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'India faces more internal than external threat', former foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon
"Never before were we so dependent on the rest of the world than we are today. Today, we have more internal threat than external."

These views were expressed by Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary of India. He was speaking at the launch of "The Oxford Handbook of India's National Security" at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), in New Delhi recently.

Menon talked about the changing nature of power and violence and wondered how irrelevant the traditional power of the state is to new notions of security. The book covers them all.

Referring to the complexity of security in the context of emerging security threats like internal migration, cyber crime, climate change, etc some of which were global in nature but equally affected individual states, he said, "Today, there is no external existential threat to India, it comes from within".

He further said that while crime rates were climbing, 'the traditional policing and state structures no longer can cope with that'. The reason could be that the expectations from the state have grown and gone up.

The former diplomat also raised questions about measuring the state capacity remarking that the best capacity is the human capacity but there are no mechanisms to address the challenges arising out of new phenomenon like the population increasingly moving urban, which has led to increasing "social violence". We have a whole new society where people have been away from their traditional social structures. What do they do in such situations? For Menon, conditions like these convert politics into mass psychology or mob psychology. And, traditional means don't cope with it. So where do we go?, asked he. That's why the book is important and we need books like these because they give us a framework and tell us how to think about these issues.

Memon, who had also served as the National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said that he was stuck with some of the issues discussed in the book, which he described as 'remarkable'. The big question is how these analyses can be turned into public policy, he asked.

C Raja Mohan, Director, Carnegie India, termed the book an 'impressive contribution' to bring together knowledge making it accessible to ordinary people, IAS aspirants, academics and intelligentsia. He called it a 'commendable venture' and an 'extraordinary productive work' on India's international relations and security, commenting at the same time that there was 'too much political science and too little history' which can 'distort perspectives'. I am not saying that there should be less political science, but 'there should be more history' that can make political science better.

Chairing the session, Shakti Sinha, Director, NMML said that the definition of national security keeps changing, adding that the conceptualization of security can be problematic if we keep expanding it.

Published by the Oxford University Press, the book is an analysis of the traditional and non-traditional security threats the country faces and the need for bilateral, regional, and multilateral efforts. Spread over 22 chapters, it includes different views and interpretations of national security experts from different countries of the world.

The book's editors Sumit Ganguly, Nicolas Blarel and Manjeet S Pardesi shared their thoughts about different aspects of the work especially about expansion of security to cover non-traditional areas and the reasons for it. They also shared their experiences of working on the book and with its contributors from different parts of the world. Ganguly, an eminent scholar of political science, said, "The book deals with both conceptual point of view and institutional point of view" as to how the state responds to it. It fills the important gaps in the literature and includes a range of theoretical and empirical perspectives and frameworks, thus covering the entire gamut of security.

(The author is a PhD Fellow, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia)

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