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INTERNAL SECURITY: Changing Environment

Paper No. 483                                        26.06.2002

by B. Raman

Amongst the factors, which contribute to threats to internal security of a nation are: 

* Bad governance marked by incompetence, inefficiency, economic mismanagement, lack of adequate attention to economic and social development, feelings of economic and social injustice in large sections of the people, corruption and the insensitivity of the administration to the legitimate grievances of the people and the consequent absence of a well-functioning mechanism for a redressal of the grievances of the people.  The feeling amongst large sections of the people that one is governed by a leadership or administration that  does not care sows the seeds of alienation leading to challenges, which may be peaceful initially, but tend to degenerate to violence, to law and order and the authority of the State.

* A failure on the part of the aggrieved sections of the people to understand and accept that there are limits to what a leadership or administration can do to meet the grievances of the people, that even in the best governed State there would always be unfulfilled expectations and that while it would be legitimate to continue to articulate such unfulfilled expectations, a  resort to agitational methods, particularly involving violence, could weaken the fabric of the State and the administration.

* A failure of the political leadership, the State and the administration to be sensitive to the grievances of the minorities, whether ethnic or religious, and  to protect their lives, interests and property and the consequent emergence of feelings of alienation.

* A lack of moral integrity in the political leadership and administration marked by corruption, nepotism, abuse of authority, tolerance of wrong-doings, criminalisation of politics and the failure to enforce the law, either due to timidity or due to a nexus with the law-breakers, which weakens the credibility of the State and the administration in the eyes of large sections of the people.  A State or administration, which does not enjoy the respect of the governed, cannot enforce the rule of law effectively.

* The absence of statesmanship, the ascendency of partisan political interests over national interests and unprincipled and opportunistic politics, with the political parties ever willing and on the look-out for opportunities and grievances amongst the people, even illegitimate, which they can exploit without consideration of the impact that such exploitation may have on the rule of law.  The political landscape is consequently marked by a plethora of politicians, but hardly a statesman.

* The exploitation of the grievances and the feelings of alienation of sections of the people by external powers for achieving their strategic objectives.

* The absence of effective national security management, whether internal or external, characterised by an unsatisfactory intelligence and physical security apparatus and  a political leadership, whether in the ruling circles or in the opposition, so engrossed with the politics of the politicians and not of statesmen, that it has neither the  time nor the inclination to attend to removing the systemic deficiencies.

2. Since Independence and, more particularly, during the last 30 years, India has been a victim of all these evils.  The result: the festering ethnic or tribal insurgencies in the North-East; the continuing Marxist insurgencies of various hues in different States; the periodic outbreak of communal  tension and violent disturbances ; ideologically and religiously oriented terrorism in different parts of the country and particularly in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K); the mushrooming of organised crime groups, national and transnational, and their nexus with politicians on the one side and with the terrorists on the other; and the exploitation of the resulting situation by Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to wage a proxy war against India to keep the Indian Security Forces and the civilian population bleeding.  The ultimate Pakistani objective is not just the annexation of J&K as it is often projected by many analysts to be, but to permanently weaken the fabric of the Indian State and national unity and create a mental divide between the Hindus and the Muslims, hoping and calculating that such a mental divide could ultimately lead to a further territorial divide of the nation.

3. The internal security landscape has been further darkened by the appearance on the scene since 1993 of the Pakistan-based pan-Islamic warriors, many guided and orchestrated by the State of Pakistan and its military-intelligence establishment, but an increasing number, since 1998, by the Osama bin Laden-led International Islamic Front for Jehad (Crusade) against the US and Israel.  The threats from State and non-State actors across our borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh have blurred any distinction between internal and external security.  The threats to internal security increasingly arise from external actors, who have been able to exploit our tardiness and ineffectiveness in addressing the causes of the domestic threats .

4. If the Maoists of Nepal, who look upon the Indian State as an adversary, and the LTTE of Sri Lanka, which continues to be one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations of the world, succeed in coming to power, the impact on our internal security situation could be negative and could aggravate the problems faced by the national security apparatus.  If bin Laden's International Islamic Front succeeds in its "Look East" policy of spreading its virus to the Muslim populations of Bangladesh, the Arakan State of Myanmar, southern Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and southern Philippines, India would find itself buffeted by pan-Islamic ill-winds blowing from the West as well as the East.  The effects of this ill-wind could be particularly felt in South India, hitherto largely unaffected by pan-Islamic ideas, because of the presence of a large number of Muslim migrants of Indian origin in South-East Asia and their continuing blood and mental links with their kith and kin still living in India.

5. Is there an adequate awareness in the central and state leaderships of the new dimensions of the threats to our internal security? Do we have a carefully worked-out short, medium and long-term strategy to deal with these threats politically, ideologically, economically, socially and systemically? Do we have a national security apparatus capable of implementing the strategy effectively and do we have a political leadership in the Centre and the States, which would back, consistently and without zigging and zagging, a re-invigorated national security apparatus in its efforts to implement the strategy?

6. The answers to these questions could at the best be a qualified--and not a resounding--yes and, at the worst, more negative than positive. We have a nuclear doctrine, but no counter-insurgency  and counter-terrorism  doctrine despite the fact that India has been the victim of externally-supported insurgencies/terrorism since 1956 and no counter-proxy war doctrine despite the fact that thousands of security forces personnel and innocent civilians have died due to Pakistan's proxy war since 1981---initially in Punjab and then in J&K.

7. Any doctrine, in order to be credible and to be able to produce enduring results, has to address the internal as well as external, professional as well as the political economic and social aspects of threats to our national security from the cancer of externally-supported insurgencies and terrorism.  While the external aspects have been receiving increasing attention with significant successes as evidenced by the recent changes in the attitude of the international community in our favour in relation to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the equally important internal aspect of identifying and attending to the grievances of the people falling a prey to external machinations has not received the attention it deserves.  So long as this aspect is neglected, the wounds would continue to fester even if we reduce and ultimately eliminate the external causes of aggravation. 

( This is the text of a presentation prepared for delivery during an  interaction at a Bangalore-based think-tank on June 28, 2002)

(The writer  is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: corde@vsnl.com )

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