In modern times, the form and number of threats to a country’s security internal as well as external – has become more challenging than ever. It has become very important for a country to maintain its sovereignty in international statecraft as well as to ensure the free will of the citizens.
A country has to employ a suitable mix of policies with respect to economic, strategic, military and diplomatic powers at its disposal in order to secure the interest of the country and its citizens.
Challenges to the internal security of India are numerous. The extent and scope of threats are complex, varied and vast. No other country in the world confronts so many threats, with so much intensity, at the same time.
Overall, more than 50 per cent of India is said to be affected by one or the other of these threats, which are not just ‘law and order problems. They have an external dimension falsifying conventional wisdom that internal security threats are caused mainly by internal sources.
Internal and External Security
The aspects of internal and external security threats are so intertwined that it is difficult to differentiate between the two. However, some broad differences could be considered.
- Internal security is the security of a country within its borders. This implies the maintenance of peace and law and order and the upholding the sovereignty of the country within its territory.
- Internal security is different from external security to the extent that external security is security against aggression by a foreign country. External security is solely the responsibility of the armed forces of the country, while internal security comes under the purview of the police, which can be supported by the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), if required.
- In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) takes care of internal security, while external security comes under the Ministry of Defence. In many countries, MHA is also called the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Homeland Security.
|External Security Threats
|Internal Security Threats
|The threat originates from foreign soil
|The threat originates from within the country’s territory
|Aggression by a foreign country
|Internal disturbances and law and order problems
|These impact the sovereignty of the country
|Impact credibility of the government
|These affect international relations
|Affect the relationship of the citizens with the government
|Mainly dealt with by Armed forces and Diplomats
|Dealt by the Ministry of Home Affairs and State Police
Constituents of Internal Security
There are myriad attributes that constitute the internal security of the country. These could be enumerated as:
- Maintenance of Law and Order: Ensuring law and order is the prime responsibility of any government to make sure the ‘Rule of law’ prevails and law-abiding citizens are not aggrieved in any way.
- Safeguarding Sovereignty of the Nation: The challenges posed by the state and non-state actors in the form of terrorism, Naxalism etc, need to be neutralised in order to protect the sovereignty of the nation.
- Ensuring Domestic Peace and Tranquillity: Incidents such as Communal violence, Ethnic clashes, Mob violence etc. need to be checked to ensure peace and tranquillity in the nation.
- Equality: Article 14 of the Constitution of India entails a responsibility on the state to ensure equality before the law and equal protection of the law, the state should ensure such rights are protected.
- Freedom from Fear: There should be an environment where people can express their views and thoughts without fear. Dissent is important in democracy and differences between sections of people could be resolved through dialogues.
- Non-discrimination: There should be no discrimination (which includes exploitation and oppression) of any strata of citizens at the hands of the State or society at large. The weak needs to be protected and should enjoy freedom and rights.
- Social Harmony and Fraternity: Social harmony between various castes, communities, regions etc. is imperative to prevent and resolve internal security threats.
Factors Contributing to Internal Security Challenges
Former Prime minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh once said: “India is unique and a land of contradictions”. These contradictions interact and give rise to factors that contribute to the internal security problems in India.
These factors could be enumerated as:
- Inequitable Growth
- Resource Distribution
- Nexus between the criminals, police and politician in organised crime
- Lack of development
- Prolonged Judicial System
- Poor Conviction Rate
- Caste consciousness
- Communal Discord
- Hostile Neighbours
- Living in isolation
- Difficult Terrain in some regions
- There is a positive correlation between poverty and law and order problems.
- Numerous studies demonstrate that declining national income, low GDP per capita, primary commodity or natural resource dependence, and slow economic growth increase the risk and length of civil conflict.
- Widespread poverty may also weaken the state’s capacity to provide essential human services, and thereby, render states more vulnerable to predation by terrorist networks.
- Citizens living in deprived environments become disenchanted with the political and administrative systems.
- There is no surprise that some of the most backward and poor districts in India are grappling with the menace of Naxal violence.
- Unemployment leads to the energy of the workforce going unutilised which could have been used for economic development instead. In India, the unemployment rate hovers around 5%.
- The more worrying sign is the quality of jobs on offer to graduates, about 60 per cent of 8 lakh engineering graduates remain unemployed.
- When the aspirations of the youth are not met, they get disgruntled, lose faith in the Government and may turn to use disruptive tendencies.
