India’s internal security compulsions
Gen.V K Nayar
India's security is influenced by events in South Asia due to historical, geographical and demographic imperatives. Time has been a witness to the disappearance of convergence of interests and synergies rooted in common colonial experience of the South Asian countries. The biggest challenge for the South Asian countries has been the national consolidation into their new identities, which generated its own external and domestic dynamics due to plural nature of their societies. This has been proved with the break up of Pakistan and birth of Bangladesh. It is argued that mutual distrust is the natural bane of their relations. However this does not exist in the same degree and manner amongst all countries in the sub continent. It is deep between India and Pakistan. This distrust influences not, only the relationship between India and Pakistan and India and other countries of the region but also relationship amongst the countries of the region. The region has seen four major wars and several near wars. Indo-Pak crisis over nuclear tests by both of them and the low intensity conflict over Kashmir are viewed as a flashpoint. Tensions between pluralist democratic governments and unitary form of non-pluralist governments in the sub continent further add to the imbalances and tensions. The situation has resulted in the involvement of extra regional powers in South
l Asian conflicts, thus making the situation complex and complicating intra regional relations.
South Asia comprises of seven independent states, with over one sixth of world's population and numerous ethnic, religious and linguistic groups is the theatre of ethnic and religions violence which is transnational in its nature and implications. The ethnic, religious and linguistic overlap has not only affected internal political developments in each state but also inter-state relationships. The boundaries between neighbours are not natural both
geographically and ethnically; therefore social tensions are bound to have a transborder impact. Traditional linkages of friendship and inter- action amongst people have become competing arrangements for aiding and abetting subversion, terrorism and insurgencies. The regional geopolitical environment is likely to remain disturbed, which in conjunction with
2structural political and security confrontations within South Asia will continue to influence
our internal security. Social tensions particularly in the ethnic and religious field due to its transborder character will continue to be the main areas of exploitation by our adversaries. Muslim fundamentalism and demographic influx are its major manifestations. The need to turn the proximity between South Asian neighbours into a viable economic and security relationship for mutual benefit cannot be over emphasised.
South Asia is not like other peninsula confined to a region or even a continent. The Northern ranges link it with the "heart lands" of Central Asia and China, while the Southern Peninsula touches the Indian ocean and places it in a position to oversee the sea routes from Mallaca straits to South Atlantic around the South African rim. In the west it rests on the Middle East, with which it has historic trade and cultural ties and in the East it adjoins Yunan province of China and Myanmar, a natural bridge to South East Asia, with close demographic and cultural
3ties with India' s North East. Multi continental dimension of South Asia is a reality, whose
dynamics will continue to influence countries in South Asia.
Two of the three major narcotic centres of the world, the Golden Crescent in the North West and the Golden Triangle in the East have made South Asia vulnerable to drug trafficking Combination of large scale availability of man portable weapons, illegal financial resources through narcotic trade and cross border nexus for smuggling and terrorist activities has made the environment violence and conflict prone.
Our security is vulnerable to threats, tensions and conflicts originating both from indigenous and exogenous sources. Internal security situation in India should be examined with this background.
The domestic dynamics of India‟s internal security are reflected in its socio-political
milieu, the main feature of which is its diversity. It is reflected in the variety of its communities and castes, races and ethnic groups, languages and dialects, religious beliefs and customs and traditions, with different manifestations of culture, all operating in a dynamic environment. Therefore our internal security scenario will continue to be complex and varied. While problems will intrinsically rest on domestic roots but external factors will play a major role in aggravating these. The external forces in conjunction with internal forces of dissent will endeavour to exacerbate our security problems. Threats due to terrorism, narcotics and drugs, small arms proliferation, voids in energy requirement and information warfare loon large on the horizon. Maintenance of internal security will thus be one of the biggest challenges facing the country.
The British exploited the diversity in the Indian society to divide it on communal and religious lines. On independence, based on the colonial experience, our political leadership decided on integration as a cornerstone of its policy. This was to be achieved through economic development along with nation building through cultural and social interaction, as these linkages were considered durable and stronger rather than political assimilation. However, in later years since late sixties, our second generation of political leadership lost sight of federalism and political assimilation became the main thrust. In the economic and development field participation was given short shift and central planning and control of resources left the states at the mercy of the Central Govt. Gradually, state became all pervading in the political, economic and even in social and cultural fields.
On independence the Indian state inherited only the physical base consisting of the territory and people, the state and its democratic institutions had to provide the cohesiveness to weld India into a nation state. While we have succeeded largely but there are failures in this regard. In certain areas there is a conflict situation to a point of violence and the contesting groups have become the objectives of security. In simple terms a mutual state of insecurity exists between these groups and the state and terrorism, insurgency and violence are only its physical symbols. Similarly, issues of ethno-nationalism and identity are outcome of our failure to integrate diverse segments of the Indian society.
