Dispatches from Charleville
The 26th Joint Civil-Military Program at LBSNAA held conversations on national security
The highlight of the week-long 26th Joint Civil-Military Program (JCM) at the Academy was the keynote address by Union Minister for Petroleum and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan on India's energy policy in the context of National Security and global geopolitics. The Academy which trains the 'Steel Frame of India' was indeed privileged to have the Steel Minister address the distinguished cohort of 45 officers drawn from all the defence and civil services of the country, many of whom were the alumni of this institution.
In a comprehensive commentary on global geopolitics and its impact on India's economic development, more so in the context of energy security, Dharmendra Pradhan pointed out that if India had to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024 and continue with this trajectory, India would be the world's largest energy consumer by 2035, and this certainly could not be based on imported fossil fuels–both from the point of ecological sustainability as well as the economic parameters. In fact, the current mix of India's energy–coal contributing 55 per cent, oil and gas 35 per cent and renewables at 10 per cent–had to be reversed. Renewables and fuels derived from biomass had to play a major role not just from the point of ecology but also equity. Livelihoods for farmers had to be transformed from annadatas–providers of food–to urjadatas–providers of energy–not just through the setting up of solar panels on every available strip of land but also on account of bioethanol, jatropha, conversion of paddy straw into energy units, and other 'state-of-the-art' innovations. Moreover, the next spurt of energy demand is likely to come from the rural and semi-urban sectors as young people move from cycles to motorcycles, which is why for the first time in several decades, the growth in consumption of petrol is rising faster than that of diesel. Over time, both will give way to EVMs but the point to note is that we have to take a look at 'energy' and not examine petroleum, coal, hydro, thermal and renewables in separate silos, which indeed has been the dominant practice in the current discourse. In fact, while India was not as well endowed with conventional fuels, it had abundant sunshine and a very large coastline–both of which should be factored in our strategic dialogues. Thus, India could become the global leader in solar energy and spread the shine and cheer across Asia and Africa which were endowed with good sun. Our coastline gave us a natural advantage on the High Seas–our navy can certainly provide the logistical support for our trade and commerce with the Middle East and Africa. India could not lose out in the next Industrial Revolution and the minister explained quite succinctly how in the first, our contribution was that of our plantation labour and as supplier of raw materials; in the second, we provided supervisory level support; in the third we were content to pride ourselves in import substitution and later in capturing exports in which we had a competitive advantage on account of our raw materials, cheap labour and geographical location. However, as we're on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution, we had to look at technologies in which we were in the forefront, and our energy policy had to play a critical role in this. In fact, wars were also becoming very energy-intensive and the quest for energy itself was a causative factor in war.
Prior to this, we had sessions on India's neighbourhood in which both Pakistan and China were discussed threadbare. The Pakistan sessions were by Tilak Deveshar and TCA Raghavan, who has just brought out his third book on Pakistan in which he covers the history, the despair and the disaffection in energy-rich Balochistan, which is the terminal part of the CPEC. However, the Baloch, which constitutes 6 per cent of the population occupying 44 per cent of the country with a tenuous border is in a state of continuing insurgency for the same reason that affects all of Pakistan: the domination of the Army, and within it the Punjabi elite. TCA Raghavan explained that almost all engagements with neighbours were problematic, and though there was
cynicism on both sides, there was also a sense of realism, even in Pakistan that they were in an asymmetrical position vis a vis India, just as in many ways, India understood that this was their position with respect to China.
One must also make a mention of a brilliant engagement which Gen PJS Pannu, Deputy Chief of Staff had with the JCM participants on Fighting War: A National Effort. He explained quite candidly that wars were not just fought on the frontiers but they were fought in the mind, and that the economic, diplomatic, academic and soft power of a nation also played a crucial role. He also explained the subtle but certain differences between Doctrine, Strategy and Tactical Operations, and his frank engagement with the participants on an entire range of issues made it a very interesting session.
Before closing, its important to share with readers the fact that the JCM had been conceptualised on
recommendations of the Kargil review committee which suggested that the Academy should organise a program of the key stakeholders in the government system on national security; not just to understand the myriad dimensions of national security but more importantly to foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual appreciation of the myriad roles that each one–from field commanders on the LAC to captains on the high seas, diplomats projecting India's soft power and the bureaucrats manning mysteries ranging from home to finance to energy–has to perform to perfection to ensure that India is secure from all possible threats–both internal and external.
(Dr. Sanjeev Chopra is Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun. The views expressed are strictly personal)