India’s Imperfections in Matters of Defence & Security

"The piece meal division of National Security into three tightly segmented parts, such as Border security, Internal security and External security, raise serious doubts on the efficacy of the nations National Security Policy.

India’s Imperfections in Matters of Defence & Security

“For, make no mistake; evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism-it is recognition of history, the imperfections of man, and the limits of reason"

-Former United States President Barack Obama in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2009-

Special Forces Operators dismounting from Aircraft (Representational Image)

If  evil does exist and if the ‘Gandhian’ principle of non-violence cannot tackle this evil, then the only answer is to use the age-old principle of cutting diamond with the diamond. In other words, ‘use bigger force to counter an evil force.’ What is evil? In simple and lay man's terms, evil is anything which, in Satanic ways, works against the individual or collective interests of the society, nation or even humanity.

Former President Obama of the USA had perfectly defined it as the ‘imperfections of man.’ If society, the nation or the community has to survive, then it has to tackle these imperfections of individuals, communities and also of nations.

The recent events in Eastern Ladakh in June-July 2020, have exposed the chinks in India’s national security. In peace-time conditions, the border security of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China is entrusted to a police force, called Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is neither trained nor organised and not even equipped to handle misadventure by our northern adversary.

ITBP personnel carrying out a routine patrol 

By the time the army was mustered, the damage was already done. Such an arrangement is more dangerous when neither the border nor the LAC is marked on ground. This allows China the opportunity to keep nibbling at the LAC as per its own perceptions. This is a serious lacuna in the border security of India, when it is not demarcated either on the ground and on the maps.

Now come to the Middle Sector of the LAC with China. It is opposite Himachal Praadesh and Uttarakhand. Here, the Barahoti bowl is under China’s greedy eye. It falls in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The Middle Sector is looked after by the Special Service Bureau (SSB), and their variation of a police force. It is reckoned that there were 26 battalions of the SSB which look after the Middle Sector. Similarly, it may be noted that there are some 60 battalions of ITBP.

Earlier there was only one Area Headquarters of the ITBP under an Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) in Chandigarh. Now another one has been created in Guwahati. Whatever it may be a police force is a  police and it cannot replace a regular army.

The same thing applies to the border and the Line of Control (LocC) with Pakistan. This task has been assigned to the Border Security Force (BSF). It is not to comment upon the competence of the BSF, SSB or ITBP.

However, the very fact that they come under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) bisects the responsibility of border Security between two ministries. The same lacuna exists in the management of internal security, whether it was Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Punjab, the North East, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhnad, Oddisha, Chhattisgarh, and some other states infected by Maoists/ Naxalite violence.

Somewhere it is the army handling it but in the hinterland it is either the state police or Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). This division of national Security responsibility is the  most visible imperfection in Indian polity.

Unfortunately, this piece meal division of national security into three tightly segmented parts, such as Border security, Internal security and External security, raise serious doubts on the efficacy of the nations National Security Policy. This leads to a lot of confusion. During the 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks, crucial time was wasted waiting for the National security Guards (NSG) team, while a full fledged Infantry battalion available in Mumbai, was not pushed into action.

It is a well known fact that all infantry battalions are trained in counter-terrorism operations and they have been doing so in Punjab, J&K and North East. Then again, on January 1, 2016, the same mistake was made when the Pathankot Air base came under Fidayeen attack. There was an Infantry brigade, with three Infantry Battalions available in Pathankot.

NSG Commandos deployed during the Pathankot attack in (2016)

This can only happen when there is a trifurcation of national security. Besides, such confusion emanates from the fact that the issue of national security was handled by a bureaucrat or a policeman as an advisor. These are the serious imperfections in India's National Security stratagem.

Thus, India has been found wanting to tackle the imperfections of security in a judicious and an effective way. Right from the day of Independence of India, there has been a gross neglect of Indian Armed Forces. It seems defence policy has been chalked out keeping the armed forces miles away from its formulation. One does not understand the reason but one can fathom its cause.

To put it in crude words, it has been the basic sense of insecurity and inferiority complex of the political and bureaucratic structure of the nation. Politicians and bureaucrats have been in some kind of awe of the armed forces. To them armed forces are a bigger enemy than Pakistan or China. These were the sentiments displayed by Nehru and they have dominated the political class ever since.

