Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NAXALISM: It could well be India's Long War

Josy Joseph / DNATuesday, June 23, 2009 2:38 IST Email

Mumbai: Slowly but steadily, the Indian military is getting sucked into anti-Maoist operations across the country as state police forces fumble, and paramilitary groups face unprecedented attacks in challenging terrains.

In its reach and complexity, the war against Naxalism looks like India's Long War, and many within the military hierarchy are beginning to worry about the possibility of a broad deployment in the heart of the country.

On record the military is resisting the possibility of any full-scale deployment against the Maoists, terming it a socio-political issue. But within the ranks many are beginning to see such a possibility in the immediate future, given the increasing 'securitisation' of the Maoist issue.

Consider the massive casualties being suffered by security forces in Maoist-affected areas. In 2008, the state police and paramilitary forces together lost 250 personnel in Maoist violence, whereas in the Northeast and J&K a combined 120 were killed. In 2009, till Sunday, the Maoists had already accounted for 170 security personnel; in J&K and northeastern states, there were 67 casualties in all.

Analysts in the intelligence set-up say that all Indian responses to insurgencies have progressed thus: At first, they are treated as a law and order problem; then the state police gives up; the central paramilitary forces are brought in but they are unable to register much progress; and finally, the military is deployed. It is not surprising, then, that the military's role has become significant.

Today, the army and air force are maintaining constant watch on the growing menace. In the ongoing operations in Lalgarh, air force helicopters, primarily MI-17s operating out of Kalaikunda base, are being deployed for casualty evacuations. They are also being used for some limited surveillance.

For the past some years, the air force has been using their Israeli UAVs for surveillance in several parts of Chhattisgarh and some other states, though with little success.

The Indian Army has been providing training to state police forces in counter insurgency operations. It is also set to open a sub-area headquarters in Chhattisgarh, for providing logistics support to the state police.

According to military sources, the Lucknow-based Central Command of the Army now has a dedicated system to monitor the widening Maoist menace. And in a recent conference of senior commanders of the Indian Army, there was a detailed briefing and discussion on the Maoist threat. "We are already stretched in Kashmir and northeast.

But if the situation continues, it won't be long before we are sucked deep into Maoist operations. Frankly it should be treated as a socio-political challenge rather than a pure security threat," a senior army officer said on Monday.

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