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Force Magazine

State of the Union
Internal security remains a big challenge

By Ghazala Wahab

Internal Security A few months into his retirement as director, Intelligence Bureau, FORCE met Ajit Doval in the autumn of 2005 for an informal overview on India’s internal health. As an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer part of several counter-insurgency campaigns across states (and many times incognito), Doval was reputed to have both the ground and top-down perspectives of things that ailed India.

At first reticent, he gradually started to speak a bit more openly after he felt convinced that nothing that he’d say would get attributed to him. So, while all of what he said will remain un-attributable, his one comment deserves to be mentioned only as a compliment to his understanding and prescience. While talking about the various internal security challenges which were allowed to grow into threats over decades, Doval said that there was a tendency at the lowest level of governance to deny the existence of the problem and continue to overlook it for as long as it was possible to do so. Once it was no longer possible to deny it, the lowest administrative level usually unleashed unimaginable brutality to quieten the problem. This second response inadvertently worsened the problem by further alienating the people. At this stage, the administration, unable to keep the issue under wraps usually try to buy silence by either pumping in money in the name of development or by cultivating local leaders to keep the flock in check.

Unfortunately, even as money repeatedly fails to buy peace, it creates vested interests over a period of time, who benefit as long as the problem remains on a boil. Hence, the problem lingers, sapping resources, both in terms of manpower and money which otherwise could be used elsewhere for growth.

If one were to take a broad sweep across India, from north to Northeast through the central plateau, lying amidst the iron pillars of promising future are remains of consistent policy failure. One after another. Each more avoidable than another.

There is a reason why this overview on internal security harks back to a statement made nine years ago. Now that Doval is in the coveted top seat (national security advisor) which, if wagging tongues are to be believed, he coveted for a long time, will he be able to effect a change in approach in dealing with these recalcitrant issues? Will he be able to put in place a policy for resolution of problems instead of another slew of ameliorative measures either aimed at managing the internal security sticking points or feeding the vested interests?

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