Indeed, it was the first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru, who set the ball rolling of this distrust, and then followed a deliberately chalked out criminal neglect of the armed forces, despite wars with China and Pakistan over the last 70 years. There is no change of this ‘neglect’, whether it was Congress, BJP, Janta Dal, UPA or NDA Governments at the centre.

The policy has been of deliberate neglect of armed forces for all these 70 years of independence. Shiv Kunal Verma, in his book, ‘1962: The war that wasn't quotes what PM Nehru told first Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Independent India, General Sir Rob Lockhart. Read this interesting passage :-

"When the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, General Sir Rob Lockhart, went to Nehru with a formal defence paper that needed a policy directive from the prime minister, Nehru had exclaimed: ‘Rubbish! Total rubbish! We don’t need a defence policy. Our policy is ahimsa (non-violence). We foresee no military threats. As far as I am concerned you can scrap the army—the police are good enough to meet our security needs."

Non-Violence was not the basic reason when Nehru said it so. It was his basic dislike of leadership of the army, who he thought could be a threat to his domination of power structure and unquestioned leadership.

There was another incident which further consolidated Nehru's fears of the Army. It was between Nehru and Lieutenant General Nathu Singh Rathore. It is attributed to Nehru who had openly stated in an Army Commanders conference that he would like to appoint a British officer as Chief of Army Staff (COAS), as Indian Army Officer’s had no experience of commanding larger forces.

Lt Gen Nathu Singh Rathore countered Nehru by saying that in the similar vein, India should import a British politician to be Prime Minister, as Indian politicians had no experience. This not only embarrassed Nehru but it also put him in awe of army officers.

Earlier, another incident had taken place before independence in North West Frontier Province (Now, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). In 1946, Congress had won a massive victory in the province and it had formed the provincial Government. Pakhtoons, under the influence of Frontier Gandhi, Abdul Gafar Khan, were keen to join India.

A referendum was to be held to decide about the choice of the people. Congress had just won the elections and it would have been a hands down win for India. But Nehru asked Congressmen not to participate in the referendum.

This infuriated an Army officer, Major Mihir Mashood, who almost slapped Nehru but was prevented by British political Resident of the Tribal Areas. This also had affected Nehru's psyche. Then the military coup in Pakistan enhanced his fears. It was not only him but the entire political establishment.

They, thus, segmented National Security into, Internal Security, and External Security. External security going to Defence Ministry and Internal Security going to Home Ministry. In fact, this was a clever move to create a parallel force to counter Indian armed forces.

In fact, this was done at peril to Indian National Security. Paramilitary forces and state armed police forces handle internal security with inherent disadvantages of its leadership. Result is mushrooming casualties of security forces in insurgency and militancy areas. The Pathankot airbase terrorist attack showed a deliberate strategy to project paramilitary forces ahead of armed forces.

There is a misconception within the Indian political and bureaucratic set-up that a good spy-master or a good foreign service diplomat would also be a good national security expert. Compare this thought with other nations, such as the USA, Pakistan, France and Russia, where retired military experts handle the issue of national security.

We must note that security is not a game of spying or diplomacy but a matter of strategic understanding of regional, international and Intranational environs to work out an integrated plan to tackle them within the allotted resources.

It is unfortunately true that politicians of all hue and cry, those who get to govern the country, are often influenced by bureaucracy. Using the media and other forums, bureaucrats play upon politicians' fears of a likely military coup to turn them against the armed forces.

This is why the long felt need of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was not only barricaded but it was also short circuited, when the announcement came, the  bureaucracy played the symphony, of a likely coup by armed forces, if a CDS was appointed.

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat (File Photo)

Thus, finally, when the post was created with a lot of fanfare, it was nothing but a toothless showpiece. The post of CDS is no more than a babu. A post office HQ has been created to fool the people. Politicians and bureaucrats feel that he would be more powerful and as such would not care for civilian leadership. These are imagined and concocted fears. All the same, they do cause hallucinations to politicians.

And some political heavy weights have their personal grievances against the armed forces. The result is a criminal neglect of the armed forces. How strange is the fact that the nation, facing crisis on Chinese and Pakistani borders, had stayed with a part time Defence Minister, when late Manohar Parrirkar had fallen sick. The temporary slot was filled up by a man who hated the armed forces to the hilt. He was also the finance minister and such choked the release of funds for essential needs.

A few years back, with much hype, it was announced to raise a Mountain strike corps with two Mountain divisions. But it did not go beyond raising of a corps headquarters and some other truncated formation for lack of funds. It's need was badly felt now when confrontation with China in Eastern Ladakh took an ugly turn.

