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USI organised a Web Discussion on the topic “Impact of COVID-19 on India’s CNP and Internal Security”, on 13th May 2020. The keynote address was given by Maj Gen BK Sharma, AVSM, SM and Bar (Retd) Director, USI and the moderator for the event was Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan, AVSM, VSM (Retd) Head CS3, USI. The main speakers were Shri Jitesh Khosla IAS (Retd) and Shri Jayanto N Choudhary IPS (Retd).

Report prepared by Dr Roshan Khanijo, Asst Director Research with Naireen Khan, Aastha Gupta and Sudesh Yadav, Research Interns, USI of India

For India to be self-reliant and pursue its national interests, the components of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) need to be strengthened. Issues like hard and soft power; regional integration; viable environment to attract multinational companies for economic growth, role of diasporas, etc are important parameters for CNP. Further, in the aftermath of COVID, India will need a robust strategy for both maintaining internal security and external power projection. Keeping this goal in mind USI organised a Web Discussion on the topic “Impact of COVID-19 on India’s CNP and Internal Security”, on 13th May 2020. The keynote address was given by Maj Gen BK Sharma, AVSM, SM and Bar (Retd) Director, USI and the moderator for the event was Maj Gen Rajiv Narayanan, AVSM, VSM (Retd) Head CS3, USI. The main speakers were Shri Jitesh Khosla IAS (Retd) and Shri Jayanto N Choudhary IPS (Retd). The event had two sessions. The key takeaways from the event are listed below.

Session 1: Impact on India’s CNP

Speaker: Shri Jitesh Khosla

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation recently and outlined the key areas like infrastructure and technology that are to play an important role in the post COVID world. To achieve a self-reliant India, it is of paramount importance that the different aspects of CNP are integrated together, to give direction to external and internal policies. Such a strategy will help India overcome various challenges including the employment of about 700 million individuals in unorganised sector. CNP is the ability of a country to pursue its strategic objectives internationally. However, it has been observed that there is an absence of strategic thinking, as an element, in evaluating CNP. Hence, a pre-condition to develop India’s national power – is outlining a strategic view of India’s present situation and the course which India wants to take in future.

The Chinese have been one of the pioneers in discussing CNP. Chinese analysts suggest that countries will come into competition even when they are interconnected. For example, despite the disruption of communication during COVID outbreak, the world will remain interconnected. Regardless of this interconnection, there will be rivalry. Chinese, therefore, have expanded the traditional definition of CNP by combining all types of power for survival and development of a sovereign state. They have achieved so by identifying the following elements:

  • Staying on the path of development without being diverted.
  • Understanding that a nation’s survival and development of her material and ideal components, requires a high cost.
  • Its ability to assert and project its ideals, concepts and ethos in a broader concept.

CNP has various elements. All these components have to be combined together to bring the desired integration and synergy in our national endeavours.

To achieve national objectives, the following are important parameters for CNP:

  1. Economy: With a strong economy it is easier for a country to mobilise its soft power. To hold international influence, economic strength is essential, since it ensures that its ideas hold weight. The declaration of intent by PM is hence a useful indicator. India’s economy was in distress even before the outbreak of COVID -19, as the saving rates had reduced, Gross Fixed Capital Formation declined, banking NPAs were rising and banking sector’s credit liquidity was in crisis. This pandemic has further precipitated the situation.
  2. Digitalisation: Most important element to ensure stable growth is sustaining digital economy. Improving the digital infrastructure is essential as India lags behind in technology when compared to other countries. Implementing 4G and then graduating to 5G technology is a good start to modernise and subsequently improve digital technology. For ensuring reasonable pricing, the market for digital services needs to remain competitive. The upgradation of terms and condition and enhancing the infrastructure of digital economy seem to be the first logical step in modernising the economy.
  3. Science and Technology: India needs to look at science and technology as a driving force to take the economy forward. A clear evaluation of India’s technological advancement should be carried out, in order to achieve a global competitive edge. India historically, had emphasised on science and technology, however, in recent time Indians have been good followers but not a leader in technological development. For example, India is good in services but manufacturing needs improvement. Similarly, in the pharmaceutical sector we have developed pharmacies but not laboratories. India is now experiencing a fall in students enrolling into science-based disciplines, which will lead to shortage of scientists and technicians in the coming future.
  4. Maintaining Supply Chains: Another challenge that India faces is the maintenance of domestic and international supply chains. A detailed study of trade-offs across country supply chains and stronger regional chains needs to be done. While inter-state supply chain, which is the key for sustaining the populace, can be easily disrupted like in the current situation of a pandemic, regional and international supply chains become uneconomical. Therefore, striking a balance is essential, during the pandemic.
  5. Skill Development: A good manufacturing sector is vital for employment generation; however, the employability may reduce due to automation. The solution is to strengthen the technology and digitisation, whose role will increase in the future. To grasp this opportunity India needs to utilise its demographic dividend by ensuring proper skill development. While India’s position in these domains are not strong, it needs attention for India to be able to attract the foreign companies re-locating from the Chinese mainland.
  6. Governance: Good governance contributes immensely to national power and helps further the agenda of strengthening national ideals. India’s strength is its varied range of governance that enables it to face challenges and overcome them. India has been able to develop an effective governance model that maximises inclusivity of its diversity. Hence, post COVID, a good governance model will form the basis of recovery and subsequent development.

