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The Threat Within: Strengthening Internal Security Mechanisms
USI National Security Lecture, 2010
December 15, 2010
Ajai Sahni

…our current problems are not a consequence of our current failings. They are rooted in the inability of the Police and political leadership of our past to anticipate entirely predictable transformations, and to initiate the requisite responses two, three, even five decades ago… Primitive policing practices are reflected in poor rates of conviction, in deteriorating efficiency and effectiveness, and consequently in a declining respect for the law. This is the essence of the malady…

K.P.S. Gill1

Every time issues of security are discussed, by and large, profound ideas on strategy and grand strategy are examined; there is much talk of ‘out of the box solutions’; about lofty themes such as justice and governance; equally, of less elevated, but equally generalized, subjects such as the rampant corruption in, and progressive delegitimization of, Government. A variety of ‘solutions’ and ‘strategies’, some of them quite grand in their conception, have been articulated; at least a few of these has been ‘implemented’ – though usually fitfully. Governments, both at the Centre and in the States, have often been quite boastful about the thousands of crores that have been allocated, and even spent, to make the common citizen more secure; and the ‘massive’ quanta of Force that have been deployed to neutralize the threats of terrorism, insurgency and criminal disorders. And yet, the bemused common citizen fails to be reassured; the enemies of the state and of order refuse to be deterred.

Before going into any specifics, it is useful to examine an element of the conceptual core of this general failure. The problem with the various ‘solutions’ and ‘strategies’ currently being articulated, is that they are, in fact, neither. There has been a pervasive proclivity to use the word ‘strategy’ rather loosely, to cover every jumble of aspirations, intentions and, oftentimes, fantasies. But ‘strategy’ has no meaning unless it incorporates a long-term perspective; a realistic and accurate assessment of the challenge; a clear definition of objectives; a quantified assessment and acquisition of resources required to secure such objectives; and the planned deployment of these resources within timeframes imposed by the conflict. Crucially, if there is a fundamental disconnect between objectives, tactics, resources and ground conditions, there is no strategy.

Virtually the entire internal security discourse in India remains doctrinaire, with almost no reference to the nuts and bolts of what is available, the hierarchy of objectives and processes into which this is to be integrated, and the objective context within which it is to be applied. But a ‘strategy’ that is not backed with proportionate Forces and resources is a lethal illusion, a political slogan that places fighting men at unnecessary risk, without any possible calculus of success2.

This lethal illusion has been dramatically and repeatedly manifested in the ad hoc shifts in the state’s responses to critical security challenges. To take a recent and particularly obvious example, through 2009, there was much tom-tomming of the Centre’s proposed "massive and coordinated operations" in the Maoist heartland areas, and of the Government’s ‘new strategy’ to ‘clear, hold and develop’ regions that were repeatedly and erroneously described by senior officials as being ‘controlled’ by the Maoists3. This talk reached a crescendo towards the latter part of the year, when actual operations were being initiated. On October 12, 2009, Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, elaborating on the Government’s ‘strategy’, had boasted in an interview, "We hope that literally within 30 days of Security Forces moving in and dominating the area, we should be able to restore civil administration there4." On November 20, 2009, Chhattisgarh’s Director General of Police (DGP), Vishwa Ranjan, then spearheading his State’s high profile Operation Green Hunt, had declared, "Our newest strategy is to win complete control over small areas under Maoist influence, hold them, and not withdraw forces until development in the area is well under way... We will repeat this pattern in other areas, a few at a time, until the enemy has nowhere to go5."

All this bragging, however, quickly dissipated into panic and paralysis, as isolated units of often poorly trained Police and CPMF personnel were slaughtered in a succession of high profile ambuscades by the Maoists, the worst of which was Chintalnar in Chhattisgarh, in which 75 CRPF personnel and one State Policeman were killed on April 6, 2010.6 Abruptly, the Union Home Ministry initiated an outcry about the need for Army deployment and, indeed, even for the Air Force to be brought into the battle against the Maoists7 – though both proposals were fortunately and quickly slapped down8. In Chhattisgarh, DGP Vishwa Ranjan lamented that, in the worst affected Bastar Division, "I have 16 battalions of CPMFs (Central Paramilitary Force) – the CRPF, 2 to 3 battalions of SSB (Shashatra Seema Bal) – and 6 of our own (Chhattisgarh Armed Force, CAF) and whatever civil police is there. That is the basic force9." That roughly came to around just one Policeman per five square kilometres of area, in a region with 57.46 per cent under dense forest10, where the Maoists had some of their strongest networks in the country.

What is astonishing, here, is that the very obvious deficit of requisite Forces and capacity were not evident to the fantasists who had shaped the misadventure of the Centre’s ‘massive and coordinated operations’ and the Chhattisgarh’s Operation Green Hunt before the slaughters inflicted by the Maoists – something that was abundantly clear to outside observers long before the whole idea of ‘massive and coordinated operations’ was first being articulated by the MHA11.

When the Centre was boasting of ‘massive CPMF deployment’ in ‘coordinated operations’, it had, in fact, under 60 battalions of CPMFs dispersed across the six worst Naxal-affected States. On the ground, this yielded less than 24,000 personnel in actual deployment (400 men per battalion). These States cover an area of 1.46 million square kilometers and a population of over 446 million. CPMF personnel are backed by tiny contingents of the State Police, mostly indifferently trained. In Chhattisgarh, for instance, if you tried to locate the various central and State CI units deployed across the Maoist affected areas on a map, you will find small, isolated, indefensible pinpoints in a vast area of administrative darkness12. Tiny units (a company strength for the CRPF, often much less for the State Police), with no specialized training, no fortification, little chance of reinforcement, and even less familiarity with the environment they are operating in, are simply abandoned to their own devices. The only challenge for the Maoists was to find the opportune moment at which these pinpoints were to be overrun, one by one. Indeed, given the availability of Force, no deployment was, in fact, rational. If you concentrate the Force at hand, vast areas would be abandoned, even as the Force is attacked on its peripheries; if you disperse the Force, it is vulnerable everywhere.

Equally astonishing is the other side of this vaunting ‘clear, hold and develop’ pseudo-strategy. It has been noted, elsewhere:

Among those brave souls who are setting out to ‘develop’ the dark recesses of Abujhmadh, or of the Bastar Division, the very heart of the Maoist insurgency, or those who have proclaimed their intention to ‘clear, hold and develop’ these areas, there is none who can explain why the six Districts of Chhattisgarh which are categorized "marginally affected" and the four, categorized "not affected" by Maoist activities remain backward and destitute. If the Chhattisgarh State Government, or the mighty Indian State, can, in fact, develop, or ‘seize, hold and develop’, the unconnected, uncharted jungles of the Bastar Division, what prevents them from bringing prosperity, justice and good governance to the territories well within their control?13

Indeed, the entire developmental aspect of this pseudo-strategy is linked to extremely uncertain capacities of implementation. It is all very well to talk about ‘comprehensive’ and ‘special’ plans, with their focus on connectivity, health, education and poverty alleviation14, but, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh very rightly noted at the Chief Ministers’ meet on July 14, 2010, "Without adequate and reasonably efficient staff, it would be difficult to implement any strategy or programme for these areas15." The Prime Minster advised the States to set up a group under their respective Chief Secretaries to look at the issue of vacancies and appropriate administrative leadership, and set a target for filling up a third of existing vacancies in ‘these areas’ within six months16. But the problem of "adequate and reasonably efficient staff", is far more intractable (a point to which we will return later), and no Chief Secretary and ‘empowered group’ actually has the capacities to overcome entrenched structural obstacles. The Prime Minister’s six month deadline was, in fact, located in the realm of utter fantasy – the deadline is nearly at end, and little has, in fact, been done about the Prime Minister’s directive in the various affected States.

It is useful, also, to take a quick look at the strident campaigns for the deployment of the Army in the fight against the Maoists. In the imagination of the advocates of Army deployment, perhaps, is the idea of the might of the 1.13 million-strong Indian Army descending en masse on Bastar to annihilate the Maoists – something of a sledgehammer to kill a fly, but that is the least of the problems with this proposal. In all the discussions on Army deployment, there was not a single mention of actual numbers: how many battalions does the Army actually have in surplus for a protracted deployment in what is necessarily going to be a long war with the Maoists? The reality is that the Army is already overstretched in internal and external security duties, and has no ‘surplus capacities’ to deploy in Maoist areas. Moreover, sending small contingents of the Army would have the same consequences as sending small contingents of other Forces – these will be isolated and overwhelmed. Like the CPMFs, the Army will also be ‘outsiders’ to the affected regions, and will incline to use excessive and indiscriminate force. This protracted conflict would require long-term and massive deployment of the Army – something the Army can ill afford, and that also results in a severe erosion of the Army’s conventional capabilities and ethos over time.

Again, as the stone-pelting campaign in Jammu & Kashmir gathered force after June 201017 (in a virtual replay of the Amarnath land allotment agitation of 2008), a frantic search for ‘new strategies’ was initiated. During the Amarnath agitation, the nonsensical idea of ‘decompression’ was advanced by a senior Police officer to justify a complete breakdown of order18. Eventually, order was restored by effective use of force, principally under the leadership of an exceptional Police officer heading the CRPF in the State19. Despite a relentless, though low-grade campaign of street agitations and pelting throughout the intervening years, State authorities were caught completely off guard when the violence escalated towards the end of June 2010, and was constantly renewed as a result of repeated fatalities in Police and CPMF firings20. Failures of assessment and response have been endemic throughout this crisis, as have been a range of directionless and unproductive initiatives. Underlying all these, however, was the core lack of concept and capacity.

The response of the SFs to the agitation reflects a comprehensive crisis of capacities. The lack of non-lethal weapons and of training has been widely commented upon, but is not the heart of the failure. Irrespective of weaponry, personal armour and training (which are, of course, factors that must be separately evaluated) current deployments cannot deliver effective non-lethal riot-control responses. The dispersal and size of deployments is simply too small for effective riot control. Small, heavily armed units, in some cases issued with additional ‘non-lethal’ weapons, including tear-gas rifles, pellet guns and lathis, are presently the norm. In every deployment in the worst affected areas, these units are too small and too widely dispersed to escape the risk of being overrun without recourse to firing. Indeed, firing has ordinarily been resorted to in precisely such situations, where large and violent crowds are on the verge of overrunning such deployments [though there have been confirmed reports of at least some incidents of panic or otherwise unjustifiable firing]21.

Finally, the response to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai bear examination. It must be recognized that this single attack has had more impact on public consciousness and state policy than any preceding incident or cluster of incidents in the past. A veritable slew of initiatives has been announced in the two years following, and vast allocations for improvements in security have certainly been made22. Despite the large augmentations in allocations, a slew of sanctions for increased recruitment in the CPMFs and intelligence apparatus, the creation or operationalisation of, or capacity enhancement in, a number of new and nascent institutions – the Multi-Agency Centre, Subsidiary Multi-Agency Centres, Joint Task Force on Intelligence, National Technical Research Organisation, coastal security, and special forces’ capabilities prominent among these – the actual impact on current risks remains marginal23. The Centre is also underwriting massive modernization and upgradation of Police capacities in the States – though the response of most States has been less than enthusiastic. Crucially, procedural inflexibilities and corruption continue to undermine the speedy implementation of many of these measures.

A quick look at the state and status of Force One is useful in this context: This was the tactical counter-terrorism (CT) response unit set up by the Mumbai Police to tackle another 26/11 type attack. Its sanctioned strength was 350 personnel, but ‘suitable and willing’ personnel have been hard to find, and the current strength is 250 men. Of these, reports indicate, only a fraction have both bullet proof jackets and helmets24. Indeed, the Mumbai Police has not been able to purchase a single bullet proof jacket since 26/11, and was eventually prevailed upon to accept a gift of 100 jackets from private sector companies eager to improve the ‘police-public interface’ and ensure a better CT response25. Further, Force One has "no hands-free radios, no night sights for weapons, no stun grenades, no dedicated trainers, no specialised eyewear to provide protection against explosions, not even a fully equipped training facility26." In the interim, however, at least four armoured vehicles have been acquired by Mumbai Police, and another six have been ordered, each at a cost of INR 20 million, with dubious application in any urban CT response27.

There is evidently a degree of wasteful symbolism and misdirected effort, and this is visible also in the case of the creation of the National Investigative Agency, the dispersal of a number of NSG ‘hubs’, and ongoing efforts to set up a National Counter-terrorism Centre ‘like the US’. There is a manifest propensity to focus inordinately on meta-institutional ‘reform’ and the creation of new institutions, even while crippling deficits persist on the ground28. Most of these new institutions, moreover, cannibalize officers from existing institutions, each of which are in a crisis of leadership. Despite extraordinary efforts to augment recruitment in the Indian Police Service from a bottomed-out 36 per year between 1998 and 2001 under the NDA Government, up to, 130 in 2008 and 2009, and a projected intake of 150 from 2010 onwards, existing deficits will only be met by 201729, by which time requirements can be expected to have risen exponentially! Significantly, in an aside, it is useful to note, here, that the MHA’s modest plans to accelerate recruitment to the Indian Police Service have already been stymied by the Union Public Service Commission, at least for the current year, despite the acute crisis in this cadre30.

An excessive emphasis on the role of the Centre in all internal security issues has been another distortion here. The effort to construct a monolithic national internal security architecture is enormously misdirected as a response to conflicts that demand the widest possible decentralization of response capabilities and decision-making. As K.P.S. Gill astutely notes, there is no point in the Home Minister trying to be a field marshal31. The MHA’s postures and projections have, further, given reluctant State’s an alibi for continued inaction and neglect, even as the onus of every failure is shifted to central agencies. This is undermining responses at the level where they are most urgently needed32, even as it sets the Centre up for blame in spheres that are far beyond its constitutional jurisdiction and its capacities of response.

