Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Opinion | Internal security concerns facing the Modi 2.0 govt

Conflict resolution in the North-East ought to be a priority area for the NDA govt

The agenda of a party, even one that has won so comprehensively as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Lok Sabha elections, isn’t always the same thing as the agenda for a country. National interest is that tricky animal. As a new government gets into gear, it’s time to flag some internal security concerns and necessities of national interest.

Is it, for instance, in the national interest to have Jammu and Kashmir in foment, or will such an interest be better served by concurrent application of public outreach—hearts-and-minds, to apply a misused Americanism—and ensuring security? This surely will need to be uppermost in the national interest, as early policy balloons suggest a move to politically isolate Kashmir Valley from the Jammu region and Ladakh, spurred by abysmal polling figures, nearly amounting to a boycott, in the Valley.

In some ways, as this column has earlier noted, the situation can bring hawkish deliverables. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), spiritual guide to past BJP-led central governments, has for long attempted to isolate Kashmir from Jammu and Kashmir. Statehood for Jammu is a two-decade-old stand. As far back as the early 2000s, the Jammu State Morcha, a coalition of small parties and independent candidates guided by the Sangh pressed for it. A trifurcation of present-day Jammu and Kashmir, with Kashmir Valley its own entity, Jammu a state, and Ladakh perhaps a Union territory directly administered by New Delhi, has also remained a decades-old paper project.

The new government would also surely weigh the pros and cons of pushing through with a long-time BJP promise of abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution related to Jammu and Kashmir and of annulling Article 35A of the Constitution that the party maintains is “discriminatory against non-permanent residents and women of Jammu and Kashmir" and an “obstacle in the development of the state".

Other than the possibility of renewed furore in an already roiled state, any such moves could have repercussions in North-East India, where provisions similar to Section 35A safeguard local ethnicities, economics and customary laws.

Will it be in the national interest to seek peace with Maoist rebels? Or will the new government continue a practice of SAMADHAN, which was announced on 8 May 2017 by Rajnath Singh, Union home minister at the time?

According to Singh the acronym is a contraction of “Smart leadership, Aggressive strategy, Motivation and training, Actionable intelligence, Dashboard-based KPIs (key performance indicators) and KRAs (key result areas), Harnessing technology, Action plan for each theatre and No access to financing." A collective response for a range of actions from the short to the long term.

While KPIs and KRAs were clearly the brainchild of an ivory tower technocrat—a certain number of Maoist heads per trooper? Fixed collateral damage per company of troopers? Each district at war must provide 40 surrendered rebels every quarter? —some other aspects were more practical. Indeed, they were essentially a continuation of approaches undertaken by the earlier Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“Action plan for each theatre" has its genesis in UPA, when as minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh suggested two model approaches, the Saranda and Sarju action plans in Jharkhand to follow a hub-and-spoke method for basic utilities, healthcare, education and communication, following ultra-localized operational success of reclaiming territory from Maoists. A basic first step to deeper governance. It remains a good plan—but not as good as initiating peace talks with those who have never claimed to be anything but Indian and who, as I have detailed in my book Red Sun, the Shiv Sena patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray once famously called patriotic as Maoists spotlighted inequities.

This column closely tracks matters of conflict and conflict resolution in North-East India, that ought to be a priority area for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam remain areas of great concern. There are other flags, more red than green, such as in areas of citizens’ information and rights related to land acquisition and rehabilitation, which will be presented in future columns.

This column focuses on conflict situations and the convergence of businesses and human rights and runs on Thursdays.