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India’s National Security: Internal and External Threats

India’s National Security: Internal and External Threats
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First Published: Wed, Jun 27 2007. 05 19 PM IST
Updated: Wed, Jun 27 2007. 05 19 PM IST
New Delhi:While Indian economy has registered phenomenal growth of 9.4%, spectre of internal and external threats is haunting the nation. The entire growth process will come to a screeching halt if security concerns are not timely and adequately addressed. Manifestations of threat range from communal/sectarian violence to jihadi terrorism , separatist insurgencies in northeast and Naxalite extremist militancy.
Issues of combating militancy, terrorism and nuclear menace, are incisively analyzed by five eminent security experts, specially commissioned by livemint:
1. Intelligence in War against Terrorism by Dr Bhashyam Kasturi, Executive Editor, AGNI Journal of Forum for Strategic and Security Studies and Associate Editor, Journal of Defence Studies (IDSA)
2. Twin threats of Fundamentalism and Terrorism in South Asia by Maj Gen Afsir Karim, editor-in-chief of defence magazine, Akrosh
3. Nuclear Proliferation in Asia: Trends and Challenges by Dr Manpreet Sethi, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies
4. Threats and Vulnerabilities to India’s Information Infrastructure by Prashant Bakshi, Defence Analyst and Former Fellow, IDSA
5. Leadership in the War on Terrorism by Sarabjit Singh, Former Director General Police, Punjab and presently on the faculty of The International Symposium on Economic Crime at Jesus College, Cambridge
Meanwhile, an overview is provided in the following paragraphs
Cross-border threats
Most external threats emanate from an unsettled boundary dispute with China and ongoing cross-border jihadi terrorism in J&K sponsored terrorism, supported by ISI and Pakistan-based Islamist fundamentalist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad who, in turn , are inextricably linked with international jihadi groups like Taliban and Al Qaida.
Threat from Bangladesh assumes serious dimensions since it became a base for northeast insurgent groups like ULFA and Naga factions. Of late, it has also been serving as a conduit for ISI sponsored infiltration of terrorists along India and Bangladesh’s porous border.
To cap it, nuclear threat from neighbouring states and from jihadi groups have the potential of using nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future, significant being China-Pakistan nuclear nexus.
Vote bank politics
Before dealing with external threats to security, the enemy within has to be identified and one’s own house set in order. Numerous socio-economic and religious conflicts within Indian society exist and forging unity in a diverse society, especially where conflicts generate violence, is no mean task.
Different communities fiercely assert their caste identities leading to caste wars, thanks to vote bank politics of quota reservation. The recent violence unleashed by Gujjars resulted in massive loss of life and public/ private property. The situation could have been altered through heavy deployment of para-military forces, though this would at best be a short-term solution.
Massive socio-religious reforms are needed to exterminate caste distinctions and to bring about peace and harmony. Growing unemployment and widening economic disparities exacerbate social tensions and conflicts. This phenomenon is accentuated by privatization and globalization, where rich are becoming richer and poor poorer. This is exploited by different leftist extremist organizations like Naxal/Maoist outfits who are fast spreading their network with indiscriminate killing of civilians and security personnel.
Maoist volcano erupted in Nepal and its lava is spilling over vast Indian territories. Central and state law enforcing agencies with intelligence networks are doing their best to manage the crisis but without much success.
Reorienting economic reforms
Aside from streamlining entire operational mechanisms of central and state law enforcing agencies, economic reforms must be reoriented, so that ‘trickle down’ effect becomes a reality. Poverty stricken and under developed tribal areas are the most fertile grounds for growth of Naxalism.
Even after 60 years of independence, Indian establishment has failed to exorcise the ghost of communalism. Communal riots are a common phenomenon fuelled by religious fundamentalist organizations. It is a hard fact that inter- religious and intra- religious conflicts are sharpening rapidly. Shia-Sunni riots are no less violent than Hindu-Muslim riots. But the most dangerous phenomenon emerging in 21st century is that of Islamist jihadi terrorism that has engulfed the entire world.
Jihadi Terrorism
There are clear indications that Bangladesh’s caretaker government’s claim of effective action against Islamist fundamentalist organizations has no substance. Many banned Islamist militant groups have either changed their names or are operating clandestinely. Harkat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami Bangladesh(HUJBI), Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Jama’at-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB) and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir are actively engaged in terrorist activities.
However, what concerns India most is their nexus with Pak-based jihadi organizations and the ISI. Some security analysts suspect the hand of HUJBI behind the recent bomb blast at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid.
Terrorism is not confined to state boundaries alone and has spread to Southeast Asia where Buddhist societies in Thailand and Myanmar have turned soft targets. Even in Muslim dominated countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, fundamentalist jihadi terrorists have struck deep roots. China too is facing threat from jihadi terrorism in its autonomous region of Xinjiang which has a strong Muslim population.
In India, jihadi movement which created Pakistan in 1947, is yet to finish its agenda. This is manifested in the three Indo-Pak wars and the current low intensity war being conducted by ISI with support of Pak-based jihadi outfits. War against Islamist jihadi terrorism cannot be won, unless we purge vote bank politics from our polity.
The China-Pakistan nuclear nexus has come to stay and is a source of constant threat to Indian security. The real problem lies in the intention of a nuclear-capable nation, in that whether it seeks to use nuclear fuel in its reactors to produce clean environment-friendly nuclear energy for economic development or it has designs to reprocess spent fuel for use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
Nuclear option
The redeeming feature, is that over the last six decades both the erstwhile Moscow/Beijing- led Eastern Bloc and US-led Western bloc, though heavily armed with nuclear weapons, have refrained from issuing verbal threat /warning of use of nuclear option. The mutual trust and confidence between them was manifested via their political prudence and responsible statesmanship.
The Cuban incident of 1962 , impregnated with nuclear threat, is a case in point. Khruschev’s line of peaceful co-existence between different social systems and his posture of conciliation and Kennedy’s equally positive response indicated that neither side wanted to use nuclear weapons in its multifarious disputes.
This is in sharp contrast with Pakistani rulers who have been issuing threats of using nuclear option in Kashmir. Also, emergence of Islamist jihadi terrorism has injected a new element which is far more hazardous in the event of nuclear weapons falling in the hands of organizations like Al Qaida and Taliban.
On India’s nuclear policy in the context of national security, it would be naïve to disregard the security aspect while striking civil nuclear deal with US. While India badly needs civil nuclear cooperation to ensure nuclear fuel supplies for generating environment-friendly clean nuclear energy for industrial and economic development, it cannot afford to abjure its right to reprocess spent fuel and conduct nuclear tests,when needed.
It was against this backdrop that India endorsed the Indo-US joint statement of 18July, 2005 and the “Separation Plan” of March, 2006. But, the Congressional non-proliferation lobby was insistent on demanding a “freeze, cap, roll back” of the Indian nuclear programme. The Hyde Act was enacted in December, 2006 which unequivocally stated that in the event of India testing nuclear weapons, India-US 123 Civil Nuclear Agreement (CNA) would come to an end and India would be obliged to return the nuclear material.
Economic development versus national security
Should India enter such a deal with this adverse conditionality? This is a question of economic development versus national security and one fiercely debated among foreign and strategic affairs analysts who predictably have divided opinion.
India’s foreign and economic policy makers, nuclear scientists and national security experts will have to come together to deliberate and come out with an all-inclusive nuclear doctrine. Whether it is for a developing or developed nation, the chief aim should be to have an anti-terrorism economy.
With inputs from Taru Bahl/ Livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Jun 27 2007. 05 19 PM IST