The net result of all this is that, on the first anniversary of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had conceded that India’s "vulnerability (to terrorist attack)… has remained the same since 26/11. It has not diminished nor has it enhanced33." A year later, while his language was not as negative, the best he could offer was that, "The country will be better next year than it is today, and it will be even better two years hence. That, in my view, is the only measure of progress and achievement34."

It is clear that the state apparatus is failing to respond to existing and emerging challenges at an appropriate level and with necessary urgency. It would, however, be a mistake to believe that this is the consequence, simply, of the corruption, ineptitude, neglect or failure of a particular administration. There is a range of enduring vulnerabilities in India’s state and society that jeopardize the country’s internal security, and there are structural reasons why these vulnerabilities will persist into the foreseeable future, irrespective of state policy or the quality of administrative action.

The unfortunate reality is that most Government ‘plans’, ‘policies’ and ‘strategies’, remain altogether indifferent to, and uninformed by, the contours of these enduring vulnerabilities and structural obstacles. While this has been written about repeatedly in the past, it is useful to review the core of the relevant data in this context.

Economic Polarization: In the age of liberalisation, globalisation and rapid growth, the Indian reality remains polarized between great – and at least occasionally obscene – wealth, and abysmal poverty. On the one hand, the country now boasts as many as 33 Indians in the Forbes 2010 list of billionaires, nine in the top 100, and two in the top 10 35. The ‘middle class’ has now grown to over 200 36 million (but in a population of more than 1.2 billion). The country is the world’s top producer of milk, butter and ghee, and tea, and ranks second in the production of rice, wheat and sugar 37.

On the other hand, there has been a deepening of poverty among the country’s poorest over precisely the period of its greatest development – the past decade and a half. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector thus noted, in 2008, that 77 per cent of the population (836 million), were living on less than INR 20 per day38. The Suresh Tendulkar Committee has determined that those living in ‘absolute poverty’, with a consumption of less than INR 12 per day, constitute 37 per cent of the population39 [it is significant to note that international norms define the poverty line at a consumption of USD 2 per day, roughly INR 90, as against the current Indian poverty line of INR 12]. The average family of five, today, consumes at least 200 kilograms of grain less in a year than 50 years ago40. Food grains available but poor lack purchasing power. India accounts for just 16.46 per cent of the world’s population, but a third of the global poor reside here41.

Demographic Discontents: Much of this can only worsen, as India’s population continues to grow fairly rapidly, from 1.04 billion in 2000 to 1.21 billion in 2010 to 1.37 billion in 2020 and 1.6 billion by 2050 42. Significantly, 63 per cent of the growth between 2000 and 2020 will be in the country’s eight most backward States - UP, Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh & Uttaranchal. The share of these States in total population will rise from 40 per cent to 50 per cent43. Of course, India has a very young population, and there is much talk of the great developmental potential of the ‘youth bulge’. Historically, however, a dramatic youth bulge has been globally associated with increasing conflict44. If the energies of the young are not channeled into positive occupations, they will turn towards criminality, disruption and violence. This proclivity is further aggravated by the ‘bare sticks phenomenon’45, the adverse sex ratio, which results in a ‘surplus of men’ historically associated with a ‘deficit of peace’46. There is also a galloping process of urbanization that will take urban populations from 27.8 per cent of the total in 2001 to 40 per cent in 2020. In real terms, this represents a near doubling of the urban population, from 285 million to 540 million47. Given the current and rising urban disorders, such a dramatic augmentation can only bring India’s crumbling infrastructures under increasing strain. Crucially, greater urbanization will bring little relief to the rural sector. While the proportion of the rural population declines from 72.2 per cent to 60 per cent, in absolute numbers it actually increases from 742 million to 810 million. The cumulative impact of these factors is that population pressures, environmental degradation, poverty and resources deficits will continue to rise over the coming decade, and the much vaunted ‘developmental solution’ can provide only very patchy relief to small segments of the population, but will do little to mitigate the overall conflict potential within the system.

Capacities for Governance: This conflict potential has to be assessed against the backdrop of India’s capacities for governance, internal security, policing and justice, which have been eroded by decades of neglect. Today, police-population, military-population and government employees (Central and State) to population ratios have fallen drastically below acceptable norms.

