With the BJP choosing nationalism as its main poll plank, the Congress on Sunday came out with its “plan on national security”, a document prepared largely on the basis of the report by former Northern Army Commander Lt Gen (retd) D S Hooda. Having drawn flak from the BJP for its promise to repeal the sedition law and review the AFSPA, the two-page new document has made no mention of it.
The Congress also made public the 41-page report prepared by the task force headed by Lt Gen Hooda and titled India’s National Security Strategy.
“This is the broad outline of the Congress’s approach to the issue of national security and what we will do when we are in government. We have taken several features of Gen Hooda’s plan and we have also added one or two aspects which are included in our manifesto….all of this has to be read together to get an idea of the Congress’s approach regarding national security,” senior party leader P Chidambaram said while releasing the document with Lt Gen Hooda.
Among other things, the document said the Congress would provide a statutory basis to the National Security Council (NSC) and the office of the National Security Advisor (NSA). “Their powers and functions will be defined under the law and both authorities, and the agencies under them will be accountable to Parliament. We will set up a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Intelligence, to regularly audit standards and performance, and make recommendations for improvement.”
While he addressed the press meet at the AICC headquarters with Chidambaram and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Hooda said he has always remained apolitical.
The Congress’s move to bring out a separate document on national security came even as the BJP is trying to make nationalism and national security the main poll issue in its campaign. The Congress has been arguing that the BJP is trying to divert attention from bread and butter issues like unemployment.
Asked whether the Congress is unveiling its national security plan now because of an assessment that issues like jobs and farm crisis are not helping it fetch votes, Chidambaram said, “Not at all….we are deliberating on the subject as we are deliberating on other subjects every day. Our manifesto is not a one-off statement…. we are fleshing out every section of the manifesto….”
He said the number one issue in this election is unemployment followed by farm distress and security of various sections, including women, Dalits, SCs and STs. “National security is an important aspect of the narrative but to say that is dominating the narrative is completely wrong.”
The Congress’s “Plan on National Security” promises to adopt the principle of ‘One border, one force’, put in place a ‘Smart Fence’ on the Myanmar border that combines technology with a physical barrier to check infiltration and smuggling, build up a comprehensive missile defence system, operationalise a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System across all Indian borders, speed up infrastructure development by restructuring the Border Roads Organisation, pass the Coastal Security Bill, set up a ‘National Maritime Authority’ and strengthen the Coast Guards.
The Congress said it would transform the Ministry of Defence into a fully integrated headquarters with the posting of service officers and appoint a Chief of Defence Staff as principal adviser to the government on matters relating to defence.
The Congress also promised that it would formulate a clear policy on cyber attacks, stating that “a malicious cyber attack will be considered as a hostile act against our national sovereignty, and India will respond by using all national resources at our disposal”.