National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Tuesday said India needed to stop punching “below its weight” and “punch proportionately” instead.
Delivering the 21st Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture on ‘State Security, Statecraft and Conflict of Values’ in Mumbai, a day after he oversaw the signing of a peace accord with Naga insurgents, Doval said: “India has a mentality to punch below its weight. We should not punch below our weight or above our weight, but improve our weight and punch proportionately.”
He said India had to create a deterrence against attacks on its soil. “If you make a provocation, you are partly responsible. But if you are not able to exercise power, it is as good as not having it… There is no point of having Rs 50,000 in your pocket if you starve to death.”
Referring to his phone call to Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit on July 15 as tensions escalated on the border, the NSA said it was “not right” to suggest that he had bypassed the Ministry of External Affairs.
“Pakistan had started firing. It was necessary to tell them without loss of time that you stop, or we will retaliate. It was five minutes past 7 in the morning.” He paused and then added: “Mrs Sushma Swaraj was not there at that time.”
“There is a conflict between important and immediate. But when there is convergence of important and immediate and there is still bureaucratic interference, you do not deserve to be where you are,” he said.
Quoting from the Gita and the Quran, Doval sought to explain the dilemma one faces between “individual morality” and the “value system of the state”.
“State is necessary. If it is necessary, protecting itself will be its supreme role. Individual morality cannot be inflicted on the larger interest of society. The nation will have to take recourse to all means to protect itself. And in this, it cannot afford to subjugate what is in its long-term interest,” he said.
He drew on his personal experience to illustrate that values of the state have to be put above personal values. “I come from a uttarakhand Brahmin family which is vegetarian. I was posted for seven years in the North-East and for another seven years in Pakistan. I was not fond of non-vegetarian food, but I had to eat it at times. Should there be clash of values, the higher values (of the state) is selfless.”
Doval, who was in Mumbai the day the 1993 serial blasts convict Yakub Memon was executed and his body transported from Nagpur to Mumbai, disapproved of Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s remarks in the aftermath of the hanging — he didn’t name Tharoor though.
“In the evening last Thursday (the day of the hanging), somebody tweeted me a statement by an important leader that — State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too… I am not going into the propriety, exigency or the correctness of the statement. There is something which is in public interest, in the larger interests of the nation and of generations of Indians yet to take birth,” he said.
Elaborating on the instruments available with the state, he said “the first duty of Government of India is to protect itself. In this protection, conflict of interest is automatic… When state acts in a judicial way in the due process of law, its actions are correct, and it does not reduce you to murderers.”
During a question and answer session later, he rejected theories that Yakub Memon had been executed because the government could not apprehend his brother Tiger Memon. “It is not this or that,” Doval said, “Tiger Memon is a standalone. And Yakub Memon is a standalone.”