,520 deaths and 2,49,340 injuries, from a single ground explosion of a 45 kiloton yield nuclear warhead can be expected – not taking into consideration the fallout effects. This could happen due to a provocative strike, because of miscalculation or warning system error or could happen in Gwalior due to an accidental explosion of our own warhead (in which case the casualties will be much greater as the yield of our warheads is 60 kt.)
The threats of nuclear explosion, “limited nuclear wars” or the final total war are far greater than those from any terrorist organization. But Indian National Security State is making its own population insecure and is holding the world’s population a hostage by its nuclear weapons. Indian’s disinterest in Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year shows our unwillingness to move towards eliminating these indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction. Instead the planners of the national security state, the think tanks and the academia try to legitimize the weapons.
Marcus Raskin, who was a nuclear war planner, in an interview said:
“My view was that this did not separate us from those engineers and technocrats who worked on figuring out how large boxcars should be for sending people to concentration camps, to Dachau and Auschwitz, and indeed measuring or figuring out how large the gas ovens would be, because indeed, nuclear weapons had become, in my mind, then, and certainly there’s no cause to change my view on this, that each nuclear weapon of a large size was no different than a congealed concentration camp, a congealed Auschwitz”.
The national security state, the institutions and its political economy are a massive burden on nation economy, resources, technology and man-power. It degrades civil liberties and rule of law. It makes the world insecure by taking more violent stances on issues that could be peacefully resolved under alternative set of institutions and it aggravates non-state terrorism. The security it claims to provide is very limited and comes, if it does at all, at very high social cost. The peace it promises is a far cry from its prescribed line of action.
Notes and References:
Robert S. Anderson, Nucleus and Nation, 2010; Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future, 2003; Michael E. Latham, Modernization as Ideology, 2000.
Timothy Kerswell, Studies of the Indian communist movement, in Labor and Society, 2018.
Lloyd J. Dumas, The Overburdened Economy, 1987, pg 29-30.
Military Budget, Globalsecurity,
“Budget 2018: Health, education, sanitation allocation appears to be most in 3 years but it isn’t” Firstpost, Feb 2 2018
Nick Turse, The Complex, pg 46.
In most countries, especially among top military spenders, military spending on research and development acts as a cover for developing next generation high-tech economy. Modern computers, the internet, digital camera, wifi and more are produced by decades of public funding in name of defense and later are sold off at extremely low prices to private corporations to make profits. See, Kenneth S. Flamm’s Targeting the Computer. Similarly in India, within few years alone, DRDO has sold it’s drone technology to ideaForge. And is in process of selling radar tech. This primarily military technology use in commercial and industrial machinery and design has a corrosive effect of creating wealth inequality and limiting the spectrum of scientific research.
There is no parliamentary legislation governing RAW, DIA, IB and their functioning. Unlike USA where CIA Act 1949 and National Security Act 1947 are present. RAW does not come under any ministry, is not responsible to the parliament, it’s staffing is not regulated by any formal mechanism and theoretically reports directly to the Prime Ministers’ Office. It has it’s own aircrafts and Special Operations Force. And by sources that cannot be independently confirmed the total annual budget is above INR I lakh crore.
Stuart W. Leslie, et al. “Exporting MIT: Technology and Nation-Building in India and Iran” 2006.
Voice of FICCI, August, 2018.
SIPRI Yearbook 2018, pg. 13.
“Bhutan’s Diplomatic Triumph In Doklam”, The Bhutanese, 02, September, 2017
Security in Disarmament, Richard J. Barnet, Richard A. Falk, 1965; Real Security, Ed. Kevin J. Cassidy and Gregory A Bischak, 1993.
A review of literature on use of the label “terrorism” as a myth and for propaganda purposes has been done in Jeffrey Sluka, et al. “What Anthropologists Should Know about the Concept of Terrorism.” Anthropology Today, Vol. 18, No. 2; And William Blum, Killing Hope, 2004, gives a good overview of state-terrorism by the United States.
Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, 2010; Chalmers Johnson, Blowback, 2000.
Scott Atran, Talking To The Enemy, 2010; for more empirical evidence see bibliography in 2010 and Atran et al, “The Devoted Actor as Parochial Altruist: Sectarian Morality, Identity Fusion, and Support for Costly Sacrifices”, Cliodynamics, 5(1), 2014.
“As uncertainties mount in Kashmir, militancy regains legitimacy in the public eye,” Parvaiz Bukhari. Scroll.in; A History of Resentment and Nominal Power, KashmiriInk; Steps Towards Peace: Putting Kashmiris First, Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°106, 3 June 2010. “A Kashmiri Solution for Kashmir”, Eqbal Ahmad.
Human Rights Watch, India’s Secret Army in Kashmir: New Patterns of Abuse Emerge in the Conflict, 1 May 1996
Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 14 June 2018.
Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, 2017; Eric Schlosser, Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident.