Course correction needed

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.

Focus on the India, please.

In the aftermath of the Lahore talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his counterpart, Pakistani Foreign Minister S.M. Qureshi, much has been written about the reasons why the talks failed and about 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, economic and labor reforms to education, public health and 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 intentions of abjuring terrorism against India is no secret.  In fact, if Mr. Qureshi’s bazarre comments at the presscon, equating statements made by LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to those made by Home Secretary GK. 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 highlighted 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, how they collect information — at at the local, national and international levels — and how they coordinate with each other.  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 terror infrastructure from whence the emanate.

Now, the argument can be made, 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 went “out of its way” and “extended a hand of friendship” which was spurned by short-sighted leaders 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 an 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 or 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.

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4 Responses to Course correction needed

  1. Anish Tripathi July 20, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi, Lovely article.

    Couple of points:

    1. Any improvement in internal security is incomplete, w/o a parallel development of covert ops capability and frankly using it also. Better internal security doesnt give any pain to Pak. Unless there is some pain to Pak, they will continue with impunity (I want to read one day that Hafiz Sayeed dies in Lahore in a traffic accident)! :-)

    2. Internal security requires political reform also. We need to have a powerful cross-party committee for intl security which is empowered and accountable and transparent. Unless hard questions are asked to state and central govts, transparently and publicly, our “honchos” will just not act!

    3. Asusming that your internal reforms includes police reforms (didnt see it), incl separation of law & order and crime, separate and powerful mechanism for anti-terror ops, a Natl Counter terrorism Centre, etc.

  2. Rohan Joshi July 21, 2010 at 4:59 pm #

    @Anish:

    Agree with you on #1. On #2, the issue requires structural reform, which would include (possibly) civil, political reforms as well. But it also requires public will to probe these issues and force our politicians to be accountable for their actions or lack thereof.

  3. Amit S July 22, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    @Anish: Completely agree with you on cov-ops. How about “Dawood Ibrahim dies in Karachi in what seems to be an LPG explosion.”

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