Ajit Kumar Doval, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is the second most important official in the government of India. His close ties with Prime Minister Modi reminds one of BN Mullik who, like him, was IB chief (1950-64), had close relationship with then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and influenced his key decisions on Kashmir, Pakistan and China. But Doval is going a few steps ahead of him with his hard line on Kashmir, Pakistan and China. The ‘doctrine’ named after him and expounded by him in two lectures delivered in 2014 and 2015 is analysed here in the light of the Pathankot airbase attack   

Two important lectures delivered by Ajit Kumar Doval, India’s National Security Advisor (NSA), on national security constitute the core of the so called ‘Doval Doctrine’.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), on the advice of Ajit Kumar Doval, has adopted a hard line on Pakistan

The ‘doctrine’ came into critical focus in the wake of the January 2016 terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase in the Indian state of Punjab bordering Pakistan.

The Pakistani Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was invited to visit Pathankot and study the investigation of the case, reported that India had not only failed to prove the Pakistani origin of the terrorists but alleged that the entire event had been fabricated by India to defame Pakistan globally as a terrorist country. These were very serious charges affecting the prestige of the Indian NSA.

Doval did not respond. Why did he remain silent? Who was responsible for the Pathankot ‘operation’?

India’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Home Affairs (Indian Express, May 4) came out with a scathing criticism of India’s counter terrorism apparatus for failing to prevent the Pathankot attack despite having prior “concrete and credible intelligence” and terror alert from the abducted and released Pathankot superintendent of police (SP) and interception of terrorist communications.

The committee doubted the ‘very questionable and suspicious’ role of the Punjab police in not appreciating the national security implications of the abduction and release of the SP and implied that they were complicit in the terrorist attack.

The committee demanded examination of the role of the ‘narcotics syndicates’ active in the border regions of Punjab and their links with terrorists.

A former Director General of Police Punjab, a crusader against the drug-trafficker-politician nexus, observed in an interview (Outlook magazine, May 12) that a ‘sleeper cell’ of the terror groups was involved in the Pathankot attack.

India’s national security establishment, while dealing with the attack, had failed to examine the role of drugs-arms trafficking and money laundering networks operating in the border areas of Punjab and Pakistan with links to terrorists. This would have called for a cooperative approach between Indian and Pakistani security and criminal justice establishments.

Doval is a hawkish thinker, activist and speaker popular in the predominantly right wing middle class social circles of India. He has delineated his approach to Pakistani terrorism in his Nani Palkiwala Memorial Lecture, 2014 and the Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture, 2015.

Pakistani terrorism against India, according to him, is a tactic to achieve ideological and political advantages.

So the enemy has to be engaged at three levels: defensive, defensive-offensive and offensive modes. The often resorted to ‘defensive’ mode is ineffective and irrelevant.

The “offensive-defensive mode” required going into Pakistan and tackling the problem where it originated. To make it clear, he used the famous phrase: “You may do one Mumbai; you may lose Baluchistan.”

This seemed to be crux of the Doval Doctrine. Either Pakistan give up terrorism against India as a state policy or India would let it “bleed with the Taliban”.

Doval states that terrorist organizations could be bought with money, weapons and manpower. Or a “paradigm shift” should occur with the use of high technology and “intelligence-driven covert operations”.

Doval used a boxing terminology and deplored the Indian tendency to punch below its weight. It must punch not below or above its weight but improve its weight to hit proportionately.

Doval emphasized that “individual morality should not be imposed on the larger values of the state”. The values of the state are above the values of individual.

Doval-approved covert operations were conducted by the then Army Chief General VK Singh who set the Technical Support Division and carried out several such ‘operations’ in Baluchistan, part of Pakistan, in 2015. Baluch dissident leaders were hosted in Delhi and the Baluch Liberation Organization (BLO) has existed in Delhi since 2009 (Indian Express, October 23, 2015).

Aggressive actions by Doval against Pakistan included the cancellation of the Foreign Secretaries’ meet in August 18 2014 and the NSA’s in August 22 2015.

Modi, on the advice of Doval, has adopted a hard line on Pakistan and has refrained from commenting on the peace efforts made by his predecessor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in back channel diplomacy with President Musharraf and has ignored the four-point formula evolved to settle the Kashmir dispute.

Doval has adopted a hard line on India’s border dispute with China. He said at the Munich Security Conference in New Delhi in October 2014 that “India would not compromise on its territorial interests”, when the very purpose of the meetings of the Special Representatives of the two countries is to seek a compromise on the dispute.

China’s reservations were reported in the media (Telegraph November 23, 2014).  Modi, who visited China in May 2015, merely asked President Xi Jinping to reconsider China’s received positions on the issues with India.

Singh’s National Security Advisor and Special Representative for border talks with China, Brajesh Mishra, on the other hand, made considerable progress in his talks with his Chinese counterpart and had been hopeful of reaching positive results.

It is clear that the Doval Doctrine, which pervades government policy on Pakistan and China, is devoted to a framework of “irrelevance of morality, of extremism freed from calculation or calibration and reliance on military force”.

This framework does not help peace-building. The emerging military concord between India and the US directed against China is likely to further damage the prospects for peace in South Asia.

The author was Director of the Research and Policy Division of the central government’s Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi and was Director General of Police in Northeast India. He is the author ‘State, Policy and Conflicts in Northeast India’, Routledge 2016 and ‘Political Violence and the Police in India’, Sage 2007   

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