Importance of National Security Strategy

Importance of National Security Strategy

National Security is a broad political and military consensus which relating to peace and development through better national security. The objective of national security is to ensure the freedom of living and safeguarding other fundamental rights of citizens and more importantly to make sure continues functionality of the system. Security of nation has several dimensions including, Boarder, Economic, Energy, Physical, Environmental, Food and Cyber security. These dimensions are correlated with each and every sector which requires to function as a state. As Theresa May, the Prime Minster of the Great Britain has mentioned National Security is the first duty of government”.

Easter Sunday attack and its aftermaths verified the failure of present government of Sri Lanka in accomplishing its ultimate duty. Many have tabled number of explanations on the matter. Failure of hierarchical communication system triggered by power struggle between ruling parties is the key cause. This caused country a fragile state again after a decade of war victory. President, who was in Singapore at the time of attack, admitted that he got to know the incident and the letter of DIG Priyala Dasanayake titled “Information of an alleged Plan Attack” on 11th April 2019 through Facebook. Even the Prime Minister acknowledged the same fact that he was not aware of the message of DIG. Further PM said that he was not called for the Security Council for last six months and directly passed the blame to President who is also the Minister of Defence and to the Security and Intelligence Services of the country. Even the State Minister of Defence made the same complaint.

However, after the attack number of political leaders and government authorities has expressed that they were aware of the attack but they heavily underestimated the seriousness of the information. Intelligence of India has verified that they have shared the information with relevant parties of the country. Furthermore, President admitted his responsibility and verified about the intelligence report on the ISIS attack in his speech on Wednesday night (24th April 2019). “I must be truthful and admit that there were lapses in the part of defense officials… there was an intelligence report about the attack but I was not kept informed”. The New York Times, April 25th 2019.

Fundamental question should inquire as rightful citizens as well as victims of the brutal attack, is that why the government failed to implement necessary steps to prevent the incident if authorities had information? Even His Eminence the Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith inquired the same and he said at least government should have informed him. Whatever the identified cause, the truth is that, the ruling parties (President and Parliament) did not pay required attention on the security of general public of the island. Security information is shared only among VVIPs and their security staff.

Poor interest and awareness of the importance of national security among policy makers, political leaders and citizens would be a greater opportunity for terrorist, extremist and other actors to establish secretly all over the country. Absence of comprehensive strategy (or Policy) for National Security would be the foundation for the mentioned causes. Thus, the article discusses the role and importance of national security to a country with special reference to Sri Lanka. Then it would further elaborate the importance of a national security strategy especially to a nation which identified as one of the strategic destinations in the world political map.

Ultimate role of national security is to eliminate domestic and foreign threats, disturbing peaceful coexistence. Traditionally, armed forces are assumed as the prime protectors. Political and economic inter-dependency among states in this century has broadened the scope of the context. Threats could appear from both Macro and Micro environments. Challenges from world and regional bodies represent the global environment. Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Ecological and Legal concerns within the country are the national factors. Security is directly linked with each and every sector. Thus, in the context, involvement of both military and non-military agencies in stabilizing security is inevitable. Peaceful environment is vital for the existence and continuation of a nation. Counted economic impact of Easter attack has proven the fact. Figures indicated that 70% of hotel bookings have been cancelled in the past two weeks. “…on top of the heavy loss of human life, the attacks could cause serious damage to Sri Lanka’s economy, which depends on tourism…” Daniel Shane and Michelle Toh, CNN Business, April 25, 2019.  Social impact has still not been measured. Schools and universities are closed down for search operations. More importantly, government failed to ensure law and order of the country. Official dead toll of the attack is 253 and injured at least 500 more. Terrifyingly, Muslim extremism has covered the whole country with 6 bomb blasts within 45 minutes and fear lasted till today. Another dimension of communal violence between minority ethnic groups has been identified, Muslim and Christian which rarely noted in Sri Lanka. Entire social, economic and political moments have been disturbed.

Interest of super powers is another known threat to the security of the country. The fact has been verified with the attack. As per references India and Pakistan (regional powers) are playing zero sum game, suspecting each other for the incident. Pakistan suspects that Research and Analysis Wing, (RAW) Indian intelligence service is behind the scene. India’s attention is to Muslim extremists who have blessings from the government of Pakistan. However, both seem to be valid in the prevailing environment. Information available verified that the United State of America has agreed to provide technical assistance and expert knowledge with The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for the investigations. However, with the historical experience, the role of arms dealers cannot be neglected as well. In this context, in political and social fronts debate is on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka in the presence of superpowers on the soil. Establishing a FBI unit or another form of military bases might be able to happen. Apart from that Interpol, International Criminal Police Organization has already shown interest of deploying a team to assist Sri Lanka’s authorities for the investigation. If the scenario has actualized, other nations might request the same. China, India, Pakistan and Russia are high potential states could demand the same. Sooner or later Sri Lanka could be the Djibouti in South Asia, unless the situation is handled strategically.

Properly defined security strategy would be one of the sustainable solutions. Conceptually, National Security Strategy (NSS) is an instrument to protect or advance national interest of a country. NSS has capacity to search behavioral patterns of potential actors (domestic and foreign state and non-state actors) influencing (directly or indirectly) national interest and fundamentals of a sovereign territory. More importantly, security strategy should be capable of covering all important elements of national security: Political stability, Economic stability, Military power, National spirit and Social cohesion, Foreign policy, Energy and Ecological security. Therefore, the framework would be the guideline for all government policies in the long run. The government policies consist of foreign, defence, economic, technological and socio-cultural. Foreign policy of the state would link with all other policies with the guidance of NSS.

In the context of Sri Lanka, aligning foreign policy with national security concerns is crucial. Practically, island did not have a well-defined foreign policy which matches to the national interest since the beginning. It has varied with the political interest of ruling parties in each regime. Regimes of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) usually more align with eastern interests while United National Party (UNP) used with western even though the country’s foreign policy theorized as non-aligning or binding. Thus, with regime changes theoretical lenses of approaching other policies also changed, specially defence and economic. Generally, SLFP is practicing Buddhist conservative and nationalist policies. Also do appreciate Asian cooperation. UNP is with neo-liberal principles which promote free markets and deregulation. As two extreme policies ruled the country time to time with no proper plan, sustainability of the country has been a jeopardized. However, already whole country is a rotten soup which started spreading its bad smell with the brutal attack. It is the high time to understand the necessity of a strategic plan with properly defined vision and objectives. Comprehensive National Security Strategy would be a viable solution for the matter. 

Kasuni Ranasinghe is Research Analyst of the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL), Ministry of Defence, Government of Sri Lanka. Views expressed are the author's own.