National security is, therefore, caught in a complex spider’s web and unless we recognise that each strand of this web is connected to other strands, we would not be able to defend the security of the nation
With new type of threat emerging every now or then, the Armed Forces of India must remain all the time alert. Before proceeding ahead, we must know the meaning of threat. A threat is the adversary’s goal, or what an
adversary might try to do to a system. A threat may be defined in two ways: techniques that attackers use to exploit the vulnerabilities in your system components or impact of threats to your assets. Indian economy has registered phenomenal growth of almost 7.4 per cent, spectre of internal and external threats is haunting the nation. The entire growth process will come to a screeching halt if security concerns are not timely and adequately addressed.
India has neighbourhood that will oblige us to live in a state of anxious uncertainty. Pakistan and China have been the foremost recipients of our present Government’s tough approach. Pakistan has been almost isolated. It is China that has been protecting Pakistan be it Hafiz Saeed case or terror activities being carried out by Pakistan from its soil. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and China’s $46 Billion investment in Pakistan, would guarantee Pakistan of China’s all time support. Most external threats emanate from an unsettled boundary dispute with China and Pakistan, and ongoing cross-border jihadi terrorism in J&K sponsored terrorism, supported by ISI and Pakistan-based Islamist fundamentalist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed who, in turn, are inextricably linked with
international jihadi groups like Taliban and al- Qaida.
Though, threat from Bangladesh has reduced, but crossing over of Jihadis cannot be ruled out. There are few bases for North-east insurgent groups like ATTF, NLFT and Naga factions in the Chittagong Hill Tracks of Bangladesh. Myanmar’s bordering hilly jungles are suitable for
North-east insurgent groups like Naga factions, remnants of ULFA and PLA UNLF, KYKL groups of Manipur.
China initiated moves in Bangladesh after it became clear that India was focusing on Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation
(BIMSTEC), a regional organisation with neighbours on India’s eastern flank to isolate Beijing. Dhaka’s plan to buy a couple of Chinese submarines is an indication that soon technicians and trainers from China will become a familiar sight at the Chittagong port that once India wished to dominate. Sri Lanka too is giving an anxious time to India’s security. Chinese submarine landing at the Port city of Sri Lanka, has given India a great concern. Chinese nuclear submarine has recently docked at Pakistani port. It has been keeping a track on movement on Indian naval ships. Chinese has been trying to establish its strategic footprints in the Indian Ocean. Maldives has deep ties with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The short range nuclear
warheads have been placed at certain crucial areas along Indo-Pak border by Pakistan. These warheads have been placed under the local Sector commanders. Any Islamic fundamentalist high headed commander may not feel hesitant in using them. With the
situation in Pakistan, falling of these nuclear warheads into the hands of jihadists cannot be ruled out.
In Nepal, with Prachanda coming as Prime Minister, has brought no relief from China’s rising influence in its hills. Prachanda’s predecessor KP Oli had set in motion the transit treaty with China that is impossible to reverse. It remains to be seen how the opening of the Lhasa-Kathmandu trade corridor will impact business on Indian trade arteries to Nepal. Currently the advantage is with India because of Nepal’s proximity to the Kolkata port. But if China decides to relocate production units in Tibet, not just Indian trade into Nepal would suffer attrition, but it will also have its impact across the border in UP and Bihar.
Before dealing with external threats to security, the enemy within must be identified and one’s own house set in order. Numerous socio-economic and religious conflicts within Indian society exist and forging unity in a diverse society, especially where conflicts generate violence, is no mean task. Different communities fiercely assert their caste identities leading to caste wars, thanks to vote bank politics of quota reservation.
Massive socio-religious reforms are needed to exterminate caste distinctions and to bring about peace and harmony. Growing unemployment and widening economic disparities exacerbate social tensions and conflicts. This phenomenon is accentuated by privatisation and globalisation, where rich are becoming richer and poor poorer. This is exploited by different leftist extremist organisations like Naxal/Maoist
outfits who are fast spreading their network with indiscriminate killing of civilians and security personnel.
In addition to this, India’s land frontier of 15,200 km (with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and even a small length of 106 kms with Afghanistan) and
coastline of 7,515 km must be guarded around the clock. The land borders are being manned by Army, Border Security Force, Indo Tibetian Border Police and Seema Sashastra Bal. The border with Myanmar is hilly and densely forested with undulating ground. This border is almost porous and the responsibility of guarding it is with Assam Rifles which is sitting almost 50 km inside own territory. In other words, there is hardly any check on the movement from both sides of the border.
