Is India more threatened internally than from across the border as PM often suggests?

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In the last two decades, indian economy has grown by leaps and bounds catapulting India into the league of fastest growing nations. This growth has raised the stature of India in global arena. However there are certain threats emanating from within as well as outside the country which have the potential to destroy the gains made so far. The prime minister has gone on record stating that left wing extremism is gravest threat to nation. Why did Pime minister pick out left wing extremism? To understand this we need to analyse the security threats that India faces.

The security threats to India can be broadly classified into internal and external threats. Internal threats comprise of threats emerging form within the country like left wing extremism while external threats include cross border terror,
piracy etc.

Left wing extremism or naxalism emerged in 1960s as a reaction to oppressive policies of state towards the tribals. Despite states efforts in last 5 decades, naxal
movement has continued to grow in size and reach. The underlying cause for this
is the continued support from tribals to the movement. Naxalites have resorted
to violence to undermine and overthrow rule of state. This has severely impacted
growh potential in regions like central India. To overcome this problem, the
government needs to win support of tribals. Most of tribal regions suffer from
governance deficit, development deficit and trust deficit.

The rampant corruption and nexus of forest department with industry and
mining lobby has led to alienation of tribals form their land. Their traditional
rights on forests are being snatched away and they are made strangers in their
own land. This has resulted in deep discontentment among tribals which has
taken shape of violence against state. The need of hour is for state to view this
as both a development and security issue.

The governance deficit in tribal region is due to lack of penetration of dmeocracy.
They lack adequate political representation as they are dispersed across the
nation. Their voice is seldom heard in the corridors of power. This can be set
right by strengthening institutions of local governance. The PESA 1996 and
Forest rights act 2006 were landmark steps taken by government towards
addressing the governance deficit, However its implementation has been lax.
Concentrated and dedicated efforts need to be made to address governance deficit.

Development deficit is a major reason for the rise of naxalism. The fruits of India’s
growth stoy in last 2 decades have seldom reached tribals. They lack access to
water, health care and education. Government has tried addressing these
problems through top down approach like grants in aid, tribal sub plan etc.
Most of these programs have been ineffective as they were formulated without
analysing the requirements at ground level. The constitution of India
explicitly mentions that responsibility got development of tribal areas rests
with governor. The governor is given powers to apply laws with modifcation in
tribal areas and implement development programs in consulation with tribal
advisory council. But these powers are seldom exercised by governor. There is a
need for a participatory approach in planning and implementing development
programs in tribal areas, the recent launch of integrated action plan in Left
wing extremism effected areas is a positive move as it provides flexibility to
local administration in implementing schemes keeping in view needs of people .

Our constitution promises economic and social justice to all. It is time we keep our
promise to the earliest inhabitants of India.

Another major threat to internal security is separate statehood. The increased
growth in last two decades has also lead to increased inter state and intra state
disparities. This is due to failure in achieving balanced regional development.
Despite one the main concerns of India’s five eyar plans being to achieve
balanced regional development we have failed to bring states and regions on an
equal footing on development front.

The movement for separate states have potential to turn violent as has often been
seen in case of north east India . hence these movements need to be monitored
and cause for such movements need to be addressed expeditiously. One of
important measures is to strengthen local governance and provide more autonomy
in deciding development issues. Apart from current demands, we need to
anticipate and address the problems arising from unequal development in other
regions like he north east India.

North east India is a region that offers great opportunities as well as threats to
India. There is a gross imbalance when it comes to growth in northeast in
comparison to other parts of India. It is a neglected region in most of the
policies. They lack adequate infrastrucutre and connectivity to other parts of
india. Infact connectivity from China  to north east India is better than that of
India. Hence connectivity is a strategic issue that needs to be addressed. In
this regard , India must make efforts to integrate north east with neghbouring
countries economically . this will provide opportunities for growth and
development in north east.

