As the NDA government completes one year in office it would be apt to review its policies towards creating a more robust security structure. It is not too early to comment on the outcome. While the Prime Minister’s tone and tenor had exuded confidence and a steely resolve to deliver after a decade of lackadaisical administration under the erstwhile dispensation it needs to be judged for its deliverables.
Time has come to re-orientate our thinking and consider both external and internal threats as threats to the national security and territorial integrity…
World powers are queuing up to become close to the new regime foreseeing the economic opportunity. All appears very nice and healthy and gratifying. National pride has returned in good measure. The world waits and watches for the promised efficient, transparent, investment friendly and above all a secure and strong India. Many attempts have been made in the past to strengthen the security mechanism of the nation. However, there is a need and also a chance to introspect on our National security with a new outlook.
It is a well known fact that defense of the Nation and our internal security situation in the peripheral states have been victim to active external interference however, these two threats are treated as two different entities and are assigned to two different ministries at the Centre. External forces inimical to India have been involved in the Perulia arms drop, and (26/11) Mumbai terrorist attack. Infiltration and renewed firing across the Line of Control (LC) and the international boundary with Pakistan and a spurt in counter insurgency situations in J&K as also the recent incident of Naga groups violating ceasefire regime the North-East too are secessionist movement and are abetted by mentors across the borders of India.
Continued violence, caused by poor administration and absence of governance, in the Maoist affected areas in six of the states in the central region of India are related matters concerning National security but are dealt with by different agencies under different ministries and as a different matter. Time has come to re-orientate our thinking and consider both external and internal threats as threats to the national security and territorial integrity to be dealt with by better coordination and give a befitting response in the most economical manner.
CRPF are employed in spurts in a knee jerk manner reacting to situations rather than pro-actively launching operations to keep the Maoists on the run.
The Ministry of Defence (MOD) controls the three defense forces viz army, navy and air force besides the Coast Guard and has the operational control over the Assam Rifles (the two Para-Military Forces). Alongside, there are other agencies functioning under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) dealing with internal security situations beyond law and order and more akin to typical counter insurgency situation thus requiring a military like professional approach. Some forces under MHA are also involved in border management alongside army on both the LC and LAC which remain responsible to their headquarters and MHA thereby leading to duality in control and ambiguity in response. India has a plethora of uniformed forces each securing a niche role for itself. Some of these forces and their roles are discussed briefly in succeeding paragraphs.
Central Armed Police Force (CRPF). CRPF is the oldest of the armed police forces, especially raised for controlling internal law and order situation wherever required in conjunction with State Armed Police but under functional control of the local Police. This force has an authorized strength of 3,25,000 personnel. Its role envisages in it as the Centre’s striking force for police operations to maintain law and order and contain insurgency.
In recent years, the Government of India (GoI) has decided to follow up on recommendations of the Indian cabinet to use each security agency for its mandated purpose. As a result, the counter-insurgency (CI) operations in India have been entrusted to the CRPF. They operate under the State DGP by implication, ipso facto, they are directly responsible to the local district Superintendent of Police. Consequent to the additional raising of 25 battalions for CI tasks and the prolonged training preparation for this task they have been deployed in J&K and are engaged in typical CI operations. They are the main force deployed in the Maoist affected areas. Due to the format of their employment under the District Administration their own command hierarchy are not directly in charge and accountable for the operations in a systematic manner. Consequently they are employed in spurts in a knee jerk manner reacting to situations rather than pro-actively launching operations to keep the Maoists on the run. This dual control and responsibility is not conducive to planning and conduct of operations as required in the Maoist affected areas.
Due to the typical police culture that prevails in the leadership they have suffered avoidable losses thus learning at a heavy cost of lives lost.
Also, these forces are not geared training wise and the leadership leaves much to be desired. Be that as it may, the prevailing situation has allowed them to expand their domain considerably. Due to the typical police culture that prevails in the leadership they have suffered avoidable losses thus learning at a heavy cost of lives lost.
Border Security Force (BSF). Raised after the 1965 Indo-Pak war, it is responsible for surveillance and border guarding along the international boundary with Pakistan, Bangladesh and now also as proposed along the Myanmar boundary. It has a strength 186 battalions totaling 2,40,000 personnel. To take on the responsibility of the Indo-Myanmar boundary the force will be augmented by another 41 battalions (55,000 personnel). On the LC it is deployed in conjunction with the army in the less threatened sectors. Here, the battalions are under the operational command of the army but the administrative control of all the battalions and DIG HQ rests the IG BSF of the area.
