Focus on India, please.
In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between S.M. Krishna and S.M. Qureshi, much was written in the press about the reasons why the talks failed and on Mr. Qureshi’s antics during and after the press conference. The failure of the talks to yield anything substantial should have been a good opportunity for India to reevaluate what it is attempting to achieve vis-a-vis Pakistan and why, and determine whether its current strategy is working. Sadly, barring a few exceptions, such a dialog does not seem to be occurring; at least, not publicly.
My INI colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony has an excellent blogpost with recommendations on steps India needs to take going forward, laying out areas where the attention of India’s political leadership should be more focused. From internal security to the delivery of social services, the blogpost argues that an internally stronger India will be able to negotiate with Pakistan on a better footing.
This argument can be further extended, particularly where internal security is concerned. That Pakistan has no intention of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret. In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bizarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai are anything to go by, there is no reason not to believe that Pakistan will continue to encourage rhetoric and action against India — talks or no talks. The aim of India’s internal reforms, then, should be to develop capabilities to deter Pakistan’s adventurism for sub-conventional warfare against India.
This requires refocusing on issues that have been highlighted previously on various platforms. It means accepting the reality that internal security can no longer be a part-time job for the Home Minister, and moving forward with establishing a Ministry of Internal Security, with adequate funding and staffing. It means significantly upgrading the capabilities of first responders to terror incidents — something that cannot be meaningfully achieved without police reforms.
It means fundamentally restructuring our intelligence agencies, their reporting structure, staffing, training, funding, information collection — at the local, national and international levels — and inter-agency coordination. It means revisiting existing anti-terror legislation, to provide law enforcement agencies legal and political backing, and tools necessary to effectively deter or respond to incidents. Finally, it also means equipping our agencies with the ability to challenge terrorism from whence it emanates.
Now, the argument can be made — and not without justification or precedent — that in a country that puts a premium on symbolism, expecting changes such as those highlighted above — which essentially call for a structural recalibration of the government — is far too radical. It can be argued that no one in New Delhi will have the stomach for projects whose benefits may only become visible at some distant point in the future. On the other hand, the exhibitionism we have come to expect from India-Pakistan “events” can be beneficial during election season, even if they did fail as spectacularly as Lahore, because India’s leaders went “out of their way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted politicians from across the border. It is just the sort of altruistic, moral pompousness that wins elections.
But Dr. Manmohan Singh, more than anyone, can appreciate what structural reforms can do for this nation. Indeed, reforms he instituted some twenty years ago have fundamentally transformed India’s economy and society. With this transformation comes the need for institutions that can effectively govern and keep pace with the India of today. This has not happened, however, and nowhere is the structural decay more telling than in institutions charged with India’s security.
Structural recalibration of India’s internal security is a long-term project whose benefits may only be realized in the distant future. But unless priority is given now, we will continue to flounder and stumble from one disaster to another while hoping that cosmetic fixes, finger wagging and rhetoric will conceal the structural decay of institutions charged with India’s internal security. It will not help India either put an end to the insurgencies that plague it nor allow it to deal effectively with the threats that will continue to emanate from Pakistan. Dr. Singh and his government must get to work: India’s internal security needs a 1991.