India’s internal security: A cause for concern?

Home Ministry has found itself in several Catch 22 situations. PC: Sentinel Assam

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s green signal to both the surgical strikes of 2016 and the Balakot air strikes in 2019 in retaliation to the Pulwama attack on the convoy of Indian soldiers was hailed in the length and breadth of the country. 

People beyond regional and religious sentiments expressed immense appreciation to the said strikes which once and for all changed India’s perception both globally and domestically as an assertive power. 

More than anything, the strikes instilled much needed confidence in the hearts and minds of the Jawan (Soldier) who got a peek into the willingness of the Prime Minister to send a message across the border and that India is not the sleeping giant that it was once. 

India has been quite successful in defending itself from external threats; there are nevertheless several questions one can raise about the challenges when it comes to India’s internal security. 

While, there was much adulation of PM’s action post Pulwama attack, some critical issue seems to slip out of the mind of the general public. For example, the terror attack has resoundingly exposed the gaps in India’s internal security architecture, both in terms counter intelligence and also in terms of tactical preparedness.

Off late, similar such instances from Shaheen Bagh to Delhi protests during Trump’s visit to the Tableeghi Jamat congregation can be viewed as indicators of the times to come. 

While it is easy to blame one religious’ community for their actions and a small percentage of its followers on their strict adherence to theological fundamentalism, there has been no such blame directed towards law enforcement and intelligence apparatus. 

If one could not predict Shaheen Bagh or the Delhi protests during American President Donald Trump’s visit or the Tableeghi congregation, then they certainly are living in a fool’s paradise where the old adage of “Ignorance is bliss” seems to be the cardinal principle. 

To an observer, the government seems to be caught in a limbo, a dilemma of sorts. If the government enforces strict measures against such primarily minority led congregations, they are perceived as violators of democratic rights. 

However, if the same are allowed to escalate to the level of violence on the streets they still are blamed for the actions leading to the same situation. 

There seems to be a policy paralysis and a lack of grand strategy in dealing with situations as such. The government seems to be in hibernation mode in an era of information warfare, where fake news spreads faster than forest fire and the lack of any credible countermeasures is only tarnishing the image of the government further.

The Tableeghi Jamat for instance, was attended by notorious foreign nationals with proven links with terror organizations. A gathering of such a nature could only have been possible with prior knowledge of the Home Ministry, the Ministry of External affairs and the Intelligence.

Why could the law enforcement agencies especially the Delhi Police, not stop a gathering from happening? Or, were there any compromises made due to fear of retaliation by the minority community? 

How come the visas of these foreign nationals who attended the event were not revoked at the time of lockdown? How could they even be issued Visas in the first place to visit India? Such questions need answers and needs deliberation in national media. 

The government needs to address such issues rather than constantly ducking down from the bouncers. Playing safe on the defensive as we know very well from Test cricket only leads to delaying the inevitable. 

Tablighi Jamaat congregation in New Delhi became a serious security risk. PC: Business Standard

It is high time government understands grey zone and hybrid tactics of neo-warfare including the ones practiced by adversaries through social media propagandabio-terrorism (like in the case of using the COVID-19 virus to spread the disease), creating counter narratives to specific actions like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Registry of Citizens (NRC).

The promise of transparency in governance that was expected by many admirers of Mr. Modi and his cabinet seem to be waning rather quickly. The government urgently needs a PR mechanism through which apprehensions and the fear regarding the above said legal provisions be assuaged. 

Also ambiguity and blame game’s like in the case of law enforcement in Delhi where the state cabinet was drawn into needs a thorough examination. 

One only has to look at Israel and its assertive nature in handling several critical issues including human rights and counter-propaganda issues be launched in India. 

Future warfare, at least externally will have economic implications and not as much in terms of military capabilities. Being prepared to encourage this transformation is crucial while simultaneously preparing a grand strategy for internal security of the nation.

There are massive gaps in terms of strengthening the internal security apparatus of the nation such as low police to population ratio, lack of solid coordination mechanisms between centre and state as well as the lack of coherent all-encompassing legal structures. 

The sooner this happens, the better it is for nation’s internal security or get hijacked and be held hostage by ideologically motivated various groups with violent intentions. The time is ripe for reforms and the opportunity should not be lost especially considering the compounded nature of threats that emerge with technological advancement. 

The threats that emerged in Delhi protests, the Tableeghi Jamat are not to be taken lightly and are an indication to whatever is in store in the near future. It is the beginning of a new era and preparing for the same needs gargantuan efforts. 

All is not lost considering the BJP administration is at the helm for more than four years in their second term and significant changes can be brought in if there is a willingness to act.

Dr Sameer Guduru

Dr Sameer Guduru is an Associate Fellow, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi.

The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.

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