Among the external threats to India , terrorism is the gravest of all. India is
amidst a hostile environment , with epicentre of global terror just across its
north western border. In alst two decades India has faced several terror
attacks. Our neighbour hood comprises of failing states and states with
political instability. To add to that, they harbour fears of india dominating
them with its size and economic clout. These are issues that can’t be addressed
in short term and need a long term perspective.

Terrorism which began in India as sporadic attacks in jammu and kashmir , has
spread its tentacles across length and breadth of India. It is a major cause of
worry that our intelligence and security agencies are unable to trace the people
resposnible for the attacks. Our security apparatus is obselete and unable to  take on
terror outfits who employ tools of globalisation like aircrafts and satellite phones in
their attacks. Steps need to be taken to upgrade our intelligence apparatus and
strengthen grass root policing. We need a strong counter terror police to detect,
deter and destroy terror outfits

India as a regional power in south asia needs tot ake lead in improving the security
situation in the region. It must share the benefits    of    growth   with    its
neighborliness and support their efforts to move out of poverty. Regional bodies
like SAARC need to be leveraged to improve coordintion and cooperation in the

Maritime security is emerging as a threat to India’s coastal security. The 26/11 attack
exposed the lax coastal and maritime security apparatus. Recent instances of
abandoned ships floating adrift on shores of Mumbai don’t augur well for our
maritime security. The piracy emanating from somalia is another major worry.
India needs to strengthen its naval presence along its coastline. There is a
need for greater coordination between navy and coast guard. We need to improve
our naval rpesence in the strategic region of indian ocean to prevent intrusiong
of foreign elements. Fisher folk should be made aware of possible threats that
they need to look out for and ways to communicate it to authorities concerned.

Piracy impacts global trade and hence needs to be dealt with at international level.
In this regard , the SHADE initiative of UN in gulf of aden is commendable.
However there is a need to stregthen international and national laws to
prosecute pirates. Apart form these, the root cause of piracy needs to be
addressed. Pirates emerge from regions where there is no state contorl and
there is abject poverty. World community must identify these regions and
develop them to provide gainful employment to youth in region. This will deter
people from resorting to piracy.

While piracy effects material trade , cyber piracy threatens the emerging knowledge
society. Today giga bytes of sensitive information are transferred across
borders. The data carried may be sensitive information like location of nuclear
assets, army bases etc. the growing wave of cyber attacks indicate a systematic
effort by certain groups to threaten the state . India is particularly
vulnerable to cyber attacks as we lack effect cyber security systems in place.
Permier bodies like CBI have faced multiple cyber attacks. With intiatives like
UID, NATGRID more and more sensitive information will be stored onto government
databases. Assessment needs to be done about our extant measures and necessary
steps need to be taken to secure strategic information.

The biggest threat that is omnipresent is the nuclear weapons. The horrendous
effects of hiroshima and nagasaki have not deterred nations from arming
themsleves with nuclear weapons. India is situated amidst two nations with
nuclear weapons. India has beena steadfast supporter of denuclearisation . it
develoepd nuclear weapons for minimum deterrence. The biased nuclear regulatory
regime has done little towards denuclearising the world. India as a member of
UNSC must impress upon nuclear powers to agree to a time bound denuclearisation
plan. This is important to ensure that world becomes a safer and secure place.

These are some of the major threats that India faces. It is true that left wing
extremism is currently the biggest threat to India as it has caused the most
damage in terms of life and material in recent past. However it is a problem
whose solution is within our reach. All that is required is a firm political
will. Hence in short term it is internal threats that need to be addressed, but
in long term perspective, the external threats like terrorism which impact not
only India but world as a whole need to be tackled. These can’t be tackled
unilaterally. It requires a global coordinated action. UN must take a
leadership rôle in tackling non traditional threats as rightly pointed out by
prime minister on eve of his departure to UN summit in 2011. International
organisations must yoeld space to emerging economies like brazila nd India to
democratise decision maing process in international policy matters.

Bharath Vaishnov

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