Although India is slated to spend about $40 billion annually on its defence forces and another $8 billion on its police — the total sum is still much lower than China’s defence outlay — India is now the world’s largest, arms importer. And despite India’s painfully long process of defence procurement, there are many defence manufacturers that still keen on their share of the ‘Indian pie’, as 70 per cent of India’s military needs are still fulfilled by foreign vendors. But our arms acquisition process is still labelled as ‘ad hoc’ as we ‘arm without aiming’. It isn’t hard to see why. Though modernisation of our armed forces is a must — considering for example the gaping holes in our air defence capability and other vital areas — but there is little support for those who continue to focus only for an all out war with Pakistan or China.
The writing on the wall says that instead, India must do more to equip its forces — police, para military men plus and the foot soldiers — with helicopters and armoured fighting vehicles, but also night vision devices, interceptors, cameras, radar and communication systems; all the gadgetries needed to prevent another major terror attack or to contain insurgencies. In short, for India to give a message to the world that it is still safe despite the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, India must do much more for its ‘Homeland (Internal) Security’. If there is a lesson to learn from over two decades of battling terror, then it is — ‘India must prepare to pre-empt’ any future terror strikes. Little however has been done to that effect, until now. Barring a handful of special units, most of India’s policemen, the first point of defence, are still ill-equipped to battle suicidal fidayeen warriors. To battle terror, they need three T’s — technology, training and tactics. But, Indian police units have neither. Whereas today’s terrorist mostly carry AK-47s, some Indian police men still carry antique bolt action rifles.
Also terrorists use sat-phones and GPS navigational systems, but policeman units either use VHF radio sets that cannot function in cities like Mumbai with high rise buildings, or have inadequate batteries in the Maoist jungles. Clearly, our weakest link in the chain is the policeman, who are required to undertake a counter terror or counter insurgency role with little or no training. The glaring differences between the capabilities of the police and the armed forces only highlights that there is no synergy between the armed forces and the police, in planning and preparing comprehensively for India’s national security. No longer is internal security divorced from external threats, and gone are the days when we prepared only for a few weeks long border war, and all was calm within India. Today, a border conflict — if at there will be one — would follow from a major terrorist attack launched on India from Pakistani soil. And while we go out to punish our adversary — if our political elite may be willing to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff — more lethal attacks within India cannot be ruled out.
Therefore, to start with, there must be greater synergy between India’s three services — who sadly still fight turf wars among themselves — and far greater interaction between the services and the para-military forces. India now needs one comprehensive national security doctrine, with inputs from the armed forces, the para-military, the police, intelligence agencies, and the diplomatic corps. This is an imperative. And those who argue that we must add economic, energy and food security to the ‘national security’ list, should be advised that the safety and well being of citizens are two separate issues.
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