Internal Security & Economic Reforms
The recent economic reforms unleashed by the government are manifestations of fiscal omissions and commissions accumulated over the years. While many reasons can be ascribed to the steep economic downslide, one major incontrovertible factor has been the sharply deteriorating internal security situation which has shied away from internal and external investments and imposed caution in the business environment of the country. A conducive internal security environment is the foremost imperative to economic growth. The phraseology ‘internal security’ is being used in this article as against ‘law and order’ because of the external dimensions and the level of violence obtaining in the country. Internal stability has been eluding the government on account of jihadi terrorism, Maoist terrorism, insurgency, mob violence, and motivated, orchestrated NGO protests with implied violence. In the recent past there have also been no less than half-a dozen communal riots in the heartland of India which the media has chosen to ignore. Given the symbiosis between security and economic growth an appraisal of the prevailing internal security environment leads to some vexing questions.
UNREMITTING PROXY WAR
Since 2004, there has been an unprecedented impetus in the proxy war waged by Pakistan and China on India. The Maoists, undoubtedly with tacit Chinese support, of which there is increasing evidence, continue to spread their influence across India. As of now, over 200 districts are impacted by some form of Left Wing Extremism which impacts the social and economic fabric of the country. In a recent interview to a national daily, Director General of CRPF conceded that 60,000 sq km of area comprising south Chhattisgarh,and adjoining areas of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra are no-go areas for security forces and that the state has been absent in this area for about 25 years.
There are many other pockets of no-go areas in the Red Corridor and insurgency-hit areas, therefore development has bypassed them. The major part of the corridor abounds in mineral wealth and natural resources. There is a concerted bid by inimical external and internal forces to stifle the economic potential of the region. These forces have influence at every level and facet of governance.
The much touted economic reforms have therefore failed to conflate internal instability on account of Maoist terror and falling economic growth. If the Maoist affected districts were to be reclaimed by the state, an eight per cent growth would not be a struggling proposition.
During the same period, jihadi terror victimised the length and breadth of the country. The targets of this terror escalated from Mumbai sub-urban trains in 2006, to religious places and to cities across the country in 2007, which then metamorphosed in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. It was a ‘war’ waged by Pakistan in the guise of non-state actors. Most coastal countries are acutely concerned about this new paradigm of war introduced by Pakistan and are formulating response strategies to such attacks. India, however, continues to place its faith on diplomacy and politics, which so far has neither deterred nor altered the strategic discourse by the military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan. On the contrary, the policy makers in Pakistan have mastered the art of using diplomatic and cultural exchanges as subterfuge or even a tool of ‘proxy war’ against India. The soldiers of this proxy war now appear to be entrenched now in the length and breadth of the country as evidenced by Kokrajhar riots in the east, its reverberations in Mumbai in the west and panic exodus of citizens of Northeast from South.
DECEPTIVE CALM IN KASHMIR
Apparently, the only brief respite or silver lining in the internal security scenario was in Kashmir. In 2011-12, the relative reduction in violence, the successful conduct of Panchayat elections and the high number of tourists visiting the state of J&K engendered a false sense of peace in the political establishment. The elections conducted to elect 34,000 village representatives were held after three decades. The level of intimidation by inimical internal and external elements and security threat to these elections can be gauged by the fact that it was conducted in 17 phases. It was hailed as a great victory for a grassroots democracy and a harbinger of a new era in the political and national discourse in Kashmir. These expectations are now being belied. It began with the killing of five village representatives last year, and now the mass resignations of Panchayat members is threatening to go viral on the diktats of jihadi outfits aided and abetted by the Pakistan state.
Rather than achieving the objective of promoting a grassroots democracy, the Panchayats in Kashmir have become a religious and political whipping post for the ISI, jihadis, the separatists and the politicians in the Valley. Mr Geelani, the inveterate separatist pro-Pakistani leader views the Panchayats as ‘planned conspiracy to mutilate Muslim identity of Kashmir’. In a debate on television in which this author participated, an eminent Pakistani politician described the Panchayats as a ‘Hindu concept’. Some other mainstream politicians and separatists in Kashmir have rejected the extension of 73rd Amendment to the Constitution, which vests Panchayats with significant powers, on the plea that it would militate against Article 370 and erode the state’s autonomy. Intelligence reports suggest that a large number of separatists and pro-Pakistan elements managed to get elected to these village bodies only to wreck the state from within. This has some parallel with the Maoist corridor, wherein a large number of Maoists have got elected to the Panchayats in Jharkhand and Odisha by sheer intimidation and terror. The large funds made available to them by the state are being used for furtherance of the Maoist writ and expansion. Such activities need to be taken note of and checked to preserve the unity and security of the country.
