Challenges, both internal, external, will mount in NY

Challenges, both internal, external, will mount in NY

Challenges, both internal, external, will mount in NY


There are three fronts on which democratic India has to work more.

As the year draws to a close, what strikes a citizen is that India had steadily risen as a world power whose counsel was respected by the democratic world, that this country was able to overcome the Covid pandemic - it had taken the world by surprise - because of the steps directed by the leadership at the top for vaccine development and that on the whole India was successfully moving in the direction of building strategic autonomy in order to deal with an uncertain geopolitical scenario.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a rare understanding of international relations in the post-Cold War world where open warfare had been substituted by proxy wars, where military advancement could not turn into a sustainable advantage without economic strength and where the nation's security and economic interests were best served through bilateral relationships guaranteeing mutuality of benefits.

There are three fronts on which democratic India has to work more. One relates to the all - important maintenance of law and order through the length and breadth of the country, upon which rests the fundamental right of citizens to enjoy equality before law as well as the willingness of investors - particularly the foreign investors - to put their money on Indian projects for economic development of remote areas.

IPS is a rare civil service existing only in India, that provides a career in leadership of the police through a merit-based national level competitive examination. Surely, its first duty is to improve the working of the police station at the ground level by setting a benchmark of integrity, impartiality and public service - it is not enough for the IPS officers to claim that they were personally upright.

In the developing internal security scenario, the Central security set up should have a functional oversight on the District Intelligence Units in the spheres of both gathering of information and helping the local police to act as the first responder to a threat.

The second area of expansion for India is the promotion of Public-Private Partnership in both economic development and safeguarding of national security. India's National Cyber Security Policy has set off this process by recommending Centres of Excellence to be established through the PPP model. The call of internal security rises above political, community and regional divides.

Police is the only coercive arm of a democratic state and it should be sensitive towards the people but firm against the suspects colluding against the nation. Cyber space in general and social media in particular has made covert operations of enemy agents easier to carry on with - like establishing 'sleeper cells' for terror activity and using 'radicalisation' for raising 'lone wolves'. All of this makes the tasks of state police - lying beyond the maintenance of law and order - a lot more professional and urgent.

Fortunately, technological advancement of Police forces has gained momentum thanks to the interest directly taken by Prime Minister and Union Home Minister in Police Modernisation schemes and their funding.

Finally, the success of India's foreign policy during Prime Minister Modi's regime - largely attributable to the Prime Minister's intuitive understanding of international relations and his personal interactions with all world leaders - holds promise for the future but the developing geopolitics and the uncertainties created by it will test it further and call for innovative approaches for safeguarding India's national security interests.

India's economic profile is strong enough to enable it to advance the nation's cause in the global development. The accentuation of US-China confrontation on the pattern of a new Cold War, the strengthening of China-Russia bonds because of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine that had, on the other hand, united the US-led West against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the challenge before India of balancing Indo-US friendship with Indo-Russian bonds, are the ongoing factors impacting our strategic planning.

The return of Taliban Emirate at Kabul - following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that was credited to the 'mediation' of Pakistan - would lead to the aggravation of India-specific terror threat from Pak-Afghan belt and this would have to be handled by India entirely on its own.

Further, a deepening Sino-Pak axis that opened the way for the two adversaries on our borders to join hands in carrying out 'covert offensives' in Kashmir, Punjab, North East and in the rest of the country as well, has to be effectively countered on military, security and diplomatic fronts in the months ahead.

India kept up friendship with Russia without jeopardising Indo-US strategic partnership and ensured that Russia did not tilt towards the other side in a situation of hostility between India and China. As regards Pakistan, Modi government has brought in an element of deterrence by administering the message that India would not hesitate to resort to 'surgical strike' to punish Pak-sponsored cross-border terrorism.

On Afghanistan, a timely initiative taken by India's National Security Advisor to convene meetings of his counterparts from Central Asian Republics which border Afghanistan, has helped to create a consensus among them against the rise of 'radicalisation' in Afghanistan and in favour of an inclusive regime there following the reinstallation of Taliban Emirate at Kabul. This has proved to be an extremely important foreign policy stance directly serving India's national security interests.

The G20 Presidency has come to India at a time that was most appropriate in terms of the opportunities it provides to Prime Minister Modi to establish this country as a world counsel on issues of war and peace and on the task of promoting global economy for the benefit of all.

Digitisation of governance has not eliminated corruption at local levels, police is stil not attuned to public service and protection of the law-abiding citizens, and an expanding population was casting its shadow on the future of employment, public health and children's education.

Global initiatives apart, India has to take comprehensive steps to preserve its internal security primarily against the threats of terrorism and radicalisation made more critical because of the declaration by Pakistan - in its National Security Policy - that India was its principal adversary and that Pakistan had the right to take interest in the Muslim minority of India as a part of Ummah since its security was jeopardised under the pro-Hindu Modi government. The use of social media and cyber space by the adversaries as a powerful weapon of 'proxy war' and as an instrument of 'information warfare' adds to the challenge of safeguarding internal security.

During the G20 Presidency India should carry forward the experiment of R20 - launched by Indonesia at Bali - for promoting inter-faith harmony and the idea of equal respect for all religions and rejecting extremism. It should be possible to mobilise leaders of the minority community and spokespersons of credible Islamic institutions based in India to speak up against radicalisation and advocacy of Jehad for solving political or other issues affecting Muslims in any part of the country.

It is necessary to enhance the outreach of the administration to Muslim families particularly in Kashmir to help them in dealing with the youth showing signs of falling prey to indoctrination attempts of the adversary. Civil society groups playing politics at the behest of anti-India lobbies abroad, should be subjected to close scrutiny.

It is a matter of great satisfaction for all citizens of India that the Modi regime was consistently campaigning against terrorism of all kinds and receiving a response of understanding from other countries in regard to the role of Pakistan in harbouring terrorists with linkages across the Islamic spectrum.

(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)

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