An essential attribute of security is its dynamic nature. Every threat has r e s p o n s e options which the societal l e a d e r s h i p decides to adopt. In the event the response is appropriate the threat is neutralised; or else the threat overcomes the resistance and the slaveries, the colonies, the dependencies, the cruelties and so on follow. With the advancements in technology and science of warfare, indeed Revolution in Military Affairs, RMA for short, the threat and responses to National Security have been more dynamic than before and in the modern times, the threats and the responses thereto are hugely different and upgraded. National Security today has to factor in all these issues.
Before embarking on expedition to research India’s security issues, it is essential to correctly identify the implications of national security. Defined by Wikipedia, Security is the degree of resistance to, or protection from, harm. It applies to any vulnerable and valuable asset, such as a person, dwelling, community, item, nation, or organisation. Security provides “a form of protection where a separation is created between the assets and the threat.”
National security enjoins upon a government to protect the ‘state’ and its citizens against all kind of national crises through a variety of power projections, such as political power, diplomacy, economic power, military might, and so on.
It encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the nonmilitary or economic security of thenation and the values espoused by the national society.
It encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the nonmilitary or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society. Accordingly, in order to possess national security, a nation needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc.
Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nationstates but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and nongovernmental organisations.
Macmillan Dictionary defines security as “the protection or the safety of a country’s secrets and its citizens” emphasising the overall security of a nation and a nation state. National security objectively means the absence of threats to acquired values and subjectively, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked. The 1996 definition propagated by the National Defence College of India accretes the elements of national power: “National security is an appropriate and aggressive blend of political resilience and maturity, human resources, economic structure and capacity, technological competence, industrial base and availability of natural resources and finally the military might.”
In India’s case, the first and logical step would be to identify threats to National Security after Independence. Immediately after Independence, J&K was assailed by Pakistan. The peoples of British India which included the people from Pakistan battled for Independence. Yet, just a year after Independence Pakistan waged a war against India in order to annex Kashmir. The attempt was partially foiled when the Indian Army reached the Valley and pushed back the invaders.
This proclivity for war has continued with Pakistan and apart from two regular all-out wars in 1965 and 1971, there was engagements in Kargil in 1999 and engagements continue till date, the last significant one being the surgical strikes on 29 September 2016 when the Indian Special Forces caused immense damage and destruction to the terrorist camps in POK. The Pakistan Army, stung by creation of Bangladesh, continues to violate the ceasefire agreement of 2003. After the surgical strikes by India, their Army personnel in greater numbers are seen in their BOPs. Threat to India from Pakistan across the International Boundary has been and continues to be a matter of great concern.
Pakistan, severely miffed by creation of Bangladesh, realised that defeating the Indian Armed Forces is not their cup of tea. So, they came up with OP TOPAC details of which were provided by President Zia in April 1988. Aim of this operation was “liberation” of Kashmir without getting the Pakistan Army directly involved and had experience of fuelling an insurgency in Afghanistan. Pakistan ISI was well trained and equipped for such a task. Astonishingly, the countries that provide economic support to Pakistan chose to ignore and condone the dirty, illegal, unfair and immoral handiwork of Pakistan in providing active moral and material support to the so called non-state actors who have and continue to take such steps that would vitiate the atmosphere in the Kashmir Valley and compel India to deploy a vast proportion of its Army not only for managing the Line of Control, the LC, but also the hinterland in the Kashmir Valley and the hilly regions of Jammu. This proxy war commenced in 1990 and continues. This is the most sinister threat to India’s security.
External threat from China is equally significant. Circa 1950 insurgency movement started in Nagaland. The insurgents caught revealed that they had some Chinese connection and had sanctuaries in the neighbouring Myanmar. The weapons that they carriedwere mostly of Chinese origin. Inevitably, the Indian Army was deployed and the situation is yet to be fully controlled though a ceasefire is in place. There have been insurgencies in Mizoram, Manipur and two districts of Arunachal. Chinese material support to the insurgents is not ruled out. More on these insurgencies later.
