India at the time of its independence had nearly 564 princely states and principalities besides the unexplored and largely un-administered area of North East Frontier Agency (NEFA). Assimilation of these disparate elements into cohesive and somewhat homogeneous entity was a major internal security challenge. The upheaval of partition, aggression in J&K by Pakistan and events in Hyderabad and riots in Telengana region posed a serious internal challenge to our sovereignty and secular identity. That we weathered this early storm goes to the credit and sagacity of the political bureaucratic leadership at that time, combined with professionalism of our security forces. Barely had the dust settled on this that Nagaland rose in revolt followed by Mizoram, Tripura and Manipur. Long neglected and cutoff they wanted to secede and resorted to violence. A long period of sensitively handled counter insurgency operations ensued, which has allowed relative peace to prevail in the region. The Naxalite movement, terrorism in Punjab and ULFA in Assam showed that India’s internal security challenges are manifold. We as a nation and the Indian military/security forces in particular have had a long exposure to the dynamics of Internal Security which due to our fascination with American lexicon is now referred to as Homeland Security. While the term may not fit the bill in the Indian context the US National Security Strategy statement that, “What takes places within our borders will determine our strength and influence beyond them” is not only apt but very relevant to India which as yet does not have a clearly enunciated and universally accepted ‘National Strategy’ on homeland Security. Therefore the first paradigm shift required is, in creating a cogent and effective homeland security strategy, and building a consensus which has the willing and enthusiastic acceptance of all states and stakeholders. The national mood in the wake of series of gruesome terrorist incidents in the world and political scenario makes it possible to do so expeditiously. It should be a bold and legally tenable document with inbuilt flexibility to upgrade responses as the situation unfolds in the coming days. Homeland security can only be tackled and preserved with a seamless and holistic approach at the national level. Thus the ill-advised and aborted National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) could be revisited, but this time a ‘bottom up’ as opposed to a top down approach should be adopted. We need to integrate or draw upon the resources of the NATGRID, NTRO and other security assets including integrated satellite based systems to create a state of the are security architecture which can respond to the emerging threat scenario.
By and large the biggest threat scenario to homeland security is from terrorism and Maoism followed by religious fundamentalism. Terrorism in the past few months has shown that the last shred of any moral compass on not killing civilians has been brutally obliterated. The gruesome massacre of women and children in Pakistan, Paris, Kenya and Nigeria by terrorists and atrocities by ISIS on one and all, show the level of depravity and insanity which has become the calling card of terrorists. It is therefore a war without boundaries; a war without ethics or morality. Even bolder and more catastrophic asymmetric attacks in the form of small scale air attacks and use of artillery and heavier caliber guns cannot be ruled out in the future. The biggest worry of all concerned with national security is, the unthinkable danger of any form of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands or coming under dominant control of a terrorist organisation. This situation given the lack of leverage anyone has on breakaway and fringe terror organization is a nightmare scenario, but given the recent trends and escalation in modus operandi of terrorists, this is now not beyond the realm of possibility. The increased sophistication, technical expertise and an overflowing war chest of terror setups like ISIS, Boko Haram, and Al- Qaeda have raised the threat matrix and damage potential manifold. Given the infrastructure and population density of India, a concerted and serious strike would be devastating and possibly worse than the Mumbai carnage. Sleeper modules and fanatical fringe supporters would get inspired by terrorist actions in other parts of the world and attempt to copycat attacks unilaterally or on direct instructions of their mentors and handlers. Thus increase in internationally supported and inspired terrorism is the single largest threat to homeland security.
The lingering ulcer of Naxalism and Maosism in the Chattisgarh ,Jharkand and its adjoining districts is also a major fault line weakening our security and needs to be addressed head on. As also the underlying threats in Assam and the ongoing Pak supported discontent and terrorism in J&k which would only wane and wither once the Pak ventilator is shut off. In the meanwhile concerted pressure on them would be required.
In the past India has dealt with threats to its internal security (homeland) by use of manpower intensive doctrine of sanitizing areas of concern and thence carrying out operations. These were based on a two pronged strategy of one hand attacking the protagonist in their hideouts or wherever they were encountered and winning back the hearts and minds of the people to deny support to terrorists/insurgents. This doctrine was useful as long as the threat(s) were localized like the NE, J&K or Punjab. However with the new dimension of the hydra headed scourge of terrorism having a national reach and ability to strike soft undefended targets at will, and that to at a time and place of its choosing neccesitates a need to revisit our doctrinal thought process.
The answer lies in harnessing a full spectrum of seamless agile and evolutionary state of the art technology which should be rugged fully integrated and be responsive to the peculiar Indian scenario and geography. India has vast manpower of software experts and has the ability to put together a technology enhanced shield for prevention and mitigating threats to our homeland security. Thus the new doctrine should supplement our security manpower by the force multiplier effect of high technology to defeat enemies of the state within and without.
Intelligence gathering based on technology would involve satellites. entirely dedicated to homeland security providing a 24/7 surveillance and electronic monitoring of suspects with interlinked drones /aerostats and entire range of aerial surveillance devices specifically designed for homeland security and tethered to the NATGRID Command Center. The NTRO should create sufficient wherewithal to monitor and eavesdrop on all net, social media and telephonic communications related to homeland security. This data would then be available to a modified approved and proficient NCTC. Improved access control systems like biometrics ,CCTV ,bollards, gates and a entire gamut of equipment are available today to limit access and reduce damage. All these with reliance on ‘Big Data ‘analytical tools suitably dovetailed in the grid would provide an added layer to our security.
A first step in this direction has been taken by setting up a National Center for Excellence in Technology for Internal Security (NCEITS) at IIT Mumbai in collaboration with the DRDO with an initial grant of Rs 100 Cr. With terrorists increasingly using modern warfare techniques, the NCETIS will set out to supply technologies to improve intelligence gathering, dissemination, crime detection and law enforcement specifically geared to the Indian threat scenario, terrain and other facets peculiar to India. It was long felt that a patchwork of technologies from different countries was not suitable for seamless integration.
It was also often found that either technologies under performed in the Indian context or had IP and maintenance issues causing drag on the cutting edge required to defeat modern day threats. Thus a completely indigenized high technology driven homeland security architecture with reach and tentacles across the country is required to support the boots on the ground. Simultaneously security personnel training, motivation and leadership should be enhanced to fightthe modern day internal war.A legislative frame work with a broad based consensus of all would beessential to meet the emerging threats of the coming decades. The threat is potent and manifest; we must pick upthe gauntlet and use our ingenuity and determination to defeat this threat toour national well being.