- Discuss the challenges.
The last couple of years have witnessed two cataclysmic events which are now shaping a new world order. The first of these was the emergence of a pandemic, caused by the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The second event was the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2021. Both these events, when viewed through the prism of national security, throw up a series of possible challenges for India.
Three additional factors that will contribute to global instability, and which India will have to confront are the impact of climate change, the global thirst for natural resources and the quest to be a leader in the development of advanced technology.
The Pandemic: Its strategic implications are important for India to take note of. We are entering the era of bio-weapons. The possibility of such man-made disasters occurring in the future, or the deliberate use of such weapons by a hostile power, hence cannot be ruled out.
- India had limited resources to handle the pandemic in early 2020, but facilities were soon ramped up and through preventive measures. The strategy must be to formulate pre-emptive policies on national emergencies and not act through disaster management procedures. This requires a measure of political unity and a very agile forward-looking bureaucracy.
- A major fall out of the pandemic has been the disruption of supply chains. The supply shock that started in China in February 2020 was followed by a demand shock as the global economy shut down exposing vulnerabilities in many critical sectors and leading to economic nationalism. The need for diversification of imports for critical items, especially in critical sectors such as pharma has to be ensured, to avoid shortages in times of crisis.
The Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan: The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was a foregone conclusion, once an agreement was reached between the US representatives and the Taliban leadership in Doha in February 2020.
The implications of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan are many. It marks a shift in the geo-strategic landscape of Central Asia, with the US no longer a major voice in the region. Surprisingly, none of the regional players, especially Russia and China have moved in to fill the vacuum. For India, the events in Afghanistan can have two possible major repercussions. One, it could lead to a spurt in terrorist activity within the Union Territory of J&K. A more insidious threat however, is the spurt in radicalisation that could occur within India, through a virulent Islamic ideology emanating from Afghanistan, calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in India.
Non-Conventional Threats: The threats that India face are not confined to the internal and external security domains but reflect in other sectors as well.
- The first of these is the impact of climate change leading to a rise in ocean levels. How such a contingency can be handled, would also need to be a part of the security matrix of the country.
- Shortage of resources caused by a black swan event could also be a critical destabilising factor. We need to look into probable events that could occur, such as the possibility of a conflagration taking place in the Gulf, which could potentially lead to the closure of oil producing facilities as well as of shipping across the Strait of Hormuz. As India is dependent on energy from the Gulf, such an eventuality would be catastrophic and would set back India’s development effort by many years.
- Of equal import is the need to protect our indigenous industry. We need to stop being gullible and chart a course that is in India’s interest and not get enslaved again by foreign powers.
- Advanced technologies will play a major role in the ability of major powers to gain dominance in the world order. Emerging fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, spatial computing, Green Hydrogen, Biometrics, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Blockchain, Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) are some of the exciting technologies that will shape the way we live, work and interact with each other. India will not only have to invest in these technologies, but will have to ensure the safety of our scientific manpower.
Conclusion: The challenges India faces in the emerging new world order are immense and encompass a wide range of conventional and non-conventional threats. Our ability to maintain social harmony will be a critical factor to enable the achievement of development goals. A change of mindset in the bureaucracy from controllers to facilitators is also the need of the hour. Bharat can rise if the ordinary Indian is unshackled, the society remains cohesive and an environment for excellence is created across all domains.