The Pandemic and the Military Dimension of India’s National Security

Binita Verma
26th June 2021

Picture Courtesy: The Print

For any country, national security is the foremost agenda to achieve and for achieving this, one has to have a strong and effective military. National Security has been defined traditionally only in military terms, but the conception of national security is beyond  this notion and includes several dimensions, whether it is terrorism, insurgencies,  natural calamities or the COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken global health security and international affairs at large.

As the pandemic hit India’s national health system, with a severity that was unexpected and astonishing, the specter of non- military threats confronted the nation and security of the citizens became paramount. However, geopolitics even in the times of the pandemic cannot be discounted in the calculus of India’s national security. Whether it is internal security or external security, or the complex socio-economic dimension, they all are inter-related or interconnected with one other and play an important role at the times of crisis.

The security threat that emerged during the pandemic from China’s aggression in the ‘Galwan Valley’ has disturbed peace and stability at the border and deteriorated India-China relations severely. What is more troubling is that China’s challenge to India’s national security comes at a time when India has been acutely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Line of Actual Control (LAC), which has become a major entangled area between India and China, has already seen several face-offs, aggressive dispute and many other forms of clashes among Indian troops and the Chinese one, more actively from May 2020. These locations include Chinese version of the Ladakh region, and claims on Arunachal Pradesh in the northeast region of India. Despite several rounds of bilateral talks between the two countries on the border issue, things remain unresolved and China’s aggression has only ended up escalating tensions.

Besides the external challenges faced by a country, equally daunting are the internal challenge that require strong political foundations, better social harmony, efficient law and order and good governance. All these factors become more starkly pertinent at the time of any calamities or pandemic like situation. All services of the Indian Armed Forces have been leading from the front towards India’s military preparedness and readiness to deal with all sort of challenges, while at the same time, attending to the call of duty during disaster relief missions, as seen during the cyclones in Mumbai and Orissa. The Indian Navy is always ready with its rescue teams whether it is the ‘Cyclone Tauktae’, in the Arabian Sea and the ‘Cyclone Yaas’ in the eastern coast.

The Indian government with the help of the state governments has placed military warships and aircrafts for the rescue and for the relief purposes. The armed forces were ready with their life saving relief supplies and oxygen supplies for immediate treatment at the Covid-19 hospitals too; amidst the dangers posed militarily at the borders from Chinese aggression. In the emerging circumstances, India is faced with threats at multiple angles, one at the traditional military front vis-à-vis India’s adversaries and at other front, through newer technologies that are changing the nature of warfare and creating new battlefields, including at the fronts of cyber warfare and biological weapons.

Therefore, the realm of national security going beyond just the traditional military dimension, and involving newer forms of threats means that the Indian Armed Forces will have to be adapting to the new direction. The need of the hour is a much more developed and technologically advanced warfare strategy, beyond the traditional methods of warfare. Therefore, besides the question of more enhanced border security and the diplomatic channels opened to manage the border disputes with adversarial countries, there remains the question also of the ways in which the military manpower can be developed in a more mechanized fashion forms towards the more advanced ways. In addition to adapting to new network centric battlefield situation with new technology acquisition and advanced training doctrine, there is a need for various sections of the military to move towards a more coordinated momentum to deal with the more complex future challenges to India’s national security.

*The author is currently pursuing Ph.D. in the US Studies Program, CCUSLAS, SIS, JNU and is an Associate Fellow at the Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author