Prior to September 2011 very few in the world had heard of the phrase ‘Homeland Security’. It was in fact coined 11 days after the watershed day of Sep 11, 2001 when the world order changed dramatically in the wake of the audacious airborne terrorist attack in New York. Today most countries use it whether it applies to them or not, such is the hold of America on popular imagination. It would perhaps surprise many to know that the words are quite alien to the underlying ethos of USA and many people are still opposed to the name. The word homeland evokes mixed feeling in people, because while one can easily relate to home but the word homeland seems a bit artificial and forced.
It first finds brief mention in the nineties when a pentagon review paper argued for a “homeland defence command’ a proposal which was quickly shot down due to the desire to keep the Department of Defense (equivalent of our MOD) out of internal matters! When President George Bush formed the Homeland Security architecture he placed it directly under the White House and away from the Dept of Defence. There are thus many lessons to be learnt from this evolutionary process in the US both for our armed forces and the country.
Before we started using these words glibly so as to be part of the international lexicon, the preferred and apt terminology used in India was ‘Internal Security’. While there are some similarities between the situation now obtaining in America and India, there are also many dissimilarities. America has never in modern times visualised a tangible threat to its land mass. It has settled borders and a friendly Canada and a benign Mexico along its land borders. Therefore the worry of defending the territorial sovereignty of the country from within or from outside never came into its strategic thought process and the home remained safe and secure. Conversely India lives in a tough and volatile neighbourhood with unresolved land borders and inimical neighbours.
Indian armed forces with its dual responsibility of guarding the borders against conventional threat and simultaneously defending the union against determined secessionist in the NE for decades made it evolve an Internal Security paradigm distinct from the rest of the world. Indian armed forces have a more complex and often ambiguous constitutional mandate to ‘to defend the territorial sovereignty of the nation and assist in Internal Security and also defeat insurgencies seeking secession’. Whilst Homeland Security has become a popular terminology and finds increased acceptability, its nuances in the Indian context are fundamentally different from the United States and we should be conscious of this difference. It is only once we accept the subtle differentiators will our doctrinal thought process apply itself to evolving and maturing a set of operational parameters to tackle this onerous task.
This Internal Security architecture has to evolve in a federal framework with not only the states being willing and enthusiastic partners along with the central security apparatus but the armed forces also being co-opted as the last line of impregnable defence of the unity and well being of the Indian Nation.
Securing the home is therefore of paramount importance. Lt Gen Sudhir Sharma,PVSM, AVSM, YSM, VSM,(Retd) is the Chairman of MitKat Advisory Services, India’s leading premium risk consultancy. He hails from the Brigade of Guards.