India — Internal Security Doctrine: Urgent Need For Review

Back­drop: An Indi­an approach to LIC

In the post war peri­od, the Indi­an Armed Forces are amongst the most com­bat test­ed forces in the world. They have a rich fund of expe­ri­ence both in Con­ven­tion­al wars and Low Inten­si­ty Con­flict Oper­a­tions. The Indi­an Army, in fact, prides itself on evolv­ing a man­pow­er cen­tric approach to Low Inten­si­ty con­flict. This man­pow­er inten­sive approach stands in direct con­trast to the Tech­nol­o­gy or equip­ment inten­sive approach of the Amer­i­cans, the Rus­sians and oth­er Euro­pean coun­tries. Being a large Army, the Indi­an mil­i­tary has been able to ensure troop rota­tion for sus­tained CI /CT cam­paigns last­ing two decades or more.

This arti­cle is pub­lished with the kind per­mis­sion of “Defence and Secu­ri­ty Alert (DSA) Mag­a­zine” New Del­hi-India

Defence and Security Alert (DSA

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The essen­tials of this Indi­an approach are:

  • Light Infantry pre­dom­i­nant oper­a­tions that are marked by sig­nif­i­cant restraint in terms of weapons usage. The Indi­an Army has con­scious­ly eschewed the use of offen­sive air sup­port, tanks, artillery and oth­er large cal­i­bre weapons.
  • Its oper­a­tions have been pro­longed and sus­tained and have usu­al­ly served to tire out the insur­gents and psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly exhaust the pop­u­la­tion that may sup­port them.
  • The oper­a­tions have been dis­crim­i­nate, humane and peo­ple friend­ly. The peo­ple in fact have been the Cen­tre of Grav­i­ty of our oper­a­tions.
  • Its basic oper­a­tional fea­ture is the estab­lish­ment of an area grid to dom­i­nate the geo­graph­i­cal space and the human ter­rain. Sus­tained oper­a­tions are used to exhaust and wear down the insur­gents.

How­ev­er in recent years, the Indi­an state is show­ing dis­tinct signs of retreat­ing even from this min­i­mal­ist mod­el of force usage that relies pri­mar­i­ly on straight legged Infantry and small arms alone. Civ­il soci­ety has been assert­ing itself in terms of a pletho­ra of NGOs that draw inspi­ra­tion from Europe and oth­er West­ern coun­tries. The irony is that the Euro­peans and Amer­i­cans them­selves have made unin­hib­it­ed use of bombers, fight­ers, tanks, artillery and heavy cal­i­bre weapons in their Counter Insur­gency oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet there has hard­ly been a whim­per from human rights organ­i­sa­tions in the West who are so stri­dent in accus­ing the Indi­an Secu­ri­ty Forces of human rights vio­la­tions. There is a major ele­ment of hypocrisy and dou­ble stan­dards in the West­ern dis­course on Counter Ter­ror­ism and human rights issues. The hypocrisy is evi­dent in the blind eye being turned to the very fire pow­er inten­sive oper­a­tions of the US / ISAF in Afghanistan and else­where and the rather stri­dent and exclu­sive focus on the Indi­an Secu­ri­ty Forces despite their very low lev­el of weapons usage. In the last two years, this stri­den­cy has reached a lev­el that is now ham­per­ing legit­i­mate SF oper­a­tions. If this trend con­tin­ues, India will soon find itself to be inca­pable of respond­ing coher­ent­ly to armed vio­lence by non-state actors. This phe­nom­e­non is most vis­i­ble in the oper­a­tions against Left Wing Extrem­ism where the use of SPOs (Spe­cial Police Offi­cers) recruit­ed from the local eth­nic groups is being vehe­ment­ly opposed. Yet these were exten­sive­ly and very suc­cess­ful­ly used in Pun­jab and Jam­mu and Kash­mir. They are indis­pens­able for nav­i­gat­ing the local human ter­rain and help to pro­vide action­able intel­li­gence and inti­mate knowl­edge of local ter­rain and vil­lage pol­i­tics. The celebri­ty sta­tus giv­en to Dr Binayak Sen by the Indi­an media means no action can be tak­en against Over Ground Work­ers (OGWs) — a very crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the sup­port struc­tures of insur­gent organ­i­sa­tions. All this is seri­ous­ly hob­bling SF oper­a­tions against the Nax­als. In Jam­mu and Kash­mir, the mil­i­tary oper­a­tions have suc­cess­ful­ly bro­ken the back of the ter­ror­ist move­ment. How­ev­er, Pakistan’s ISI is try­ing des­per­ate­ly to revive infil­tra­tion and stoke riot­ing and arson in the com­mu­nal­ly sen­si­tive dis­tricts of the Val­ley. This could lead to a sud­den dete­ri­o­ra­tion in the sit­u­a­tion. There are stri­dent calls for with­draw­al of the Army from a high­ly sen­si­tive bor­der state that faces a com­bined threat from Chi­nese and Pak­istani forces. There are demands for revo­ca­tion of the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act that pro­vides the basic legal cov­er for mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in that state. Over­all, a cli­mate is being cre­at­ed that will hob­ble the state’s response to armed insur­gen­cies and vicious for­eign insti­gat­ed ter­ror­ist move­ments. The pri­ma­ry focus is on dele­git­imis­ing the use of the most potent and effec­tive instru­ment — the Army. The Indi­an state is turn­ing soft beyond a basic lev­el of pru­dence. It has now start­ed retreat­ing even from its min­i­mal­ist mod­el of response.

There are demands for revo­ca­tion of the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act that pro­vides the basic legal cov­er for mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in that state. Over­all, a cli­mate is being cre­at­ed that will hob­ble the state’s response to armed insur­gen­cies and vicious for­eign insti­gat­ed ter­ror­ist move­ments. The pri­ma­ry focus is on dele­git­imis­ing the use of the most potent and effec­tive instru­ment — the Army. The Indi­an state is turn­ing soft beyond a basic lev­el of pru­dence. It has now start­ed retreat­ing even from its min­i­mal­ist mod­el of response

Deal­ing with the fourth gen­er­a­tion of war

Ter­ror­ism today is the pri­ma­ry tool of asym­met­ric war­fare designed to desta­bilise large mul­ti-eth­nic nation states. It pri­mar­i­ly tar­gets civil­ians and non-com­bat­ants and aims to inflict mass casu­al­ties. It has erod­ed a sig­nif­i­cant lev­el of moral restraint tra­di­tion­al­ly observed in con­flict by not tar­get­ing non-com­bat­ants. 9/11 and 26/11 have unveiled a new and dan­ger­ous lev­el of mass casu­al­ty actions. These could eas­i­ly grad­u­ate to cat­a­stroph­ic acts of ter­ror­ism if Weapons of Mass Destruc­tion (WMDs) or crude Radi­o­log­i­cal Dis­per­sal Devices (RDDs) are used. The way the Pak­istani state is slid­ing towards chaos, the chances of such cat­a­stroph­ic acts of ter­ror­ism are increas­ing expo­nen­tial­ly. Jiha­di ter­ror­ism has become a new form of war­fare that has to defend noth­ing and is total­ly offen­sive in nature. It stymies the nor­mal process­es of jus­tice by ter­ror­is­ing the com­mon peo­ple and wit­ness­es. It has become a new and dan­ger­ous form of war­fare in the 21st cen­tu­ry that calls for a new order of respons­es.

Counter ter­ror­ism approach­es: GWOT vs the crim­i­nal jus­tice mod­el

The rest of the world has enact­ed strin­gent new laws to deal with this form of war. The Amer­i­cans have set up mil­i­tary courts to swift­ly try and award strin­gent pun­ish­ment to such ter­ror­ists. They have adopt­ed a clear cut and ruth­less “War against Ter­ror­ism approach” designed to pro­tect their pop­u­la­tion. They relent­less­ly hunt­ed down Osama bin Laden and met­ed jus­tice to him in his ISI safe house in the Pak­istani mil­i­tary can­ton­ment of Abbot­tabad, after 10 years of painstak­ing pur­suit. The sim­ple fact is that this mod­el has worked emi­nent­ly so far. After 9/11 there has not been anoth­er suc­cess­ful strike on the soil of the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States.

Ter­ror­ism today is the pri­ma­ry tool of asym­met­ric war­fare designed to desta­bilise large mul­ti-eth­nic nation states. It pri­mar­i­ly tar­gets civil­ian and non-com­bat­ants and aims to inflict mass casu­al­ties. It has erod­ed a sig­nif­i­cant lev­el of moral restraint tra­di­tion­al­ly observed in con­flict by not tar­get­ing non-com­bat­ants. 9/11 and 26/11 have unveiled a new and dan­ger­ous lev­el of mass casu­al­ty actions. These could eas­i­ly grad­u­ate to cat­a­stroph­ic acts of ter­ror­ism if Weapons of Mass Destruc­tion (WMDs) or crude Radi­o­log­i­cal Dis­per­sal Devices (RDDs) are used. The way the Pak­istani state is slid­ing towards chaos, the chances of such cat­a­stroph­ic acts of ter­ror­ism are increas­ing expo­nen­tial­ly

India, in sharp con­trast, is pos­si­bly one of the rare coun­tries in the world that has insist­ed upon fol­low­ing a “Crim­i­nal Jus­tice” mod­el in its approach to Counter-Ter­ror­ism. It insists that this 21st cen­tu­ry phe­nom­e­non of high­ly lethal ter­ror­ism must be dealt with under the archa­ic 19th cen­tu­ry British enact­ment of the Indi­an Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure (CrPC) designed for com­mon crim­i­nals. The lev­els of vio­lence in colo­nial India were dra­mat­i­cal­ly low­er than they are today. Our non-vio­lent free­dom strug­gle was char­ac­terised by a com­plete absence of vio­lence and at best implied crowd con­trol. Such an archa­ic approach fails to account for the high­ly lethal form of this new wave of ter­ror­ism. Even more unfor­tu­nate is the attempt to play com­mu­nal pol­i­tics with our Counter-Ter­ror­ism oper­a­tions. This approach is rep­re­hen­si­ble because it equates Jiha­di ter­ror­ism with Islam and the Mus­lim Com­mu­ni­ty. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Islam is a state­ly world reli­gion that does not con­done the mur­der of inno­cents. Yet some politi­cians, by equat­ing the two, uncon­scious­ly ask for a soft approach to ter­ror­ism, in the mis­tak­en belief that this will make them pop­u­lar with the com­mu­ni­ty. It actu­al­ly does great dis­ser­vice to the belea­guered com­mu­ni­ty.

High­ly mis­placed notions of lib­er­al­ism have pre­vent­ed the Indi­an state from exe­cut­ing con­vict­ed ter­ror­ists like Afzal Guru and Kasab. What kind of a sig­nal does this send to the Jiha­di Tanzeems? It sends a sig­nal of pathet­ic weak­ness that invites more such attacks. The state seems more con­cerned about the human rights of the ter­ror­ists than their vic­tims.