Now that the Modi government is two months old, it’s time to take a hard look at our security preparedness, both internal and external.
Available intelligence reveals that the threat to our security and territorial integrity is imminent. Jihadist and other foreign extremist organisations frequently call for jihad in Kashmir and time has shown that these calls are usually backed by action.
The murmur for ‘Khurasan’ (an ancient Islamic Caliphate, comprising a crescent stretching from Kashmir across Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) is becoming louder and is backed by the newly emergent ISIS in Iraq. The fact that ISIS now physically controls large parts of the territories it claims as its Caliphate, no longer allows us the privilege of waiting and watching. We have watched things unfold for too long and done nothing in anticipation. The entire region of North West — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) is a simmering cauldron of turbulence and one does not know what apocalyptic brew will emerge from it. There are international forces in these areas whose intentions may not be what they appear to be.
Closer to home the Line of Control (LoC) is active, the adjoining international border or IB is violated from time to time. Armed infiltration continues and active as well as ‘sleeper’ cells have erupted across the country. Their purpose is to create unrest internally when we are under external armed attack. These jihadists could become force multipliers for Pakistan army, as had happened during the Kargil conflict, by aiding large-scale internal disturbances like in Egypt, Syria and Libya.
The Chinese too pose a formidable threat via their claims over Arunachal Pradesh, their continued military presence in PoK and aggressive policy in the Indian Ocean region and the South China Sea area. This is backed by massive upgrade of infrastructure in the regions bordering India and diplomatic and military links with neighbouring states such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan and even the Maldives.
Given this broad background, we must take a look at our preparedness to meet and defeat these palpable challenges. To ensure that this is executed professionally, we have a slew of organisations to deal with these threats: the armed forces to fight wars, the Border Security Force (BSF) to guard our frontiers, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to assist state police forces in maintaining law and order in addition to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). Backing them are internal and external intelligence agencies, namely the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing, and last but not least, the state police forces.
Of all these, the state police are the fulcrum of the entire internal security apparatus in addition to assisting forces in border areas. The maintenance of law and order and internal security are the direct responsibility of the state government as per our Constitution. To perform this duty, the state police require manpower training, firearms, communication and transport, among other varied gear.
The federal ministry of home affairs (MHA), along with the state forces and intelligence agencies, should be tasked with reviewing the state of preparedness of the police forces in all states, keeping in mind the nature of threat. It should anticipate the men and materiel requirement for the next 10-15 years and draw up plans to equip these forces in time.
The paramilitary forces (PMF) should by and large not be moved to the states on the mere request of the chief ministers, but this should be done only after the MHA updates itself on the prevailing threat assessments.
At present, the trend of calling in the PMF or even the army has become a norm as state police forces become increasingly politicised and ineffective. There should be an absolute no to the use of the army in internal security matters. It should be left to perform its primary task of guarding our borders.
Various studies have revealed that after deployment on internal security (IS) duties, the mindset of the soldier changes as the situation demands a different response, with the result that they have to be retrained upon reverting to their designated task of preparing for war. IS duties also expose them to other temptations rampant in society like corruption and influence peddling.
Even in the case of the PMF whenever any law and order incident occurs, the state government’s first response is to demand additional force from the Centre that normally obliges with a few battalions.
But the moot question is: What can such extra forces do, handicapped as they are with inadequate manpower and equipment and unfamiliar with the local language, terrain and culture in which they are deployed? Additionally, the age profile of the officers involved is such that they cannot cope with the rigours of the job. There is a need to conduct a capability assessment in the PMF as has been suggested for the armed forces and the police Thereafter, the decision should be taken on whether or not to deploy these forces. (To be concluded)
(The writer is a retired IPS officer of the Punjab cadre. He was the J&K DGP, BSF DG, UPSC
chairman and Manipur and Nagaland governor. The views expressed are personal)