Indo-Chinese relations, soon after Independence, were warm and friendly but deteriorated soon thereafter. Two events merit mention. The Chinese annexed Tibet and they invaded India. 20 October 1962 was the ill-fated day when the Chinese Army launched their offensive in Ladakh and what was then called NEFA. After making significant progress on both fronts, the Chinese withdrew to their side of Line of Actual Control or the LAC, a situation that continues till today.
It was a wake- up call for the Indian Army which began raisings and training in real earnest to deal with a situation arising on the LAC. In 1967 there was a brief engagement after which no exchange of fire has taken place though the Chinese troops do come into the Indian side of the LAC every now and again claiming Arunachal Pradesh and some parts of Ladakh to be their territory. This threat to our security is likely to continue. One may add that according to one view the threat from China is on a higher pedestal that threat from Pakistan.
Is China likely to have a rethink? Very unlikely. The Chinese had offered to India in the 1960s, a proposal which was entirely unacceptable to India to the extent that a resolution was passed in our Parliament rejecting it which envisaged giving up Chinese claims in the East for retaining areas in Ladakh. The reason for the Chinese to retain areas in Ladakh is quite simple to understand. The Chinese have invested hugely in Pakistan. The Karakoram Highway and the latest China Pakistan Economic Corridor, CEPC provide an easy access to China to the blue waters through Gwadar where a port has been developed by the Chinese.
This corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiative which will eventually link the city of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways. The projects will be financed by concessionary loans from China. For Pakistan, these projects generate several thousand jobs. Therefore, retention of areas in Ladakh is vital for the security of this corridor and the Chinese rethink on this issue is a no-no. Threat to India’s security will continue to be a matter of great concern.
Another area of conflict between India and Pakistan is the economic well being. India lags behind China economically, a state of affairs which is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. China’s economic interests might get somewhat hurt if India were to disengage from the Chinese producers of daily use and items. Though such a move by India may only marginally hurt China economically, it is likely to further enhance bitterness in our relations.
It also needs to be mentioned that China has vociferously opposed India’s induction into the Nuclear Supplier Group and has also not supported the move to declare a known terrorist based in Pakistan as UN declared terrorist. In a nutshell, the core threats to India from China are external aggression, support to Pakistan and economic interests.
Internal stability is an important asset of a secure environment. Threats to internal stability may be in the form of separatist tendencies by a section of the population, black or parallel economy, political instability to name just a few. This discourse shall address only the first two i,e, separatist tendencies and parallel economy.
Soon after Independence the first voices of disagreement with the Government of India were heard in Nagaland. The Government responded appropriately and soon enough the Army was deployed. The insurgents were and are getting support from outside for their demands which include Nagalim, comprising areas of Nagaland and a few neighbouring States.
The state government is fairly stable. The struggle, however, continues though the two main rebel factions are in a state of ceasefire and a ceasefire monitoring mechanism is in place. The Khaplang group of NSCN is headed by a person who is not an Indian and has sanctuaries in Myanmar. The leader of the other group, NSCN(IM) belongs to a village in Manipur, a fact which has caused fissures between the two states. The rebels run a parallel economy too. Though secure politically, the internal security environment in Nagaland is not wholly under control.
Manipur is a different story. The Meitis or the plainsmen, who are Hindus, are unhappy with the state of affairs in the state and have been demanding freedom. There are Nagas too in Manipur who have a different mindset and are not entirely aligned with the Meitis. In the recent past there were two instances when the roads leading to Manipur through Nagaland were blocked causing immense hardships to the people of Manipur. A small part of the State around Kohima is free of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for several years now and the incidents of violence in this area has been the highest every year as the Army cannot operate. Politically secure, the internal security environment is volatile. Mizoram was very unstable through the 1960s and early 1970s.
The situation was brought under control and the leader of the Mizo National Front, who was exiled in England, was appointed the Chief Minister in 1986. Mizoram is a peaceful state now.
Assam is a land of autonomous districts. Politically secure and developing rapidly, ULFA continues to be a force having significant support, particularly in Upper Assam. The top leadership of ULFA is absconding in some foreign country and will eventually be neutralised or perish. There are several other groups with varied demands. The Bodos have been given four districts as Bodo Tribal Council and development has ensued, though they continue to be far from fully satisfied. There are groups in the hills in Upper Assam, Rajvanshis in lower Assam and a few more which have some support and need to be dealt with appropriately.