The BSF patrol the Indo-Pak borders using a variety of measures – from sophisticated radars to
camel-mounted border men. On the Indian-Bhutan border, there are only two land custom stations at Jaigaon and Hatisar. However, a large volume of goods does not move through these stations and does not bear the
endorsement of the Customs
authorities. There are densely populated villages on either side of the India-Nepal and the India-Bhutan borders. Because only border guarding forces are in place, but very little force multipliers are employed, it is widely acknowledged that the borders are porous. Use of technology as compared to the level of force deployed on borders is very little.
The coastal border through which the Mumbai terrorist attack took place, was left with State police who do not have enough resources to guard the sensitive open coastline. Though, the Coast Guards are patrolling the sea areas but it is not difficult to
infiltrate through the vast seas. Coastal Command was created, several Coastal Police Stations were authorised, they were funded to
purchase boats for coastal policing, and some radars were also installed. However, given the thousands of boats – small and big – that are in the waters off the west coast, the threats to security remain quite high. On the waters off the east coast, there is virtually no force other than the Navy. We have many defence and defence research installations on the east coast, the DRDO and the Department of Space use the east coast extensively, and there is a large programme for exploration of oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal. Except for the presence of naval and coast guard vessels, and some technology that they have brought in, technology has not been used in a big way to bolster the security along the coast line. Of late, Ministry of Home Affairs has approved raising of a new force to guard the coastline of India. Question now arises to as why raising of new force? Is it to create new avenues for the officers who have the habit of jumping from one cadre to another? BSF had been raised for guarding the borders of India and can guard any type of border, so why different force for different border?
In the air, we rely on the Air Force. This is perhaps the most technology-driven arm of the Defence Forces. In space, we have a few satellites, mainly dedicated to communications, weather forecasting and other peaceful purposes. Some satellites are capable of
surveillance, but we abide by the international regime that there should be no militarisation of space.
Apart from land, sea, air and space, there is another domain which is cyber space. Much of our critical infrastructure lies in cyber space. Cybercrimes such as hacking, financial fraud, data theft, espionage etc. would, in certain circumstances, amount to terrorist acts. Further, the threat of disruption of financial, rail, air, power, critical information services through cyber-attacks could also be construed as terrorist attacks. We would have to emphasise on the latest technology to build our capacity to meet the threats in cyber space. We have made a
modest beginning to build capacity to counter threats in cyber space.
There are several intelligence agencies working in India, but unfortunately sharing of intelligence is lacking resulting in jerk knee reactions at crucial time. Even the coordination among the security forces, especially during internal security and against the LWE elements is missing. Every force wants appreciation for itself. The Central Armed Police Force (the Paramilitary Forces) which have role to play in their specialised field like CRPF, BSF and ITBP are headed by Officers other forces. Most of the crucial posts are headed by these inexperienced officers. This affects the overall efficiency and morale of the force.
Without better governance, delivery systems and effective implementation, India will find it difficult to educate its citizens, build its infrastructure, increase agricultural productivity and ensure that the fruits of economic growth are well established. Governance problems stem from the increasing inability of the State Governments and public institutions to deliver public services in the face of rising expectations. A large gap between physical access to services and the quality of services provided is leading to a citizen satisfaction gap. This can lead to unrest and law and order problem which could be a challenge for security forces to control.
A close examination of the threats to national security will reveal that each one of them is connected to one or more other threats. For example, the threat of terrorism is connected to the threat of proliferation of arms
including weapons of mass
destruction. The threat to the security of our sea-lanes is connected to the threat to energy security. Low intensity conflicts have a direct bearing on social cohesion. Technology security will be the key to building new institutions. Natural disasters, especially those caused by climate change, can wreck food security. Pandemics and diseases, if uncontrolled, can diminish our capacity to defend the borders against our adversaries or to defeat the militants within the country. National security is, therefore, caught in a
complex spider’s web and unless we recognise that each strand of this web is connected to other strands, we would not be able to do justice to our
fundamental obligation to protect and defend the security of the nation. Indeed, a great challenge to our Security Forces!
(The writer is Inspector General BSF (Retd), has remained as a Senior Fellow at IDSA and is now Professor at New Delhi Institute of Management. The Officer has wide range of experience in Counter Insurgency Operations in Northeast and J&K)