Internal security is a burning issue for India, just like it is, for rest of the world. With the growing security threats and terror activities, there is a need to look at a comprehensive policy on internal security. Mr Harry Dhaul, director-general, Security Watch India, spoke to SALUTE, on the challenges and the missing links.
The formation of Security Watch India is certainly a novel approach. Would you please elucidate on the thought processes which prompted you to set up this institution for spreading awareness about security issues revolving around protection of Indian Homeland, among citizens and especially the corporate sector?
We started formulating the idea of Security Watch India after the Mumbai terror attacks of 26 November 2008. That unfortunate incident brought home the helplessness, bewilderment, shock and anger at the ill-preparedness of the establishment and ordinary citizens to combat terror. We felt that there was a need for an independent, not-for-profit organisation that brought together all stakeholders to a common platform to exchange ideas and knowledge to bring in resilience. We also wished to contribute to supplementing the local police forces throughout the country as they move to train and equip themselves to meet the new challenges emerging on the security front.
In this, we have conducted various seminars and discussions with senior police and paramilitary officers across the country to develop new and innovative strategies to combat the menace of terror. Additionally, we wanted to create a common and neutral space to begin informal engagement with international security experts to learn about latest technologies and practices, which in turn would make the businesses and citizens aware about the threats and what they can do to prepare themselves. Last but not the least, in a small way, we wanted to address the issues emerging from the growing divide between haves and have-nots and its impact on the security environment.
In this venture, why do you find it rewarding to include the corporate sector as one of the principal target groups for disseminating focused analyses and information?
Until now, the corporate sector in India has functioned in a relatively safe and unhindered environment. But now the threat to the sector has increased multifold, with it being perceived as an intruder and a target in parts of India, which have thus far remained untouched by economic development. The corporate sector needs to protect its investments and staff. Accordingly, we have decided to keep businesses at the forefront of the agenda. This, to my mind, is the biggest value addition that Security Watch India provides.
The responsibilities for managing security at the policy level and their implementation lie purely with the central and state governments. How do you think, can the corporate sector participate in this process?
I disagree with the premise that the responsibility of providing security rests solely with central and state governments. Times have changed. While we acknowledge the government’s role and encourage it to do its best, the public sector has its limitations in terms of resources and manpower. The government simply cannot be the first and the last line of defence, given the size and population of India. Every citizen of this country has to play a role in making India safe and the corporate sector, with the considerable weight that it carries, can have a significant impact on the security landscape of this country.
Do you agree that in the long term the problems of India’s internal security problems are linked directly with economic development issues?
If so, could you briefly elucidate the broad policy framework of development initiatives which can be compatible with India’s economic growth? Any kind of dissent primarily arises due to the disagreement on sharing of the pie on economic, religious, social or other bases. As we make rapid economic progress, unequal distributions of wealth are bound to happen in the transition phase.
We wanted to create a common and neutral space to begin informal engagement with international security experts to learn about latest technologies and practices, which in turn would make the businesses and citizens aware about the threats and what they can do to prepare themselves.
Therefore, India can expect to witness an increase in the voices of dissent as its economy develops further from various disgruntled segments of the society. To tackle this issue, the government has to take a few basic steps. It has to develop clear and effective policies that encourage inclusive growth as we move from an agrarian to an industrial society.
A key element of such a policy framework will have to be the inclusion of landowners as stakeholders and shareholders in future economic projects. Secondly, it has to considerably increase its efforts to fight the discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, religion, social status, geographical location etc. that occurs in the country every day.
This discrimination is also contributing to the undesired backlash in the system. The government also has to clarify its intent on the issues of industrial development, land acquisitions, environmental policies, laws and regulations etc. A significant amount of stress to the system can be contributed to the confusion that emanates from the refusal of the government to clearly lay out its intentions and in implementing its stated policies.
Finally, the government has to maintain the sanctity of the contract and the rule of law in the country. It has to inculcate trust among the people that word of the government will be kept, no matter what. It has to ensure that the displaced get rehabilitated properly, commitments to businesses are honoured, people see benefits of the welfare services as promised and anyone not following the law is held accountable.
In the intervening period, what steps should the Indian state take to provide adequate physical security to its citizens as it waits for the development processes to fructify?
We need to spread awareness about security among the population. Each citizen must be armed with enough knowledge and training to be able to respond to any eventuality. Let me stress on this point. Every citizen has to share the responsibility of making India secure. There is a lot that a citizen can do, something that is often not correctly appreciated. For example, each citizen can be the eyes and the ears of law-abiding society.
Just a mere appreciation of the security system in place to protect the citizen and his or her cooperation with it can improve aid in our efforts to combat terrorism. Also, business resilience has to be strengthened and nurtured as a foundational element of any organization.
Would you like to convey a message to the readers of SALUTE through this special issue devoted to Homeland Security?
I am glad that this issue is focused on Indian Homeland Security, a very pertinent topic in contemporary times. The readers of Salute, whether the defence personnel or officials from internal security agencies like police or paramilitaries, must-see great opportunities and responsibilities created by the emerging scenario as the country moves from command to market-driven economy, from agrarian to industrial society and as we see a more balanced share of the global economic pie.
Moreover, with the blurring of divisions between defence and homeland security, there is a need for convergence of the ideas and thoughts on how to meet the rising challenges of security. There has to be an open discourse on the Indian security environment which allows different branches of the security establishment to talk to each other, as well as, talk to the citizens and other stakeholders to come up with a consensus. In this lies the security and prosperity of our country.
Readers may visit www.securitywatchindia.org.in