First Person | Old Threats, New Force

With multiple insurgencies in various stages of brewing, we need a new CI force

Ghazala WahabGhazala Wahab

In a few weeks the Narendra Modi-government will complete one year; a reasonable timeframe to get a sense of the direction it has chosen to head towards. Of course, the official pronouncements are one thing, but given that this government is afflicted with premature overstatements and bombastic assertions, it is safe to rely more on what its recent actions suggest.

Take for instance the Kashmir issue. It is clear that the resolution is not on the table any longer. Even confidence-building measures with Pakistan pertaining to Kashmir are not on the table. This means that the feel-good factors like cross-Line of Control (LC) trade, meeting points etc., will remain at the present low level if not dry-up completely. While the Mufti Mohammed Sayeed’s government in Jammu and Kashmir may want to push for an escalation of these measures, the possibility of Pakistan accepting them are remote if the Government of India does not discuss the Kashmir ‘issue’ with it.

One implication of this that immediately comes to mind is that the so-called normalcy which had started to creep in over the last decade will now start to creep out. Reports coming out of Kashmir indicate that militant organisations are once again recruiting locally after a gap of nearly four years. Worse, instead of crossing the LC, the new recruits are being trained in secure forest areas within the Valley.

The top army commander in the Valley has called this an evidence of impregnability of the LC because of the fence and the army. Since the enemy is finding it difficult to penetrate the anti-infiltration obstacle system, it is forced to recruit and train the militants locally, he says.

What the army sees as a proof of its success is actually the consequence of the failure of the State to engage with the people. Instead of patting ourselves on the back that the disenchanted boys are not able to cross over to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), we should be worried that once again there are some who are getting inspired by the call of waging an active war against India, even at the cost of their lives. Moreover, if they are able to train — they would be firing a few shots at least to get the hang of the weapon — within the state then clearly their support-system from the community and the over ground workers is getting stronger.

Perhaps, the illusion of peace talks over the last few years had kindled hope amongst the youth, which has now been dashed. Given that this situation is not likely to change in a hurry as the government doesn’t see any reason for resolution, there is a high probability that violence may increase.

If this is what we have to gear up to, we might as well prepare ourselves for a long haul. Of course, the army is likely to offer its services in counter-insurgency (CI) operations in perpetuity, but the government must look at an alternative for the simple reason that in the absence of fruitful dialogues with our recalcitrant neighbours, we need our armed forces trained and equipped for conventional war. The excuse that even Pakistan Army is equally ill-trained as offered by senior officers is just that, an excuse.

Under these circumstances, the government must seriously consider re-orienting and re-organising the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as the primary CI force, and forever stop labouring over whether it is a Central Para Military Force or a Central Armed Police Force. The first step towards re-orienting would involve, completely de-linking its law and order role from the CI role. Even if this means bifurcating and giving a new identity to the force, the government must consider doing that. No force in the world can simultaneously wield sticks and under barrel gun launchers. Not only they both call for different kind of training, they demand different mindset and fitness levels. To say that the troops get a few weeks of orientation before switching roles betrays total lack of understanding of human psyche and mental/ physical limitations.

Clearly, raising training facilities for the new CI force will take time. In the interim, this force can train at the theatre training facilities of the Indian Army, both in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. For the Left-Wing Extremism theatre, the CRPF’s jungle warfare schools can be enhanced further. This CI force need not be theatre-specific and should be able to deploy in all the parts of the country where the political process has not been able to offer people the option of acceptable peace. Meanwhile, the law and order force could continue with the present mandate and work with the state police.

Reorganisation will call for some really tough decisions, cutting across vested interests, both of the services and the ministries, because a CI force, trained, equipped and oriented on the lines of a ‘para’ military cannot reasonably be led by police officers. Since bringing in the Indian Army officers will only lead to the creation of another Assam Rifles, the best solution would be to train the cadre officers for command roles. A small percentage of vacancies can be created for army officers for lateral induction, but this number must remain small to ensure both upward mobility and motivation.

If we must keep our flock together by force, let it at least be the force trained specifically for that job.


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