English Hindi


Prelims Capsule

Defence & Security

NSA Ajit Doval says civil society is the new frontier of war

NSA Ajit Doval says civil society is the new frontier of war


  • GS 3 || I Security|| Internal Security Threats || Social Media & Internal Security

Why in the news?

  • Reviewing the passing out parade of the 73rd batch of IPS probationers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, NSA Doval said that while wars have uncertain outcomes, the civil society can be manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation.

What is civil society?

  • The term “civil society” refers to a set of civic rights that includes, among other things, everyone’s right to participate in public life. The backbone of democracy is civil society.
  • The term “civil society” should not be used interchangeably with “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs). NGOs are part of civil society, but they play a significant and sometimes leading, role in mobilizing citizen participation in socioeconomic development and politics, as well as in shaping and influencing policy.
  • Civil society can be understood as the “third sector” of society, distinct from government and business, and including the family and the private sphere. (Or)
  • Civil society is used in the sense of the aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest the interests and will of citizens, Or individuals and organizations in a society that is independent of the government.

Examples of well-known civil society organizations

  • Amnesty International
  • World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  • International Trade Union Confederation
  • Reporters without borders
  • Greenpeace
  • The Danish Refugee Council (DRC)

Role of Civil society in India

  • Civil society derives its strength from the Gandhian tradition of volunteerism, but today, it expresses itself in many different forms of activism.
  • Through mutual cohesion, common approach, and networking, third sector / civil society organizations promote cooperation between two or more individuals. Such cooperative behavior is inherently encouraged in democracies.
  • Under Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution, citizens have the “right to freedom of speech and expression, as well as the right to form associations or unions,” which encourages the formation of civil society groups and community organizations.
  • The voluntary/civil society sector has been identified as a key player in achieving equitable, sustainable, and inclusive development goals in the current economic growth model.
  • Both state-led and market-led development models are insufficient, and there is a growing recognition that the voluntary sector must play a more active role in the nation-building process.
  • Without this right, democracy becomes an illusion.  So civil society cannot be conceptualized independently of the state.
  • But it is the civil society that can be subverted, suborned, divided, manipulated to hurt the interests of a nation.

How civil society has become a threat to the Internal Security of India?

  • Concern regarding Internal security of the nation- Today it has become a huge internal security concern as identifying and combating the enemy is more difficult than ever before, because the threats and challenges are internal to society, as is the case with Fourth Generation Warfare.
    • Fourth-generation warfare is characterized by a “post-modern” return to decentralized forms of warfare,
    • Blurring of the lines between war and politics, combatants and civilians due to nation states’ loss of their near-monopoly on combat forces, returning to modes of conflict common in pre-modern times.
    • The term was first used in 1989 by a team of United States analysts, to describe warfare’s return to a decentralized form.
  • Socio-Politico concerns-Under the guise of ‘cultural struggles,‘ fourth-generation warfare primarily focuses on causing unrest and fissures within society, which eventually leads to the disintegration of society and state. It pits countries against non-national organizations and networks, which include not only fundamentalist extremists but also ethnic groups, mafias, and narco-traffickers, and operates through indoctrination and brainwashing of the vulnerable and disenchanted.
  • Tendencies toward secession and separatism- Pro-Khalistani militants in India and other countries want to resurrect militancy in Punjab. Similarly, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is in upheaval, owing to difficulties in isolating militants from society.
    • Uncertainty along India’s border with China and Pakistan, as well as increased competition, have the potential to turn competing influences and interests into a rivalry.
  • Circulation of False  Information– It becomes more powerful as the Internet has transformed the power of the media and the process of public opinion formation in a free society.
    • False reports of communal clashes, riots, terrorist attacks, and other events have gone viral, causing false panic and alarm.
    • False narratives have become easier to spread and even establish from anywhere on the planet. This has given non-state actors as well as enemy states the ability to destabilize the country.
    • For example, youth indoctrination by fundamentalist and radical groups via the internet and lone-wolf attacks are becoming increasingly difficult to combat.
  • Accusations of propagating anti-national elements
    • Few sections are involved in excessive protests, eventually hampering national interests.
    • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs rejected 25 NGO license renewal applications in November 2016. NGOs like Greenpeace have been accused of being anti-national in many cases.
  • Sympathy with radical elements- Under the guise of championing human rights, a strong support mechanism has been built for overtly and covertly supporting the Naxals/Maoists who are waging a military, social, political, and economic war against the country.
  • Lack of transparency and accountability- Too often, even progressive global civil society organizations do not meet the standards of accountability and transparency that they demand of others.
    • Unhappily, the majority of Indians keep quiet when their fellow citizens are tortured by the police, stripped of access to resources and livelihoods, lynched, exploited by corporate India, and neglected by the mainstream media.
  • Many CSIs are seen as corrupt, and personal fiefdoms of charismatic founders
    • A large number of CSIs are seen as ‘self-appointed do-gooders’, not accountable to any constituency other than their donors. Many CSIs are seen as corrupt, or at least venal, and as personal fiefdoms of charismatic founders who continue in leadership positions long after their passion for the cause has died. Jobs in CSIs are seen as the employment of last resort, to be abandoned for a position in a company or a government agency as soon as an opportunity arises.

Way forward

  • strong and alert civil society can function as a check on corruption and provide a foundation for counter-measures.
  • To keep a check on the activities of civil society,  state intelligence, and law enforcement must be used to counter such threats. To combat the “fourth generation” warfare with an invisible enemy, the police force must maintain a constant state of self-training and place a premium on connecting with people.
  • Furthermore, internal security issues should not be viewed solely as law and order issues. They must be addressed holistically across all dimensions and at all levels — political, economic, and social. They’re all connected. The key to effectively meeting these challenges is striking the right balance. The need of the hour is for a comprehensive security policy that will be implemented effectively at all levels.
  • Legislation similar to the False Claims Act in the United States should be established, allowing citizens and civil society organizations to seek legal redress for fraudulent claims against the government.
  • Corruption may be prevented, monitored, and controlled with the help of free media.
  • Use of Information and Communication Technology to ensure the proper and legitimate functioning of the civil society institutions. 
  • The success of democracy is in the enforcement of the laws. People cannot feel safe and secure where law enforcers are weak, corrupt, and partisan.


  • The process of influencing both state and market institutions, to retain and sharpen focus on the issues of the socially disadvantaged, and on the environment, would require Civil society/institutions to be more effective.
  • The overly broad concept of “internal security,” when combined with counterterrorism legislation and measures, must not hurt India’s civic space by alienating civil society actors, as this not only impedes India’s economic development but also reduces democratic space.

Mains model Question

  • Civil society is the new frontier of war, can be subverted to harm the nation. Discuss in the context of the recent statement given by NSA Ajit Doval at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad.