The G20 Presidency has come to India at a time that was most appropriate in terms of the opportunities it provides to Prime Minister Modi to establish this country as a world counsel on issues of war and peace and on the task of promoting global economy for the benefit of all, writes D.C. Pathak
As the year draws to a close, what strikes a citizen is that India had steadily risen as a world power whose counsel was respected by the democratic world, that this country was able to overcome the Covid pandemic – it had taken the world by surprise – because of the steps directed by the leadership at the top for vaccine development and that on the whole India was successfully moving in the direction of building strategic autonomy in order to deal with an uncertain geopolitical scenario.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a rare understanding of international relations in the post-Cold War world where open warfare had been substituted by proxy wars, where military advancement could not turn into a sustainable advantage without economic strength and where the nation’s security and economic interests were best served through bilateral relationships guaranteeing mutuality of benefits.
India believes in a multipolar world that gave all major powers a say in how geopolitics will run both in the spheres of global security and economic development and also ensured that a consensus in favour of world peace remained in place.
Prime Minister Modi’s political ideology is simple and straightforward – commitment to ‘nationalism’ without distractions of caste, creed and region. His farsightedness in promoting use of technology in governance and his personal belief in Digital India and adoption of best available technologies for Defence, National Security and Economic growth, have helped India’s advancement in a big way.
People’s faith in the personal integrity of Prime Minister Modi and his team at the Centre, the continuing determination of the Prime Minister to drive the development agenda and the popular belief that he did give special attention to the citizens at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic pyramid, have all been the factors behind India’s progress. This is why lobbies against Modi’s rule – at home and outside, often working in collusion – have not made much dent.
People are a shrewd judge of the regime and it is important that Modi government keeps up its performance in the months ahead. While the economic policies remain on track, a comprehensive approach was needed to deal with a situation where external threats to internal security could escalate further because of the two adversaries on our borders- Pakistan and China – acting together in mounting ‘covert offensives’ against India to damage its internal stability and cohesion.
There are three fronts on which democratic India has to work more. One relates to the all – important maintenance of law and order through the length and breadth of the country, upon which rests the fundamental right of citizens to enjoy equality before law as well as the willingness of investors – particularly the foreign investors – to put their money on Indian projects for economic development of remote areas.
Indian Constitution makes state governments squarely responsible for law and order but also recognises the Centre as the lead player in the maintenance of Internal Security – in which the state would play an equally important part.
Law and order situation may be generally satisfactory in many states but several recent cases of individual and collective violence have shaken up the nation’s conscience and drawn attention to the failure of police at the ‘Thana’ level to keep an eye on the potential criminals in the area. There may be problems of manpower and logistics but it is the supervision of seniors that was generally deficient.
The criminal law of procedure (CrPC) specifically gives the power of Station House Officer to SPs, DIGs and IGs in respect of all Police Stations in their jurisdiction which is, more than any thing else, a reminder to them that they must face accountability for malfunctioning of the Police at the local level.
‘Friendly but not familiar’ would be a good advice for the work force at the Police Station that functioned at the cutting edge of police-public interaction – in reality many policemen were ‘unfriendly’ towards the law abiding citizens and ‘familiar’ with the law breakers. Only good supervision can build zero tolerance towards this internal malady.
Indian Police Service (IPS) provides leadership to the state police, para military forces and the Central agencies concerned and its officers are recruited, trained and allocated to states by the Centre according to a recognised procedure.
IPS is a rare civil service existing only in India, that provides a career in leadership of the police through a merit-based national level competitive examination. Surely, its first duty was to improve the working of the police station at the ground level by setting a benchmark of integrity, impartiality and public service – it is not enough for the IPS officers to claim that they were personally upright.
IPS is expected to provide a uniform service across the nation and thus keep up the image of Indian democracy before the world outside. Quality of policing will improve if the Centre had a say in the selection of DGP – the chief of state police – and a veto in the matter of punitive action being initiated by state government against an IPS officer without full consultation with the Central government.
The country should move towards making police a concurrent subject in the Constitution and itemising the points on which Centre will have the overriding decision – without diluting the autonomous role of the state in the maintenance of law and order.
In the developing internal security scenario, the Central security set up should have a functional oversight on the District Intelligence Units in the spheres of both gathering of information and helping the local police to act as the first responder to a threat.
The second area of expansion for India is the promotion of Public-Private Partnership in both economic development and safeguarding of national security. This is already happening on a notable scale but is to be taken forward a lot more in defence production, strengthening of enterprise security in strategic sectors and utilisation of credible private security agencies for increasing trained manpower and enhancing public awareness of the contemporary threat scenario.
India’s National Cyber Security Policy has set off this process by recommending Centres of Excellence to be established through the PPP model. The call of internal security rises above political, community and regional divides.
Indian democracy rests on ‘one man one vote’ and makes no distinction among the citizens in the vital spheres of equality of opportunity and same protection of law for everybody. It is squarely on the shoulders of the state governments to enforce law without political tints and without seeking to put any share of blame on the Centre, for preserving democracy itself.
Civil society groups engaged in ‘politics by proxy’ by building certain narratives about the regime, have to be put on the same footing as any other citizens would be when evaluating the violation of country’s law by them or their subterranean links with anti-national forces, if any.
Police is the only coercive arm of a democratic state and it should be sensitive towards the people but firm against the suspects colluding against the nation. Cyber space in general and social media in particular has made covert operations of enemy agents easier to carry on with – like establishing ‘sleeper cells’ for terror activity and using ‘radicalisation’ for raising ‘lone wolves’. All of this makes the tasks of state police – lying beyond the maintenance of law and order – a lot more professional and urgent.
Fortunately, technological advancement of Police forces has gained momentum thanks to the interest directly taken by Prime Minister and Union Home Minister in Police Modernisation schemes and their funding.
Finally, the success of India’s foreign policy during Prime Minister Modi’s regime – largely attributable to the Prime Minister’s intuitive understanding of international relations and his personal interactions with all world leaders – holds promise for the future but the developing geopolitics and the uncertainties created by it will test it further and call for innovative approaches for safeguarding India’s national security interests.
India’s economic profile is strong enough to enable it to advance the nation’s cause in the global development. The accentuation of US-China confrontation on the pattern of a new Cold War, the strengthening of China-Russia bonds because of the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine that had, on the other hand, united the US-led West against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the challenge before India of balancing Indo-US friendship with Indo-Russian bonds, are the ongoing factors impacting our strategic planning.
The return of Taliban Emirate at Kabul – following the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that was credited to the ‘mediation’ of Pakistan – would lead to the aggravation of India-specific terror threat from Pak-Afghan belt and this would have to be handled by India entirely on its own.
Further, a deepening Sino-Pak axis that opened the way for the two adversaries on our borders to join hands in carrying out ‘covert offensives’ in Kashmir, Punjab, North East and in the rest of the country as well, has to be effectively countered on military, security and diplomatic fronts in the months ahead.
As a matter of fact the current scenario for India, not necessarily applicable to the rest of the world, is likely to continue on a more disquieting note because external threats to India’s internal security were sharply increasing on account of the collusion between Pakistan and China particularly after the abrogation of Art 370 of the Constitution by Indian Parliament.
The foreign and security policies of Modi government have so far matched the challenges on various fronts. India ordered military build up on LAC in rapid time particularly in Eastern Ladakh where PLA had shown aggressiveness, in order to deal with China on land and stepped up participation in US-led Quad to counter Chinese designs in Indo- Pacific as part of India’s marine defence.
It kept up friendship with Russia without jeopardising Indo-US strategic partnership and ensured that Russia did not tilt towards the other side in a situation of hostility between India and China. As regards Pakistan, Modi government has brought in an element of deterrence by administering the message that India would not hesitate to resort to ‘surgical strike’ to punish Pak-sponsored cross-border terrorism.
On Afghanistan, a timely initiative taken by India’s National Security Advisor to convene meetings of his counterparts from Central Asian Republics which border Afghanistan, has helped to create a consensus among them against the rise of ‘radicalisation’ in Afghanistan and in favour of an inclusive regime there following the reinstallation of Taliban Emirate at Kabul. This has proved to be an extremely important foreign policy stance directly serving India’s national security interests.
