India needs a strong and decisive government for the next ten years to achieve its political and strategic objectives, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said Thursday while warning of a threat to the nation from forces “more within than outside”.
Delivering the annual Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture organised by All India Radio, Doval spoke about the dangers posed by “weak governments” and “unstable coalitions”, and the need to take “hard decisions” that are “not necessarily populist”.
During his nearly hour-long lecture at the National Media Centre, Doval also pointed to the power of information in today’s age and warned that “false narratives” could lead to communal riots and social disharmony.
In his lecture titled ‘Dream India: 2030, avoiding the pitfalls’, Doval said: “There are plenty of forces more within than outside, who probably are bent upon eroding the will of the nation.”
The former Intelligence Bureau Director, who took charge as NSA soon after the BJP-led NDA came to power in 2014, also said that “India will need a strong, stable and decisive government for the next ten years, let there be no doubt about it, to achieve our national, political, economic and strategic objectives”.
Elaborating on the “pitfalls”, Doval said that a “weakened democracy can tend to make the country a soft power”. “And India cannot be a soft power for the next few years. It has to become a soft power, with the ingredients of a soft power, but also a hard power. Because it will be compelled to take hard decisions. And you have to make compromises when your political survival takes precedence over national interest,” he said.
“India will have to have governments which are stable, which are decisive which are empowered by the total mandate… Because weak governments are unable to take hard decisions. And for taking India ahead, it will be necessary to take hard decisions. Hard decisions, which are good for the people but are not necessarily populist. Unstable regimes are more vulnerable to fragility, corruption, and local and sectoral political interests taking precedence,” he said.
Doval stressed that “India cannot go for unstable coalitions”. Democracy, he said, should not be “mistaken” for just the ballot box. He said ballot boxes decide who will make the laws, but a democracy (is) where the laws made by people’s representatives are enforced, using the “total might of the state”.
If “a strong India has to emerge”, then “all temptations that undermine the rule of law” have to be checked, the NSA said.
Doval also spoke about how technology has made dissemination of information easier and quicker. “Democracy requires people to be informed, but rightly informed and rightly educated. This power of the false narrative is something, which can be very, very deprecating on the destiny of the nation. The negativism and false narratives are the basis… on which communal violence takes place, social animosities are created,” he said.
Describing the economy as a major source of the country’s strength, Doval said that India is slated to become the third largest economy in the world by 2030. He said tough decisions are also needed, which may not be populist, for the economy. Without referring to the GST, which came into force last year, Doval said that India “can’t have a fractured tax” architecture for the “mega economy” that it will become.
“Firm decisions are in the larger interest of the nation”, even though some decisions may cause some “pain and hardships”, Doval said. He cited the example of soaring oil prices internationally, saying that in such times tough decisions have to be taken, keeping in mind that the “nation will bear” it and that it’s a “phase”.
The NSA said that private companies will play a significant role in taking the country forward, just as corporates have propelled the growth of China. But private companies should not be viewed with suspicion, he said, adding that “suspecting” every corporate will create an environment where they “cannot grow”.
All of the private sector, he said, cannot be a “traitor” as it generates capital for the country, which in turn brings revenue for the government that spends the money on the railways, army, communications and space. Nobody, he said, has a “monopoly” on patriotism.
Drawing parallels with China, Doval said that India was ahead of its neighbour in the 1970s, but was then outpaced. Today, the world is “excited about India”, he said, and the country is now at the “threshold of a great journey ahead”. The question being asked, he said, is “will India make it” or will it “lose the opportunity?”