Friday, April 20, 2012

Strengths and Weaknesses of India’s Homeland Security

India has faced numerous external as well as internal threats to its national security throughout the country’s entire history and had to constantly adapt to these challenges. The recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and its impact on Pakistani politics, as well as the region’s overall security situation, will possibly also affect India. And the deep wounds that the Mumbai attacks inflicted in November 2008 are still painfully felt.

Nicolas von Kospoth of talked to the Mentor of Security Watch India (SWI), Mr Maroof Raza*, about the challenges for India’s homeland security environment and the approach of government and industry to finding solutions that meet the country’s security requirements.

Focusing on the entire scope of government organisations, industry, as well as India’s civil society, SWI is well-positioned to address issues concerning Indian internal/homeland security. The New Delhi-based independent, non-profit organisation engages in dialogue with all stake holders, research and publications for the public and the industry, and supports international companies that seek to enter the Indian homeland security sector. Mr Raza, many countries in the world are currently facing a terrorist threat. Which aspects of the Indian experience in this regard are similar to other countries, and which are unique?

Maroof Raza: Primarily, the external threat to India is from Pakistan-based terrorist groups – almost all of whom have the support of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies – and some of them have entered, or soon will enter, the vacuum created by the decline of Al Qaeda. Today, it is India and even Pakistan that is their target; tomorrow, it’ll be the rest of the world. Their aim is to challenge the multicultural and democratic ‘way of life’ that free societies offer, whether in India or in the West. Moreover, they target India’s economic success out of envy and with the aim to build sleeper cells to assist them amongst local Indian Muslim groups, just as they do in the West (for example in the UK). Decentralised terrorist groups with AfPak experience, pirates off the coast, Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in the East: Which are the current “hotspots” in the Indian homeland security environment and how is the government positioned to deal with this variety of threats?

Raza: They are all of concern to the Indian government, but fortunately India has the forces and the resources to cope with most of them. Though, it could certainly do with more men in uniform and technology that will act as force multipliers. While the Naxalite-Maoist threat is the biggest in sheer size of their spread (spread as it is, across most of Central India in varying shades of lethality), it is still manageable if the government can provide better governance and more efficient police forces.

Though the threat from cross-border terror groups based in Pakistan is far more lethal, the current government has shown it’s helplessness in dealing firmly with Pakistan, as Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian PM, seems to be working on a personal agenda of appeasing the Pakistanis; though there have been no results, as Pakistan’s military needs strained relations with India to justify its overbearing role within Pakistan.

The insurgency in India’s northeast remains a low key affair and is essentially a side show, as it doesn’t quite impact India’s industrial growth. The army has contained the north eastern insurgency for over 50 years now, and the need is once again to find political solutions. As for pirates off the African coast, the Indian navy has been dealing aggressively with the pirates, when required. India is a very colourful country in terms of cultures and religions. How do you assess the internal conflict potential and its possible affect of the future homeland security situation?

Raza: Fortunately, or unfortunately, India has too many ethno-religious and social divisions that can be exploited by malignant elements to create internal conflicts. Moreover, the rapid growth of the Indian economy has created further pockets of resentment by dividing the society between wealthy and poor. Until this gap is narrowed to a satisfactory level, risks of internal conflicts within the country will persist. What was your personal reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death and the announcement that he has been living safely for months, if not years, in the heart of Pakistan?

Raza: I wasn’t surprised at all, and many of us had said so for years that he and much of the Al Qaeda’s top leadership were in Pakistan. It is Pakistan’s many supporters in the US and elsewhere who should’ve been surprised. Pakistan had been stringing the US along all these years, and this must come as a wakeup call. Just as the US eventually called Pakistan’s bluff over bin Laden, it must now call the bluff of the Pakistani army about the ‘jihadi’ threat on the security of its nuclear arsenal. Pakistan needs to be re-invented by the world, and only that’ll put an end to its deadly embrace of terror. Which security-political impact does this event have for the relations between India and Pakistan? Does it change the awareness of terrorist threats to India that may originate from Afghan and Pakistani territory?