They have their own chain of reporting and responsibilities and very often the input and the necessary response gets delayed or is not effective. Due to their cumbersome administrative procedures redeployment or relocation is a long drawn exercise.
In Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat they are all along the border with well developed logistics and information system. They are placed under the operational control of the army only during active operations. In the East again the BSF is manning the border with Bangladesh and in a recent development; they may be deployed on with border with Myanmar relieving Assam Rifles for operations in the hinterland. This move is controversial and jeopardizes the operational synergy that is essential for conduct of successful CI operations in Nagaland, Manipur and portions of Arunachal Pradesh. In some pockets they were also deployed in CI role alongside the Army till they were relieved by the CRPF. As and when necessity arises they can be called upon help maintaining law and order also.
The situation on the LAC is akin to that on the LC with POK where due to operational necessity the BSF is placed under the army. Similarly since the situation along the LAC is to counter incursions by the Chinese army the forces deployed must, by any logic, must be under the army.
ITBP. The Force was raised for operating along LAC with China in October 1962 with a mere strength of 1500 personnel. By 2004 it had increased to 36,000 and thereafter, more than doubled by 2012. It is stated to be further enhanced to 90,000 by end 2015. Its role has been expanded to undertake tasks in disaster management, and act as first responders in NBC disaster situation. They have also been assigned the task to set up Civil Medical Camps remote border areas of the North as and when required. The incident of stand-off between India and China at Daulat Baig Oldie (DBO)/Depsang in April 2014 has been a result of ambiguous command and control arrangement of these deployed forces. The ITBP battalions in Ladakh are administratively and operationally under the DIG Headquarter located in Leh which in turn is answerable to the IG Headquarter based in Chandigarh. De facto, they are not under the local military commander who is located at the LAC itself. A single point control facilitates coordinated surveillance and reconnaissance and where need be appropriate response. A lot more needs to be seen in such incidents then what actually is visible.
The situation on the LAC is akin to that on the LC with POK where due to operational necessity the BSF is placed under the army. Similarly since the situation along the LAC is to counter incursions by the Chinese army the forces deployed must, by any logic, must be under the army. The MHA is however, not receptive to this logic. If only the ITBP is responsible then the Army should sent to garrisons and not be patrolling along the LAC!! Ironically the MoD and MHA are not specifying such clear operational responsibilities for the army and ITBP.
Shashtra Seema Bal (SSB). The SSB was raised in 1962 post the Indo-China conflict to organize the population in the border regions in NEFA. It was then directly under the Cabinet Secretariat. However, in 2005 it was designated as a Border Guarding Force and placed under MHA. It has a total strength of 86,000 personnel. This force is deployed along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan boundaries.
India Reserve Battalion (IRB). These battalions are assigned to States to assist the State Armed Police in combating low level of insurgency. These are funded partially by the Central Government and balance by the State. Presently there are 144 battalions distributed to various States. An additional eight have been sanctioned for raising and further 31 more under consideration by the Finance Ministry for new raising. Thereby making it a total of 183 battalions – approximately 1,85,000 personnel.
The NIA was raised post 26/11, 2008 but has met with resistance from States and the other intelligence agencies.
The other armed police/protection forces are the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Railway Protection Force (RPF). The former has a strength of 1,12,000 personnel and the latter approximately 65,000. In addition every State has a fairly robust force of Armed Police and even Commando Units.
Besides the above, there are a host of intelligence agencies viz. Intelligence Bureau (IB) under MHA, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA) functioning under the Cabinet Secretariat. The NIA was raised post 26/11, 2008 but has met with resistance from States and the other intelligence agencies. Post the Kargil Committee Report an adhoc measure of Multi Agency Center (MAC) established to coordinate the national intelligence effort continues to function even after the formation of the NIA. There continues a serious lacuna in intelligence agencies sharing of their inputs. In reality all inputs are probably wetted centrally by the respective agency at Delhi before being disseminated for action.
Consequently there is a self-inflicted time lapse, which, in dynamic situations is not acceptable and becomes the factor dictating success or failure. Unknown to the general public, a rather quaint and in many ways humorous situation prevails on ground, often the same source sells the same information to various agencies and that to at different prices which if fact defeats the purpose of deploying so many different agencies which in the larger context is detrimental to the national interest. There is a crying need to have a unity of command. Its partial implementation is surprising. Are we scared of the bogey of too much centralization of power?