The Civil Administration: The US Federal Government, operating on the general principal, ‘that government is best which governs least’, employs 889 personnel per 100,000 population. Canada’s Federal Government, with a greater welfare orientation, accounts for 1,408 per 100,000. By comparison, the Central Government in India – with a finger in every pie, including the running of airlines and industries, railways and transport nets, hotels and shops, and numberless other enterprises which have little to do with ‘governance’ – has just 295 employees per 100,000 population. Of these, 42 per cent are accounted for by the Indian Railways alone, the largest single employer in the world; reducing the ratio by this proportion would leave us with just 171 employees per 100,000.

At the level of the State and Local Government, the US accounts for as many as 6,314 personnel per 100,000. In India, we start at 352 in Uttar Pradesh; 472 in Bihar; 1,007 in Orissa; and go up to 1,694 in Gujarat, 1,813 in Tamil Nadu, and 3,961 in Tripura. Numbers, of course, are not everything, and this is borne out by the fact that Nagaland accounts for as many as 16,084 State and Local Government employees per 100,000 population, and has little that can pass for governance to show for it. The truth is, the country is in an advanced state of political and administrative erosion, and, in at least some cases, of collapse.

The Police:

  • 15.7 per cent deficit in police leadership at IPS levels48.
  • Police-Population Ratios (policemen per 100,000 population):


Italy 559

Portugal 465

Greece 426

Austria 330

USA 315

Spain 312

Ireland 302

Luxembourg 300

Netherlands 269

Germany 262

Norway 242

UK 235

Australia 209


All India average: 128

Bihar: 61

Jharkhand: 172

Chhattisgarh: 145

Orissa: 101

Andhra Pradesh: 99 49


UN Recommended: 222

The Judiciary:

Judges per 100,000 population

    • India: 1.02
    • Law Commission120th report in 1987: Raise to judge strength to 5 per 100,000 50
      • USA: 11 judges per 100,000
      • Sweden: 13
      • China: 17
      • Belgium: 23
      • Germany: 25
      • Slovenia: 39

The Armed Forces: It is useful, in view of the increasing role the Army has been playing in internal security operations, and the more aggressive role that is being advocated in some quarters – including a role for the Air Force – to take a quick look at the myth of the "second largest Army in the world". While the numerical claim is correct, the reality is, India has one of the smallest armies as a ratio to population. Without going into the issue of the quality and technical/ technological capabilities of India’s Armed Forces, a quick examination of military personnel to population ratios is edifying:

Population 51
Active Duty Troop Strength 52
1 : 885.36
1 : 591.17
1 : 302.66
1 : 297.43
1 : 250.07
1 : 190.81

On qualitative standards as well, personnel profiles, available technologies, infrastructure and resources in all arms of Government are at levels that are grossly insufficient to meet the rising challenges to the country’s security, particularly in terms of the challenges of irregular and proxy warfare, terrorism and insurgency.

Capacities for Capacity Generation: A simple solution here, would be that we should quickly fill all these deficits. It is the case that financial constraints are now a thing of the past, and the Government can easily afford the financial outlays for the necessary augmentation of capacities. Unfortunately, once again, structural constraints that have entrenched themselves within the system over the decades exclude any easy resolution here.

    • India has a 9 per cent higher education participation rate. This is between 35 to 70 per cent in Western countries. The average for Africa: 10 per cent.
    • Only 50 million of India’s 1.2 billion people – less than 4.2 per cent of the population – have degrees past high school53.
    • NASSCOM: even after retraining, only 25 per cent technical graduates and 10-15 per cent of general college graduates are "suitable for employment in the offshore IT and BPO industries"54.
    • National Knowledge Commission: 1,500 universities needed by 2015, as against 350 today55. When the Prime Minister announced the setting up of 20 new Indian Institutes of Technology, most experts felt that the teaching cadres required to man these new institutions could not be found without a radical dilution of standards56.

The philosopher John Gray notes: "In the 20th Century the state was the chief enemy of freedom. Today, it is the weakness of the state that most threatens freedom.57"

It is in the context of the enveloping infirmity of the state that the country’s internal security future and strategy must be envisaged. National security objectives, strategies and tactics must be reconciled with the resource configurations available, or that can be generated. The conventional bureaucratic device of financial allocations can no longer suffice, nor can the shuffling about of available Forces between security flashpoints – the battalion approach – serve any enduring purpose. A gradual and systematic reconstruction of capacities to secure national goals must now be worked into the processes of governance, and these cannot be bound to electoral cycles and partisan political interests. In such a reconstruction, some of the core principles that must be recognized include:

