Few things more deserve the urgent consideration of the second Manmohan Singh government than internal security. The most pressing concern will be terrorism, both the imported variety and the homegrown one. The lack of a central authority in Pakistan and the spread of al-Qaeda-Taliban influence means Kashmir will remain on a slow boil and another Mumbai 26/11 attack is a very real possibility. The extent of homegrown terrorism is unclear — other than that it has increased in recent years. One indication of where policy should go is that Indians who have taken to terrorism attacks seem to have been motivated most by a sense that the state had failed to provide their community security and justice. A second concern is the continuing Naxalite militancy in large portions of central and eastern India.
The proposed ‘National Network Security Architecture’ is expected to be rolled out over the next few months. A first step will be the creation of a National Counter Terrorism Centre to provide the unitary command structure so sorely lacking when Mumbai was attacked. But sorting out the problem of overlapping and conflicting command systems will require constant testing, including regular crisis simulation. There is a crying need to provide security agencies with much improved hardware. This runs a gamut of technologies and processes. Police, both at the state and central level, need better training and equipment, especially in forensic science. The intelligence agencies need to relearn the art of spying on the ground. There needs to be a shift in defence spending towards interdiction, reconnaissance and counterterrorism fighting.
Terrorism is a global phenomenon. So is counterterrorism. However, this thought runs against the grain of India’s isolationist tradition. New Delhi continues to avoid signing the Proliferation Security Initiative even though the prime target is likely to be Pakistan. While the government signed for over $2 billion worth of maritime reconnaissance equipment, the best equipment cannot be delivered because India has yet to sign a standard end-use agreement with the US. Most of the many bilateral intelligence-sharing arrangements India signs are little more than scraps of paper. All of this points to the fact that the biggest challenge facing India will be a mindset that continues to treat internal security as a problem that can be ignored once public attention moves on to something else.