The greatest challenge India faces is to find the right people for national security tasks and jobs, National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon said on Monday.
"It is counter-intuitive but sadly true that in our country of over one billion people it is hard to find the right people for national security tasks and jobs. The armed forces face a shortage of about 13,000 officers," said Menon in a lecture on 'India's National Security' in Bangalore.
Regretting that the shortage was particularly noticeables, Menon said the paucity in police force was even greater as nearly half a million sanctioned posts across the country were unfilled.
"In terms of cyber security professionals, one estimate is we need to train at least 20,000 people in related fields over the next three-to-five years," Menon said delivering the eighth Raja Ramanna memorial lecture at the state-run National Institute of Advance Studies (NIAS) here.
Ramanna was a distinguished nuclear scientist and considered father of the Indian nuclear programme for over four decades and architect of the country's first nuclear test in May 1974. He passed away in 2004.
Noting that the present education system did not prepare people for new or emerging security tasks, Menon, a former career diplomat, said when the government was looking for cryptologists recently, many of the best Indian minds were working abroad.
"We have not built links between practitioners and academics, between implementing agencies and research labs that we need to make attractive research relevant and careers in national security fields," he lamented.
Admitting that the government was aware of the problem (of shortage), the former foreign secretary said the National Defence University, which is being set up, would help to meet the need of national security studies.
"The very nature of the cyber world is forcing the government, the private sector and academy to learn new ways of working together on cyber security. The same process is needed for internal security institutions, linking theory, practice and training to create a real basis for reform in the way we police ourselves," Menon pointed out.
Observing that much more had to be done in terms of indigenisation of production, research & development and design of defence and security equipment, Menon said a very valuable set of recommendations by a high level committee headed by Rabindra Gupta was before the government for consideration and implementation to make real progress in the endeavour.
"Cyber security is perhaps the best example of how essential the combination of men, ideas and tools is to security. Indians now spend more time on social media than on any other activity on the internet.
"A poll conducted by a news channel showed that over 65% of Indians would rather have a smart mobile phone than a television. Increasing numbers of our urban youth get their news and opinions from the internet. This will only grow as internet penetration increases," Menon added.