The state policy of secularism came under threat in 1960‟s when the politicians started manipulating emotional sensitivities of communities and words majority and minority were formally introduced and accepted in politics and vote banks of communities on communal and religious denomination were created. Inept handling of Babri Masjid issue and failure of government to prevent its destruction resulted in communalism entering as a key element in the fragmentation of the society and the nation. The digging out of
Mandal Commission Report added to the fragmentation. The net result of all these and similar manoeuvres for vote catching was a divide and set back to consolidation of the Indian society two decades after independence. The environment of unity and secularism was disturbed.
Ethno-communal strifes in our country are a result of uneven economic development and unfulfilled aspirations of people, which creates a sense of deprivation. This may be partially due to modernisation itself, result of socio-economic developments and changes and literacy and awareness, resulting in what is perceived to be uneven economic well being. The
root cause is social and economic insecurity. If there is just and equitable distribution of economic and developmental benefits people feel satisfied. It is the absence of this satisfaction that drives affected groups to assert themselves and the main target is the government both local and central. In such a state of confrontation the articulation of group interests in itself results in political mobilisation of the ethnic communities as does its exploitation. Since most of such communities are rural and land resource based, any pressure on the land due to population growth or migration further increases the economic pressure. Educated unemployed further add to the economic and social pressures. The sum total of it is the mobilisation of the society in the shape of ethno-nationalism.
Trans-border migration from Bangladesh is a major factor for the problems in Assam and other areas of the North East. The point that Bangladesh immigrants are a source of communal and ethnic tension was well proved by the Assam agitation and subsequent events. There are estimated to be 15 to 18 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India, who have spread to all the North Eastern States with bulk of them being in Assam. A fair proportion of these estimated to be 3 to 5 million have spread to the other eastern states of Bihar and West Bengal and in the North to Delhi and beyond. The influx is likely to continue unless checked and those already identified are deported. Their transgression into land and providing cheap labour is a cause of social and economic insecurity for local communities and a cause of tension and violence. The problem is not only increasing but getting more complex. We need to tighten our immigration controls and there is need for evolving an immigration policy and establishing a set up similar to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service on the lines that exist in USA.
The electoral politics since eighties have resulted in diffusion of both the state and politics, the institutions of governance have been diluted and politics have lost their
ideological and moral moorings. While on one hand it has led to expansion of the social base of politics, on the other hand due to bad politics it has resulted in politicisation and aggravation of all problems. Democratic freedom and electoral politics have led to agitation and unrest. More than any other single factor, the exploitation of diversities has resulted in breakdown of the cohesiveness of the society, created insecurity of cultural identity, encouraged religious revivalism in its fundamentalist form, heightened ethnicity and widened the gap between the sub national groups and nationalism. The hallmark of the distortion of the system is political expediency. In the economic and developmental field it has resulted in disorientation, subversion of the system, permissiveness and malpractices with corruption as the natural fallout.
Information Technology (IT) has revolutionized warfare and in the internal security field it has provided means to the underworld to expand their reach for criminal activities without direct physical involvement. Pak ISI has made full use of it by linking up with the Bombay underworld. Our responses have to be quicker and based on the developing technological inputs. This will require updating educational levels in the security forces and developing a technological temper. Similarly, liberalisation of economy has resulted in accentuation of economic disparities as benefits have not reached the masses. This is bound to increase social and economic tensions. The other aspect of liberalisation of the economy is that in our backward areas like Bihar and the North East both liberalisation and privatization are unlikely to succeed due to the lack of basic infrastructure and sufficiently efficient administrative set up. If any, it will add to the frustration.
Social scientists believe that weak states in the third world have a higher level of concern with domestically generated threats to security because they have not been able to
create domestic, political and social consciousness of sufficient strength to eliminate large
4scale use of force as a major element in the political life of the nation. This has also been
our experience in India. While the state has responded adequately to external threats, its responses to internal challenges have been totally inadequate. Our inner weaknesses and instability has encouraged external threats and pose a serious challenge to national security.
China is an important factor in India‟s security perceptions and tempers its
relationship with some of its neighbours. Chinese interests in the region have to be viewed in the long term perspective. After eliminating the historical and strategic buffer between
India and China by annexation of Tibet, the Chinese resorted to giving financial aid, arms and sanctuaries to Naga, Mizo and Meitei extremists. This was followed by military encroachments culminating in the conflict in 1962. Chinese unilateral withdrawl after the 1962 border war was a part of the psychological containment of India. Since then China has shrewdly followed a policy of strategic containment of India by regional alliances and arming India‟s neighbours Mynamar, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Similarly, India‟s technological and military mordernisation has been effectively counted by technological and weapons transfers to Pakistan in the nuclear and missile fields. The strategy is aimed at building indirect threats to India and in this use Pakistan, India‟s main adversary as a frontline surrogate.
In the internal security field, Chinese interest in the North East and help to insurgents should remain a point of constant focus by us. Only the methodology may be different : if you can do it by proxy (Pakistan and Bangladesh), then avoid direct involvement. This gives you the widest options strategically and diplomatically. Both Issac Swu and Muivah have been visiting the Chinese embassy officials in Geneva and there are reports of Chinese offer of basses in Yunan. We must not forget the coordinating bureau set up by the Chinese and
Pakistanis in 1969 to coordinate training, funding and arming of insurgents in the North East. If any its dimensions have expanded with greater sophistication and it continues to be a viable low cost option. The potential for mischief is there. Talk of normalisation of relations without any progress in resolving the border dispute make Chinese indentions suspect.
