The Chetwode Motto which has been an inspiration and credo to many generations of army officers, lucidly states in its very first sentence “the safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and every time…”. Safety, one would presume, encompasses the broader definition of security in its modern manifestation. On the other hand, the generally accepted role (or duty) of the army is: “To preserve national security and ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation…” If one were to extrapolate this rationally, than, in its purest interpretation, national security becomes a seamless holistic entity. Herein lies the dilemma, and to some analysts, a dichotomous anomaly in the perceived roles between internal and external facets of security.
Most developed countries have limited internal challenges or threats and even lesser the pressure on their land borders, they have thus in response developed their own security algorithms to suit their specific needs. The USA has never realistically perceived any major external risks to its land borders, and an internal threat was unthinkable at best. The 9/11 terror attack changed this dramatically. I remember vividly, most American TV commentators headlining their coverage of the attack on the Twin Towers with stark warnings: “America under Attack”. From here was born the concept of Homeland Security (HLS). To them, HLS is a distinct, though vital activity, divorced and distinct from the American forces fighting various wars and protecting their varied interests overseas. The same holds good for most western and developed countries.
But for India, the internal and external dimensions of security are inexorably linked, like two sides of the same coin. What good would it have done to the nation, were the Indian Army to concentrate on protecting her territorial integrity, while its North East Region was being torn asunder by a virulent and raging insurgency, demanding secession from the Indian union in the sixties. The Army had to move in to preserve and safeguard national sovereignty and perform its legitimate internal security duty. The ongoing commendable role of the Army in securing the state of J&K needs also to be viewed in this light. Thus for a country like India, still coming to terms with many nuances of its national identity, troubled borders with inimical neighbours and a growing internal menace of Naxalism, a comprehensive interlinked and synergised national security architecture is essential for the good of the nation.
Indian Army, which has faced the brunt of the thankless job of bringing peace to the NE and J&K, is understandably loath to get directly embroiled in the fight against left wing extremism (LWE). The unfortunate clamour by so called intellectuals and pseudo-human rights activists and politicians for repeal of AFSPA is another factor which needs broader understanding and national consensus. It should not be repealed; else you would be playing into the hands of anti nationals letting down our gallant soldiers who are often maligned unfairly. Some of its sections which may have become dated or give rise to genuine concern (even if misplaced) could be deleted or suitably modified, and additional safeguards built in, to make it more suited and relevant to the contemporary context.
Therefore, while internal security may not be the primary role of the army, in the Indian context, the relationship between external threat and internal fissures is too closely intertwined for them to be addressed separately. We must bite the bullet and put all our acumen and clout behind evolving a coherent, synergizsd and holistic national security framework which allows us to address various facets of this complex issue in a wellorchestrated manner. It is only when we are able to achieve this, will the army be able to do justice to its oath and the Chetwodian credo!
Lt Gen Sudhir Sharma,PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VSM,(Retd) is the Chairman of MitKat Advisory Services, India’s leading premium risk consultancy.