  • If India is to secure itself from terror, it must, first, unlearn the way it currently thinks about the issue. India’s responses to terrorism and, indeed, even the country’s capacity to respond, has been enormously inhibited by an absence of clarity, a partisan debate, tremendous confusion over the concept and, often, deliberate obfuscation. Current establishment assessments and understanding of terrorism are, consequently, riddled with internal contradictions that yield incongruous, wasteful and conflicting policy impulses. Only clear political perspectives and mandates can create the necessary foundations for the development of institutional mechanisms for the implementation of effective and coordinated counterterrorism efforts, initiatives and policies. This, then, is the first imperative of an effective counter-terrorism response: to clearly define India’s strategic orientation and posture with regard to terrorism, the basic counter-terrorism doctrine within which specific capacities are to be evolved and specific responses undertaken. Absent such a doctrinal context, all initiatives will remain ad hoc, arbitrary and directionless.
  • There is, Carl von Clausewitz noted, no such thing as a strategy of permanent defence. While protecting assets and lives will remain a necessary and major part of internal security management, this cannot defeat terrorism. The Irish Republican Army encapsulated the terrorist’s advantage in the adage, ‘You have to be lucky all the time. We have to be lucky just once’58. Effective counter-terrorism demands offensive capabilities. Terrorism can never be contained and defeated at its points of delivery. Its sources and its networks – wherever these exist, on Indian soil or abroad – must be targeted and destroyed.
  • Security is an indivisible: you cannot have an efficient counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency response in a collapsing law and order and justice administration. The idea that we can ‘target terrorism’, even while we ignore other patterns of crime and threats to national security, is misconceived and dangerous. There is, in fact, no such thing as a ‘small crime’. The same networks service both petty crime and major crime, including terrorism. The same compromised enforcement agencies ‘look the other way’ when this happens. The flaunting of verification procedures in the sale of a cell phone, for instance, may seem a petty infraction; but it has repeatedly facilitated major terrorist attacks. The untraceable cell phone has become an integral component for terrorist coordination and as a detonation device. Similarly, while there is much talk of the necessity of ‘ending terrorist finance’, the reality is that this can never be separated from other organized criminal financial operations, from the ugly underbelly of otherwise legitimate commercial activities, and from the flourishing black economy at large. The overwhelming proportion of illegal financial operations are collusive – based on a continuing and symbiotic relationship of acquiescence between criminal enterprises on the one hand and, on the other, government agencies and officials, as well as enterprises whose primary businesses lie within the ambit of the law. It is the vast black economy in India that provides the context of the movement of funds by terrorists as well. Hawala networks are not only used by terrorists, drug-traffickers, arms smugglers and other criminals, but also by corrupt businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians, as well as by numberless expatriate workers transferring monies to their families at home. Similarly, the smuggling of arms, ammunition and explosives cannot be brought to an end as long as smuggling of grey market goods – which are sold openly in most urban centres – remains unpunished.
  • Another aspect of the indivisibility of security is that any effort to protect cities will fail if the rural hinterland remains un-policed and ungoverned. If terrorists have significant freedom of movement to plan and prepare their attacks in rural areas, the deployment of explosive devices, or the mounting of the final assault, on targets in even the best protected cities presents no insurmountable challenge. Capacity generation for policing and intelligence at an unprecedented – indeed, hitherto unimagined – scale is required to recover the vast regions of India that have been given over to a vacuum of security and governance.
  • A bogey is often raised that this will give rise to a police state’. This is nonsense. The choice is not between a degraded, inept, under-manned, ill-equipped and inefficient Police, on the one hand, and a Police state, on the other. A modern, efficient, humane Force, bound by and committed to the rule of law, is a real and necessary alternative. Unless this is secured, India cannot be.
  • There has, in the recent past, been an overwhelming emphasis on raising special forces’ capacities to deal with terrorism and insurgency. Unfortunately, within a degraded general policing and law and order environment, small contingents of special forces can have very limited utility. The greatest decentralization of response capabilities is required to deal with contemporary internal security challenges, and this can only be secured through a comprehensive revitalization of Policing structures and a restoration of the integrity of the thana. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has rightly noted, "Unless the ‘beat constable’ is brought into the vortex of our counter-terrorist strategy, our capacity to pre-empt future attacks would be severely limited.59" Unfortunately, despite the Prime Minister’s observations, the emphasis on the military-intelligence aspects of responses to terrorism persists. There are two underlying reasons for this: such an emphasis also defines the contours of the international discourse on the subject, with most Western theorists looking at campaigns such as Iraq and Afghanistan, or, earlier, Vietnam, Ireland or Malaysia, where the military-intelligence dyad was the principal response mechanism. The second factor is our own model of central response, what is often called the ‘battalion approach’, which relies heavily on the allocation of Central paramilitary or military forces to deal with rising movements of political violence. This ‘emergency response’ then gets bogged down into a permanent paradigm. In many cases, such allocation of central forces contributes directly to the further emasculation of state Police Forces, and the neglect by State leaderships of the need to maintain or expand capacities of the security apparatus of the States themselves.
  • The reality of terrorism, insurgency and political violence in India is that much of it remains collusive. This is brought out dramatically by the fact that Dawood Ibrahim, the architect of the devastating 1993 Mumbai serial blasts (the largest terrorist attack in the country, with 257 fatalities), still controls one of the most comprehensive organized crime networks in India, more than a decade and a half later, with deep collusive roots among elements of the political leadership. These roots effortlessly weave across party political lines and the religious divide. In the meanwhile, the ‘D’ Company has become a major Inter-Services Intelligence asset and a continuous collaborator with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, al Qaeda and other Pakistan-backed terrorist groups, facilitating the movement of arms, explosives, terrorist cadres and finances across international boundaries, and the execution of attacks on Indian soil. In no civilized country of the world would this be possible; in India, it elicits no surprise – let alone outrage. Unless the criminal-terrorist-political nexus is disrupted and destroyed, terrorism, lawlessness and violence will continue to flourish.
  • India has extraordinary experience of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency successes – Punjab, Tripura and Andhra Pradesh are recent cases in point. Regrettably, there is a comprehensive lack of institutional memory and learning, and the experiences of the past have not been sufficiently studied, distilled and transferred to present and emerging theatres of conflict. The result is that policymakers and security executives flounder continuously in the bogs of their own ignorance and confusion, chasing fruitlessly after out of the box’ solutions and politically correct slogans, ignoring the wealth of options that are immediately available right ‘in the box’. Future policy options must be backed by the evidence of history and experience – and this demands processes of documentation, analysis and dissemination that are currently entirely neglected. What has demonstrably succeeded must be applied. What has failed again and again must be abandoned. While this seems obvious, it is the exact opposite of the principal trends in India.
  • Within this context, it is particularly important to notice that no country has ever ‘out-developed’ an ongoing insurgency or terrorist movement: the ‘developmental solution’ has little support in history and is, indeed, a fraud on the people that has facilitated the looting of vast quantities of ‘developmental funding’ in terrorism affected areas by corrupt politicians and administrators. The reality is that the time frames of counterterrorism or counterinsurgency, and of development, cannot be reconciled. Terrorism and insurgency threaten the viability of democratic governance in the near term; developmental solutions can be realized – if at all – over the medium and far term. Indeed, this ‘paradigm’ arises out of an almost puerile inversion of the general observation that ‘developed countries’ have a diminishing proclivity to political violence, particularly insurgencies and terrorism. There is, however, no single instance where an underdeveloped society has been able to neutralize an insurgency by magically fast-forwarding the development process.

  1. K.P.S. Gill, "A leadership lacking in adequate vision", The Pioneer, July 8, 2000.

  2. Ajai Sahni, "Where the Buck Stops", Indian Express, May 28, 2010.

  3. "40,000 sq km under Naxal control, Govt tells Par panel", PTI, September 16, 2009.

  4. Ajai Sahni, "India’s Maoists and the Dreamscape of 'Solutions'", Published: Seminar, No. 607, [or "Centre to launch massive operation against Naxals in November",, October 12, 2009.]

  5. Ajai Sahni, "Anti-Maoist Strategy: Utter Disarray", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 9, No.2, July 19, 2010.[or "India Steps Up Its Fight Against Naxalites," , November 20, 2009.]

  6. Maoist major incidents 2010, [or "Dantewada: 75 CRPF men killed in deadliest Maoist strike",, April 6, 2010.

  7. "Govt may revisit mandate on using IAF against Naxals: Home ministry", Daily News & Analysis, April 7, 2010.

  8. "Chidambaram rules out use of armed forces against Maoists", The Hindu, May 11, 2010.

  9. Ajai Sahni, "Anti-Maoist Strategy: Utter Disarray", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 9, No.2, July 19, 2010; also at, "Road mines and ambushes cause us most casualties",, April 7, 2010.]

  10. Calculated from

  11. "Centre to launch massive operation against Naxals in November",, October 12, 2009.

  12. Ajai Sahni, "Why our Naxal strategy is such a lethal pipe dream", Hindustan Times, April 10, 2010.

  13. Ajai Sahni, "CI Strategies: Garbage In, Garbage Out", South Asia Intelligence Review, Vol. 8, No. 46, May 24, 2010.

  14. Ajai Sahni, "Anti-Maoist Strategy: Utter Disarray", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 9, No.2, July 19, 2010.

  15. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "Opening remarks at the meeting of Chief Ministers of Naxal violence affected states", July 14, 2010,

  16. Ibid.

  17. Ajai Sahni, "Kashmir: The Hour of the Vulture", South Asia Intelligence Review, Vol. 9, No. 12, September 27, 2010; also, Praveen Swami, J&K: Mapping Street Violence", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 9, No. 1, July 12, 2010.