Pakistan in keeping with its anti India stance over the years has been using state-sponsored terrorism as an important instrument of its foreign policy. The threat from ISI is real and grave and its primary focus is to undermine India‟s internal security : India‟s open democratic system, judiciary and socio–political setting provides hostile agencies wide
ranging opportunities to exploit contentious political issues and local tensions. Pakistan in order to implement its nefarious designs has used ISI for subversive activities by instigating communal disturbances, perpetrating terrorist acts, infiltrated militants and mercenaries and inducted weapons and explosives into India. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), Lashker-e-Toiba (LET) and Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Front have expanded their operations to Delhi, Maharashtra,Gujarat, U.P., Haryana and Punjab. ISI agents have also cultivated transborder operators and couriers for smuggling of arms and explosives via Punjab, J & K, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It has also established espionage networks in different parts of the country. After Punjab and J&K, it has now intensified its activities in the North East exploiting local insurgencies. Pakistan has established bases in Nepal, Bangladesh, Srilanka and the Middle East, the plan aims at encirclement of India. This combined with the upsurge in Islamic Terrorism at the global level with its epicenter in Central Asian Republic, Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to have persistent affect on India‟s internal security.
ISI is increasingly targeting the minority community in the Southern states to subvert their loyalty, while Karnataka and Kerala have become prone to smuggling, Tamil Nadu and
Andhra Pradesh have been targetted for subversion. Communal disturbances in different parts of Tamilnadu and bomb blasts in Madras and Coimbatore bear witness to ISI complicity. The arrest of ISI operative Mohammed Inshtiyaq Ahmed @ Mohammed Saleem Junaid in 1998,
5revealed its plan to enlarge ISI /Laskhar-e-Toiba net work in India. Similarly, unearthing of
Deendar Anjuman with its link with Hizabul Deendar Anjuman of Pakistan which was
6responsible for church blasts in Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka during July 2000 is a
clear indication of the spread of fundamentalist Islam and subversion through its network.
The appointment of former ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir as chairman of Pakistan‟s Sri Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) clearly outlines Pakistan‟s design to revive Sikh Militancy. His strategy is to drive a wedge between the SGPC and Sikhs settled abroad by accusing the SGPC of misappropriating offerings made in Pakistan Gurdwaras and not spending on its up keep. Simultaneously ISI operatives in Pak missions abroad have been exhorting Sikh expatriate community to go to India for disruptive activities. The surrender of Babar Khalsa International (BKI ) members in September 1999 revealed ISI plans that BKI unit of Germany had been contacted to send motivated youth to India for organising explosions in Punjab, Delhi, Haryana and U.P. BKI, Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) and Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) are being specially targeted by the ISI.
In the North East, the Siliguri corridor with its porous borders along Bangladesh and Nepal has become a major conduit for ISI subversive activities. The mushrooming of madarsas along the Indo – Nepal and Indo – Bangladesh borders is a design contrived by ISI
with the help of sympathetic elements in Bangladesh to step up subversive activities in the North East. The muslim pockets have become the breeding ground for mafia, smugglers, gun running, hawala transactions. narco-trafficking, influx of fake Indian currency and terrorist
activities. Bangladesh has also become a nodal point for transhipments of arms and ammunition acquired by the North East insurgents from the arms bazars in South East Asia. ISI is providing assistance for storage and transhipments through fundamentalist organisations like JEI of Bangladesh, Quami Madarsas and Islamic NGO‟s under its patronage. Some elements amongst Bangladesh authorities are also suspected to be conniving with the ISI.
7 The arrest of four Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) activists in Guwahati in July 1999,
revealed Pak ISI‟s plans of infiltrating trained activists in the North East, to bring all Muslim organisations under one umbrella and establishing an alliance between Muslim extremists and the North East insurgents to boost the insurgency and ferment communal and ethnic divide. ISI has already established links with the North East insurgents (NSCN (IM) ULFA, PLA, Bodo Security Force, United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Muslim extremists organisations like Muslim Liberation Tigers of Assam (MLTA) and Muslim United Liberal Front of Assam (MULFA ). Presence of large number of illegal Bangladeshi muslims provide a fertile support base for subversive activities. The growth of communal organisations like Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Students Islamic, Sevak Sangh (ISS) and All India Mili Council provides impetus to Pan Islamic sentiment, which is vulnerable to exploitation by Pakistan.
There is direct link between drug trafficking and terrorism. The Golden Crescent is a major source of heroine and hashish for the West, which is smuggled through the Indo-Pak border. The ISI has been using these established channels for smuggling of arms and explosives, which has provided terrorism greater teeth. In an interview to Washington Post
(12 September 1994) Nawaz Sharif mentioned ISI plans to use drug money to support