Securing national security
As China and Pakistan have begun to coordinate their activities to keep India preoccupied in South Asia and deny it any worthwhile role in global strategic affairs it’s time we increase our defence capability so that we can defend ourselves against both the countries
For the first time after the Chinese aggression of 1962, India is confronted with a very critical national security situation. Since 1962, India has had to contend with hostile forces on two fronts, north and west. (East Pakistan and later Bangladesh posed problems, but they were manageable.) Fortunately for us, the northern and western fronts were not active simultaneously until today. But now China and Pakistan have begun to coordinate their activities to keep India preoccupied in South Asia and deny it any worthwhile role in global strategic affairs.
China’s aggressive posture on the Line of Actual Control and its vituperative pronouncements about a repeat of the 1962 aggression, threat to disintegrate India, scoffing at any suggestion that India could compete with China, the change in Beijing’s position on Jammu & Kashmir demonstrated by the issue of Chinese visas on separate sheets of paper and not on Indian passports, the recent declaration that China will continue to extend military support to Pakistan (while the US has also extended immense financial and military aid to Pakistan since October 2001) coupled with Pakistan’s violation of the 2003 cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control, increase of infiltration across the LoC, building of bunkers across the international border and, of course, the never-ending aiding and abetting of terrorism not only in Jammu & Kashmir but also in other parts of India, clearly indicate that the two fronts are active simultaneously. Unlike in 1971 when we were assured of support through the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty, today we have no one to help us even against Pakistan, much less China.
The second critical factor is that terrorism emanating from external sources is linked to terrorism which is termed as home-grown. This is not only on account of support and incitement from Pakistan. For years terrorists in our North-East have received material support and training from China as also rebel groups in Myanmar. Further, the recent charge-sheet filed against Kobad Ghandy alleges that Maoists in India have been running a campaign of terror in collusion with like-minded groups in a host of countries, including Nepal. Thus, it would be unwise to ignore the link between the external threat to India and the fast growing internal terrorism and, indeed, insurgencies.
The Union Government needs to devote itself with determination and urgency to three tasks. First, it has to substantially increase our defence capability so that we can defend ourselves against both China and Pakistan at the same time. For this purpose, there is an immediate need to acquire modern defence equipment for all the three services — Army, Air Force and Navy. The political leadership has to overcome the burden of the Bofors scandal in order to buy military equipment based on India’s strategic requirements and considerations, and not on the basis of our antiquated tendering process which is more of a barrier than a facilitator.
At the same time, the three services have to modernise their acquisition procedures. The current procedures not only lead to inordinate delays but also to corruption at each stage of the testing or trial of military equipment under consideration. Let me be brutally frank. Today, the police force has lost the respect of the people, leading to criminals having an upper hand over the law and order machinery. If our defence services do not immediately reform themselves, their personnel will suffer the same fate and rapidly lose respect among the people of India. How can any self-respecting service issue sub-standard clothing and footwear to our jawans guarding India’s frontier in Siachen?
The second task relates to the reorganisation of the intelligence system to conform to the needs of a country threatened not only by external forces but by determined and well-organised domestic terrorist and insurgent groups as well. This means very close coordination among the intelligence agencies as also with the Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Home Affairs and Finance. Further, apart from acquisition of modern gadgetry including spy satellites, the gathering of human intelligence needs to be improved and intensified.
The third task is the reform of the police force in the States. To begin with, the recruitment, transfer and promotions in the police force must be completely free of political interference. The training of police officers and personnel has to be geared to contemporary needs. The most competent policemen should be posted at the street (mohalla) level. This is the most effective method of being aware of planning of crimes and hatching of terrorist conspiracies.
My final words relate to the conduct of our politicians. Our petty electoral politics is very often against India’s national interest. Political parties resort to campaigns and slogans and give tickets to criminals regardless of the adverse impact of such activities on the unity of India. There is no need for me to give instances of such pettiness practiced for the sole purpose of getting votes in local as well as State and national elections. There are examples galore. Ultimately, it will lead to the end of democracy and to the disintegration of India. But are our politicians bothered about the impending catastrophe? Not at all!