Homeland Security

India’s Security Sector: An Appraisal
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Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 15 Sep , 2015

Challenges to India’s security are mounting by the day. The governance of India’s security sector needs to be seen in the context of its external and internal vulnerability. Integrated, comprehensive Security Sector Reform (SSR) must be preceded by a comprehensive needs assessment to identify critical gaps and potential links across sectors. Governance is unlikely to improve across the board anywhere in the short term and political patronage to terrorists cannot disappear overnight either, especially in the absence of resolute and focused action against such a nexus. Presently, our SSR though progressing appears more akin to the blind man’s bluff. Indeed, we have a very long way to go.

We have numerous terrorist organisations and insurgent groups operating within the country, the looming shadow of the ISIS and Pakistan’s demonstrated resolve to accelerate terrorism against India – all leading to the requirement of an effective security sector.

Reference to the security sector in India is generally alluded to with homeland security to include mention of private security as also the industry providing equipment related to homeland security. More often than not, such reference does not take the armed forces into account and even the focus on the balance is generally compartmentalised to individual organs of the security sector, like the CRPF or CISF separately, not as a whole. This hardly augurs well for India being the second most populous country in the world with land borders of some 15,072 kilometres that are porous with bulk of it over difficult terrain bordering a volatile neighbourhood, a coastline of some 7,863 kilometres, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.02 million sq. km and offshore assets (oil wells, processing platforms, pipelines) spread over a total area of some 17,000 sq km.

Then we have the continuing proxy war being waged by Pakistan over the past three decades supported by China, the latter too employing asymmetric warfare against us and supporting insurgent movement in India. To add to this, we have numerous terrorist organisations and insurgent groups operating within the country, the Al Qaeda’s refocusing to South Asia, the looming shadow of the ISIS and Pakistan’s demonstrated resolve to accelerate terrorism against India – all leading to the requirement of an effective security sector. But then, when India has not been able to define a National Security Strategy all these decades, a ‘holistic’ appreciation and strategy for the security sector would obviously also be distant. It may be recalled that while projecting the case for the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the then Home Minister, P Chidambaram, had also projected the requirement of a separate Ministry of Internal Security. The obvious deduction was that in its present shape the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is not capable of looking after the entire gamut of internal security, the threats and asymmetric battlefield being borderless.

Defining the Security Sector

Though there is no common definition for the security sector per se, in the United Nations and the West, security sector is a broad term used to describe the structures, institutions and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country. These can include defence, law enforcement institutions, corrections, intelligence services, border management, customs, elements of the judicial sector, management and oversight bodies, civil society groups and other non-state actors among other elements. Inclusion of the armed forces are axiomatic at the upper crust of the cutting edge but also taking into account that asymmetric war as it exists today is not waged against the military of a nation but the nation itself. This requires a national response, of which armed forces are but one segment.

The need to infiltrate terrorist organisations is all pervasive and not relevant to Maoists alone…

India’s Security Sector

If the above definition of the security sector is taken as the basis and the fact that the whole nation is involved, India’s sector would encompass at least the following major components – government ministries of defence, home, external affairs, law and justice, human resources, aviation, railways, surface transport and shipping, intelligence services, armed forces, Para Military Forces (PMF), the Indian Coast Guard, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), state police forces, customs and immigration services, private security services and the like.

Then, considering the size and diversity of India and its population, intelligence gathering requires participation by the entire citizenry – putting the billion plus eyes concept on the ground. The security sector, therefore, cannot be restricted to the security forces alone. The security forces themselves in no small strength of 1.3 million plus armed forces and others including PMF (NSG, SFF, AR), CAPF (BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB, CISF, RPF and the like) too numbering 1.3 million plus. Then come the police, home guards and civil defence.

The police force is woefully short of even the level authorised. More importantly, going by media reports, though there are three policemen for every VIP, only one is available for 761 commoners – an atrocious state in a sycophancy-ridden country with rampant crime. As per data compiled by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D), the number of police personnel per one lakh of population in India as on January 01, 2006, was 1:142.69. This is much lower than the United Nations standard of police to citizen ratio which stands at 222 policemen for every one lakh people.

Command and Control channels are disparate, which hinders a national level response…

State governments have been reluctant to even implement police reform, especially with regard to the 2006 Supreme Court Directives on establishing State Security Commissions and Police Complaints Authorities. The number of private security guards has crossed five million already, which logically are the first line of on the spot response for internal security.


Threat Appreciation: The first ever India Risk Survey was undertaken conjointly by ICCI and Pinkerton in recent times. At the government level, reforms are reactive and piece-meal not on any integrated and comprehensive level that should have happened as part of a national strategic planning process. But this requires a holistic threat appreciation that should be continuously reviewed. As far as reforms are concerned, it is a question of which organ makes the most noise and can get its way through.

Intelligence: India has nine major intelligence agencies with the charter of some not even having been ratified by the Constitution. The major ones are not under parliamentary oversight and a former Joint Director IB had penned in 2005 that these agencies were primarily being used to target opposition parties. The question also remains that in the absence of a National Security Strategy, that axiomatically should include internal security as well, and absence of defining national security objectives, how do you task the intelligence agencies? The MHA has recently stated that 33 Pakistani spy modules had been busted in the past three years but the other side of the coin also is that it is only after the Burdwan blasts, it was discovered that the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) had grown roots in West Bengal for the past two years plus.

The MARCOS, NSG and Force One who would be called upon to respond to a 26/11 type situation have never actually undertaken a joint exercise…

Take the case of Maharashtra. Force One, a special police unit, was raised within one year of 26/11. It is manned by sons of the soil but is not permitted to generate its own intelligence because of several reasons including the politician-police-underworld nexus. Post 26/11, MJ Akbar had questioned as to why the surprise about the vessel that brought the terrorists from Karachi when practically every week dhows were ferrying narcotics from Pakistan into Mumbai. The Home Minister had stated some weeks ago that Maoists organisations should be infiltrated; but has that happened or is it the slipshod reliance on ‘informers’ who easily double-cross as it had reportedly happened in the recent CRPF massacre at Sukma.

The need to infiltrate terrorist organisations including those across the border, is all pervasive and not relevant to Maoists alone. It is ironic that the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) though mandated to operate sources cross-border is denied this and instructed to rely on TECHINT which is grossly inadequate, HUMINT being the most important amongst all source intelligence.

Command and Control: Command and Control channels are disparate, which hinders a national level response. It affects equipping, manning, training and most importantly, synergising the security sector. There is perceptible problem of synergy between the local police and CAPF battling Maoists in the affected states. An across-the-board review is needed lest we continue with knee-jerk reactions. A former Home Minister while approaching the saluting dais at the NSG parade was whispered that the boys need some more money. So he went ahead and announced a special allowance of 25 per cent of basic pay – making the NSG the highest paid force of its kind in the country.

Though the Special Action Groups of the NSG were 100 per cent army personnel on deputation, we pick up the DGP of a state and appoint him DG-NSG, a person who fancies wearing headgear replete with the red band authorised to the army, even though he has little idea of Special Operations. En route to the scene of 26/11, the then DG NSG told the NSG force that he wanted the terrorists ‘alive’ as if the terrorists were unarmed. With the expansion of the NSG, army personnel on deputation to NSG are being placed under IPS officers even at unit and sub-unit level that reflects a complete lack of understanding of the military ethos.

Presently, the government has cleared procurement of two helicopters by the ITBP ostensibly for “air support” which shows utter lack of understanding what air support implies, training, maintenance and the like. Is there a better example of one-upmanship, disjointed planning and squandering of money?

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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