Challenges to governance:

  • Presenting a united front to the world is yet another challenge that needs to be dealt with. An inclusive approach needs to be adopted to project national power.
  • The next challenge is the credibility of institutions. There is a necessity of ensuring strong communication channels between the public and scientific experts. The judiciary needs to be prepared to handle a wider variety of cases, as the range of cases might widen from conflicts, state actions, to privacy concerns etc. Broader arbitration can be expected.
  • In the coming years, the social and economic impacts of COVID will increase. Due to lack of accessibility to digital platforms amongst the poor, the gap between the rich and poor will widen. Subsequently, the number of people living just above poverty line will be pushed further.
  • Credible and factual data is the basis of an informed decision. India faces a major challenge in the availability of credible data. This challenge is three-fold:
    a) Credibility of data,
    b) Lack of availability of the data altogether/ non compiling of data in certain areas of research, and
    c) Lack of updated data.

In conclusion, CNP is a measure that balances out hard and soft power. It helps further the agenda of a nation on international platform. In a post COVID world, economy and governance are two key aspects that India needs to work on. Further, science and technology, digitalisation and investment in knowledge-based economy will become the driving forces of development in future. Similarly, governance through inclusive approach and credible institutions should be promoted.

Session 2: Impact on Internal Security

Speaker: Shri Jayanto Narayan Choudhary

Governance as an aspect of CNP is often overlooked because the impact of internal governance in external power projections is underplayed. Among the five factors that Chinese strategist Sun Tzu lists as determinants of national strength, the moral law is the foremost. Sun Tzu defines moral law as the unflinching faith of the citizenry in the governance capabilities of the ruler in such a manner that they follow him regardless of any threat to their lives.

The primary role of the state is to defend against foreign aggression and to ensure security of life for all citizens. Therefore, internal security and policing must be a part of the national security architecture. The modern professional army is a legacy of the British rule in India and, it was and still, is counted among the most professional armies of the world. Another legacy that the British left was a criminal justice system. However, in doing so the colonial power had a clear objective – to maintain their regime. They were not inclined to introduce the same principles of modern policing that they followed in Great Britain, such as co-operation of the public, minimum force, and a clear understanding that the police were servants of only the law.  As a result, the policing was merely a tool for them to maintain their rule.

In India, it will be difficult for the policing system to function under a uniform pattern since policing demands are different for different regions. According to the Constitution, policing is a state subject. However, states have not been made accountable in the Constitution for maintaining policing standards, except in the case of the imposition of Article 350, wherein, the Centre takes over the governance. Today, India has a million and a half state police personnel providing policing services to a population of 1.3 billion people, over three and a half million square kilometres, through sixteen thousand police stations. The combined budget of the states’ amounts to a hundred thousand crores per year on policing. The per capita expenditure on police and the personnel to people ratio is therefore exceptionally low.

A dominant feature of policing in post-Independence India has been the growth of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs). At the time of Independence, there were hardly three or four of what was called the Crown Representative Police Forces. Today, the CAPFs has a total strength of one million personnel, on whom the centre spends about a hundred thousand crores per year.

It should be noted that the states are overly sensitive on any encroachments on their constitutional authority. The formation of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), for example, was seen as an encroachment on the state’s authority and therefore opposed. The only exception has been the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which was formed post the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. Today, the major debate is on the question whether policing should continue to be on the concurrent list, or should there be a separate list for federal crimes where the Centre can, through agencies like the NIA, take action directly, given the belief that greater resources at the centre and less political interference at the operational level will lead to greater professionalism in the forces.