POLITICAL INITIATIVES VS SECURITY CONCERNS
Notwithstanding the fluctuations in level of Pakistan orchestrated terrorism, the Valley continues to bleed India economically.
More than 42 terrorist training camps are still operational in PoK which indicates that there is no dilution of intent on the part of the ISI to push terrorists into India. Intelligence reports also indicate that about 3,000-4,000 Kashmiri youth are waiting to cross over to Pakistan for terrorist training. They have however not crossed over due to the dire internal and external compulsions of Pakistan. Pakistan is unlikely to change its agenda regardless of the internal turmoil within the country. In such a scenario, the clamour in Kashmir’s political class for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) appears premature. With the latest terror unleashed on Panchayat representatives by the jihadi groups based in Pakistan and abetted by elements in the Valley, the situation can be described as pernicious, as it strikes at the very heart of Indian democracy, just as the very secular edifice of the Indian Republic was debilitated when more than four lakh Kashmiri Pandits were driven out by the jihadi terrorists in 1990. The horror filled slogan those days’’Quit Kashmir’’ destroyed the social and communal fabric of the state which so far has proved to be irreparable as even after 22 years not a single family has returned. Their continued consignment in refugee camps mocks the basis of Indian State.
If a particular demography of a particular region threatens the stability of the entire country and the fabric of the nation-state, its re-structuring by bold initiatives would be a patriotic act.
To provide security to more than 34,000 elected representatives of Panchayats is economically non-viable. The huge cache of arms, i.e. 98 pistols, 10 AK-47 rifles, two machine guns etc. captured by the Indian Army in Keran sector in Kupwara district is a grim indicator of the sinister designs of Pakistan and a new phase in jihadi terrorism. Such huge cache of arms of Chinese make, making its way into India could not have happened without Pakistani State support. The current political dispensation in Kashmir therefore needs to revisit its demand for the removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that provides some immunity to the security forces.
In the Northeast too the recent riots in Kokrajhar has underscored the need for AFSPA. So far various governments in the Centre have only treated the Northeast singularly on security plane. The economic assets and potential of the region was surrendered to the whims of the insurgents who destroyed productivity including the thriving tea industry. An urgent emphasis on economic self-sufficiency would have compelled the Centre to innovate more bold, quick and lasting solutions. Today, in what can be described as one -way economic traffic, the Centre continues to pour money in the bottomless pit of Northeast.
The only ineluctable conclusion which can be drawn from the recent happenings in the Valley is that the strategic discourse of Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment is unlikely to change. Its strategic reliance on a proxy war is abiding. In that pursuit even ‘Afghanistan’ has proved to be a minor distraction. The US or the NATO has hardly been able to deter Pakistan from this course. India therefore will have to fight the proxy war by itself on the internal and external planes. The former is a more daunting task. Some of the recent religious protests were inspired, engineered and coordinated by more than one external source. The ire was not just directed at the US and its consulates in India, but there was unmistakable belligerence and implied violence against the symbols and machinery of the Indian state. The recent period also witnessed ugly protests against the visiting head of state of Sri Lanka. It is these actions that are pushing Sri Lanka into the embrace of China and consequently India has lost some major contracts and investment opportunities.
NEED FOR NEW SECURITY PARADIGM
With the increasing spread of insurgency, Maoist and Jihadi terror, the space for peaceful economic growth is shrinking. Much of the areas earlier considered tranquil are now losing much of their peace and poise. This is despite the fact that in terms of number of personnel, the central armed police forces (CAPF) now exceed the strength of the Army. Increased numbers have however not mitigated the level of fear and terror. India therefore needs to create a new internal security structure for which there needs to be a vibrant discourse in the political class, strategic community and within the security establishment. Without resolving this question, the Indian State will continue to flounder in providing security to its people in a comprehensive and enduring manner. We must remember that security and economic development remain two sides of the same coin.
India desperately needs a reformer who has the gumption to carry out drastic reforms in the security structure and discourse. India needs a leader who accords primacy to the security facet of economics and ‘economic warfare’ with adversaries and competitors in the international arena. It is not difficult to find economic reformers in big markets like India, but ‘security’ reformers are neutralised by vested interests even before they emerge because of the economic dependency and parallel economy that ‘instability’ creates. Sardar Patel has been an exception to this truism for a long time now!
By RSN Singh