It is unfortunate that even though we have a strong government at the Centre, the internal security situation of the country has not shown any marked improvement over what it inherited from the UPA regime. This has essentially been because the fundamentals of security management have not been given due importance and, like previous governments, the NDA regime has also preferred to swim with the tide in areas where bold departures were called for.
Successive governments have not cared to codify the country’s internal security doctrine and the present government has also ignored this vital area and taken ad hoc decisions on crucial matters. The US and UK revise their national security doctrines every year and place them in the public domain. We have done nothing of the sort, despite the fact that our internal security problems are far more complex. There is no long-term policy for Jammu and Kashmir, nor is there any strategic vision to tackle the Maoist insurgency. No wonder, while violence levels are periodically brought down, they spiral again, and it becomes a game of snakes and ladders.
Another inexplicable flaw has been the absence of an institutional response with whatever mechanisms are or were in place. The National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) was liquidated. Not that it was doing a great job, but then it is for the government to take the best out of a select group of experts from different fields. If they were made to vegetate, it was not their fault. Closing shop was not the answer. The NSAB has now been revived, though in an emaciated form.
This government, like its predecessors, has also not paid adequate attention to strengthening the internal security apparatus. The police continues to be in a shambles. The Supreme Court gave historic directions in 2006 for police reforms, but the states have been dragging their feet and now the apex court is also taking it slow. The Government of India never showed the kind of seriousness it should have for the implementation of judicial directions. It has yet to finalise even the Delhi Police Bill even though Soli Sorabjee had prepared the draft more than a decade back. It is distressing to reflect that the British imperialists had greater vision and they had one Police Act for the entire country while we are saddled with different acts and executive orders in different states. The prime minister’s concept of a SMART police could never take off because of the indifference of the states.
The founding fathers of the constitution had placed police and public order in the State List of the Seventh Schedule. They could not have foreseen the complex law and order scenario that would evolve in the coming decades. With the emergence of organised crime and the threat of terrorism, it was obvious that the old order had to be revamped. As Fali Nariman said while addressing a meeting of the Indian Police Foundation, in the context of the police being misused and abused by the state leaders and the overwhelming dependence of state governments on central forces round the year, police should have been transferred to the Concurrent List. The anomaly, however, continues. Ruling parties are chary of amending the constitution for fear of the opposition they would face from the states.
Such an apprehension has led to even important counter-terrorism projects being shelved. It was proposed to set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC). True, the scheme had some objectionable features, but those could have been rectified and the NCTC put in place. The government has, however, been unwilling to disturb the hornet’s nest. And so, the NCTC project remains in limbo.
The internal security situation, as a consequence, is on a slippery slope. Jammu and Kashmir continues to be in the news for wrong reasons with ceasefire violations by the Pakistan army, continuing infiltrations by terrorists, their audacious attacks on security forces, and radicalisation of the youth who have been challenging the security forces on the streets. The BJP’s coalition experiment with the PDP has not delivered but the government seems unwilling to acknowledge its failure. It is high time that the government took the hard decisions necessary to strengthen our northern frontiers.
On the Naxal front, the Conference of Chief Ministers of the affected states held in Delhi on May 9, came up with a new formula of SAMADHAN to tackle the problem with S standing for smart leadership, A for aggressive strategy, M for motivation and training, A for actionable intelligence, D for dashboard-based key performance indicators and key result areas, H for harnessing technology, A for action plan for each theatre and N for no access to financing. It is unlikely that this approach would lead to a resolution of the problem. The Naxal problem is much too complex and requires a very comprehensive strategy which cannot be capsuled in an acronym.
On the Northeastern front, the framework agreement negotiated between the Government of India and the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland (Issac-Muivah group) in August 2015 appears to have hit a road block. Muivah continues to harp on “Naga sovereignty”. Meanwhile, the terror threat is becoming more sinister. Al Qaida has, in a document entitled “Code of Conduct for Mujahideen in the Subcontinent”, while laying down the do’s and dont’s for the mujahideen, declared that it will be targeting Indian security installations and leaders of Hindu organisations. It also said that “all personnel of the military are our targets, whether they are in the war zone or in barracks at their bases”. The Islamic State in a video, the Bilad al-Hind, has threatened to wage jihad against India, and urged all Muslims to take revenge for the injustices to Indian Muslims in Kashmir and for the communal riots in Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar.
Are we prepared to deal with these growing threats? It would be difficult to give an affirmative answer. A strategic vision and a comprehensive long term-plan are called for while the internal security apparatus is overhauled and modernised.