Current Status of Police Modernisation in India

As per the union list the training, research and creating scientific capacity in the detection and investigation of crime is a central responsibility. These are the fundamentals that are needed in the police force, but the budget for training is only 0.5 percent of the total expenditure on policing by the states and centre combined (which is two hundred thousand crores). Much of the training budget is spent by the CAPFs, while most state police personnel throughout their careers, hardly get any opportunity for training.

It may be noted that the investment on research is at abysmally low levels. There is a worldwide drive for the police personnel to partner with academia to develop evidence based good policing practices, which is missing in India. In the United States, problem oriented and hotspot policing is being developed based on data which is providing much more effective deployment of policing resources. Such methods would be a great boon to the over stretched police in India. Although, the centre did set up a Modernization of Police Fund in the 1960s to modernize police forces, it was primarily focused on the logistics, weapon systems, infrastructure, communication systems and improvements in hardware. While there has been improvement in these aspects, but modernization of the police force goes much beyond these issues.

Modernising the police is a process of change; older ideas and attitudes have to be replaced. Upgradation of weapons, technology and communication systems are necessary but not sufficient. At present the allocation for modernization is hardly three thousand crores and much of this is spent on the CAPFs. Except for some, most states are not utilizing even the small allocation on police modernization. Recently the government has set up the Centre for Excellence for Application of Technology in Internal Security at IIT, Mumbai. It’s a testament that technology is a force multiplier, and so long as the focus is not exclusively on hard technology, it is going to be beneficial. The focus should be on soft technology development which uses data. Even in the COVID crises, those states that could use technology well and had good big data analysis capacity (whether it was for the application for passes or monitoring those who are in quarantine,) fared better than those who didn’t.

Challenges to Policing

The faith in the justice system is eroding due to the long delays in the  disposal of cases. The justice system is overburdened, with about 30 million cases clogging it. This figure relates only to the reported crimes. Unreported crime cases would nearly be the same, partly due to the reluctance of the people to report crimes and partly owing to the police not registering them for lack of capacity.

Apart from the mandatory tasks, the police also have to deal with riots. Almost 60-70,000 riots happen each year. Though, not all of them are mega riots, but the police have to be involved in all such cases to assist in resolving the issues. The police are overburdened both with court appearances, which have long gestation periods, for deposition as witness and Investigation Officers, and the other sundry inquires that it generates. While there is already an increase in the list of policing tasks, the new emerging crimes, such as online global white-collar scams, narcotics trade etc, add to this burden. It is a difficult for the police to balance the state and the citizen’s interests.

Therefore, the policing system should not just be viewed from the lens of its ability to combat terror and militancy. A holistic approach is indispensable to a modern policing system. Therefore, the second administrative reforms have talked about the policing role in terms of more specialization, insulating the police from extra-legal pressures, greater investment in technology, better training and most importantly the need for a people friendly police. Currently, there is a resurgence of de-centralized conflicts with the blurring of lines between civilians and the combatants. The states no longer have a monopoly over force, as proxy wars by non-state actors have become common.

As conflicts shift away from direct confrontation between states, there is a need for greater community engagement in governance and policing. Without an adept internal security environment, development will be stunted as also the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Therefore, social responsibility of the village panchayats and local communities should be restored. Otherwise the gap between the public and the police will remain. Urban local bodies have no interface with the police even in mega cities like Mumbai and Delhi despite the clear understanding that they and the police cannot function in silos.

Lastly, public image is important. The police system is thought to be unprofessional, corrupt, and criminalized. According to the police their perception is one of brutalization of the weak whereas compassion and service is often not mentioned. There is truly little public dialogue on policing and police issues. Therefore, the COVID lockdown and the police positive response has been an opportunity to remedy this public perception of the police.

In conclusion, a transformation of the police system from the colonial model of the past is imperative. According to UN’s resolution 2151, good governance and rule of law are essential for sustained economic development. Given India’s economic aspirations, it needs to create an internal security ecosystem that inspires confidence in big investors and encourages the Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). Therefore, the police reforms are too important to be ignored and should be a matter of national interest.


Report prepared by Dr Roshan Khanijo, Asst Director Research with Naireen Khan, Aastha Gupta and Sudesh Yadav, Research Interns, USI of India

Report uploaded on 18-05-2020

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