NEW DELHI: Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar on Sunday made a strong case for synergy among various arms of government as well as the military to meet national security challenges, including unsettled borders and terrorism.

Delivering the second Manohar Parikkar Memorial lecture via video link in New Delhi, the minister cautioned against “halfway house solutions" to achieving synergy.

Setting out the context for increased cooperation and coordination, Jaishankar pointed out that the current challenges countries faced include the use of connectivity, trade, data, debt, tourism and education as “instruments of influence and sometimes even of coercion" – a reference to the use of such tactics recently by China against Australia.

In India’s context, its “rise will evoke its own reactions and responses. There will be attempts to dilute our influence and limit our interests. Some of contestations can be directly in the security domain, others could be reflected in economics," he said. While the era of unconstrained military conflict may be over, the reality of limited wars and coercive diplomacy was very much alive, Jaishankar warned.

The minister noted that the defence and foreign ministries had increasingly worked in tandem over the years – whether it was to build up India’s image as a net security provider, assisting countries facing disasters, evacuating stranded Indians and others from global hotspots or pushing against political or technological barriers to ensure the Indian military is equipped with the best defence capabilities.

But “as India undertakes the next generation of reforms and embraces greater 'Atmanirbharta' (self reliance), the military cannot be left behind. It must do its own introspection and be prepared to meet effectively the new sets of challenges that we all can see coming our way. The importance of stronger integration in matters of national security can never be overstated," Jaishankar said.

Pointing to attacks of 11 September, 2001, in the US, the minister said this was the consequences of “siloed thinking" and lack of coordination.

The comments come against the backdrop of India looking at increasing synergy among its three services and also planning integrated theatre commands to take care of evolving security threats. Countries like the US and China already have an integrated defence management and theatre commands i.e. personnel of all three services working together under one commander – drawn from the Army, Navy of Air Force for geographical theatres that are of security concern. As a first step in this direction, the government had appointed former army chief Bipin Rawat as the first Chief of Defence Staff in December last year. However, as in the past, plans for integrating the three services are facing opposition from within.

According to Jaishankar, India had taken some steps toward ensuring coordination in national security strategy – appointing a National Security Advisor (NSA) and putting in place a secretariat to support the office of NSA.

Pointing out that current day national security challenges require specialization and integration, the minister said that the “scale and intensity of challenges mandate that we go beyond half way house solutions." This would, he said, also help answer the problem optimal resource utilisation.

“Adequately securitizing foreign policy" is absolutely imperative, Jaishankar said pointing out that there were “very few major states that still have unsettled borders to the extent that we do. Of equal relevance is the very very unique challenge that we face of years of intense terrorism inflicted on us by a neighbour," he said.

The references were to China and Pakistan respectively. The unsettled border with China is a legacy of the 1962 border war between the two countries. It is the source of the current tensions between the two countries – seen as the worst in decades. The strain has been the two countries amass tens of thousands of troops along their common border in Ladakh since May when India first detected Chinese intrusions into Indian territory.

With Pakistan, India’s ties have been strained due to the support that Islamabad gives to terrorism against India. Official talks between the two countries have been on ice since 2013 with efforts since to restart them impacted by terrorist attacks in 2016.