International Conference on National Security Management in Federal Structure

– Perspectives from India and the United States

6th, 7th December, 2013

Kochi, India


Left to Right: Dr. D. Dhanuraj (Chairman, CPPR), Mr. Hormis Tharakan IPS, (Former Chief of RAW), Dr K.N. Raghavan, (Commissioner, Cochin Customs), David Gainer, (Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate, Chennai), Prof. K.C. Abraham, (Academic Director, CPPR), Prof. (Dr.) G. Gopakumar, (Department of Political Science, University of Kerala) during the Inaugural Ceremony of the International Conference

National Security has emerged as a key topic of discussion worldwide at all levels of society, especially over the last two decades. India and the United States of America are two major nations which face myriad security challenges on a regular basis and numerous parallels have been drawn about the similarities and differences of the political and social structures existing in both countries and how they have been strengthened and weakened by their respective democratic federal structures. It is being considered essential to conduct relevant dialogue sessions and discussions about the various threats and attacks both countries have already faced and the risks their security apparatus may be vulnerable to in the future, as also the reasons which might influence the same. This is primarily to enable the formation of a shared knowledge base which can prove useful in the analysis and deconstruction of these various security related issues and how they can influence the creation of relevant polity and policy while these factors are kept in mind for the future.

The Centre for Strategic Studies, the newly formed wing of the Centre for Public Policy Research, was considered as an ideal facilitator by the United States Consulate based in Chennai, to enable the conducting of an International Conference on National Security Management. Renowned scholars, former intelligence and security personnel as also academicians from both India and the United States were invited to engage in a dialogue on this pressing topic which is deemed as an essential need and call of the hour.

Diverse insights and perspectives were obtained from the lively discussions which were conducted on the first day of the conference, where talks were centered around three themes, namely Perceptions, Notions and Dimensions of National Security in a Federal Setup – A Tour D’ Horizon’ ‘Typologies of the National Security Debate: Economic and Societal Issues’ and ‘ Regional Security Dynamics: Environmental and Community Concerns’

 The Plenary session followed the final thematic discussion where the delegates were divided into three topics to discuss the following topics –

1)      Internal Security and Role of States in the Federal Structure ,

2)      Role of federal states in changing geopolitical dynamics of Asia

3)      Role of federal states in changing geopolitical dynamics of Asia

Each group engaged in discussions leading to constructive arguments which were later presented by them. Mr Padmakumar IPS chaired the session and gave concluding remarks about tactical issues faced by US and India and the differences in combating them due to the diverse nature of Indian population.

 The papers presented and the debates they provoked encompassed a wide range of security related subject matters, providing the discerning audience with fresh and unique insights on the challenges and successes in the global security arena over the past few years, and these narrations were further embellished by the fact that they represented the viewpoints from two different hemispheres, each saddled with its own security issues.

The following were the salient issues that emerged out of the deliberations as a part of the International Conference.

  1.  India and the US, in the current geopolitical changes, share by and large the same threat perceptions and security concerns. At the same time, both the countries have different sets of systems to address the larger security concerns and it was believed among the participants that both the countries have to learn from each others experiences.
  2. In India, the national security comes under the Union list, and the internal security issues come under the orbit of the State list. The US, on the other hand, has been able to devise a holistic mechanism after September 11 2001, where integration of a number of security measures are led and coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security. The President of the US obviously calls the shot at the apex level of the decision making. The Centre-State relations, as far as the maintenance of national security is concerned, need to be understood in the political contexts of both the countries.
  3. The participants discussed on the US experience of  Federal working of tackling the diverse challenges and threats that faced the states and the Federal governments in terms of resources, expertise and operational experiences.
  4. The imperative for establishing NCTC (National Counter Terrorism Centre) in the context of India seemed to be a necessity but the discussion centred on the need to reinvigorate the existing institutions dealing with either intelligence gathering or countering terrorism.
  5. There was a consensus among the participants that advances in the field of science and technology have made the nation states across the globe highly vulnerable. Cyber security, as a case in point, was deliberated and linked with, as the major challenge of India’s national security and the US as well.
  6. The discussion centred on left wing extremism in India and how it is impacting negatively on India’s security. The rationale for left wing extremism was explained, and included discussions of the causes of insurgencies such as inequality, and alternative mechanisms to deal with left wing extremism were elaborated.
  7. There was a differing perspective on the migration issues, especially in terms of correlating the problems emanating from illegal migration and linking it with both a state and national security.
  8. While discussing violent non state actors and their emerging role, it was stressed that there are ways by which the nation states like India and the US can cooperate collectively and counter the perils emanating from such negative forces. The role of Al Qaeda and its affiliates, in particular, was underscored during the deliberations.
  9. In the emerging international system, the participants argued the need to strengthen the concept of the responsibility to protect civilians during armed conflict between the state and the people. The ensuing debate on the responsibility to protect highlighted a greater understanding of the themes relating to the responsibility to protect civilians and the necessary measures undertaken by the states under the auspices of the UN.
  10. During the session on regional security dynamics, there was a consensus among the participants that maritime security has emerged as a major concern for the nation states across the globe. The challenges are immense, but unfortunately the collective means to address those challenges are limited. There is a need to create awareness about the various maritime security threats including piracy, terrorism and the protection of Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs). There is certainly a growing fear that if India and the US don’t take the lead in managing maritime affairs, then the chances of instability and conflict in the maritime domain will be higher.
  11. The participants also deliberated the challenges to maritime security from a legal perspective. Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive mechanisms and laws for collective security in the maritime domain. The UNCLOS seems to be inadequate because of the dynamic nature of geopolitical changes. It was emphasized that the nation states have to understand the growing concerns and evolve a comprehensive international law dealing with these emerging complexities.
  12. The participants also deliberated on the need to have an effective policing mechanism through community-police partnership. Such partnership would help in strengthening HUMINT (Human Intelligence). Such processes would help in building mutual trust and confidence, which ultimately would become an important tool in the maintenance of national security.
  13. The theme on coastal security and the role of fishermen also featured as a part of major debate and discussion. It was highlighted that India in particular has a responsibility to protect its huge coastline of 7516kms. The responsibility to protect the coast lies with the state government. In this context, the role of fishermen especially in gathering intelligence as a part of HUMINT measure was underscored.

 The major observations made were mainly in the context of the geopolitical challenges and how India will need to place itself. Undoubtedly, India and the United States will need to make a concerted effort to address the concerns and needs of security. The bilateral counter-terrorism effort, in terms of intelligence sharing, needs to be strengthened for better coordination and to address the severe threat. There is a need to intensify bilateral cooperation in every sphere.

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