Developments in the Pak-Afghan belt resulting in the return of the Taliban-led Emirate at Kabul, a further deepening of the strategic alliance between China and Pakistan in the backdrop of an increasing recalcitrance of Prime Minister Imran Khan towards the US on the ‘war on terror’ and the signs of the Sino-Pak axis stepping up a coordinated attempt to fish in India’s troubled waters at home, put our internal security in sharp focus.
The situation calls for full implementation of the basics of what would safeguard the nation against the covert threats actualising within our own borders — in addition to meeting the threat of an external attack. An understanding of the dimensions of internal security has to be acquired by every informed citizen if the nation has to protect itself against all dangers.
Five of the fundamentals of internal security come to mind — the very first is the mandate that THERE IS NO HALFWAY HOUSE IN SECURITY. You cannot be satisfied with your establishment being half secure — it is either secure or not secure. This means you know what all has to be done and are prepared to spend on that.
There is a saying: ‘Security does not come cheap’. The standard package of security includes an impregnable perimeter, identification of the points of entry for ‘access control’, proof of identity of those legitimately coming in, inner perimeter controls if any for any sensitive segments and arrangements for intrusion detection. Technology has transformed the execution of the first and the last of these requirements — the framework of security as a whole, however, remains unaltered.
A protected establishment like an army campus cannot go easy on the ‘secure perimeter’ principle on the ground that it was too sprawling for the purpose of defining its boundaries. ‘Brick and mortar’ wall is not always feasible but there are alternatives — the point is about understanding the concept of a secure fence. When the terrorists attacked the Air Force base at Pathankot in 2016, this weakness did attract notice. The principle of secure perimeter does apply to nations, establishments and sensitive campuses alike.
The security management architecture always takes its orders from the top person of the enterprise — our national Intelligence agencies work on the authority of the Centre where the Prime Minister heading the political executive oversees national security in exercise of sovereignty itself. The principle is that the head of the enterprise must consider himself or herself as the chief of security as well.
The second relates to the material change that has come about in the global security scenario post-Cold War because of the RISE OF ‘PROXY WAR’ AS AN ALTERNATIVE OF THE OPEN WARFARE. India has been at the receiving end of the Pak-sponsored cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere which was used as an instrument of ‘low intensity warfare’ against this country.
Internal security strategy of India has had to include special arrangements of border management involving both Army and the Border Security Force (BSF) for preventing infiltration and conducting Intelligence-based counter-terror operations. Advent of terrorism as the new age threat to national security has thrown up the challenge of inducting Army in the terror affected border regions, creating necessary laws in this regard and building an entirely new level of civil-military coordination.
Proxy wars have necessitated the use of army — that was attuned to neutralising an open attack of the enemy right at the border and inflicting maximum casualties in the act — on our own soil as a first responder against terrorists. In India, the army has got suitably trained for keeping collateral damage to the minimum while performing that new function.
The hostile Sino-Pak axis has become particularly active after the Indian Parliament abolished Art 370 relating to J&K and took to concerted moves against India. The country has had to step up our defence build-up on LAC as well and taken further measures to intensify internal vigilance against any covert activities of these hostile neighbours inside our territory.
Security by definition is protection against covert plans of the adversary — distinguishing it somewhat from defence which is the term used for protection of the country from an open attack from outside that would be dealt with by our defence forces.
It is clear that Intelligence is the anchor of security — the responsibility of unearthing the hidden plans of the enemy to operate on our soil is taken squarely by the Intelligence agencies of the country and it is a matter of great satisfaction that our Intelligence has risen to new challenges and kept the nation secure. Intelligence is information that must fulfil the tests of reliability, relevance, confidentiality, timeliness and actionability — that is why ALL INTELLIGENCE IS INFORMATION BUT ALL INFORMATION IS NOT INTELLIGENCE.
Intelligence is too precious a thing to be allowed to go unutilised and that is why a much-needed systemic progress was put in motion after the establishment of the National Security Council in 1999 whereby all pieces of Intelligence about a threat available with different agencies were put together for collation and assessment at the national apex and it was further ensured that an integral response to that threat was put in action cutting across organisations and states.
Internal security in India is often conditioned by the phenomenon of a ’cause and effect’ relationship existing between internal and external happenings such as communal events in India’s neighbourhood or ideological conflicts elsewhere finding their reflection in India. This is an additional reason why external and internal Intelligence agencies have to maintain a very close exchange of information.
In today’s world, NATIONAL SECURITY IS INSEPARABLE FROM ECONOMIC SECURITY. Security and development have a perfect equation. If there is development, it is easier to strengthen security while it is also true that without security there cannot be full development. Internal security is particularly important in a situation where the adversary is using terrorism to disrupt the economy of the target country.
Attacks on symbols of economic growth such as a refinery, popular markets or an airport are known to have been made with this aim. Proxy wars are now being taken to the cyber domain — cyber attacks for disrupting economic lifelines of the target country such as the railways, civilian nuclear plants or the banking system pose a new threat.
Cyber security has, in fact, emerged as the biggest challenge so far as the ‘asymmetric war’ is concerned. Even the US administration puts this threat on top of the national agenda. India has initiated timely measures to strengthen its cyber system in strategic domains and improve emergency responses to any breach.
Finally, in a democratic dispensation citizens have an important role as contributors to national security — the Constitution reminds them of their duties in this regard. SECURITY FOR ALL MEANS ALL FOR SECURITY — this has to be conceptually understood as a mandate for making people aware of the dimensions of national security for India and, in particular, preparing them for being watchful against any signs of ‘anti-national’ activity in their immediate environ.
Internal security in these times of covert offensives of the enemy requires arrangements by which a conscientious citizen would share information with the authorities of the state on matters related to it without the fear of getting entangled with the police or any other official machinery.
This is an area where India has to develop a lot — the quality of democratic governance depends on it. Since law and order is a state subject and policing in the state suffers from multiple flaws, a lot has to be done to bring the Centre and states on the same page in the area of internal security.
In the present scenario, defence services, paramilitary, state police, national Intelligence agencies and civil society — all have to come together to safeguard internal security. In a democratic system the parties in electoral contests must keep national security above party politics and abstain from communal and divisive campaigns. Also, while the states are autonomous in the area of maintenance of law and order they must fully complement the Centre’s efforts to ensure national security.
In this, the most important aspect is the willingness of the state governments — regardless of their political complexion — to get their state and district intelligence organisations to fully support and coordinate with the moves of the agencies of the Centre to safeguard internal security, including operations on the ground.
This tradition, fortunately, has already been developed fully through many practices including the all important three-day annual conference of DGPs and DGs (Int) of states that was convened and chaired by Director Intelligence Bureau (DIB). All states participate in it with full enthusiasm. The format and agenda of this conference is totally non-political and focused on different dimensions of national security.
Prime Minister Modi has taken keen interest in the DGPs Conference and in his address always emphasised the need for a totally professional and dedicated approach to the task of safeguarding security of the country and complete coordination among the agencies of the Centre and between the Centre and the states. Internal security has been greatly strengthened under the Modi regime.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau)