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September 16, 1999


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Issues 99/ Ved Marwah

'We have to handle internal security with a long-term perspective'

I am unable to fathom why an issue like internal security did not figure in a big way in the poll campaigns of all the political parties. This is more strange because, prior to these elections, we were harping on about national security and internal security.

Internal security is directly or indirectly linked to national security. In the last decade or so, the government has been focussing its attention on meeting the growing challenges in internal security. The Inter-Services Intelligence has spread its network in those places in India that were earlier free from its influence.

For example, the bomb blasts in Coimbatore before last year's election and the subsequent arrests of ISI agents from different places in south India clearly indicates the ISI has started spreading its wings.

Earlier, the problem of internal security was limited to the border states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Tripura, Assam and Mizoram etc. But now the ISI reach has increased in other states as well because of porous borders in some states like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The ISI has also used sea routes to bring RDX into the country.

After the Babri Masjid demolition, 1.5 tonnes of RDX came into Bombay through ports in Gujarat. This was then distributed to various agents to carry out deadly explosions in which over 300 people lost their lives.

The ISI is dividing the Indian community on communal lines. Whether they be through religious institutions or educational institutions like madarsas, a deep-rooted campaign of hatred is being conducted against the Indian government and the Indian people. Young minds are being poisoned and their religious feelings are whipped up. Money is being offered to them to lure them into carrying out subversive activities.

Since 1947 Pakistan has been aiding and abetting terrorism in India. It first tried its tricks in Jammu and Kashmir; later it began giving financial aid and arms to insurgent groups in the northeast. First to the Nagas, then the Mizos, later the United Liberation Front of Asom and now even the Bodos. Of course, Punjab too figured prominently in their game plan. In Mizoram, there is complete calm, thanks to the peace accord signed between the government and the Mizo National Front.

In Punjab we have managed to curtail the problems of internal security to a great extent. The militants in Punjab have realised that Pakistan is merely waging a proxy war against India through them and have stopped listening to the commands of their erstwhile masters. Pakistan knows it cannot afford to wage a war against India, hence it is resorting to a proxy war. It suits it because this is cost-effective and there is no loss in terms of men.

Even the intrusions in Kargil cannot be termed a full war against India because it was done for a limited purpose. By increasing their subversive activities in India they manage to divert the attention of our paramilitary organisations and engaged them in law and order duties they would not be engaged in otherwise.

But Pakistan is not the only nation interested in creating problems for India. China also played its role in aiding terrorism in the northeast. It can still create serious problems for us in that part of the country because it still has links with various insurgent groups like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, ULFA, and a number of other groups. Most groups operating in the northeast have bases either in Burma or Bangladesh.

We have to be very careful, very vigilant. We have not only to bring under control what is happening today, but we also have to be prepared for what may happen tomorrow. We have to handle internal security with a long-term perspective. To do that we have to diagnose the problem and then find a solution.

First and foremost, we have to improve border management to contain intrusions.

Intrusions are taking place in Jammu and Kashmir, parts of Rajasthan, from Bangladesh, Nepal and, of course, from Myanmar. This we have to tighten.

We have to create an integrated intelligence system, so that our intelligence agencies don't work at cross-purposes. They have to work in a co-ordinated manner. Then we have to have a top agency that goes through all the inputs made and takes concrete measures to curb insurgency in the country. Besides human intelligence, we also have to strengthen our technical intelligence.

Once that is done then we should focus our attention to better co-ordination between the police and paramilitary organisations while tackling insurgency problems. The Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force and other central forces -- like the Central Industrial Security Force, the army and Rashtriya Rifles -- must have total cohesion. In this system there should be no place for personality clashes.

I am not in favour of a unified command that has every force placed under the Indian army. The army has more firepower, there is no doubt about it. While dealing with internal security you don't need so much firepower.

No other agency can play the role that the local police do. The local police have better rapport with the people of the particular area. That is why I say a tough command system does not work in such situations. What we require is that senior officials of all agencies sit together, plan together and help each other.

You have an excellent example of fighting terrorism in Punjab where the army was there only as a backup. It was the local police that actually fought the battle. The local police should handle the situation because arresting someone is an unpleasant job and should not be left to the army.

Most militant organisations use sophisticated weapons, whereas we are still stuck with old weapons. You cannot fight militancy if your forces are not properly equipped. The police and the army cannot reverse their roles and work. They must do their own jobs.

The problems are getting so widespread and so complicated that the dimensions of internal security are threatening the sovereignty and integrity of our country. External threats are closely linked with the problem of internal security. You have got to deal with internal security in a comprehensive manner and link the solution to our political and economic policies.

It is unfortunate that in Jammu and Kashmir the security forces are being criticised even if they are doing the right thing. We cannot afford this. We must also realise that the problem of internal security cannot be solved without the active co-operation of the people of India and people of the state in question.

Because it is the people who gather intelligence for you. They know where the militants or terrorists are hiding and what their plans are. The local people know more about intruder movements than anyone else. Without their support you cannot achieve much.

You cannot equate the problems of Jammu and Kashmir with the problems of Bihar. The people of Bihar can throw out their government in the next election, but in Jammu and Kashmir they are not interested in elections but are looking for something else.

Anything goes wrong and vested interests start rapping the Government of India and start telling the people about imaginary problems they have been facing because of their association with India.

We are already spending a huge amount of money in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast. The only thing we must do is to use this money judiciously and solve the problems of health, sanitation, environment, unemployment etc and ensure a better living for our people.

A former IPS officer, Ved Marwah is currently convener of the Internal Security Cell of the National Security Council. He spoke to Onkar Singh.


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