The three trouble spots—Parts of Northeast India, The Red Corridor and J&K—remain a source of concern to the country, despite a visibly improved security climate. Statistics of incidents of violence in the Northeast have shown a downward trend. Of the 158 or so insurgent groups which have operated in the area, only 36 remain active, of which 13 are proscribed militant organisations. The rest have mostly become defunct. Civilian casualties dropped to ten and Security forces casualties to 13 in 2018, a massive reduction from the numbers which were in triple digits in 2014. Manipur, however still remains volatile and we are yet to see a permanent solution to the Nagaland problem, despite the fact that the state is relatively peaceful.

Areas affected by Left Wing Extremism have considerably shrunk, with some of the earlier affected states like West Bengal, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh reporting zero incidents of violence in their affected districts. There has also been a dramatic decline in violence levels in the affected districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar and Maharashtra, which together had but four SF fatalities and 28 civilian fatalities related to Maoist violence in 2018 (Jan-Sep). The situation in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, however, has not shown much improvement, with these two states accounting for most of the casualties that still keep taking place in the Red Corridor. Attacks by the Maoists in these two states in the last two months are indicative of the fact that they have the ability to strike in their chosen areas against the police forces operating against them. This is worrisome. The CAPF operations in these areas need to be further energised, as Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand appear to be the last bastion of the Maoists. Neutralising the Maoists from their last stronghold is necessary if peace is to be restored. But alongside, must come better models of governance than what has been seen over the past six decades.

The situation in J&K appears to be a bit more complex. With the imposition of Governor’s rule, there is an apparent shift to stability. Anti-terrorist operations over the last two years have been very successful and operations are increasingly being based on hard intelligence. This indicates public support for the security forces as a large number of civilians are providing information to the Army. It also points to very high synergy levels between the Army and other security forces and the intelligence agencies. On the flip side, the state is yet to affectively address the Hurriyat and the overground network of supporters. Governance issues still plague the state, which needs urgent address. With the dissolution of the Assembly, the Governor has a few months to set things in order, but revitalising the states governance mechanism is a task that can be best performed by the elected representatives of the people. The next government, as and when it is formed, will have its task cut out.

Externally, relations with China are relatively stable, despite China’s continual support to Pakistan. Instances like Doklam will continue to occur, and India would have to be prepared to deal with them firmly as was done earlier. Pakistan will continue to remain a thorn in India’s side, but that is a problem we have to learn to live with. The olive branch extended by Pakistan appears to be a ploy to gain sympathy and aid from the West for Pakistan’s tottering economy. Being partially stalemated in Kashmir, Pakistan is now stoking the flames in Punjab. Perhaps a harder line is required against Pakistan, wherein the Pakistan army needs to be pay the price for the instability it promotes in India.

Overall, a lot still remains to be done and that would remain the defining challenge for the next couple of years. The security environment is however positive and there is no cause for gloom.

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