Think Big and Clear

The Centre should focus on reorganising border security

Col Tej Dalal (retd)Col Tej Dalal (retd)

India is emerging as a world economic power and that cannot be ignored. But, to achieve this, it has to be militarily strong too. With two hostile neighbours, sharing almost 8,000 km of our land boundary, we have to be strong. Diplomacy only works from position of strength. The threat of radical terrorism and proxy war, from Pakistan and covert support to the Naxal movement from China, has increased our security concerns. The internal insurgencies and belligerent postures of both these neighbours force us to think of ways to deal with arising situations, in more pragmatic ways.

One of the main ingredients to be a world power is to have strong defence forces, which are not only capable of defending own interests but also of its friendly nations.

India is capable of becoming a great power, but as Manjari Chatterjee Miller, assistant professor of international relations at Boston University, says that it ‘resists its own rise’. Let us examine Miller’s statement from our defence aspect. We have one of the largest armed forces in the world, with more than 13,00,000 active troops and an equal number in the paramilitary and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).

BSF personnel at Indo-Bangladesh Border

The role of the armed forces, under the ministry of defence (MoD), is clear and unambiguous. They are to assert the territorial integrity of India, against any aggressor, support the civil community in case of disasters and to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations, when and where required. In addition to the armed forces, the MoD is also responsible for guarding the Indo-Myanmar border through Assam Rifles and the coastal borders through Indian Coastal Guards. The latter two are the paramilitary forces, under the MoD.

The ministry of home affairs (MHA) also has a mixed role of guarding the peace time borders, internal security and anti-Naxal operations. Some of these CAPFs like the Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), under the MHA, have the role of border guarding during peace time. The CRPF has a role of internal security and anti-Naxal operations whereas the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) is responsible for guarding important national installations.

Thus, it would be seen that the national defence, border guarding and internal security have all got mixed up. Thanks to our misguided politicians and uninformed bureaucracy, we are fighting a battle within for supremacy. Under such circumstances, how can we plan to become a world power, when we cannot even plan our own defence?

Ironically, our bureaucracy is still stuck in the British ‘Bara Sahib’ way of functioning. It must come out of narrow departmental thoughts. Their horizon must change to broader national interests. Decision making at the Centre must encompass India as a whole and not dictated by regional or departmental interests.

It is evident from MHA decisions of last few year or so, trying to take away the role of guarding Indo-Myanmar border from Assam Rifles, since this Force is under the operational control of the army. The MHA had earlier proposed to assign this task to the BSF and latter to ITBP. Now, it wants to raise a new Force, taking away half the troops of Assam Rifles. It is another way of wresting operational control from the army. Why this power struggle? Such thinking is not going to help national security.

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