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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mid-year chakravyuh With the government firmly in ostrich mode on issues of internal security, and the external situation appearing more complex than our laid-back approach can handle, India awaits its Abhimanyu, writes Firdaus Ahmed. 27 August 2008 - The year started off with the promise of virtually ending up as an election year. And almost on course, the break-up of the coalition took place, paving the way for the expected polls. But even a week is a long time in Indian politics, and things have changed considerably since then. And now, the security situation alone should lend pause to any talk of elections soon.
A mid-year security round up would reveal India is living through 'interesting times', in the Chinese sense of the term. Globally China has unmistakably announced its arrival by bagging a higher haul of golds at the Olympics than the United States. In the Caucasus, Russia has made it clear that it has not faded into history as a 'has been' global power. The developments in the Indo-US nuclear deal clearly indicate which side India will be on in the coming contest for global primacy. The Global War on Terror (GWOT) in the region is set to escalate. All regional states are in various stages instability arising from state transformation. There is status quo in the two strategic dyads - India-Pakistan and India-China - meaning there is no headway being made in the peace processes underway, nor the likelihood of any.
Internal security has received a grave setback with the 'Indian Mujahedeen' entering the scene as a player. Kashmir is boiling over, with Jammu keeping pace for the first time. Left Wing extremism has from time to time demonstrated its ability to break into the headlines, but since it never stays there long enough, one can safely conclude that the current neglect can continue without imperilling security unduly. The North East remains a cauldron, with the ULFA outfit that has come over-ground in Upper Assam able to go about making its anti-immigrant case more openly and with greater consequences for the future.
And rounding off the picture is a notable trend in security management in which parochial forces are permitted to get away with violence for want of professional policing. All in all, on the security front, it appears to be business as usual on the security front, and peace is firmly beyond the horizon. What this sobering picture portends depends largely on the approach the Indian state adopts.
Kashmir has emerged from a period of improved security indices to resoundingly negate the notion that the situation is under control.

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Against these pressing issues, long-festering situations such as those in Central and North-East India have unfortunately been temporarily eclipsed. These constitute existential threats and consume innocent lives. They are doubly disadvantaged in being seemingly remote, physically and in the consciousness, from 'mainland' India. A military in control should imply that the situation be addressed politically. This is even the position of the military and is a cardinal doctrinal point in countering insurgency. However, the Indian state awaits the trickle-down effect of economic reforms to create the conditions in these areas for band-wagoning with the rest of India.
The 'ostrich' strategy is based on the logic - or illogic, really - that the demonstration effect of Indian political accommodation in one place would make internal conflicts elsewhere more difficult to tackle. But if there is one lesson to be learned from the way the Kashmir situation has come to climax this summer, it is that the government's counter insurgency 'strategy of exhaustion' has drained only itself, of physical, administrative and moral authority in virtually all areas of internal conflict. To repeat that blunder in Assam or Naxal areas would be calamitous for India.
Clearly, there is much to make the security community work overtime. Two approaches have been aired. India can either pro-actively grasp the opportunity of strategic collaboration offered by the US, and respond to the security challenges thrown up by it more directly. The other choice is to bide its time, and introspect on first developing the various power indices, such as bringing down levels of poverty from 40 per cent of the population - comprising one third of the worlds poor - according to the latest World Bank findings.
India awaits its Abhimanyu, the proverbial Indian voter whose wisdom has repeatedly saved the country. ⊕
Firdaus Ahmed 27 Aug 2008

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