The Decadent Security System
If you are travelling to the United States any of these days then please be prepared for intense security check ups. As the Americans prepare for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, security at airports, mass transit stations, US borders, government buildings and major athletic events over the next month are being tightened intensely. It is not that the Americans have woken up just now on sensitive security matters. Over the last 10 years, both the Bush and Obama administrations have not compromised on anything to make the United States doubly secure. All told, there have been no major terrorist incidents in the United States since the fateful September 11, 2001, the day nearly 3000 innocent people were killed by Osama bin Laden’s associates. The US has even militarily intervened, arguably under dubious pleas, in far away areas off the American mainland such as Iraq and Afghanistan, to ensure that Americans are safe.
What are then the lessons for us Indians? All told, India has been a bigger victim of terrorism. As I write this, there are reports that Pakistani ISI, as has been the case with all major terror attacks on India in recent years, funded through the Saudi Arabian route and executed with the help of the local city youth the July 13 serial blasts in Mumbai. It is the same old story that we were told when the Indian financial capital was attacked by the ISI/LeT agents on November 26, 2008(26/11). But what have we done to make us a little bit more secure?
The recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General has revealed how the lapses in strengthening our coastal security continue, despite the fact that 26/11 attackers came through the sea-route. In fact, a perceptive security- expert has recently written how the union Home Minister P Chidambaram was “economical in truth” in his otherwise much-applauded intervention on internal security in Parliament the other day. The strength of our police forces in various parts of the country is pathetically inadequate. Our police suffer from the lack of modernised and sophisticated weapons and ammo. No wonder why there are strong merits when analysts talk of “the Indian Fine Art of Faking Security”. We as a people and our leaders are not worried that it is high time the country developed a sense of security or for that matter a strategic culture. We are proud of the fact that life does not come to a halt when Mumbai is attacked. We analyse it as a sign of our strength that Mumbai, despite under frequent attacks, is a vibrant place to live and work in. For me this sort of Mumbai-spirit is actually a sign of cowardice, and there is nothing to be proud of.
What is worse, this culture of taking security matters for granted is now adversely affecting even our armed forces. My morning newspapers (September 1) say that the Chiefs of Staff Committee, comprising three Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, has complained to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the lack of integration between three Services and the civilian -controlled Ministry of Defence (MoD), contributing to undue delays in procurement of arms and ammunitions and other higher defence management activities. We have now a situation when the serving Army Chief V K Singh is literally fighting a war with the MoD over his tenure as the two are not in agreement with what his date of birth should be. Equally unprecedented is the report that two serving Lieutenant Generals are seeking contempt of Court proceeding against the Defence Secretary Shashikant Sharma.
In fact, such is the state of our strategic culture (or lack of it) that many in India view the Indian armed forces with great suspicion. These elements, drawn from academia, civilian bureaucracy and active politics, would not even grant our armed forces the operational autonomy. They remind us how Jawaharlal Nehru had once said that there was no significant role for the military in India. These very elements are also openly opposing the idea of India having a “Chief of Defence Staff”, a post every comparable democracy such as the US and UK allows. They fear that it will give the military officer too much power.
I think that these elements are overreacting a bit. The Generals are within their limits to express the view points of armed forces on some issues which directly concern them. The government should take these as important inputs while making decisions. The point is that being a democracy, our armed forces should have a voice on important strategic issues, though they cannot dictate what the ultimate decisions will be. That is the prerogative of the political establishment.
However, the problem is that more often than not the political establishment has not been up to the mark. In order to highlight this point, I would like to share with my readers a satirical “scenario- building” that I received the other day in my e-mail.
This was the scenario…
The Pakistan army decides to launch a nuke-missile towards India. They don’t need any permission from their government, and promptly order the countdowns.
Indian technology is highly advanced. In less than 8 seconds, Indian army detects the Pak countdown and decides to launch a missile in retribution.
But they need permission from the Government of India.
They submit their request to the Indian President. The President forwards it to the Cabinet. The Prime Minister calls an emergency Lok Sabha session.
The LS meets, but due to several walkouts and severe protests by the opposition, it gets adjourned indefinitely.
The President asks for a quick decision.
In the mean time, the Pak missile failed to take off due to technical failure. Their attempts for a re-launch are still on.
Just then the Indian ruling party is reduced to a minority because a party that was giving outside support withdraws it. The President asks the PM to prove his majority within a week.
As the ruling party fails to win the confidence vote, a caretaker government is installed.
The caretaker PM decides to permit the armed forces to launch a nuclear missile. But the Election Commission says that a caretaker government cannot take such a decision because elections are at hand.
The Election Commission files Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court alleging misuse of power.
The Supreme Court comes to the rescue of the PM, and says the acting PM is authorized to take this decision in view of the emergency facing the nation.
Just then one of the Pak missiles successfully took off, but it fell 367 miles away from the target, on its own government building in Islamabad at 11:00AM.
Fortunately there were no casualties as no employee had reached the office that early. In any case, the nuclear core of the missile had detached somewhere in flight.
The Pakistan army is now trying to get better technologies from China and USA. The Indian Government, taking no chances, decides to launch a nuclear missile of its own, after convening an all-party meeting. This time all the parties agree.
However, it is three months since the army had sought permission. But as preparations begin, “pro-humanity”, “anti-nuclear” activists come out against the Government’s decision. Human chains are formed and “Rasta rokos” organized.
In California and Washington endless e-mails are sent to Indians condemning the government and mentioning “Please forward it to as many Indians as possible”.
On the Pakistan side, the missiles kept malfunctioning. Some missiles deviate from target due to technical failures or high-speed wind blowing over Rajasthan.
Many of them land in the Indian Ocean killing some fishes.
A missile (smuggled from USA) is pressed into service. Since the Pakistan army is unable to understand its software, it hits it original destination: Russia.
Russians successfully intercepts the missile and in retaliation launches a nuclear missile towards Islamabad. The missile hits the target and creates havoc.
Pakistan cries for help. India expresses deep regrets for what has happened and sends in a million dollars worth of Parle-G biscuits.
Thus India never gets to launch the missile
The above scenario is not something to be dismissed as a fun-story. Behind this hilariousness, it reflects poorly our decision-making process and the overall decadent security system in which our leaders only offer inane homilies like “We do not have a magic wand”, or “ It is not an easy task”, or “We are trying to do our best”!
By Prakash Nanda