The discourse is that India is in the cross hairs of the global Islamist enterprise. The terror India has been subject to, that culminated in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks is evident. It therefore requires importing ‘best practices’ from others similarly beset, in particular the US and Israel. Homeland Security is the catchall under which the US has refurbished its systems and therefore the concepts and methods have much to offer. India that is by far, more vulnerable owing to its open society and co-location with the fount of terror can be a gainer in emulating rather than reinventing the wheel. With good reason, India has revamped its anti terror mechanisms and more measures are in the pipeline, including the National Counter Terrorism Center modeled on the US lines. These measures handle one end, ‘pull factors’, of the spectrum of interventions necessary to safeguard national security. The other end, ‘push factors’, need equal attention.
The former are in the domain of the MHA, the latter is that of foreign, intelligence and security policies. India’s case is unique since it is the lead state in South Asia with its borders touching all its neighbours even as none of its SAARC neighbours share borders. Its problems are therefore ones it shares with its neighbours. These therefore, require tackling at an interstate level, either bilateral, but more likely at the regional level. Take for instance illegal migration. India’s economy serves as a magnet for economic refugees currently and over time may do so for environmental refugees too. Concentrating on defusing ‘pull factors’, such as creation of a fence, may not prove sufficient. Instead holistic measures are required such as jointly preserving Himalayan ecology for long term water management, restoring access, trade and investment between the North East and Bangladesh etc.
This calls for a policy going beyond seeing security narrowly in national terms, and worse in nationalistic terms. Secondly, the US and Israel may not be the most appropriate models for tackling ‘push factors’. The policies pursued by these states abroad, places them at the receiving end of reaction, sometimes violent and covert. Consequently, they place a higher premium on counter violence as against political resolution. In Israel’s case this eventuates in restive peripheries and in case of the US insecurity to the extent of fears from ‘loose nukes’. Clearly, howsoever tight homeland security, it has no option but to be so in case ‘push factors’ are neglected. In other words, in case India is to be secure at home, it needs to ensure the environment in its vicinity is such that threats originating there do not manifest here. The implication is that merely wishing for Pakistan to become stable and democratic is not enough.
India has to reach out to enable Pakistan cease being a failing state in first place. In case this is not done, then merely bracing for the outcome in the form of the next attack is being reactive. Being ‘proactive’, as some interpret the term, in the form of military and intelligence operations to keep Pakistan unstable and thereby introspective is not an answer either, since it would lead to a continuing ‘tit for tat’ exchange. Instead, India needs to make its neighbour ‘an offer it cannot refuse’, unilaterally and unconditionally. This will be an investment in preempting internal security problems. When in ‘Internal Security’ India already had a good enough term denoting the security ambit of ‘Homeland Security’, why is there a requirement of substitution of the term with ‘Homeland Security’ at all? The problem with borrowing buzzwords is to neglect the South Asian situation and India’s uniqueness. Instead, selective borrowing may be more useful and even so, going beyond imports would be best.
—Col Ali Ahmed(Retd) is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi