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Monday, June 10, 2013
Towards forging better civil-military approach to counter-insurgency in India
India must be the only country in the world to have continuously
faced internal disturbance/insurgency/terrorism for over 60 years. It has
withstood armed rebellion aided by external forces, encountered internal
turmoil brought about by perceived and real neglect; taken on the mafia in
urban areas and is now confronted with twin threats of terrorism and
insurgency. The varied experience the country's security forces--Army, central
armed police forces and the police--have accumulated over the years should have
resulted in a consolidated, unified counter-insurgency doctrine to be practised
with local variations. Unfortunately, each time insurgency breaks out in some
part of the country, the tendency--with few exceptions--is to reinvent the
wheel all over again! This happens mainly because documenting best
practices and sharing them is perhaps not our strongest point.
Of course several books, working papers and longish monographs
have been written on past counter-insurgency campaigns, police
actions and targeted killings or capture of high profile individuals. However,
a comprehensive volume on a possible joint approach to tackling internal armed
conflicts in India in the future was waiting to be written. And there are very
few individuals as qualified as Rostum K. Nanavatty to have undertaken this
important task. His experience in counter-insurgency is as good as any one
commissioned in the Indian Army in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 war.
Consider Rustom Nanavatty's stints in his 41 year career: As regimental officer
deployed in the northeast; Commander Parachute Commando Task Force, Sri Lanka
(1987-88), Commander 102 (Siachen) Brigade, GoC, 19 Division in Baramulla, GoC,
3 Corps in Dimapur, Nagaland and finally Northern Army Commander!
After retiring as Northern Army Commander exactly a decade ago
(31st May 2003), the former Gorkha Officer has used his time constructively to
come up with a treatise now turned into a book by the Centre for Land Warfare
Studies (CLAWS) in association with Pentagon Press, entitled: Internal
Armed Conflict in India: Forging a Joint Civil Military Approach (Pentagon;
The book is for serious students of counter-insurgency, India's military response to low
intensity conflicts or sub-conventional wars (as Indian Army sees it). Using
his own experience in dealing with various insurgencies in Kashmir and the
North-east and drawing upon literature on military and non-military responses
to many civil wars, insurrections and insurgencies across the world, Gen
Nanavatty has concluded that there cannot be any alternative to good governance
in finding a lasting solution to any insurgency. He stresses on a holistic
government approach, encompassing various facets of administration and
governance where all stake holders--civil-, military, para-military, even the judiciary--must
pull their weight and work towards one common goal.
In the past, many military
leaders have spoken and written about the Indian Army's stellar role in keeping
fissiparous and divisive forces at bay. But most have generally tended to
either downplay or completely run down the contribution of other arms of the
government in controlling insurgencies.
Gen Nanavatty has however avoided that temptation.
Instead, he has outlined practical suggestions on how each stake holder can fulfil its own role. "In restructuring
and reorganising security forces for counter-insurgency, there is a need for
the government to take a holistic view. Operational cost-effectiveness, not
'empire-building,' is the key. First, the government must build on force
structures that already exist in order to minimise turbulence and disruption.
And second, it must resist the temptation to raisetypeforces for every new exigency; the
role of each type force should allow for a measure of flexibility in its
employment," Gen Nanavatty says in suggesting the way forward.
He has hit the nail on the head! After every major incident, Indian
authorities have rushed to either create new force or expand the old ones
effectively blunting their edge. After the November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai, for instance, the effectiveness of the NSG (the National Security Guard), supposed to be the
most potent anti-terror, anti-hijack force in the country, has been compromised
by mindlessly expanding its numbers and spreading it thin instead of equipping
it with latest weapons and platforms. As a result today the NSG finds it
difficult to make up the requisite numbers without compromising on quality.
Similarly, state governments have raised 'specialised' forces to tackle terrorist
attacks. But they are at best, fittest policemen available in a given force dressed in a
different uniform! So we have a surfeit of Greyhounds, Jaguars, COBRAS
masquerading as 'special forces,' when in reality neither their training nor
their equipment is in keeping with the requirements of truly potent
Similarly, Gen Nanvatty has underscored the ineffectiveness of the
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) as the 'national counter-insurgency force'
and has suggested several ways to overcome this problem. Although tried
half-heartedly in the late 1980s, its time, Gen Nanavatty suggests, to bifurcate the Ministry of Home Affairs into two-sub-ministries--a Ministry of Internal
Security (MIS) and a ministry of home affairs (MHA), each with a minister of
state heading them under the overall charge of the Union Home and Internal
Security Minister. He then goes on to list the way security operations can be
coordinated at both central and state levels (see Fig 1 and 2).
With Left Wing Extremism (LWE) or Maoist violence as we more
popularly know it, threatening to escalate in coming years, Gen Nanavatty's book, full of practical and sagacious suggestions, comes at the most appropriate time.
Despite being a successful military commander, Gen Nanavatty has avoided the
usual mistake of portraying the army as the paragon of virtue and all others
agencies as incompetent. He instead offers several interesting insights and
practical suggestions on how to improve and institutionalise civil-military
cooperation in insurgency affected areas. Again a must read for all students
and practitioners of counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism in India.