Homeland Security

Terrorism and Indian Ambivalence
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Issue Vol 23.2 Apr-Jul 2008 | Date : 14 Oct , 2011

Well over five decades, India has been combating insurgencies, militancy, and terrorism. Its security forces have been extensively employed to firefight such situations- erupting after years of simmering-but invariably catching the Indian leadership off guard. The Indian Army too has been at it, at the cost of its primary role, i.e. fighting external aggression. The army and other security forces have seldom returned to their barracks once sent out on such errands.

To many, continuation of insurgency and terrorism makes a good economic sense. Liberal grants flow from the Centre. Hostile country waging proxy-war pours in more and more funds. Deployment of security forces and intelligence agencies bring in more money in the state.

During these years, multitude of Special Forces, para-military forces, central and state police cadres and intelligence agencies have also been raised. Enormous amount of taxpayers’ money has been spent on these for their maintenance and modernisation, but the desired results have been elusive.

India has been combating terrorism when no one ever thought that some day a global war against this menace would be initiated. We bled silently as the perpetrators waged a relentless proxy-war. We can congratulate ourselves for controlling terrorism in some states, through military means, but most of the situations are still very virulent and no permanent solution is in sight. Meanwhile, new threats have also cropped up; and the portents of “Maoist Movement” are too grave to be discounted lightly.

Why do our efforts to combat terrorism always fall short of the desired goals? Why can’t we mop up the entire situation in one deft stroke once the security forces have brought the violence level to a manageable threshold? Why is prevailing law and order situation so conducive for some to challenge the sovereignty and unity of the country?   These are some questions, which deserve some deep introspection by us.

Indian party politics is perhaps, the biggest spoilsport when it comes to combating terrorism. No holds are barred to appease a particular ‘vote-bank’. National interests take a back seat and the parties, to play ‘realpolitik’, seize anything that gives slightest of political advantage upon.  Otherwise, how do we explain Nandigram – essentially a socio-economic problem, which turned into an armed conflict between two warring political parties, whose cadres openly indulged in murder, rape, plunder, and arson; or, the incessant stream of Bangladeshi nationals pouring into India through a particular state; or, the stand off between the centre and the states over the Maoist issue, where accusations seem to be more important than instituting some concrete measures to counter this potential threat to national unity; or, the demolition of the Babri Mosque, which provided an excellent opportunity to Pakistan’s ISI to infiltrate deep into country’s hinterland? Examples of such willful omissions and commissions are many, where national security interests have been sacrificed for the sake of petty political objectives.

Despite our expertise in information technology we are still grappling with this problem and a national identity document for every citizen is a far cry.

India has been demanding the return of some of the proclaimed offenders living in its neighbourhood, but to no avail. Isn’t it surprising that we could not convince our immediate neighbours to sign an extradition treaty – in happier times? It took us great deal of persuasion to convince Bhutan to launch “Operation All Clear” against the ULFA militants; but why have our similar efforts with Pakistan and Bangladesh come to naught?

A country’s resolve in fighting cross-border terrorism is as good as its actions; and not in the mere rhetoric. For long our leadership has talked about “hot pursuit”; to get at the terror infrastructure across the borders, but why do we develop cold feet when it comes to execution? This dithering has only emboldened our smaller neighbours who have also embarked upon same tactic of bleeding India “through a thousand cuts”.

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