- The volatile nature of the youth may lead to the expression of anger, and frustration and may cause social unrest.
- The income of Indians is becoming more and more inequitable.
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that both India and China face the social risk of growing inequality.
- India’s Gini coefficient rose to 0.51 by 2013, from 0.45 in 1990, mainly on account of rising inequality between urban and rural areas as well as within urban areas.
- The richest 1% of Indians now own around 33% of the wealth. These indicators highlight that growing inequality is a reality in India and it is a cause of concern, as citizens’ discontent may become challenging to the Government vis-a-vis internal security.
- Resource distribution is based on the principle of the common good.
- Fruits of economic growth when distributed unevenly, only a selected few reap the benefits, and a large population gets left behind in the process.
- India has chosen the policy of increasing economic growth after independence.
- It was envisioned that the increased development will uplift the poor and destitute from the lower pedestal to higher through equitable development.
- While India has seen the development of industries in mineral-rich areas in central India, the economic development in these areas is not akin to the rest of the country.
- These areas have now become what is called as the ‘Red Corridor’ because here, the local population is involved in Left-wing Extremism, primarily owing to the lack of socio-economic development of the people.
- Corruption is widely recognised as a threat to peace and security in the nation. When corruption becomes entrenched, it undermines the development of state authority and its institutions, leaving a weak state with potentially more space for insurgents to operate.
- While the poor often suffer the most, this cycle of impunity leaves ordinary people disempowered, unable to seek justice in courts or hold politicians to account.
- This makes them further impoverished but also sows the seeds of conflict by dissolving any ties of loyalty between people and a state seemingly captured by private interests.
- In contrast, people with a stake in society are more likely to reject those who preach violence to achieve their ends. It is not surprising, therefore, that we see a constant and sad correlation
between corruption and conflict.
- The pervasive misuse of public office for private gain is an evil eating into the vitals of the state, sapping India’s strength. When important decisions, from arms procurement to policy changes, are often tainted by corrupt considerations, it is inevitable that internal security will get compromised.
- Ultra-Left forces were thriving in rural areas because of the vacuum created by politicians and social activists. The corrupt state machinery has contributed to the weakening of the state.
- It is when the system is subverted that certain elements step in and intervene in favour of the people and win their support, leading to the spread of Maoism.
Prolonged Judicial System
- The Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice System Reforms noted: “It is common knowledge that the two major problems besieging the Criminal Justice System are huge pendency of criminal cases and the inordinate delay in disposal of criminal cases.”
- About 47 million cases are pending in various courts across the country.
- Of them, 87.4% are pending in subordinate courts, and 12.4% in High Courts, thus huge pendency of criminal cases and the inordinate delay in the disposal of criminal cases are major problems.
- People get disenchanted when they do not get quick and affordable justice. Such pendency of cases is detrimental to national security as criminals acquire a notion of impunity.
Low Conviction Rate
- With a lot of pendency of cases in courts, on average, the judges have 2 to 6 minutes to hear the case.
- Consequently, there is a very low rate of conviction in cases involving serious crimes (only 47% in 2015). This has encouraged crime.
- Violence and organised crimes have become the order of the day. As the chances of convictions are low, crime has become a profitable business.
- The law and order situation has deteriorated over the years and citizens have lost confidence in the Criminal Justice System.
- India shares a significant part of its border with Pakistan and China and has had a strained relationship with its eastern as well as western neighbours.
- India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads ever since they got independence from British Rule.
- The neighbours even entered four times into war since the partition of India in 1947.
- Control over Kashmir has been a major bone of contention between the two countries.
- Pakistan is involved in a proxy war with India through cross-border terrorism, pumping fake Indian currency notes (FICN), drug trafficking etc.
- India and China relations have been contentious owing to an unsettled boundary dispute between them. China disputes the validity of the treaty signed between British India and Tibet in 1914.
- War was also fought to settle the boundary dispute in 1962.
- In present times, Maoists in India look towards China for ideological support, China has been following a policy of “String of Pearls” – acquiring rights to use ports for naval operations in the Indian Ocean – encircling India.
- In addition, China and Pakistan have a nexus and the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and India has reservations about that.
Difficult terrain in Some Regions
- Difficult terrain in border areas in the North East and Northern region of India makes management of the border a challenging task.
- The presence of insurgents in North East region, militants in the Jammu and Kashmir region and Maoist in a hilly tract of central India make the task of security agencies more complex and challenging as they have to deal with twin challenges of the hostilities of these groups and difficult terrain.
