By Col. R. Hariharan
1. Prime Minister has said Left Wing extremism remains a major challenge to the internal security of the country? What are your views?
The Prime Minister had highlighted Left Wing extremism (LWE) as the major threat facing the country in earlier conferences on internal security also. LWE had been there for a long time because it feeds upon existing short comings of governance and works to wreck the effectiveness of the system. So it continues to thrive in states vulnerable to such weaknesses. I do not know whether the impact of LWE can be quantified merely on the number of deaths of civilians, extremists and security forces or violent incidents. But I suppose it is one of the yardsticks to measure the success of states response. As LWE aims at dismantling at the existing constitutional and administrative structures qualitatively, LWE is more diffused finding pockets of aggrieved population to spread its ideology. In this respect it poses a different kind of threat to the state unlike Jihadi or separatist extremism.
2. The Prime Minister has said the burden of the fight against terrorism falls largely on the states machinery. What are your comments?
Public order and policing are largely the responsibility of the state; but terrorism which threatens national sovereignty and often has international ramifications involves not only the States but also the Centre.
This is the reason the conference on internal security has been convened to collectively address three issues relating to the fight against terrorism: strengthening the structural frame work for coordinated action (between Centre and states, and between states), improving the quality of timely intelligence collection and sharing, and strengthening state police organization in numbers as well as in quality.
The 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks in the U.S. had highlighted the importance of such coordination between states and the U.S. federal government, particularly when terrorists come from another country. We also learnt similar lessons after the 26/11 Lashkar attack in Mumbai.
So counter terrorism ceased to be the exclusive responsibility of either the state or the Centre as it involves not only internal security but external threat as well; actually the borderline between external and internal security has been blurred by terrorism, as most terrorist organizations have international linkages. However, as policing is largely the responsibility of the States; the Prime Minister has probably highlighted this as the conference is of chief ministers of state.
3. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms Jayalalithaa has said in her speech that there is an emerging pattern wherein the powers vested with the States are sought to be abrogated by the Centre without attendant responsibility. What is your take on this?
As the problem of combating internal security threat increasingly involves both the States and the Centre there are bound to be areas of overlap of powers and domains. This gives rise to some friction between the two entities when they come under pressure to take action. This is inevitable and wisdom lies in evolving a coordinated national approach with all political parties exchanging their views on critical issues. However, this is an ideal situation which may not be attained in the present state of our country.
India is increasingly becoming federal in its structure and States are wary of Centre poaching on their “hard earned” domains of power. Such fears gain greater credence, as a large number of States are ruled by political parties different from the ruling coalition at New Delhi. However, Ms Jayalalithaa has pointed out some specific issues to express her concern; and the best way of resolving such issues would be to sit and discuss the contentious aspects to evolve a win-win situation.
4. Overall, how would you sum up your views on the Prime Minister’s speech?
I wish the Prime Minister had left out the generalities and been more forthright focusing on three specific issues bugging the national response to increasing internal security threat: how the Centre proposes to bring clarity on the responsibilities of Centre and State on internal security; what actions he is taking to evolve a healthy system of consultation with the States on a regular basis; and what are the actual strengths and weaknesses of state and central police and intelligence apparatuses. This would have increased the value of takeaways from the conference.
There is no option for all political parties but to cooperate and evolve an acceptable action plan to preserve the nation from security threats. So it is imperative States and Centre co-operate and coordinate their policies and action, attending to each other’s sensitivities and concerns.
(Col. R. Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, is associated with the Chennai Centre for China Studies and the South Asia Analysis Group. E-Mail: [email protected])