By Shashank Joshi, Research Fellow
RUSI Analysis, 29 Jun 2014
RUSI Analysis, 29 Jun 2014
India’s new National Security Advisor is a highly respected intelligence officer, whose extensive writings show him to be a cautious hawk with a strong focus on internal security.
The foreign policy of recently elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an open book: some expect an internationalist, economics-focused reformer; others a security-focused hawk. We have had few glimpses of Modi’s foreign policy in action, apart from purposeful engagement with India’s neighbours. But a leader’s choice of counsellors can be revealing.
Modi has sent an important signal in appointing former Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Ajit Doval as his new National Security Advisor (NSA). Doval is a highly decorated intelligence officer who until his appointment had been leading the right-leaning Delhi think-tank, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), in which capacity he participated in a number of projects with RUSI. Fortunately for analysts, Doval has left a rich seam of writing on national security issues, running to tens of thousands of words.
First, Doval clearly believes that national security begins at home. Reflecting his career in the field, his writings are marked by a consistent emphasis on the primacy of domestic problems over foreign ones. As early as 2006 Doval argued, ‘India's internal vulnerabilities are much higher than its external vulnerabilities’.
He therefore sees the most dangerous foreign threats as being those that target India’s domestic weaknesses, and stresses the importance of growing and equipping state police forces. But hisseverest warning is directed elsewhere: ‘I consider infiltration of Bangladeshis the biggest internal security problem. Bangladesh supports the demographic invasion of India’.
Second, Doval views internal security in broad and sweeping terms. One recurring theme is his disdain for ‘front organizations supporting the cause of anti-national forces, masquerading as human right groups’. This is an issue with particular resonance after the IB’s recent description of Greenpeace and its European funders as ‘a threat to national economic security’.
In a Hindi-language speech to an audience comprising largely of supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – the party of government – Doval also argued that a millennia-old Indian national identity was under threat. He also claimed that the core of national security was not physical security but cultural identity, and praised the BJP as the only political party promoting Indian-ness. This suggests that Doval envisages a crucial – and controversial – cultural dimension to internal security.