Secure borders; insecure inside

Shell shock Shell shock: A bloodstain marks where a Pakistani shell struck home in J&K's Arnia sector | AP
 Arun Bhagat

Internal security has to have the highest priority of any government in any country. In India's case it is even more so, as we are beset with all three types of terrorism―ethnic, religious and ideological. This is in addition to the social, agrarian and communal unrest. With regard to handling internal security, the Modi government's first year has been good by any yardstick.

Except for an increase in violence in the northeast, the fatality figures in Jammu and Kashmir and from Maoist violence have diminished. There has been no major terrorist strike. Infiltration of Pakistan-based and sponsored terrorists decreased because of increased vigilance on the Line of Control and the international border, as well as a more robust response forcefully articulated by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Pakistani army's tactic of providing covering fire to distract Indian security forces and push terrorists into India was thwarted time and again by the heavy return fire by our forces. The intelligence services and the National Investigation Agency apprehended many terrorists and uncovered modules of different tanzeems.

On the high seas, a suspected terrorist boat blew itself up when it was chased and was on the verge of being seized. Another Pakistani boat carrying narcotics worth crores of rupees was also seized by the Coast Guard. Communal amity was by and large maintained, except for incidents in Uttar Pradesh and Assam.

A one-year ceasefire agreement was signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Reformation), but, the NSCN (Khaplang) renounced the 14-year-old ceasefire agreement that it had made with the Centre. As the NSCN (K) has bases and tribal support in Myanmar, the Assam Rifles which guards the borders needs to be strengthened and its camps brought closer to the border to restrict cross-border movement. Conditions in Manipur have shown a marked improvement.

Rajnath Singh is considered to be a hands-on minister who does not shy away from taking hard decisions. Being No 2 in the party and in the cabinet, he has the necessary clout and heft. He demonstrated this by removing the home secretary for his role in the Matang Singh controversy. He has raised the morale of the para-military forces and has enhanced their financial powers. However, no new initiatives are to be seen in the much needed area of local policing. In fact, the fight against left-wing extremists is likely to receive a setback with no provision being made in the current year’s budget for special infrastructure scheme for states affected by left-wing extremism.

As many as seven other schemes, including the national scheme for modernisation of the police forces in the states, will be adversely affected. The budgetary provision which was hitherto made to the home ministry has been denied to it by the finance ministry on the grounds that increased funds have been allotted to the states following the recommendation of the finance commission.

The anti-left extremism thrust is bound to suffer as the states will independently decide what amount to give to which scheme, if at all. These schemes had an all-India vision and goal, whether it was for criminal and crime tracking, development of common networking systems for all states, counter-insurgency programmes or increasing the capabilities of special forces.

Centralised coordination and guidance is essential if first-grade integrated systems and networks have to be established quickly. Managing internal security is no easy task and the home minister will continue to face multiple challenges in the future. One hopes that luck continues to be with them.
Bhagat is former director, Intelligence Bureau.

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