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At 75, India is ready to tackle surmounting internal, external security threats

Pallab Bhattacharyya

Sardar Patel, the Iron Man of India, once famously said “The first requirement in the country was external and internal security. You cannot have any plan unless there is security”. Since independence, India has tackled homegrown insurgencies, externally fuelled rebellions, militancy, and terrorism. At a time when we, as a nation, are concerned about external threats from countries, it is crucial to give equal importance to our internal security. The two go together hand in hand and a peaceful, united country can face external threats with great confidence and efficiency.

Internal security refers to the measures, policies, and actions taken by a country’s government to maintain law and order and safeguard its citizens, institutions, and critical infrastructure from various internal threats and challenges. The primary goal of internal security is to ensure the stability, safety, and well-being of the nation and its people. The liability to maintain Internal Security lies in the hands of the police, paramilitary forces, and exceptional cases the military.

It is worth mentioning that Chanakya @Kautilya @ Vishnugupta in his celebrated masterpiece Arthashashtra, during the 4th Century BCE, places threats into four categories: (1)Internal (2) External (3) Internally aided external, and (4) Externally aided internal.

At the time of gaining independence, the internal security challenges faced were Partition and its consequences with large-scale communal violence; the Kashmir problem; Integration of the princely states; mass poverty (about 80% poor); illiteracy (literacy level 12%); low economic capacity; linguistic organization and the associated emergence of secessionist trends.

Under the leadership of the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and other prominent leaders like Sardar Patel and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the government had to tackle these internal security challenges while focusing on nation-building and fostering a democratic and secular identity for the newly independent nation. Overcoming these hurdles was essential to ensuring stability and laying the foundation for the future development of India.

After the initial phase of independence is over, the nation started facing problems emanating from both internal and external forces like the Global world order marked with cold war tensions and wars with Pakistan (1965, 1971) and China (1962) having a bearing on the Internal Security of the nation.  The notable Internal security problems can be summed up as follows chronologically:

Kashmir Conflict (1947-present)

Naxalite-Maoist Insurgency (Late 1960s-present): The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency, originating from the Naxalbari village in West Bengal, has led to armed rebellion in various parts of India, particularly in the central and eastern states.

During the Emergency in India, which lasted from June 1975 to March 1977, the country faced significant internal security challenges due to the suspension of civil liberties and the centralization of power by the government. The Emergency was declared by then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and it remains one of the most controversial periods in India’s history. Arbitrary Detentions and Arrests, Forced Sterilization Programs, Political Repression, Media Suppression, Erosion of Democratic Values, etc were the hallmarks of this period incapacitating government agencies.

Punjab Insurgency (1980s-1990s): The Sikh separatist movement in Punjab, known as the Khalistan movement, resulted in significant internal security challenges during the 1980s and 1990s.

Assam and Northeast Insurgency (1979-present): Various separatist and insurgent movements in the northeastern states of India have posed continuous challenges to internal security.

Terrorism and Cross-Border Attacks (1980s-2021): India faced numerous terrorist attacks, some originating from cross-border elements, especially from Pakistan, leading to heightened internal security concerns.

Communal Tensions: India has faced occasional communal tensions, leading to internal security challenges, particularly between different religious and ethnic groups.

Re-emergence of Left-Wing Extremism)

Organized Crime: Criminal organizations engaged in activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering, and extortion, which can threaten the security and stability of the state.

Cybersecurity Threats (Increasing since the 2000s): With the growth of technology, India faced rising cybersecurity threats, including hacking attempts, data breaches, and online radicalization. The recent video of two Kuki women being caught and raped back on 4th June by miscreants in Manipur and making viral in cyberspace on the eve of the Parliamentary session making the Manipur situation international and widespread violence in Manipur is a grim reminder of the internal security threats the country is going to face in future. The killing of 4 persons by RPF Constable Chetan Singh (34) on 31-07-23 on the Jaipur-Mumbai Central Superfast Express and the video which went viral thereafter indicates how a hyper-charged and highly polarised news media and social media atmosphere can radicalize and affect the minds of youths and its implications to the internal security.

Fast-paced advancements in Cyberspace, Artificial Intelligence (AI), biological vectors, and autonomous air-land-sea mobile platforms have phenomenally enhanced the internal security vulnerabilities to threats emanating not only from within but also from beyond the national borders.

Political Unrest: Protests, demonstrations, or riots sparked by political, economic, or social issues that can escalate and threaten public order. It is very interesting to note that some elements of threats of “Externally aided internal”, mentioned above, by Kautilya, are relevant even today in the speech delivered by NSA Shri Ajit Doval, a former alumnus of SVPNP Academy, to the 2020 batch of IPS trainees on 21st November, 2021: “Wars ceased to become effective instrument to achieve political and military objectives. They are too expensive and unaffordable and there’s uncertainty about its outcome. It is the civil society that can be subverted, divided, and manipulated to hurt the interest of the nation. You are there to see that this land is fully protected.” He further said that “People are most important. The new frontier of war, which is called the fourth generation of warfare, is civil society .”

Espionage and Intelligence Operations: Infiltration of foreign agents or intelligence agencies attempting to gather sensitive information or influence national policies. ISIS, Al Qaida, and their associates raise their ugly heads sporadically, particularly by the situation prevailing in our neighbour, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.

The above in a nutshell indicates the journey of internal security of the country from 1947 till date when we are observing 76 years of Indian Independence. The Centre and the states have taken a series of measures to have a secure internal security scenario in this pluralistic country where we celebrate “Unity amid Diversity” from time immemorial. The various steps taken in this regard may be summarised below:

Apart from empowering institutions like Police, the creation of Institutions like NIA in 2008, Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) -a collaboration with all intelligence agencies, and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) conceived to be the framework, which will leverage Information Technology to connect approved User Agencies (security/law enforcement) with designated data providers to enhance the country’s counter-terrorism capabilities, Creation of Combating Financing of Terrorism Cell (CFT Cell) in MHA has made Indian stronge.

ALSO READManipur imbroglio: Kuki-Meitei divide must be bridged at the earliest

Though there are problem areas like the Manipur Situation, sporadic violence like Nuh in Haryana, CAA, Farmers Agitation, Use of social media and AI by vested interested groups from within and outside, by adhering to Goethe’s prescription “Precaution is better than cure” we are sure that the country will be celebrating “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav” in a peaceful internal security scenario.

(Pallab Bhattacharya is a veteran IPS officer who served as Director General of Police and  Chairman of the Assam Public Service Commission)


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