Raza: The killing of bin Laden will have an impact on Indo-Pak relations in the following areas: First, there will possibly be greater instability within Pakistan, with local terror networks blaming the Pakistani army for failing them against the US. Second, Pakistan’s army will increase their anti-India pitch or arrange another Mumbai-type terror attack to divert the public’s disappointment with them. Finally, there might be greater political opposition within India to Prime Minister Dr Singh’s policy of holding talks with the discredited and unstable Pakistani government. Do you believe that India should tackle the terrorist threat as a police problem or, rather, a military one?

Raza: It has to be a combination of both: using the police and the armed forces. The police must be better equipped with their capabilities enhanced and expanded to cover all the possibilities that terrorists create. Currently, the Indian police are woefully short of the numbers that the new challenges would require. Further, their levels of capabilities differ, as they are a de-centralised force, controlled individually by each State government.

The armed forces are centralised, battle-hardened and with sufficient experience and capabilities to handle all the possible threats that India could face. But they are already quite stretched in terms of men and resources. What is the role of the Pakistani government and authorities in the still unrelenting Islamic terrorism and what is the current perception in India of this possible link?

Raza: In recent years, the Pakistani government’s link to terrorism has become very complicated. The way to understand the situation is to try and not see Pakistan as a monolith structure dictated by a unified government, but a fractured collection of several interest groups and organisations.

There are multiple terrorist organisations and insurgent groups active within the borders of Pakistan and they find patronage from very different socio-political groups. Therefore, it is very difficult to shut down these groups merely by putting pressure on the very top of the government. A more extensive engagement that cuts across the entire hierarchy is necessary. What is your assessment of the anti-terrorist measures and policies being implemented by the Indian government after the Mumbai attack?

Raza: The counter-terrorism measures have evolved to a great extent after the Mumbai attack, which served as a jolt to bring India out of its inertia. However, the security establishment still has a long way to go. Unfortunately, much of the efforts undertaken by the government are still reactive. There is far more focus on mitigation and post-incident investigation, while the efforts required to avert attacks still need more push. Do you perceive a learning curve in homeland security-related authorities since 2008? What have been the key lessons learned during these last years regarding the threat of terror attacks in India?

Raza: Unfortunately, due to the federated structure of the Indian government and the lack of effective channels for knowledge-sharing, most of the homeland security agencies – primarily state police departments which are the first line of counter-terrorism – have their own learning curves. Thus, police departments like the ones in Delhi and Mumbai have evolved tremendously, now developing rapid response teams, state-of-the-art technology and practices, correct application of intelligence, etc. On the other hand, many state police departments still lack critical technologies or practices that have become norms in other parts of the country. In what way has the Indian homeland security environment evolved since the Mumbai attack? What has been the specific affect of this particular event on the industrial landscape, as well as government spending and investment?

Raza: The Mumbai attack has expanded both the threat perception and the threat domain for India. The Indian government’s spending after the Mumbai attack has been increased tremendously, representing a more than 30 per cent cumulative increase in the central Ministry of Home Affairs (primary agency responsible for homeland/internal security) budget over the last three years. Similarly, the landscape for industries has been transformed as well. While until 2008 most of the major Indian corporations only saw defence as a viable market, almost all major Indian conglomerates and aerospace and defence companies are now involved within the homeland security market. SWI supports national industry in the homeland security sector by providing counsel and promoting business opportunities. How well is Indian industry positioned to meet domestic requirements and how important is the contribution by foreign companies in terms of know-how, investment and overall solutions?

Raza: India’s industry has its own merits and weaknesses. On one hand, the Indian industry is renowned for its ingenuity and engineering capabilities. The cheap cost of manufacturing makes India competitive in the global market. Moreover, India’s portfolio of diplomatic relationships with the world is somewhat different from the US and many European countries. This allows Indian companies to make inroads in many markets that would be difficult for western companies to penetrate.

On the other hand, Indian industry lacks in high technology, having ignored this sector for many decades. It also lacks much of the tremendous capital that is required to invest in R&D or manufacturing and often accompanies activities in the homeland security business.

Overall, though, we believe that these strengths and weakness perfectly complement that of Western industry and it is for this reason that we tirelessly work to bring the two together and allow for a perfect match.

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