This lackadaisical approach springs out of the bureaucratic assessment that modern wars will only be limited to internal security issues. Thus there was no need to waste funds on armed forces. Chinese action in Eastern Ladakh was a hard slap on such a simplified notion of modern war. Such an approach exposes the grey areas in our security.

The Nehru dictum still haunts the real aspects of national security. A general refrain in the politico- bureaucratic circle is that national interests can be best served by diplomatic means. A National Security Advisor (NSA) is always a bureaucrat, while armed forces experts are treated as duds, with no knowledge of national security.

NSA Ajit Doval during his visit north-east Delhi (File Photo)

This is in total contrast to western countries, who are more clued up on national security than Indian politicians. Even in Pakistan and other Asian countries, retired senior Defence personnel are appointed as NSA.

The fear of military coup in the minds of Indian politicians has blinded Indian politicians right from the days of Nehru. Even after 73 years, politicians' psyche has not changed, whether Nehru's Congress or Vajpayee's BJP. They depend on IAS Babus for such advice on security matters, who have their own axe to grind.

No wonder bureaucrats take them for a ride. Chiefs of the Army/Air Force/Navy have been treated as non-entities by the politico- bureaucratic establishment. In fact, most of the time, the post of army chief had passed on to pliable persons.

Indian Military's Top brass (File Photo)

Even the post of a Defence Minister has lost its shine, either it is kept vacant or given to the most unsuitable person, who has no idea of military matters. Some of the politicians occupying the chair of Defence Minister, in the recent past, never understood the job, they only pursued their political agendas. The Defence Ministry is only seen as a gold mine of commissions on defence deals. In the 1990s, it had become a musical chair.

In the USA, out of 45 presidents till date, since July 1776, there have been 15 presidents who have been with military background. Besides, there have been large numbers of Defence secretaries or Secretaries of State in the US administration with Defence Wards background, over the last 250 years. India does not trust her military personnels, despite the fact that the nation has been held together with the sweat and toil of the soldiers.

Unfortunately, of late some politicians have been openly abusing the armed forces. These imperfections do not bode well for the only truly secular and a nationalistic institution of the nation. If it crumbles, which enemies of India eagerly await, survivability of the Indian existence is a question mark. Present regime has to take a call on this and save this institution to save India. It has to stop lending her ears to bureaucracy.

It is time to view national security in a holistic manner. The segmented approach is doing a big harm. The Politico-bureaucratic set up must shed the notion that the vastness and geographical expanse of India do not allow the armed forces to carry out a military coup.

No CDS and a General can even think of it because of India's size and shape. Therefore there is a need to combine all three segments of national security namely, border, internal and external under one authority. It will lead to better coordination and optimum utilization of security forces.

In fact, Internal security must be freed from the entangled web of law and order definition. It must not remain a state subject. Besides, it ought to be redefined. Communal riots, anti-government protests, rail-road blockades must become part of internal security.

BSF trooper patrolling the IB with Pakistan (File Photo)

The internal security apparatus must keep a watch on ‘invisible soldiers of enemy masquerading as overground political activists, excessive free-speech exponents and organizations, aided and supported by foreign funds. Modern wars seek to implode adversaries internally than through military actions. China is adept at this. It believes in Sun Tzu maxim, which says that the best victory is the one which is achieved without firing a bullet.

The combination of ‘military means’, ‘irregular means’ and  ‘psychological means’ form part of a modern war, which is designed with specific aim and objective. This is also referred to as a ‘Designer War.’ To tackle it, the nation needs to remove the imperfections and impurities which militate against successful conduct of national security. This demands that not only internal security but also border management must come under the gambit of armed forces and Ministry of Defence (Mo D).

(Col Rajinder Kushwaha is an ex-NDA, commissioned into the 3 Bihar Regiment in June 1971 and was the Commanding Officer of same unit in insurgency environs in Assam in 1990-93. Has vast experience in CI Ops from North East to Punjab and J&K. A prolific writer-cum-critic on defence and security matters, he has authored the book, ‘Kashmir: A Different Perspective’. His second book on Assam was released in April 2018. Held prestigious appointments in the army including as an instructor at a premier army institute, Col GS, Col Adm of an Infantry Division and Col "Q" works at a Command HQ. He can be contacted on e-mail: [email protected])


🎉 You've successfully subscribed to Mission Victory India!