Punjab was in a state of turmoil through the 1980s. However, the situation has been brought effectively under control. Names of some leaders of the rebel organisations do come up once in awhile, but the people of Punjab are not likely to allow, in the foreseeable future, such movements to grow.
Left Wing Extremism or Maoist insurgency in the hinterland is another enormous problem for the country. The movement is led by people who are well informed and there is discipline in the rank and file. They have unitary command structure and have caused immense casualties to the armed police forces that combat them and in turn have suffered heavy casualties too. There is no visible foreign element. LWE continues to be a serious threat and needs to be dealt with suitably.
Parallel economy or the black money is and has been a very serious problem. Several measures have been initiated by the Government, the latest being demonetisation of Rs 500/- and Rs 1000/- currency notes beginning 9 November 16. No clear estimate is available of the quantum of black money within and outside the country, but the established facts are that the political activities and arming and supporting the terrorists is carried out almost wholly through black money. Demonetisation with effect from 09 November is positively a brilliant move which has delivered a death blow to the producers of fake currencies within the country and foreigners as also to the perpetuators of havala transactions.
Stone pelting has disappeared as payments cannot be made to them. Material support to the terrorists may display a negative trend as also corruption and amounts collected through corrupt practices may further come down drastically, at least in the immediate future as major part of ill collected amount is unusable. Threat from this source is likely to reduce, though the scourge of corruption will continue to plague India.
What has the country done to meet these threats? There are agencies and organisations who wholeheartedly work towards identifying optimal response measures. Against external aggression the Armed Forces, think tanks and such like organisations have carried out threat assessments and conveyed the same to the government. Serious gaps however exist in the capabilities of the forces, which need to be made up at the earliest.
The decision making system in the country however precludes rapid conclusions with regard to weapons and equipment acquisitions leaving large gaps. Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO), has made some very useful contributions to the Armed Forces. But given our scientific expertise, the DRDO by now, should have made the country largely self sufficient in terms of weapons, ammunition and equipment without having to look for resources from other countries. The rifle produced in the country has not been found up to the mark, Arjun tanks lack portability, NAG missiles are yet to be operational, Tejas is yet to make its presence felt, no significant addition to Navy, missiles are imported, ammunition for vital weapon systems are imported, the ammunition produced indigenously leaves much to be desired, and so on. The list is long. Government needs to streamline the decision making apparatus with regard to acquisition of weapons and equipment and the DRDO needs to be made more efficient and held accountable if they do not produce the desired equipment in time and of the desired quality. We may outsource production of defence weapons etc to private sources within the country.
Internal stability requires a statesman approach. The State leadership is governed by the dictates of the electoral politics. Two neighbouring states having similar problems, as is the case in Central India, may have differences in their outlook towards the issues related to the rebellion. The Central leadership needs to address the issues holistically taking into account the overall good of most of the country and ensure its compliance by all. We seem to be concentrating on treating the symptoms and not the disease.
The Armed Forces will never allow the country to look down but the Government needs to adequately arm and equip the Armed Forces to deal with external aggression threats. Diplomatically, the immediate neighbourhood and those countries whose opinions matter need to be systematically taken on board to see our point of view. The Indian diaspora must be made to feel they are part of the country to which they need to contribute morally and, if the need arises, materially. Politically, the country must be totally stable with all democratic organisations fully alive and functional. The differences between states need to be tackled through dialogue.Internal stability is a fundamental requirement lest we end up spending vast amounts on this issue. The parallel economy must be put down ruthlessly. Period! Nothing more needs to be said about black money and parallel economy.The countrymen need to put aside all thoughts of personal glory that additional money would provide. There are many issues that may be mentioned. Two important issues are cleanliness and discipline. No elaboration is needed.
As a Nation we, the proud Indians, need to rise above our minor differences and make our country one of the foremost countries in the world with a clean environment, corruption free democratic system and a country where people respect law and work for the country and the humanity.
We can do it. Let us do it.
Lt Gen Anand Mohan Verma was commissioned in the Rajput Regiment on 31 March 1972. An alumnus of the National Defence College, New Delhi, College of Defence Management, Secunderabad and the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, he held many challenging appointments while in Service, finally retiring from service as the Director General of Military Operations.