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The Rediff Special/V Balachandran

June 15, 2004

V Balachandran, one of the most respected intelligence officials in the country, assesses the national security challenges confronting the Manmohan Singh government in a three-part series exclusive to rediff.com

Today: The Domestic Challenge

The new UPA government under Dr Manmohan Singh has put in place an experienced team as beacons to navigate our security management. J N Dixit, a scholar diplomat with vast experience as envoy to our neighbouring countries, has assumed charge as the first full time national security adviser while M K Narayanan, an outstanding domestic intelligence chief, has been named as adviser to the prime minister on internal security matters.

The security policy guidelines in the Common Minimum Programme talk about modernising the armed forces, effective functioning of the National Security Council and maintaining a credible nuclear weapons programme while simultaneously taking up a leadership role in promoting universal nuclear disarmament to usher in a nuclear weapons free world. It has also declared its intention to repeal the much abused POTA and also promised strict action to preserve communal harmony.

A conventional security analysis starts with threats to national security from external factors including esoteric concepts like nuclear or missile proliferation, relegating the internal dimension to the bottom. This writer intends to reverse this order and attempt a 'bottom up' review instead of a 'top down' analysis to illustrate how the systematic destruction of internal institutions is one of the primary causes of security degradation. Not all turbulence is due to external factors examples being the Indira Gandhi assassination and the December 25, 2003 attack on Musharraf. A nation like Israel may have a powerful army with an excellent intelligence service and yet suffer from serious domestic turbulence leading to loss of public morale. Some constituents of the former NDA government believed in a policy of dividing people provoking serious dissension which in some cases ignited terrorism.

In India our internal security is normally ensured by the police controlled by the states. The armed forces, paramilitary outfits and the central intelligence agencies intervene only when extraordinary situations arise. Wars are not fought every day while espionage, internal sabotage and low intensity warfare are carried on during peacetime. The armed forces or central agencies do not have enough manpower to keep watch all over the country.

Also Read: B Raman on National Security and the new government

Over a period of time our police, which in any country is the basic bulwark against internal sabotage and terrorism has been rendered ineffective due to partisan and corrupt behaviour. Its intelligence and crime wings have been starved of good talents due to the exodus to money making branches while effective prosecution is neutralised by corruption and delays in the courts. The well known case of an Ahmedabad magistrate issuing warrants against the President and the Chief Justice in January is too recent for any comment.

Nothing illustrates the decay of the Indian police than a front page report in The Indian Express dated May 31, 2004, 'How Dawood's men walked out of Jail,' conveying the manner by which three extradited gangsters from the Gulf had been discharged by the court as the Mumbai police misplaced evidence against them, provoking the city's upright commissioner of police to remark: 'I tell you that the system has collapsed.'

Not too long ago, L K Advani, the former deputy prime minister, had asked for the extradition of 20 wanted criminals from Pakistan as a precondition to talks on Kashmir. Would there be any guarantee that the Indian police would be able to jail these criminals even if Pakistan had extradited them to India?

D R Karthikeyan, who supervised the Rajiv Gandhi assassination investigation, vividly narrated how Coimbatore continued to be the LTTE's grenade shell manufacturing centre even in 1991, exporting massive quantities to Jaffna with the local police quite oblivious about it despite the premises having been raided in August 1989. His book Triumph of Truth - The Rajiv Gandhi Assassination gives a graphic account how the Tamil Nadu police and its intelligence wings failed in their surveillance against LTTE moles and operatives. Similarly, slip shod investigation and lack of coordination by different branches of Tamil Nadu police enabled Suba Ilavarasan, a subversive associate of forest brigand Veerappan, obtain bail and go underground. This came to light only when he was arrested on May 26, 2004.

The Telgi scam, which undermined the economic security of the country, had involved top police officials of Maharashtra and other states. Communal assault by Hindu extremists and the partisan behaviour of the police against Muslims had encouraged ordinary law abiding Muslims turning into terrorists.

Some police officers are quick to fault politicians for the rot existing in the Indian police which has made the department a handmaid of politicians who have usurped all control. They quote the reports of the National Police Commission to argue that things will improve if political control over the police is removed. It is true that power hungry politicians have neutralised the police and prosecution machinery, the prime example being the partisan role of politically appointed public prosecutors in Gujarat in the wake of the Godhra riots. Dreaded gangster Bhai Thakur involved in several murder cases was granted extension of bail on December 20, 2003 by the Thane court in Maharashtra while continuing to terrorise witnesses, making them 'hostile' in court since the public prosecutor, probably under political influence, did not oppose the extension.

However, not always are the politicians at fault. A K Antony, perhaps the only chief minister in India who had given functional autonomy to the police by publicly declaring on April 17, 2002 that he would not interfere in transfers was forced to say on May 29, 2004 that the police and education departments would not have 'absolute freedom in future,' being disgusted with the corrupt and arrogant behaviour of some. The only police autonomy experiment thus failed.

The 'Group of Ministers' in the former government have in February 2001 listed out 114 recommendations to improve the orientation of the state police forces towards better internal security management, the implementation of which will be a serious challenge to the new government. These include good suggestions like upgradation of central and state intelligence wings and better coordination between them.

Along with this there are also well worn clichés like the central government to guide 'good governance' in the states, those occupying high public offices to 'set an example for the people' to follow and 'creating patriotism' among the masses.

Some recommendations would take years to implement like the revamping of the existing criminal law and procedure, shift system for the police, amendment to prevent granting of bail in serious cases, separation of crime and investigation staff and amendment of the law enabling supervision of assistant public prosecutor's work through a police officer.

Yet others would never be implemented due to objections from the state satraps for being an assault on state autonomy or diluting the control of politicians, examples being the 'proactive' implementation of the provisions of Article 355 of the Constitution for protecting every state from external aggression or internal disturbances, creating a federal agency to investigate 'federal crimes' and establishing a state level 'Establishment Board' to decide police transfers.

It would need tremendous sagacity and tact to persuade the state governments to introduce these measures to improve the standard of grassroot policing to upgrade the security vigil in this country. Also, the UPA decision to repeal POTA, followed by a similar Maharashtra government declaration on MCOCA is bound to create problems in keeping hardened criminals or terrorists in custody at least during the interim period till alternative provisions under the normal criminal law are enacted.

V Balachandran retired as former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India

Part II: Needed: An effective National Security Council

Image: Uttam Ghosh


The Rediff Specials


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Number of User Comments: 3




Sub: need care

I may suggest that the author should confine to the objectives of the theme without adding his own masala. when you make your own judgements, ...


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Sub: author is ignorant...

Looks like the author is ignorant. The divise policy was masterminded by British and strictly followed by congress in the name of secularism. The author ...


Posted by Ramanathan





Sub: Show me a rule abiding Muslim

Writer says that "Communal assault by Hindu extremists and the partisan behaviour of the police against Muslims had encouraged ordinary law abiding Muslims turning into ...


Posted by perinkulam1




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