Suppose for a minute…

Continuing the discussion on National Security

Suppose national security is securing the lives of the people (called the citizens) living on the land, we chose to call a ‘nation’. Securing from whom? Obviously external threats that might disturb the fabric of the nation.

What more?
Simply put – does it (National Security) amount to saving lives of citizens of that nation.

13 Comments to “Suppose for a minute…”

  1. You have the answer to that question hidden in your posting. Even if we were to narrow it down to “saving lives”, there is no reason for you to take the seemingly logical jump to the “Obviously external threats”.

    There are internal threats too. And “threat” does not have to be military in nature. Food security is also one of the factors. And so are many others.

    “National Security” is a very holistic term. Some people my use it in a very narrow context of external threat, but that part is just one of the aspects of national security.

    My group did a report on this topic some weeks ago.. we defined national security as..

    “Nation Security is a holistic term that includes identification, protection, and development of all aspects of national well-being, including short-term tactical and long-term strategic connotations”.

    Please note.. “all aspects of national well-being”.

    Saving lives, yes. If you want to keep it that short. But by no means limited to external or military.

  2. Wow!
    Your definition is too broad and all govts will raise a hue and cry about it:) Which party is not accused of or documented to be part of – some ‘state’ sponsored plundering of citizens. Anyway that is a digression.

    But in a sense, I am driving in a point that public health is come what may, a responsibility of the govt and it cannot do away with it. So is Right to Health – a fundamental right?

  3. Hmm.. right to good healthcare is of course very important and is an integral part of what “national security” is defined to be.

    But the problem with “fundamental right” is that they impose a legal duty on the state. Not all states have the financial and infrastructural capacity to provide this.

    Can India do it? We do have a public health system… but does it work well? Can it be made to work well with the available resources (human/capital)?

    Such an issue needs a lot of thought.. and a system design that puts a good system in place which inherently discourages violations of laws/rules/regulations.. quite a mammoth task..

  4. Vivek,
    Went too far. Come back. Public health has been defined in the state list in the constitution of India – not under the union list. So the state governments are responsible for public health.

    Anyway going thru the list, I found another interesting trade under the Union List of Schedule 7 of the Indian Constitution!!!

    59. Cultivation, manufacture, and sale for export, of opium.

    Man, where was I when this constitution was written!!!

  5. Uh.. not “responsible” as a matter of “right” of people. Responsible as in regulating the sector and making laws about it. The posting/tranfer of medical staff and doctors for example.

    AFAIK, it is not a right as of today.

  6. Hey Vivek,

    A democratic govt is always responsible to the people. If a doctor is not there at a PHC or whatever, a citizen has a right to ask the government. And yes the Govt is responsible to at least have the person/law in place – but you cant take away the basic right of participation/holding the government responsible from the citizens in a democracy.

    More to come, probably over the next weekend or so.


  7. Of course there are some conflicting ideas in this discussion too. Let’s take an example of economics and free trade. Could it be a matter of national security? Yes. If a country changes its economic policies to prevent let’s say runaway inflation, which could ultimately lead to saving citizens from hunger and death… but how does one know that the govt is acting correctly? Maybe by imposing the trade barrier, they’re only postponing the problem to a much bigger disaster. So did the govt do the right thing? We can’t tell until the results of these decisions play out over time. A lot of these kinds of decisions can only be explained after the fact.

    THe bottom line is that if you have “some” faith in the system of govt., you needs to understand not just a point, but it’s counter point as well. We’ll never know what to do at any point, only what we could have done better, after the fact.

  8. “Virtue of hindsight” as I call it, Pani – the same fact as yours. But – an important one. Hindsight need not be perfect vision – it need not be 20/20, it just depends on what you choose it to be….either 0/20 or 20/20.

    I do agree the need to see all “sides” of an issue (as opposed to the other side, not all is black and white) and weigh in the best for the times. I guess you meant the same.

    Free trade and fair trade: let me not get there. One, I do have a lot of opinions. But more importantly: It is an economic jargon, used differently by different people in different parts of the world.

    As I see the talk in the US about inflationary pressures – I dont see free trade as a solution either. But the term “fair trade” seems to be used more in the global sense in the US – if India exports $X Billion to US, it is just “fair” that India import $X Billion from the US. Unfortunately this is not dictated by free trade and hence the problem in the US.

  9. Having a right and holding government responsible is fine.

    The problem is that the system does not encourage performance in those sectors.

    How do you make a doctor visit the village (where he is posted) on regular basis? Vigilance? It is there. But there is a limitation to keeping watch on so many nodes of government fuctioning with so few resources.

  10. Vivek, the system we had never encouraged any sector. But yes, How do you make a doctor visit the village (where he is posted) on regular basis? What is a possible solution? We have the hindsight of last 55 years at least.

  11. The Problems:
    1. The doctor is an outsider. He has no stakes in the village health. Why bother?
    2. Expensive medical education. He has to recover the “investment” and then make some “profits”. Poor government can not afford those incentives. So, let me just take up the govt job and do my private practice in the city.
    3. Poor vigilance. Yes, that too is a factor.

    This is not an exhaustive list of reasons. But I guess the only way to solve the problem of public health in India is to have more doctors (and related infrastructure). As we have more and more locals, they would have higher stakes (relatively) and more incentive (decent living in their own surroundings with higher social status) to serve. Plus, the pay needs a rationalization, but that will come much later (due to lack of money).

    I doubt if my solution is easily workable and there are a lot of issues with this solution as well. But I hope someone is thinking about these things in the Health Dept. I can stand for lack of services for the timebeing, but not with the lack of effort to improve them.

    I am too impatient. That is part of the reason I chose my career.

  12. Believe it or not.. I get sleepless nights thinking about these things.. not a good thing perhaps. But I dont wan’t to learn to be patient and allow things to just go on..

  13. Vivek,
    People themselves can be trained to be vigilant. The govt need not necessarily do that job. And that is what a democracy is. Need not always mean legal action. That is what I call “local empowerment”. Education also has a role to play in it.

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