Thursday, September 15, 2011

People want real action now, not mere promises

People want real action now, not mere promises
Ajit Doval, DNA, Saturday, July 16, 2011
One of the infirmities of our national security discourse is our skewed approach to issues. We get disproportionally focused on the threat — its intensity, manifestations, damage caused, etc — rather than on the response required. National security essentially pertains to what the state does, or should do, to effectively meet anticipated threats, both at the strategic and tactical levels. Correct threat analysis and anticipation is an important prerequisite of this exercise but not a solution by itself, unless followed by a correct, determined response. Solutions come when the state displays political will, mobilises its best human and material resources, brings about systemic improvements, and builds capacities to neutralise threats. That is precisely what is not happening in India.
The recent terrorist carnage in Mumbai is tragic not only for the innocent lives lost and people injured but, more importantly, for the failure of the government to build systems and capacities to meet a threat that has been bleeding the nation over and over again. When terrorist depredations take place, ritualistic promises by the highest in the government that they will leave ‘no stone unturned’ and complimenting the people for returning to normal life are cruel jokes.
Following the 26/11 attacks, the government failed to come out with any innovative responses, security policies, legal and administrative reforms, or strategic initiatives that could degrade the capabilities of the terrorists, deter their mentors — both within and outside the country — deny soft targets to them through proactive and preventive actions, or modernise the working of the central and state security agencies. Worse, whatever little it assured it failed to take any determined steps to execute.
On May 20, 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had a plan ready to “overhaul and modernise” the internal security mechanisms. Claimed to be a 100-day internal security plan, the document purportedly aimed at creating a networked national security architecture to address a gamut of shortcomings that plagued the internal security structure of the country. A key component of the plan was to set up a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that was to become operative within 100 days.
Where is the prime minister’s plan? The proposal to form the NCTC, whose need and urgency the home minister has never tired of emphasizing, has not even been placed before the cabinet committee on security.Was the government just bluffing and saying things that it did not mean, or is there some substance to the grapevine that differences in the cabinet sealed the fate of the plan with the prime minister remaining a helpless spectator?
It is time for the country to ponder how much we have done in real terms to set our house in order to manage our internal security. The government’s assurances have lost credibility. People want to see action on the ground that delivers results that are visible.
The counter-terrorism laws in our country are weaker when compared to even those where terrorism poses little or no threat. POTA, though by itself a weak counter-terrorism law as compared to laws in other affected democracies, was repealed — the first action on the counter-terrorism front that the UPA government took on assuming power in 2004! It not only weakened the state to deal with terrorism but demoralised the security agencies and sent a wrong signal to the terrorists and their mentors.
Lack of a consistent and firm policy in dealing with Pakistan has projected the country in a poor light. The government repeatedly asserted that no talks will be held with Pakistan till it punishes the perpetrators of 26/11. Today, while by its own admission the government feels that Pakistan has failed to deliver in respect of the culprits of 26/11, it has not only resumed a full-scale dialogue but is even prepared to have exclusive confabulations on Kashmir. The country has yet to get over the shame of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The government’s lack of credibility is a serious matter, more so when it relates to security matters, because lack of credibility translates into lack of legitimacy.
The author, former IB head, is now director of the Vivekananda International Foundation

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