India Intelligence Report

 

 

 Internal Security Concerns to the Fore

  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned the country that focusing on external aggression reduces awareness and focus on internal security which is far more dangerous because of the number of threats and causes and the effort that is required to defeat them.
 

 

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned the country that focusing on external aggression reduces awareness and focus on internal security which is far more dangerous because of the number of threats and causes and the effort that is required to defeat them. Internal security did not emanate from a single source or state and is not localized and would take improved coordination, cooperation, and adoption of best practices and technologies in a uniform manner to meet these challenges.

Addressing the 58th batch of Indian Police Service (IPS) probationers (included 4 from Bhutan and 3 from Maldives ), Singh characterized terrorism as a “hydra-headed monster” with “several strains” presenting the “most dangerous threat” to India as the perpetrators have “trans-national linkages and adequate resources.” He called for “determination” steeped in “knowledge” to “succeed against these elements.” Further, a local issue assumes an international flavor and in other cases international terror techniques to solve a local issue. Singh counseled the candidates to understand the nuances of the situation wherever they may be posted—North East, Jammu & Kashmir, states experiencing Naxalism, etc and wanted them to handle the issues sensitively.

Singh says that the rapid development of the nation will bring several polarizing issues to the fore such as spread of wealth, opportunities, caste-based violence, and atrocities by armed groups on weaker sections. He was careful to highlight different kinds of white-collared mafia organizations in cities often with the support of political organizations to say that policing does not include only fighting those armed with weapons and in forests but also those who cheat the nation through control and financial manipulation.

Finally, Singh highlighted the need for a massive change in the image of the police from a repressive force that uses lower-level staff as menial labor to a professional organization capable of performing a multitude of tasks. These would include ability to control crowds, manage riots, fight terrorism, check white-collar crimes, incorporate world-class investigative practices, and finally provide security to the weak and the disenfranchised.

Interestingly, the timing of this speech comes at a time when the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is talking to the Government through its People’s Consultative Group (PGP) about the possibility of direct talks. The ULFA wants to operate through the PGP, which includes a radical author and a former football player, and the Government feels that this format is ineffective. The ULFA ridiculously claims that for it to agree to direct conversations, its senior leadership in custody need to be freed. The Government even declared a unilateral truce to only withdraw it on September 23 after the ULFA failed to respond to a direct communiqué, stop extortion, and summary killing of a tea garden manager.

The ULFA has successfully used Bangladesh and Bhutan as cover to attack and withdraw often staying beyond the reach of the Army. In December 2003, the Army and the Royal Bhutan Army conducted joint raids capturing several senior militants and also killing several cadres. After that operation, the ULFA moved its base completely into Bangladesh and operated under official protection and anonymity. When India raised this issue with Bangladesh recently, the Bangla interlocutors feigned innocence but apparently took some sort of action that has now driven a chunk of ULFA into Bhutan again. The Bodoland Territorial Council claims that it has noticed some camps inside forests of Bhutan and it is still not clear about the extent of their presence. After the December 2003 operation, the ULFA was wiped out of the Lower Assam area and it is not clear if the group is trying to re-establish its base or merely probing Indian retaliatory strength. Analysts point to a recent attack on a passenger train and the murder of two former activists of the Bodoland Liberation Tigers as proof of ULFA’s return. Newspaper reports quoting unnamed police officers blame the ULFA return on “lack of administrative infrastructure” and “proper intelligence network in the Bodoland districts.”

This incident alone brings up an important point in how India manages internal security. It is simply incomprehensible why there was a lack of follow-through mechanism, agreeing to talk to an organized extortionist group, entertaining a so-called PGP through individuals with questionable competence or authority, and lack of ground-level intelligence. Unless there is consistency in policy, implementation, and process no amount of pep-talk, advice, or any number of police personnel can manage internal security.

It is commendable that Singh has highlighted this crucial aspect of security, but he has to address internal structural flaws to contain the hemorrhage first before trying to deal with the overflow. This can only be achieved through firm policy making and consistent follow-through regardless of political consequence