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There is little evidence of infrastructural development in the border areas of the Northeast. In the Arunachal Pradesh area, the Chinese have roads up to the border, whereas our soldiers have to climb 16,000 to 17,000 feet to reach the border whilst their supplies are still ferried by mule trains.
The same lack of facilities prevail in the Leh-Ladakh area and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Chief ministers are given to zealously guarding their hold over law and order, refusing even to have any Central mechanism to combat terrorism. But they should be made to realise that terrorism is no longer a local problem; it transcends state even national borders. Terrorist organisations operate simultaneously in different parts of the globe and that is why Interpol and other national agencies have developed mechanisms to combat it. We must have such agencie. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) by itself is not enough.
POLICE BEST FOR LOCAL INTELLIGENCE
The most effective weapon in the fight against crime, including terrorism, is actionable operational intelligence. If intelligence is available, a local burglary can be solved and so also a terrorist crime. Terrorist movements generally recruit locally. Weapons come from outside but the terrorists are largely local. Hence, the local police are best placed to generate this intelligence as they are from the state and are well aware of what is happening in their areas, but are not usually forthcoming. It is for the political and police leadership to motivate them and make them work and hold them accountable for activities in their areas. Once this information flow starts, it signals the beginning of the end of that particular terrorist movement.
Many states have set up special operational units to deal with terrorism, but it is important to reactivate the police stations in these areas, especially to generate intelligence. This is not being done in most states and the station house officers make merry, while the special forces fight an unwinnable challenge. The SHOs and the normal police hierarchy remain busy with tasks given them by their political masters and also lining their pockets. In essence, the primary responsibility for the struggle against terrorism should be with the respective state governments and their police forces. All central agencies are there to assist and the states should stop opposing enactment of central laws and creation of central agencies to act against terrorism.
Sadly, the state police forces by and large have been politicised and criminalised to a great extent. The politicians have seized the internal administration of the police and the police hierarchy has been ruined. Unless the state CMs do not change their ways, this vital state instrument will serve only its political masters’ interests and perform no professional tasks. After all it was ultimately the Punjab Police, when properly led, which played a decisive role in defeating terrorism in the state, though the role of the Indian Army and paramilitary forces in the entire struggle has been ignored.
DEVELOP COVERT OPERATIONS CAPACITY
The role of external agencies is vital as most of the terrorist leadership lives abroad in safe havens provided by interested parties.
Similarly a large proportion of material too comes from abroad. Information has to be generated regarding the intentions of the hostile countries harboring these elements — not only tactical intelligence but strategic intelligence about their long-term objectives. It is high time we developed a covert operations capacity and used it as per need and circumstances. This capacity must become one of the central pillars of our strategy to combat terrorism.
Consequently, we cannot say with any confidence that we are well prepared to face challenges to our security. Over time, our main institutions, including the armed forces, paramilitary, civil services, including the police, intelligence agencies and the political executive, have undergone considerable erosion.
BUILD STRONG INSTITUTIONS
This is not to say that all is lost but we have to accept the reality and then find its remedy. The cure lies in a dedicated, motivated and honest leadership at all levels. We need people of integrity and professionalism imbued with the spirit of service and national pride and persons who can electrify their men to meaningful action.
However, we have to take care that we do not leave everything to a few persons, but rebuild our institutions so that these sustain and in time build their own capacities. No individual can replace an institution and it is strong institutions that carry forward nations.
Let us be clear that there are plenty of excellent professionals in all our services, but the political executive has to effectively utilise them and the institutions they work for gainfully. Let the political executive lay down policy and strategy, but it should not indulge in micro management of these institutions and meddle in their internal administration leading to their degradation. The enemy is on the move, the time is short, we have to act and act fast.
As Chinese military general Sun Tzu said, “If you know yourself and your enemy, you can win numerous battles without jeopardy.”
(The writer is a retired IPS officer of the Punjab cadre. He was the J&K DGP, BSF DG, UPSC chairman and governor of Manipur and Nagaland. The views expressed are personal.)