UPSC model Essay- Fault lines within: Internal security challenge for India #2

UPSC model Essay- Fault lines within: Internal security challenge for India #2

Internal security challenge for India

                                                                                                                             Internal security challenge for India

National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, recently said -“Post the World War period, 37 countries have either failed or degraded. Out of these, external aggression resulted in the downfall of only nine countries while the remaining 28 countries failed because they could not manage internal conflicts.” East Pakistan, USSR and East Timor are such examples.

In the Arthashastra, Kautilya wrote that a state could be at risk from four types of threats – internal, external, externally-aided internal, and internally-aided external. He advised that of these four types, internal threats should be taken care of immediately, for internal troubles, like the fear of the lurking snake, are far more serious than external threats. The most dangerous enemy is the enemy within. Today, India faces numerous security challenges. Last few years has witnessed an increase in the number of border skirmishes, ceasefire violations across LOC, incursions in the disputed territory leading to cross-firing etc. With all the media and public discourse about India’s defence establishment and preparedness at the border areas it is unwise to lose focus from the other more chronic and critical half of India’s national security challenge- internal security.

Internal security challenges have varied roots – from across the border hostilities permeating as insurgency at Kashmir and the North East; to sections of community opting for military solutions to their issues, as seen in various secessionist and rebel movements in the North East and Eastern regions, to Left Wing Extremism (LWE) by the naxal groups in the regions of the red corridor, to direct acts of terrorism driven by global outfits as was seen in the 26/11 event at Mumbai and finally the societal schisms in a multi-polar populace that at times breed breakaway thinking.

Various fault lines within India

Firstly, the insurgency and separatist movements in J&K and North-Eastern states have historical reasons, problems of national assimilation and integration at the time of independence. Coupled with the high-handedness and failure of various central governments to understand the developmental aspirations of the people of these regions aggravated the situation. The North-East part of the country is cut-off and aloof from the mainland. There is lack of basic infrastructure, like roads, electricity, medical facilities and standard higher educational institutions etc and absolute scarcity of employment opportunities for the educated youth of the region who then are persuaded and radicalised by the violent insurgent groups to rebel against the state. This coupled with the numerous instances of misuse AFSPA, killings, rapes etc has left the people of this region are scared. They do not trust the state and government machinery. Similarly in J&K, the government has emphasised on J&K being the integral part of India but left the people out who then get easily radicalised by the terrorist, separatist and insurgent groups and pose threat to the internal security of the nation.

Secondly, the people of under-developed regions of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and parts of Eastern Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, being further exploited in the name of development, displaced from their ancestral lands for mining, uneducated, unemployed and discriminated by the administration are ready wood for the burning ideology of Naxalism. LWE, is a manifestation of unfulfilled promise of development by the state, unbalanced regional development and unscientific and haphazard handling of the issue and use of force. The infested regions have faced the worst form of misgovernance, lack of development and administrative apathy for decades. As such, any approach to deal with the violence aspect of the problem is bound to fail unless backed by genuine efforts to provide sustainable development. What complicates the matter a great deal is the fact that many areas of development and also law and order are state subjects and because of the lack of political will, coordination between center and states has remained sub-optimal thus far.

Indian history after independence has been scarred by numerous attacks by terrorist organisations on its integrity and sovereignty, mainly sponsored by Pakistan. The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been the most visible places of terrorist violence in the country for the last two and a half decades, But as incidents such as September 2008 serial bomb blasts in Delhi and Mumbai attacks in November 2008 show, no city, state or region is free from the threat of terrorist attacks. There have been big and small blasts in big and small cities, national property and monuments have been destroyed and thousands of innocent people have died and this creates a fear among the populace. Terrorist activities are supported by the sleeper cells functioning within the recruiting youth, making them human bombs etc. This has also taken a communal colour and the muslim population is seen with suspicion and is discriminated. Tackling this menace of terrorism is critical for not only for security but also for the communal harmony and overall national integration.

Another grave concern for India is of communal clashes and violence targeting particular caste or communities. India is a socially and culturally diverse country and has deep rooted differences between communities and rigid hierarchies which are exploited by vested interests.

Another huge dimension of internal security is the cyber domain which has given opportunity to innovatively deal with security threats and at the same time, afforded criminals and terrorists to anonymously spread their messages, recruit, collect money and coordinate attacks. Because of the proliferation of the internet, the threats to secret information of government, corporates and institutions have become highly vulnerable. Equally damaging are the financial frauds and attacks on the banking systems that can be  launched from cyberspace. Because there is no global platform to fight cyber terrorism, each country, including India finds itself alone in the war against cyber crime and cyber terror. Unfortunately, at legal as well as operational level, the ability of the state to fight this new genre of security threat is very low. Massive technological up-gradation of infrastructure is required to deal with this threat.

Why these fault lines exists?

These problems have political imprudence of past, mal-governance and apathy of present and thoughtlessness for a futuristic solution as the basic root cause. By saying that internal security challenges are a more serious threat we do not mean that border defenses and preparedness should be de-prioritised but only that both the threats have to be seen pragmatically and prepared for accordingly in coordination with each at many places as well. Despite India’s ongoing border skirmishes and standoffs, the reality is that the chances of an all-out conventional war on the Sino-India-Pak stage are less likely compared to the internal security challenges that are clear, present and growing.

The scale of the internal security challenge is truly massive. Given the size and scope of the security arena -3.2 million square kms of area, 7,500 km of coast line and another 6,000 km of land border, the growing intensity and frequency of security ‘triggers’ and the asymmetrical force aspect – more needs to be done as a multi pronged approach to sustain and accelerate improvements in the security environment.

There are porous borders with Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, which enable illegal trans-border movements and smuggling of weapons and drugs which not only pose security threat but also adversely affect the human resource and economy of the nation as a whole nation and bordering regions specifically. Youth of these regions have shown a high level of addiction to drugs.

The problem is getting more complex with the growing nexus between various groups. Insurgents are getting support from the naxal groups and terrorist organisations and vice-versa all aiming to unite against the unity and integrity of India. Unlike for dealing with the border skirmishes for which there is a centralised line of command and better control and coordination, the internal security infrastructure is very inadequate and there is ambiguity of roles and jurisdictions. Whilst the Defence organisation; consisting of the three operating arms; work under the unified central command of the Ministry of Defence; the internal security organisation, that reports into the Ministry of Home Affairs, is a divided house with the states and their police units having primary charge to maintain law and order and the central agencies providing specialised support by way of paramilitary and intelligence units.

Weak governance including an ineffective law and order machinery and large-scale corruption. An ever-increasing section of the population is getting disenchanted with social justice, or the lack thereof. There is a continuous decay of the political, administrative, and security institutions of the country. Efforts to stem the rot have failed so far. Declining political and public values have led to consistent and persistent political interference.

Way forward

In totality, to deal with this multidimensional and multi-layered threat matrix, massive capacity building at various levels is required. A new paradigm is needed in which threats to internal security are dealt with in a seamless operational environment without friction between state or centre’s jurisdictions. This requires careful analysis of integration of efforts in crucial areas including intel sharing, force modernisation, especially in the area of handling high risk operations, and cybercrime management. There has to be a strong  agency to deal with cyber terrorism and cybercrime.

The biggest challenge for the Indian state are poverty, unemployment, and the ethnic and racial disenfranchisement. It is these social-economic-political problems that is at the root of Naxal and ethnic violence on one hand and Northeastern insurgencies on the others. Therefore, finally, respectful economic accommodation, sustainable development and ethnic sensitization need to supplement and sometime precede hard military crackdown.


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Hemant Bhatt
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