When Thangjam Khurshchev Singh was growing up in insurgency-hit Manipur, he was always curious about the clashing ideologies that led to the unending violence in the northeastern state. By the time he completed school, his ambition was to study all the forms of violence that posed a threat to established nations and states — in other words, he wanted to become a security analyst.
If reports in the media that the Indian government is planning a major offensive against Naxalites are true, what could be the strategy and implications of it? What are the motives behind the reports of alleged incursions by the Chinese army into Indian territory? After Mumbai, what could be the next target of Pakistan-based terrorists and how should India prepare itself? These are some of the questions that are currently keeping Indian defence and security analysts busy.
Singh, who completed his MSc in defence and strategic studies from the University of Pune, now works as a researcher at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Delhi, with special interest in terrorist networks in South Asia.
If you were under the impression that only former defence officials and bureaucrats can become security experts, think again. A number of researchers, who do not have any defence or security background, are part of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) as well as other strategic communities / establishments in the country. These include students of defence studies. For instance, I will be working in the Prime Ministers Office next month, says a proud Singh, who will be there on deputation.
Jacob Ashik Bonofer, a PhD student of peace and conflict studies, says that the country is slowly realising the importance of making a scientific study of the challenges to Indias security — both external and internal. Just take a look at our neighbouring countries. We will need multiple experts and researchers to study them thoroughly so that we understand them better and can prepare ourselves for any challenge, says Bonofer who is working as a researcher with the Center for Asia Studies, a Chennai-based think-tank.
Entry level: Rs 20,000-25,000 per month
Middle level: Rs 30,000-40,000 per month
Senior level: Rs 60,000-75,000 per month
With the government announcing the setting up of the Indian National Defence University on the outskirts of Delhi, the importance of defence studies in India is finally getting the recognition it deserves, say experts.
Defence studies is a very promising career. Getting a decent job is not a problem for people with a capacity for sustained analysis and an aptitude for research on security issues, says Narendra Sisodia, director, IDSA, which is Indias premier strategic and security studies think-tank.
Some of the other well-known security think-tanks in India include the Centre for Policy Research (www.cprindia.org), Delhi, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (www.ipcs.org), Delhi, Strategic Foresight Group (www.strategicforesight.com), Mumbai, and South Asia Analysis Group (www.southasia analysis. org), Noida.
According to Sisodia, there is a huge gap between the demand and supply when it comes to finding the right people. I have noticed that many people who apply for jobs with us are not up to the mark. We are constantly in need of experts in diverse fields, he adds.
The biggest advantage of defence studies is that it is interdisciplinary in nature. A person from any stream can join the defence studies course and become an expert, based on his or her background. For instance, an economics student who does a course in defence studies can become an expert on security issues related to the economy, a biology student on bioterrorism, and so on, says Gopalji Malviya, professor and head, defence and strategic studies, University of Madras.
There is enormous scope for research. Even foreign think-tanks want to carry out research in India and they are always in search of competent people, says Shrikant Paranjpe, professor and head, department of defence and strategic studies, University of Pune.
India has scores of think-tanks but very few professional ones on security. But this lack will soon be dealt with, says Sisodia. At IDSA, we do not take up non-governmental projects although we get hundreds of requests each year. These would obviously go to others, he explains.
IDSA recruits researchers and faculty members on the same lines as universities. The starting salary is in the range of Rs 20,000-25,000 per month. The faculty at IDSA and other think-tanks get almost the same pay as university professors.
Promotions happen fast and good work gets appreciated and rewarded, says Sisodia.
The pay at a private think-tank is also on similar lines. Of course, it depends on the research and the kind of projects that one handles. Money is not the most important thing. What gives me real satisfaction is presenting papers at international seminars and in defence establishments, sharing research insights with defence officials and other experts from around the world. Most importantly, the feeling that Im involved in improving security in the country is very special, says Bonofer.
A few years of sound work can make people eligible for fellowships with foreign centres and universities. They can even form their own think-tanks with specialisation in an area of interest, says Paranjpe.
And as luxury hotels and private as well as public-sector behemoths become aware of the threats they face from terrorism, students of defence studies find jobs in these sectors too. Unlike a defence or a police official, a student of defence studies would be in a position to analyse threats to an establishment and devise a plan accordingly, says Malviya. Some of my students are handling the security of large hotels and software companies around the country he adds.
Defence journalism is another area that has a bright future. A mass communications student aspiring to become a defence journalist could gain a lot from a course in defence studies, says Paranjpe.
There are several universities around the country that offer courses in defence studies. Undergraduate and postgraduate students are taught a variety of subjects including military history, security issues facing the world, economic security, international law, national security and others.
But there is some sad news for interested students in West Bengal — Calcutta University has asked five colleges that were offering graduation in defence studies to discontinue the courses citing quality issues.
- University of Madras,
Courses: MA, MPhil, PhD
- Guru Nanak College, Chennai
- University of Pune, Pune
Courses: MA / MSc, MPhil, PhD
- Allahabad University,
Courses: BA, BSc, MA, MPhil, PhD
- Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University,
Courses: BA, MA, PhD
- Centre for Defence and
National Security Studies,
Courses: MA, MPhil, PhD
The list is not exhaustive