Challenges and agenda of security
Reviewed by Satyabrat Sinha 

Security Deficit: Comprehensive Internal Security Strategy for India
By N. Manoharan.
Centre for Land Warfare Studies and Pentagon Press. 
Pages 197. Rs 495.

SECURITY means different things to different people; it is a fundamentally contested concept. Many individuals would interpret security to mean safety from diseases and illness, economic instability and opportunity for self-development, but to others it might mean the more recognisable military security, of borders and external aggression. Others might still term the inflow of refugees from a neighbouring country or region as an issue that threatens their security. The academic understanding of security till almost the end of the Cold War period remained centred on external sources and its amelioration on military means. It was with the experience of the internal challenges, underdevelopment, and the threat of the state to its own citizens in the post-colonial states that the discourse on security widened beyond the limited state- centric straitjacketing.

Today, the security agenda is people-centric and includes ‘traditional’/’hard’ security issues of guns and bombs and external threats as well as ‘non-traditional’/ ‘soft’ issues like refugees, climate change and healthcare and has been termed Comprehensive Security. For the purpose of understanding security/insecurity, we can see them as flowing out of external and internal sources, in practice they can be over-lapping and interlinked. Depending on the context of the country, internal security occupies as much importance as external security, sometimes more. Since the end of World War II, there have been over 25 million war deaths, out of which 60 per cent are civilians and the majority of the deaths are a result of internal conflicts in the developing world.

The book under review, Security Deficit: Comprehensive Internal Security Strategy for India by N. Manoharan, deftly puts together the multiple internal security threats that India faces and offers an analysis of the government response since Independence and then argues in favour of a comprehensive internal security strategy that revolves around the five components of political, economic, social, military and diplomatic.

The need for a harmonious and a strife-free internal environment need not be emphasised not only for the primary task of socio-economic development, the correction of inequalities but also for India to emerge as a global power. The book succinctly deals with the concept of security and in the latter three parts examines the nature of threats (secessionist; renewed (Maoist) and new and specialised (jehadi and cyber threats), categorises current approaches of the Indian state (as pacificts, developmentists and realists) and mechanisms of dealing with the threats into political accommodation; developmental initiatives and kinetic measures. In brief, the book describes internal security management in India as "segmented, reactive and momentary" and points to a lack of integrated focus and on a strategy of prevention.

The book is a commendable effort at highlighting and bringing into focus the less ‘glamorous’ internal aspect of security. It seeks to add to the efforts aiming to help India shake off its bureaucratic and jurisdictional approach to internal security. It highlights coordination problems and a lack of inter-ministerial/department coordination and the Centre-state disagreements that dampen any movement. However, the book, proverbially bites more than it can chew, in its efforts at delineating the entire spectrum of challenges, the numerous meaty discussions remain cursory and limited, interpretation of specific conflicts sketchy, disagreeable and sometimes superficial. The nature of Internal security challenges like Maoists, the varied autonomy demands from secessionism to district councils, the need for a disciplined and sensitive response of a democratic state’s forces to violent conflicts offer a rare occasion to change the nature of debates by moving beyond the Centre’s statist approach that dominates the security community and envisage alternative discourse to reconceptualise or re-imagine the Indian state and its social contract.

The book in this understanding falls prey to the generic limitations of the security community, refusing to engage with other perspectives despite their theoretical endeavour to do so and the fixated outward orientation of the security apparatus interprets the internal security issues as law and order problems or a crisis of legitimacy. This turns genuine grievances into challenges to power and the authority of the state. In its assessment of state response, the book fails to address why state intervention has actually made conflicts more protracted and why is there still a lack of institutional mechanisms for conflict resolution without the recurring recourse to instruments of violence?

Despite its limitations, the book offers adequate points of engagement for the academic community and successfully builds the architecture that comprises the blocks of a comprehensive internal security strategy. It is lucid and easy to read and is well documented as it includes, numerous and pertinent tables and statistics to illustrate its arguments. The book will also be useful for the lay person and will be an important addition to the literature.