- Lack of communal harmony and intolerance is leading to communal discord. Hindu-Muslim conflicts are common in India; however, the country has also seen the Anti-Sikh riots in 1984.
- According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, communal incidents occurred in the country from 2011 to October 2015 with an average of 58 incidents a month.
- In addition, riots result in substantial property damage, loss of livelihood and residential segregation.
- Certain vested interests benefit tremendously from the various divides in our society.
- These vested interests have carried on communal propaganda over the years to ensure that a majority of the community displays a sense of pseudo-communalism.
- The selfish attitude of society is only adding fuel to the Communal bandwagon.
- Caste consciousness is deeply routed in our society. The caste system has become an inseparable aspect of Indian society and it has influenced all the areas like education, economy, politics, marriage, and religion.
- Even seven decades after getting independence, Dalits are mistreated, and elections are fought more often on the basis of caste ideology.
- Democracy and caste cannot go together, because caste is based on the principle of inequality, but unfortunately, fault lines in society are exploited by a few individuals and society remains on the boil.
- Taking important decisions through the prism of caste hampers the objectivity of the decisions and in the long run, proves counterproductive to strong nation-building.
Internal Security Challenges of India
The internal security challenges of India emanate from various sources and are of different kinds. These could be enlisted in the following way:
- External Challenges
- Developmental Deficits Challenges
- Geographical Challenges
- Social Challenges
- Technological Challenges
China’s Interest in North East India
- China claims Arunachal Pradesh as a part of South Tibet. It has raised a few controversies vis-avis Arunachal Pradesh by issuing stapled visas to inhabitants of Arunachal Pradesh in the past.
- Racial and Ethnic similarities between the North Eastern population with China have caused a few groups to have pro-China attitudes.
- Surveillance and frequent incursions by China’s security agencies have been an internal security threat to India.
- In 2017, there occurred a major border stand-off with China at the Doklam plateau near the Sikkim border which made it clear that China’s interest in the region will not wane anytime soon.
- Doklam, situated on the Bhutan-China border is strategically important for India as it is situated at the India-BhutanChina tri-junction.
- Bhutan has no diplomatic ties with China and India has a special relationship – including militarily – with Bhutan.
- In short, India has responsibilities towards Bhutan, which include helping it guard its sovereignty. India gains too, with Bhutan firmly on its side.
Illegal Migration from Bangladesh
- Illegal migration from Bangladesh is a major internal security challenge for India. India shares its longest border with Bangladesh i.e. 4096.7 km.
- The presence of hundreds of small river streams and few major rivers in this area makes the border porous enabling illegal migrants to cross through water streams and migrate into India.
- This may lead to anti-India activities such as the smuggling of livestock, medicines and drugs, counterfeit currency rackets and money laundering, the most alarming concern being the route used by terrorists to intrude into India and smuggle weapons into Indian Territory.
- The regular influx of migrants has changed the demography of the neighbouring states and the presence of illegal migrants in Indian cities is also a potential threat to internal security, for they can be involved in anti-India activities at the behest of foreign powers.
Militancy and Terrorism in J&K led by Pakistan
- Indian forces have been battling militancy in J&K for more than three decades now. There are multiple dimensions to this problem namely, secessionist movements, and communal violence – leading to an exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir, and intervention by Pakistan.
- The presence of militancy has badly hit the tourism industry – the prime revenue and employment generator – of the state leading to a lack of socioeconomic development and a rise in unemployment, this has proved to be a vicious cycle, as a youth, when not left with positive prospects, fall easy prey to the propaganda by Pakistan.
- The misguided youth are trained and equipped by neighbouring countries across the border and pose a significant security challenge for India.
- With the advent of social media, the threats have become graver as youth are indoctrinated through
online campaigns and are able to communicate and coordinate their activities in an unprecedented manner.
- Consequently, there is a rise in the number of terrorist attacks since 2012.
- There is an agreement among security experts that Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) is the most serious internal security threat facing the country. It has been there since the late 60s and 70s and different parts of the country have been affected by different levels of Naxal violence.
- It creates conditions for the non-functioning of the government by attacking symbols of the state like schools, hospitals, and police and actively seeks disruption of development activities as a means to achieve its objective of ‘wresting control’.
- The central reason for the advancement of Naxalism is the vast exploitation of the poor and the tribals.