Visualise these three ‘Border Guarding Forces’ under one Director General (DG), the functional efficiency and coordination by MHA too will be more effective.
In most cases it is the inter-departmental turf war mainly to protect their respective domains to satisfy the basic esteem needs, as theorized by Maslow, not necessarily the organizations needs. This aspect should be given due cognizance and be looked at by the current dispensation with necessary detachment for the larger national good.
An analysis of the existing security structure highlights a silo like environment that limits reorganization and revamping due to each protecting its turf. A question that arises is why not merge ITBP and SSB with BSF? These three forces are “Border Guarding Forces”! Such a move will make available a larger pool of battalions for rotation in the high altitude areas along the Northern border giving a considerable time gap to battalions before they get rotated again to these difficult areas – a much needed reform. That would entail two ‘silos’ being eliminated – a move which, undoubtedly, will meet a lot of resistance for parochial and not professional reasons. Visualise these three ‘Border Guarding Forces’ under one Director General (DG), the functional efficiency and coordination by MHA too will be more effective.
To make any meaningful change will require participation by all sections of the governance mechanism to generate due synergy. The present scenario reflects a fragmented approach which is well reflected in the PM’s Independence Day speech where he mentioned the internecine machinations within the government which was the root cause of slow pace of progress which ubiquitously reflects in the attitude towards defending India. The National defense requires a national commitment and resolve. A steady sustained effort to modernize is essential to have all uniformed force being prepared always.
The security situation prevalent in Indian context is unique. Alternate options can be debated. The Homeland Security model of the US may not be suitable for applying in the Indian context due to our existing adversarial relations with certain neighbours and safe havens available to the insurgents. Handing over all security related matters to MoD would make this Ministry over-burdened and unwieldy. The gamut of intelligence agencies, that are so essential for success in CI operations, will continue with MHA which would remain a shortcoming. A modified form of the existing arrangement could be looked at too. In that all forces deployed on the LC and LAC should be placed under direct control for all purposes under the army. This should include the DIG and IG headquarters too.
It is criminal to expect a 55 or 60 year old Inspector or Sub-Inspector to be operating at 18,000 feet in the ITBP or operating against young Maoists in Central India.
In the larger context of economical utilization of resources, the silos of these various CAPF’s need to be broken down. Presently, all the CAPF’s have a common selection process however they have their own respective set of training institutes, which results in avoidable duplication of assets. As in most countries, the homeland security forces are manned by side-stepping man-power from the armed forces. This has its advantages such as –
firstly, and most essentially, a young profile of the army can be maintained to be able to operate effectively in the most hostile conditions of terrain and war situations. The sidestepping age can be kept at 40 years age. It is criminal to expect a 55 or 60 year old Inspector or Sub-Inspector to be operating at 18,000 feet in the ITBP or operating against young Maoists in Central India.
Secondly, since the man power being inducted into the CAPF’s would be trained manpower, the institutions of basic training in all cases can be dispensed with. Also requirement of institutes for training such as driver training, wireless communication training support weapons training etc are redundant as duplications will be obviated. Such a measure will also reduce the overall strength of these forces.
Thirdly, the inter-communication and coordination in operations will be more synergized.
Fourthly, equipment commonality can be an adjunct and MoD can be nominated as the single procurement Ministry.
…there will be much needed standardization of equipment leading to indigenous production even if it licensed.
Fifthly, the government is making substantial saving in expenditure under revenue head and pensions since the personnel from the army will continue to serve up to 60 years age in the CAPF’s and be eligible to pension only thereafter. At the same time the MHA is not paying for that number of personnel who it would have recruited otherwise. It is in fact a win-win situation for the nation.
The above arrangement will have tremendous advantages in decision making process. Economically there will be at least 25 – 30 % saving in expenditure as commonality of institutions / facility will reduce will reduce burden. Also there will be much needed standardization of equipment leading to indigenous production even if it licensed. There will be better response to situations developing as military precision response will draw better results. Silo domain creation will be curbed and professionally better trained leaders will tackle CI situations. Uncoordinated response by multifarious agencies will be curbed as one agency would be conveying all intelligence output. A stronger India will respond strongly and in a timely manner.