Thursday, February 2nd, 2023 07:48:54

What Ails INDIA’S Security?

Updated: January 2, 2010 4:30 pm

Given the prevailing conditions, which for all practical purposes make India a “soft state,” it is being realised that no government can ensure internal security, whether from terrorist incidents, ethnic or religious strife, internal insurgencies or the kind of civil war led by the Maoists in large parts of the country.

A year has passed since the terror attacks on India’s financial capital of Mumbai on Nov. 26, 2008 killed 163 people, including many foreigners. As Indians remember the ghastly incident, internal security has became one of their main debating points. Many security analysts believe that India cannot prevent the recurrence of another Mumbai-type attack.

Given the prevailing conditions, which for all practical purposes make India a “soft state,” it is being realised that no government can ensure internal security, whether from terrorist incidents, ethnic or religious strife, internal insurgencies or the kind of civil war led by the Maoists in large parts of the country.

On the other hand, powerful sections of the media, academia and human rights activists argue that it is the state that is responsible for all the internal violence witnessed in India.

The logic runs that the state often resorts to violence in order to permanently destroy a perceived threat to the existing structure of socioeconomic privilege by eliminating the political participation of the numerical majority or the popular class.

Viewed thus, internal security is often construed or misconstrued, depending on one’s persuasion as something that legitimizes the status quo and furthers the interests of the ruling elite. So it is not surprising that India’s internal security is always a contentious subject.

This explains why India finds it difficult to evolve a doctrine of internal security. Indian leaders are not sure who the enemy is, what the sources of conflict in the country are, and which strategies to apply to counter the threats.

The problem is further confounded by the fact that distinctions between external security and internal security are getting increasingly blurred. Many internal security threats in India are externally sponsored, guided, inspired, supported or tolerated.

When there is cooperation from outside it is much easier for authorities to deal with a situation. For instance, the founder and chairman of the notorious and

outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam, Arabinda Rajkhowa, was arrested last recently by police in Bangladesh because the relatively India-friendly regime of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Bangladesh facilitated the arrest.

It was known that Rajkhowa had been operating from Bangladesh for several years, but Dhaka had previously denied his presence and activities on its soil. India suffered in the process, as the ULFA indulged in periodic violence, terror and bomb blasts in the Indian state of Assam.

However, such cooperation has not been forthcoming from Pakistan, as is evident from Islamabad’s lackadaisical handling of the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. Pakistan has been using state-sponsored and state-supported cross-border terrorism in India as an instrument of state policy.

Likewise, recent reports of insurgents in India’s northeastern states receiving Chinese arms and training have revived old questions as to China’s designs with regard to the separatist ethnic militancy prevailing in this vulnerable part of India. Links between the Maoists in Nepal and those in the bordering states in India also remain a major cause of concern.

Almost all of India’s neighbours can be broadly described as “failed states.” So there is always the potential danger of spillover effects arising from unstable conditions in the neighbourhood. The Maoist participation in Nepal’s government, the continuing ethnic problem in Sri Lanka with the increasing menace of smuggling and drug trafficking, and conflicts in Pakistan and Bangladesh will therefore have important implications in the adjoining Indian territories.

The involvement of external forces in aiding and abetting India’s organized crime and mafia groups is also well known. This linkage is encouraging trans-border illegal migration, money laundering operations, gun-running and drug trafficking, apart from fomenting criminal and subversive activities as well as religious and ethnic conflict.

In fact, the enormous funds generated by foreign-aided unlawful activities are being mostly used to spread Islamic fundamentalism and organize ethnic conflict and other violent incidents all over the country.

The other aspect that limits the Indian government’s role in strengthening internal security is its quasi-federal Constitution. Under the Indian Constitution, “public order” and “police” are under the jurisdiction of the states and not the central government. Consequently, individual states have powers under Article 246(3) to make laws and take all necessary executive action to maintain internal security.

As regards the central government’s responsibility, the Constitution under Article 355 prescribes that it is the duty of the union to protect the states against external aggression and internal disturbances and to ensure that every state is governed in accordance with Constitution, failing which presidential rule may be imposed under Article 356 in the defaulting state until constitutional governance can be restored.

The Constitution under Article 352 provides for the enforcement of emergency rule if a situation warrants or if there is imminent danger to the security of India such as threat of war or armed rebellion.

However, when a political party or coalition governing a state is opposed to the ruling party or coalition at the center, then that state government is extremely sensitive to central intervention, even in cases of severe internal conflicts, be it terrorism or insurgency.

The frequent misuse of central government power in the past and the regular abuse of central intelligence agencies have further vitiated center-state relations. In the past, when a single party like the Congress Party dominated the Indian Parliament, state governments run by non-Congress parties were frequently dismissed under flimsy pretexts by resorting to Article 356.

The resultant disharmonies of which the list is rapidly growing of late between the central and state governments make it increasingly difficult to devise and implement suitable laws to deal with the challenges to the country’s internal security.

Any talk of creating an adequately stringent law applicable to the whole country, which would effectively deal with terrorist offences, cyber crimes and the fast-growing areas of organized crime that pose a grave threat to national security, results in huge controversies.

Partisan politics is also hampering the creation of a federal crime agency that could deal with serious offences committed by criminal networks whose activities may spread across states and the entire country and cross over to foreign lands.

By tacit consensus, politicians are also eluding the need for a comprehensive law to deal with serious economic offences, which, if not checked in a timely manner, have the potential to disrupt the national economy.

By Prakash Nanda

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