- People, who have been displaced, should be given proper rehabilitation along with police protection.
- Security, as well as development, has to run hand in hand. Thus, Government needs a multi-pronged approach to deal with this threat effectively.
- India’s development paradigm pursued since Independence led to the commercialisation of forest
resources, thereby reducing the traditional access of forest dwellers and tribals to forest produce.
- Besides destroying their natural environment, mining-based industries and the construction of large dams caused the wide-scale displacement of the tribals.
- Therefore, LWE has gained people’s confidence, and grown in strength particularly in forest and tribal areas, by mobilising dispossessed and marginalised sections.
Insurgency in North East
- 2017 witnessed the lowest number of insurgencies since 1997. The integration of North Eastern states into India has not been smooth.
- Consequently, this region has seen a number of secessionist movements since India gained independence. All eight states in the North East have been associated with some form of movement.
- There are issues of ethnicity and sub-nationalism in this region leading to the use of violence by different groups for meeting their specific demands.
- The problem is compounded because of the lack of development, non-realisation of autonomy provided within the realm of the Constitution of India, difficult terrain and international boundaries.
- These factors make it difficult for security agencies to track the movements of insurgents and weapons in this region.
- The Government of India have had a mixed bag of results when it comes to resolving these issues, as some groups have successfully shunned the path of violence and joined the mainstream, for example, recently ‘Centre-NSCN(IM)’ pact was signed, while some, like NSCN (K), are still in the fight with the government.
Organised Crime and its Nexus with Terrorism
- The evolving relationship between terrorism and organised crime poses significant challenges to the internal security scenario of India. Activities of terrorists and organised criminals frequently reinforce each other, where terrorists engage either directly or indirectly in organised crime activities such as trafficking, smuggling, extortion, kidnapping for ransom and the illicit trade of natural resources, for financial and/or material benefits.
- Such benefits contribute to undermining state security, stability and social and economic development, which in turn may create or maintain the conditions for organised criminal groups to flourish.
- Organised crimes such as drug trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, counterfeit currency and mafia activities are used to finance various terrorist activities in India.
- The network and wherewithal of organised crime can be leveraged by terrorist organisations to plan, coordinate and execute the terrorist attack, for example, in Mumbai Blasts of 1993, where 257 people lost their lives, were coordinated by the organised criminal network of Mumbai.
- The proximity of India to the drug trafficking zones, Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos and Thailand) and Golden Crescent (through Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) also make it vulnerable to these criminal activities.
- India has a 7,516-kilometre-long coastline. India’s coasts have always been vulnerable to criminals and anti-national activities.
- Numerous cases of the smuggling of goods, gold, narcotics, explosives, arms and ammunition as well as the infiltration of terrorists into the country through these coasts have been reported over the years.
- The physical proximity of India’s coasts to politically volatile countries adds to its vulnerability.
- India has been facing Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism for decades.
- Terrorists with arms and explosives have been infiltrating the country from Pakistan through the land borders.
- However, over the years, with the increased deployment of security forces and surveillance equipment as well as the construction of fences, security along the land borders has been sufficiently tightened.
- On the other hand, security over the ocean domain has been lax, with the sea routes remaining poorly guarded.
- Forced to explore new routes for infiltration because of near foolproof security along the land borders, terrorists started looking towards the sea as an alternate route to slip into India undetected.
- The infiltration of ten Pakistani terrorists through the sea route who carried out the multiple coordinated attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, is the most glaring example of how vulnerable the country’s coasts are.
- Security implications of the coastal waters and shores cannot be overstated in the present world; hence, secured coasts are imperative for the security of the country.
- India has a large and complex border, covering around 15,100 km, which it shares with seven different countries.
- Most of these borders are man-made and do not follow any natural barrier.
- Managing borders is difficult for several reasons. Some of our maritime boundaries are still unsettled. Land borders are not fully demarcated.
- Border guarding forces are often under-resourced and ill-equipped. They are also used for purposes other than border guarding.
- Intelligence gathering, intelligence sharing and intelligence coordination are shoddy. Institutional mechanisms for coordinating intelligence gathering, sharing and intelligence coordination are weak.
- India’s vast coastline and island territories also make it vulnerable to attacks and infiltration.
- In addition, political instability, cultural radicalism and patronage of mafia and terrorism in a few of the neighbouring countries make border management an important aspect to guard India’s sovereignty.