  18. Ajai Sahni, "J&K: Idiot Philosophies", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 7, No. 7, August 25, 2008.

  19. Then-Additional Director General Karamveer Singh.

  20. This narrative and argument relies on Ajai Sahni, "Kashmir: The Hour of the Vulture", op. cit.

  21. Ibid.

  22. See, for instance, Ajai Sahni, "Security apparatus can’t be easily fixed", Mint, May 21, 2010,

  23. Ajai Sahni, "Security Apparatus Cant be Easily Fixed," op. cit.

  24. "Force one", Mumbai Mirror, November 26, 2010. [or "26/11: Force One still awaits bulletproof jackets, helmets", December 23, 2010.]

  25. "Mumbai police yet to buy high quality vests", Deccan Herald, November 25, 2010.

  26. "Farce one", Mumbai Mirror, November 26, 2010.

  27. Authors discussion with senior Mumbai Police officials, August 18, 2010.

  28. Ajai Sahni," Security Apparatus Cant be Easily Fixed", op. cit.

  29. "Shortage of IPS officers hits top jobs", India Today, May 9, 2010.]

  30. Ajai Sahni, "Anti-Maoist Strategy: Utter Disarray", South Asia Intelligence Review, Volume 9, No.2, July 19, 2010.

  31. Ajai Sahni, "Security Apparatus Cant be Easily Fixed", op. cit.

  32. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "Remarks on Internal Security at Chief Ministers’ Conference", September 5, 2006,

  33. "India still vulnerable to 26/11 style attacks: Chidambaram", The Indian Express, October 16, 2009.

  34. Vinay Kumar, "Chidambaram: India better equipped to meet security challenges," The Hindu, December 1, 2010,

  35. The World's Billionaires, March 10, 2010

  36. Leela Fernandes, India's new middle class: democratic politics in an era of economic, University of Minnesota Press, Published: November 29, 2006.

  37. "India retains largest milk producer tag," The Economic Times, December 24, 2009.

  38. Afsar Jafri, "Food Crisis Exposes Failings of India’s Agricultural Reforms", Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 33, August 2, 2008.

  39. Devinder Sharma, "It happens only in India",Deccan Herald , December 23, 2010 .

  40. Colin Gonsalves, "Lowering depths, growing pangs", Combat Law, Vol.5, Issue 3.

  41. "One-third of world's poor in India: Survey", Times of India, August 27, 2008.

  42. "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database", United Nations Population Division,

  43. P.N. Mari Bhat, "Indian Demographic Scenario 2025", Population Research Centre, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, June 2001.

  44. Henrik Urdal, "'The Demographics of Political Violence: Youth Bulges, Insecurity and Conflict' in Lael Brainard & Derek Chollet, eds, Too Poor for Peace? Global Poverty, Conflict and Security in the 21st Century., Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press (90–100), 2007.

  45. Britt L. Crow, "Bare-sticks and rebellion: The drivers and implications of China’s reemerging sex imbalance", Technology in Society, Volume 32, Issue 2, May 2010, Pages 72-80.

  46. Valerie M. Hudson, "A Surplus of Men, A Deficit of Peace: Security and Sex Ratios in Asia's Largest States", MIT Press journals, Vol. 26, No. 4.

  47. "India vision 2020", report of the Committee on India Vision 2020: S.P. Gupta, Planning Commission: 2004.

  48. "Shortage of IPS officers to deal with security challenges:Ajay Maken", November 9, 2010.

  49. All Indian data from Crime in India 2008, National Crime Records Bureau, Government of India December 31, 2008.

  50. Law Commission 120th report, "Manpower Planning in Judiciary: A blueprint", July 1987.

  51. "Country Comparison: Population", CIA World Fact Book,


  53. Richard P. Adler (Rapporteur), "Minds on Fire: Enhancing India’s Knowledge Workforce", Report of the Second Annual Joint Round Table on Communications Policy, Aspen Institute , 2007, p. 26.

  54. Ibid., p. 12.

  55. Note on Higher Education, National Knowledge Commission, November 29, 2006, p. 1.

  56. See, for instance, Shailaja Neelakantan, "Rapid Expansion Strains Elite Indian Institutes", The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 30, 2009,

  57. John Gray, "Happy to be handcuffed by the state", News Statesman, August 19, 2002.

  58. "Tory Cabinet in Brighton Bomb Blast", BBC, October 12, 1984,

  59. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "Remarks on Internal Security at Chief Ministers’ Conference", September 5, 2006.

(Published in United Service Institution of India )





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