India’s complex security challenges

Vishal Sharma
The echos of the Wagah blast, which killed 57 people and injured many others, must have reverberated in the north block and the sena bhavan. Those who are tasked with the country’s security and who have had a bit of relative comfort due to the absence of any terrorist attacks in the country recently must have been jolted out of their comfort zones. The site of carnage may have been on the other side of Wagah border, but it would be pure baloney to infer that it is not too close for comfort.
Particularly so, as the TTP-AJ, which has taken the responsibility for carrying out this attack, has warned that they could just as easily have caused this death dance to happen a few feet on the Indian side of the border. They have warned that their next port of call is India. Their pathological hatred against India is founded not only along an ideological axis, but also centred against the prime minister, Narendra Modi, who is held by them to be behind Gujarat riots.
TTP-AJ is believed to be a splinter group of the TTP, which is currently focused on fighting the Pakistani state. As the Pakistan army has been compelled to launch a military offensive against TTP and its other comrade in arms in its north- west region after finding it hard to postpone locking horns with them any longer for obvious reasons, TTP is having to contend with more than it can really and realistically deal with. In any case, India has never been on the radar of TTP for as much as one can remember. TTP has been so enamoured of subduing Pakistan in the same manner as Taliban once did Afghanistan that it has neither had time nor resources to spare for its terrorism start up in India. It has once in a while though needled Indian assets in Afghanistan at the behest of ISI.
In that sense, the mutants like TTP-AJ represent a definitive change in tact by the Taliban militant ideologues who have taken a cue from the splendid successes of the ISIS across Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda Ideologue, Al Zawahiri, who doubtless has been outshone by a self proclaimed Emir of an ongoing project of a Muslim caliphate across Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish areas has also decided to realign his operational focus from being predominantly middle eastern to south asian and south east asian. He has chosen India to be his next big target as felling India, as it were, gets them the momentum and the publicity that his organization appears to have lost almost irrecoverably for some time now, especially after its chief helmsman and mentor, Osama was given a sea burial by the Americans.
On the other end of the spectrum, the relatively peaceful borders of the India’s east are also echoing with militant noise these days. The Burdwan blast was heard more in Delhi than even in Burdwan, let alone in Kolkata.  It was sheer providence that the blast killed its own makers allegedly in a TMC worker’s house. But the addresses on the deceased led the trail all the way to Bangladesh. The bomb makers were all card carrying members of the Bangladeshi based HUJI and had been on the run. That they of all would receive patronage in the cultural capital of India is inexplicable for those of us who have heard about Bengal being ahead of rest of India in thought process: Consider the famous saying- what Bengal thinks today, rest of India thinks tomorrow.
Though the Burdwan blast lacked the intensity of the Wagah blast, it deafened the intelligence apparatus in Delhi so much that NSA, Ajit Doval had to personally visit the site of explosion and hold talks with the WB security establishment and, more importantly, the CM, Mamta Banerjee. The WB establishment, on its part, has been either stoic in responding to the calls of the national security personnel or has dismissed the sinister dimensions caused to be attached with the blast by those investigating it. It has chosen to label the current inquest into the explosion as the centre’s studied attempt to target the State Government for being a supporter of Muslims. Predictably, the whole inquest has run into the wall of Muslim victimization and is likely to be derailed.
Quite apart from this and far away in Dhaka, the Bangladeshis are fuming over the tardy progress made by the Indians in getting at the roots of the Burdwan blast. Bangladeshi, PM, Sheikh Hasina has worked well with her former Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh during the latter’s stint as Indian PM. Her Government was quite amenable to the Indian requests for nabbing the Indian fugitives holed out in Bangladesh and turning them over to Indian establishment. Consequently, the usual pin pricks Indians faced regularly in the past in the north east have not been there for some time now. But Indians have not reciprocated in equal measure to the Bangladeshis. First, Manmohan let down Hasina Government on teesta treaty under duress from the testy Mamta. Now Mamta Government is allegedly coming in the way of arresting Bangladeshi fugitives, who have parked themselves allegedly under the state patronage in WB. In ways more than one, it must be said that the whole battle against the terrorism has been politicized along narrow and entirely despicable ideological strands, and possibly beyond retrieval as well.
At a time when Indian borders threaten to unravel from both sides, it is imperative that those who look after security cease to work with a TOR that has outlived its utility. Homeland security in US after 9/11 became a focused activity under a dedicated chain of command. In India, the ministry of home which is tasked with the homeland security is burdened with multiple assignments like Centre-State relation, border management, disaster management, civic and other administrative affairs of the NCR, so on and so forth. With such a mandate, no wonder, the humongous demands of national security have been left to the few desk officers in Home Ministry.
For a change today, India has an NSA, who has a vast operational bandwidth, having done the dirty work of spying himself when in active service. With such a man in saddle, it can be expected that the daily working challenges that those who scout for information on the ground in order that the terrorist attacks could be preempted face would be well known to him. Indian human intel gathering is rudimentary and under financed. While electronic tel is important, human intel is nigh irreplaceable. NSA’s job, being a famous spy himself, should be to not only rejig the outdated espionage processes but also incentivize the activity itself.
The current Central Government with its vast majority must do a few things urgently. First, it must get the erring State Governments, which are following appeasement policy to fall in line. If they don’t see reason, then a fact based campaign in the media must be carried out to paint these Governments in their true colours. They can’t be allowed to brazen it out and put the entire nation to peril. Secondly, it must bring about structural reforms in the security apparatus to make it more responsive. This could be done by putting professionals at the forefront of both policy making and its execution. Thirdly, it is imperative that there is something done about the law and order being the state subject. The core of India has always been weakened by the fringe of a few states for their petty gains. As India’s enemies increase and become potent, the existential crisis warrants that this subject must now become either central or the concurrent. If law and order as such can’t become a central or concurrent subject, the facet of the law and order that is a direct product of terrorism must inevitably come under central/concurrent definition. How can this be done? Or whether it indeed is possible must now be a subject of a wider discussion? If the constitutional amendments are the way out, we have to step on this way now. The approach of tentativeness, pretence and obfuscation on this issue is just not an option on the table.