The national strategy of India in the Modi regime has been to pursue bilateral friendships that served economic and security interests of both sides and did not deviate from the cause of world peace and this has served the country well.
The G20 Presidency has come to India at a time that was most appropriate in terms of the opportunities it provides to Prime Minister Modi to establish this country as a world counsel on issues of war and peace and on the task of promoting global economy for the benefit of all.
India’s civilisational appeal, determination of the Prime Minister to showcase India by holding G20 events across the length and breadth of the country and his deep understanding of development perspectives and India’s potential for economic growth, are all going to be put to full use during this period.
The leadership qualities of the Prime Minister were in evidence in the drive for indigenous production of vaccine to deal with COVID crisis, launch of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the area of Defence production and the continuing trust people had in him for his integrity and devotion to India’s national cause. While the advancement of India’s national strategy is likely to remain on course as far as international relations were concerned, the continuing challenge is largely internal- both on security and economic fronts.
Digitisation of governance has not eliminated corruption at local levels, police is stil not attuned to public service and protection of the law-abiding citizens, and an expanding population was casting its shadow on the future of employment, public health and children’s education.
In a large country like India, it was always difficult to link macro-economics with local development particularly in a situation where the corrupting influence of politics had percolated down to the municipal and Panchayat levels. The call for ‘cooperative federalism’ is not enough – the country has to move towards strengthening the Unitary element of the Indian Constitution.
Global initiatives apart, India has to take comprehensive steps to preserve its internal security primarily against the threats of terrorism and radicalisation made more critical because of the declaration by Pakistan – in its National Security Policy – that India was its principal adversary and that Pakistan had the right to take interest in the Muslim minority of India as a part of Ummah since its security was jeopardised under the pro-Hindu Modi government.
The Sino-Pak alliance is having its way in Afghanistan which adds to the threat to India’s security from radical forces of Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The use of social media and cyber space by the adversaries as a powerful weapon of ‘proxy war’ and as an instrument of ‘information warfare’ adds to the challenge of safeguarding internal security.
India’s Intelligence set up has intensified social media scan and stepped up cyber security measures with NTRO playing a pivotal role in studying new threats and researching into security solutions.
Pakistan is using digital media for recruiting terrorists on the Indian soil and funding a low cost ‘proxy war’ against this country. It has the advantage now of collaboration from China by way of supply of Chinese drones for use in cross border ‘covert’ operations in J&K and Punjab – China was already doing that on Arunachal border.
Moreover, the fact that Pak ISI can use crime syndicates for its anti- India activities, brings out the importance of the role of Police in safeguarding internal security- beyond its responsibilities relating to maintenance of law& order.
During the G20 Presidency India should carry forward the experiment of R20 – launched by Indonesia at Bali – for promoting inter-faith harmony and the idea of equal respect for all religions and rejecting extremism. It should be possible to mobilise leaders of the minority community and spokespersons of credible Islamic institutions based in India to speak up against radicalisation and advocacy of Jehad for solving political or other issues affecting Muslims in any part of the country.
It is necessary to enhance the outreach of the administration to Muslim families particularly in Kashmir to help them in dealing with the youth showing signs of falling prey to indoctrination attempts of the adversary. Civil society groups playing politics at the behest of anti-India lobbies abroad, should be subjected to close scrutiny.
Public awareness about challenges to internal security has to be increased using official resources and also cooperation from public spirited forums. The problem of terrorism and radicalisation must continue to be highlighted by India at all international platforms and cooperation of all concerned nations sought for putting down the new global threat that was basically damaging the democratic world.
It is a matter of great satisfaction for all citizens of India that the Modi regime was consistently campaigning against terrorism of all kinds and receiving a response of understanding from other countries in regard to the role of Pakistan in harbouring terrorists with linkages across the Islamic spectrum.
G20 Presidency will surely put India and Prime Minister Modi on the forefront of the global initiatives to restore a peaceful world order and speed up the journey towards equitable economic development all round. The motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (world is one family) given to G20 by India adequately sums up our commitment in this regard.
(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)