1 January 2015


01 January 2015

The focus must be on pre-empting massive terror strikes and carrying out strong counter-terror operations against insurgents. Accurate intelligence will be crucial for both

Threats to national security and measures to counter these will perhaps be India's most important preoccupation in 2015. The challenges and response will encompass two broad, and sometimes overlapping, areas of conflict — conventional and non-conventional (terrorism and insurgency). The two countries which menace India are well known — Pakistan and China; internally the main insurgent forces are the Maoists while a clutch of organisations in North-East India make up for their size by the level of their violence and savagery. Witness the recent slaughter unleashed in Assam by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit).

As is well-known, one of the most important factors in conventional warfare is military hardware. Unfortunately, the preceding United Progressive Alliance Government's record in supplying the Army, Navy and Air Force with the wherewithal of warfare was dismal. Starkly underlying this fact is the report that in March 2014, the Indian Army did not have enough ammunition for waging a full-scale war, involving severe fighting, for even 20 days! And this when relations with Pakistan, which had armed itself massively against this country by using most of the huge economic aid it received from the United States, were constantly on the edge.

The argument that Pakistan did not wage a full-scale war against this country and would not have done so, displays a staggeringly cavalier approach to national security. India can hardly take chances with a country which has the balkanisation of India as its strategic goal and has fought four wars against this, besides a continuing unconventional warfare through cross-border terrorism since 1980.

Efforts to adequately equip the military have accelerated with the installation of the present Government at the Centre. But then while orders have been and are being placed for hardware, the arrival and deployment of aircraft, ships, armoured vehicles, artillery and so on will take time. Meanwhile, there is need for a strategy to neutralise Pakistan's enhanced military muscle gained through unchecked mis-utilisation of American aid.

The main thrust of this will have to be pre-empting massive terror strikes by Pakistan, meant to provoke a large-scale response, through pro-active counter-terror operations. Accurate and timely intelligence will the key here. India has as many as 14 intelligence agencies — the Research and Analysis Wing, Intelligence Bureau, Narcotics Control Bureau, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Defence Intelligence Agency, Joint Cipher Bureau, National Technical Facilities Organisation, All India Radio Monitoring Service, Signals Intelligence Directorate, Aviation Research Centre, Directorate of Air Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, Directorate of Income Tax (Intelligence and Criminal Investigation) and Directorate of Income Tax Investigation.

All of them collect a huge volume of information which can be most useful. The National Intelligence Grid, set up in the aftermath of the 26/11 outrage, is meant to collect a comprehensive corpus of information that can be readily accessed by the various intelligence agencies. The concept behind establishing it is sound but the implementation of its third and fourth phases (out of four), is held up by controversies over issues like privacy and invasive surveillance. Since some of the concerns are understandable, a solution should be found at the earliest to continue implementing both phases.

Another important step has been the establishment, in the wake of the 26/11 attack, of the National Investigation Agency as the central counter-terrorism law enforcement entity. It deals with cases with inter-State and international linkages and activities like smuggling of drugs and arms, import and circulation of fake Indian currency and infiltration across international borders. Unfortunately, the State Governments, ultimately responsible for law and order within their territories, sometimes hinder its work. A constitutional amendment empowering it to override a State Government's non-cooperation is difficult. Pressure is required to overcome their recalcitrance. Fortunately, the current Union Government has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and cannot be pushed around.

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