Security studies in Manipur University: Prospect and challenges
In a welcoming academic development and for the first time in North East India, the Manipur University (MU) is likely to introduce the Department of National Security Studies for higher education and research activities. The initiative shall not only provide a significant scope to peruse higher degrees for the students hailing in this conflict zone, but also produce local strategists and firsthand security knowledge which are different from regular perceptions of Delhi centric experts. While the potential prospects are available, so are the challenges as perhaps the discipline has not been treated as other subjects in the university.
Security or Defence and Strategic Studies
Because of its functioning in various names, the nomenclature of “National Security Studies” get confused with other similar titles such as “Defence and Strategic Studies” (as practicing in University of Allahabad, Savitribai Phule Pune University and University of Madras) or “Defence and National Security Studies” (in Punjab University). However, to make it common and based on the recommendation given by the defence studies committee convened in 2010 headed by Late Air Commodore Jasjit Singh, the nomenclature of the existing Defence and Strategic Studies was directed to be changed into National Security Studies considering the former title was outdated and limiting in nature while the later was more comprehensive and contemporary. Hence, all new defence and strategic studies centers established after 2010 are functioning with the title, National Security Studies as observed in the Central University of Jammu and Gujarat. However discounting the committee’s recommendation, the formerly established departments still operate with the old title, Defence and Strategic Studies as in Allahabad, Madras and Pune universities. Therefore, the new programme of National Security Studies should not get confused with the old course of Defence and strategic Studies. Both are treated as equivalent in Indian academic system.
Security Studies in Manipur
Including the newly established department in MU along with the Dhanamanjuri University or D.M. University (formerly D.M College), there are about 32 universities in India that offer security studies in teaching and research programme. After introducing it as a general foundation course in under graduate education at D.M. University, “Defence Studies” was upgraded into a standalone full degree course in 1997. This three year (semester system) undergraduate course offers a comprehensive syllabus including military history, security organisations, science and technology, international relation, defence economic, weaponry and warfare, peace and conflict studies etc. While most of the graduates went outside the state for further studies (Master, MPhil and PhD), the commencement of security studies department in MU would help many of these pass outs to pursue their higher degree in Manipur itself.
Scope of the Discipline
Student who possessed higher degrees on the subject will have a potential scope in future if they truly focus to grow as a security expert or strategic analyst. Native students shall have additional advantage as they already had the ground knowledge of conflict/security situation in Manipur. They have been brought up in the violent atmosphere of ethnic conflict and others in the region. Their firsthand insight on security developments which further furnished by the academic orientation in concepts, theories and practices from the universities would enhance their analytical skills. This extra understanding on the subject could make them better scholar of strategic affairs comparing to the students from non-conflict zone.
Apart from teaching in universities, intellectuals from security studies background can join government or affiliated institutes such as National Security Council Secretariat, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Centre for Air Power Studies, National Maritime Foundation, Indian Council of World Affairs, and Institute for Conflict Management etc. Other notable private institutes that a scholar can associate with are the Observer Research Foundation, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Vivekananda International Foundation and Gateway House. Interested aspirants can also work with renowned international bodies such as United Nation Department of Safety and Security, and United Nation Department of Political Affairs. Out of others, the Hills and Associates, and Control Risks are highly paid foreign private risk and strategic analyses companies which have office in India.
In the initial phase of its establishment, the department may like to design a strong trust area like the other security studies centre has. For instance, the defence studies department in University of Madras concentrates more on maritime issues, given the location of the state. Likewise, military history is the main focus area of the same department in Allahabad University, given the historic battles and Independence Movement associated with the region. Similarly, the department in Punjab University emphasise more on border related matters (Pakistan based) considering its strategic location. Consequently, the newly established centre in MU shall developed its thrust areas on conflict analyses and study on Southeast Asia (with special attention on China), given Manipur a conflict zone and gateway to the neighbouring countries. The potential research output produced by the department could help in addressing the prolonged conflict situation in the states and current stalemate of Act East Policy.
The department should not simply function as a breeding centre for higher degrees, but act as a renowned think tank that produces national policy papers and impactful research publications. While it may recruit only qualified teachers who can guide research scholars, notable defence studies professors including Dr. Shrikant Paranjpe and Dr. Gopalji Malviya (external) along with native strategic doyens such as retired Lt. Gen. K.H Singh and Lt. Gen. L.N. Singh (internal) cab be considered for the board of studies. Meanwhile, understanding the importance of its contribution in country’s military and non-military affairs, the discipline may be treated equally as other subjects. In an interesting recruitment process, newly introduced subjects such as Fine Arts and Law were included in and the Department of National Security Studies was excluded from the MU’s “regular” job notification released on 27 May 2019 (however separately advertised later on 14 June 2019 for s”walk-in interview”). The employment for security studies in contractual position and other similar new departments (Fine Arts and Law) in permanent position not only indicates the partial treatment of the discipline but reveals the lack of seriousness on the subject in the university.
The opening of security studies department for the first time in the region is a significant achievement for the university. However, the core competence of this discipline is seemingly ignored and not equally valued as other disciplines by the institute. Otherwise, the department has the potential to excel considerably not only by providing best scholars of security affairs in state, but also producing popular strategic analyst in the country (apart from awarding degrees). Indigenous research ideas germinated from this department could fairly compete or corroborate with the predictable views and perceptions of Delhi centric security experts. Ignoring nepotism, employment of only experienced subject-backgrounder in faculty and selection of eminent strategic pundits in the board, along with an enthusiastic leader, substantiated by a strong thrust area would purely forecast the true future of the MU’s Department of National Security Studies.
The writer is Assistant Professor at the School of National Security Studies, Central University of Gujarat