India needs the anchor of a national security strategy

India needs the anchor of a national security strategy


The newly formed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government faces significant national security challenges. Key decisions await on a range of critical issues, from building another aircraft carrier to implementing theaterisation and managing strategic relations with the United States while contending with China.

  • The solution lies in developing a National Security Strategy (NSS), a comprehensive framework guiding India’s long-term security and strategic decisions.

GS-02 GS-03 (Government policies and interventions, Security)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Topic About?
  • What are the Concerns?
  • Challenges
  • Suggested measures

What is the Topic About?

  • National Security Strategy (NSS): A National Security Strategy (NSS) is a formal document that outlines a country’s strategic objectives, threats, and planned responses. Unlike many powerful states, India lacks such a cohesive strategy, leading to ad-hoc and fragmented decision-making in national security matters.
  • Strategic Assessment: An NSS would compel the government to undertake a comprehensive strategic assessment, reviewing threats and opportunities while considering global security trends. This assessment would spotlight evolving challenges like China’s naval growth, which might not be an immediate threat but could become significant over time.
  • Long-term Planning Framework: An NSS provides a coherent framework for long-term strategic planning. It aids in conceptualizing how best to secure India’s interests and develop necessary military capabilities and international partnerships. It helps in making informed decisions between competing demands, like choosing between a new aircraft carrier or an infantry division.
  • Signaling Strategic Intent: An NSS serves as an instrument for signaling India’s strategic intent to both allies and adversaries. It clarifies India’s role in regional security, such as its commitment to being a net security provider in the Indian Ocean, and helps manage expectations with strategic partners.
  • Government Synchronization: An NSS forces various arms of the government to synchronize their efforts. It aligns the Integrated Defence Staff and joint organizations with the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy, ensuring a unified approach to national security. It also coordinates actions across different ministries and agencies.
  • Accountability and Transparency: An NSS introduces accountability, ensuring that the bureaucracy adheres to the political leadership’s strategic intent. It enhances transparency, allowing citizens and Parliament to understand how the government plans to safeguard national security.

What are the Concerns?

  • Fragmented Decision-Making: Without an NSS, India’s capability investment decisions are often the result of inter-service haggling, leading to fragmented and inefficient allocation of resources.
  • Neglected Long-term Threats: In the absence of a systematic review, long-term threats may be ignored until they become immediate and severe, making them harder to manage effectively.
  • Resource Wastage: The lack of a cohesive strategy risks wasting scarce resources on projects with limited strategic value, instead of addressing critical capability gaps.
  • Lack of Strategic Clarity: Without clear strategic signaling, India’s intentions may be misunderstood by both allies and adversaries, leading to misaligned expectations and strategic miscalculations.


  • Political and Bureaucratic Resistance: Developing and implementing an NSS requires overcoming resistance within the political and bureaucratic systems, where existing practices and power structures are deeply entrenched.
  • Complex Threat Landscape: The rapidly evolving global threat landscape, including issues like climate change, pandemics, and technological advancements in warfare, adds complexity to the strategic planning process.
  • Resource Allocation: Balancing limited resources among various competing demands, such as defense procurement and development projects, is a significant challenge.
  • Inter-service Rivalries: Rivalries between the military services can hinder the development of a unified strategy and the effective implementation of an NSS.

Suggested Measures:

  • Conduct a thorough strategic assessment, identifying and prioritizing threats and opportunities in a comprehensive manner. This should include regular reviews to stay updated with global security trends.
  • Create a detailed NSS that provides a clear framework for long-term planning. This strategy should guide decisions on military capabilities, international partnerships, and resource allocation.
  • Establish mechanisms to ensure better coordination between different branches of the military and across various ministries and agencies. This includes creating integrated command structures and joint task forces.
  • Make the NSS a public document, endorsed by the Prime Minister, to enhance transparency and accountability. This will allow citizens and Parliament to understand and evaluate the government’s strategic plans.
  • Use the NSS to clearly signal India’s strategic intentions to both allies and adversaries. This includes defining India’s role in regional security and outlining its policy on cooperation with international partners.
  • Institutionalize the process of regularly updating the NSS to adapt to changing global dynamics and emerging threats. This ensures the strategy remains relevant and effective.


The NDA government’s national security challenges require a structured and holistic approach to decision-making. Developing a National Security Strategy (NSS) is essential for providing a comprehensive framework that guides India’s strategic objectives, threat assessments, and resource allocations. An NSS will enhance coordination, improve long-term planning, ensure accountability, and clarify India’s strategic intentions.