Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review of police weapons must for internal security

Published by editor India Jun 23, 2009 By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 23 June, (Asiantribune.com: It is a truism of warfare that the management of the external threat is a reflection of the maintenance of internal security. If lines of communication from the ordnance factories and supply bases or recruitment centres are amenable to disruption or infiltration then the job of the external enemy is made that much easier.

Both Pakistan and its mentor China have used this dictum to undermine Indian security and turn its attention inwards. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the north-east where Beijing nurtured the Naga and Mizo insurgencies throughout the 50s and 60s till Bangladesh emerged on the scene. It proved to be a short-lived reprieve though. The growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh pump primed by the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence which refined the concept of “jihad” in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union has given fresh lease to the network of insurgencies in the north east India but with an Islamic character.

With the overthrow of the monarchy in Nepal and the ascendancy of the Maoists there, China has been putting pressure on Kathmandu to change the standard operating procedures of an open India-Nepal border that has been in existence for decades. It was from its spy-nest in Kathmandu that the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence organized the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight IC 814 to Kandahar to secure the release of the jihadi ideologue Maulana Masood Azhar and several other jihadis who had been arrested and put in Indian jails. It illustrated the external dimension of internal security.

This showed up the shortcomings in Indian internal security procedures and how it can be exploited by an external enemy. It was demonstrated time and again when Kargil happened and then Mumbai on 26/11. And now, even as the confrontation between the Maoists and the State Government of West Bengal come to a boil we get information that the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist organization had authorized, obviously under ISI instructions, a LeT operative to suborn the Maoists into joining hands with Pakistani terror organisations to undermine our internal security.

Against this backdrop, the series of internal security events of recent times need to be reviewed to evolve more effective standard operating procedures that will ensure a speedy handling of such events. For far too long this nation has had to suffer the ignominy of encounters stretching from hours to days. Kargil played out over several months and Mumbai 26/11 was like a bad dream in slow motion. Siege of Charar-e-Sharif shrine in Jammu and Kashmir is another case in point. After several days of crossfire and assurances by the Army personnel that the terrorists had been surrounded, the terrorists managed to set the shrine on fire and escape back to Pakistan where they were feted as heroes.

If one dacoit can keep 300 policemen at bay at Chitrakoot in Uttar Pradesh and manage to decapitate the force by killing three of its senior officers, it goes far beyond the Ram Pradhan committee report on the Mumbai massacre that police methodology, weapons and procedures are flawed across State boundaries. Nearly all police forces are fatally flawed. And they are supposed to be the bulwark of internal security.

Part of the problem of internal security has been the fact that much of its acquisitions in terms of arms and equipment have been reactive to what the terrorists, dacoits and criminals have already in their possession. In the purely confrontational aspect of internal security where the shootout is the result of externally-inspired terrorist activity or the result of pent-up socio-political aspects exacerbated by lack of regional development, the local police force is seen to have become redundant.

In many ways the Punjab model of force structure and equipment which was successfully utilized to crush the Khalistani movement has much relevance to the manner in which police forces, particularly those in States with international borders, are organized and employed. One example will suffice – the innovation by Punjab police chief K.P.S Gill of converting a tractor into an armoured vehicle for operation in the sugarcane fields –is indicative of how ground realities shape the kind of equipment required not just in a specific encounter but also as standard requirement to tackle the totality of threat.

Often many policemen fall victim to landmines while they are in hot pursuit of miscreants in Maoist/Naxalite controlled areas. It is not because the former have the element of surprise on their side but because the police force has not become aware of techniques of suppressing remote controlled explosive devices. As the attack on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had shown, police are unable to detect the landmine planted along the road side. Television clips of the ambush have shown the presence of mine protected vehicles many of which were bought from South Africa. It is as yet unclear whether this vehicle is confined for use by paramilitary forces like the BSF and CRPF (central forces) or is available to state policemen as well.

If policemen are the first echelon that have to confront landmines and high calibre rifle fire then indigenously-developed and produced mine protected vehicles capable of moving cross-country even after their rubberized tyres are blasted should become standard equipment with police forces. It will instil a greater confidence among policemen.

.Shocking indeed was the discovery by the Ram Pradhan committee investigating the Mumbai 26/11 terror attack that bullet-proof jackets are only bullet resistant in the portion where ceramic or steel plates have been implanted. It means even these jackets need to be designed specifically for the type of bullet the terrorist/criminal may use.

High velocity, quick fire (three or more rounds per burst) could shatter a bullet-proof vest if more than one bullet lands at the same spot or close to it (because of rapid fire) the chances of the second or third bullet penetrating the body are greater. That is why rapid fire guns are made and are in wide circulation. The Kalashnikov is one such rifle.

A bullet-proof helmet too is a bit of a misnomer because where it does not penetrate, the knock from a high velocity bullet can break the neck of the target. In any case the objective –death –would have been achieved.

Thus the much-in-demand police reforms must extend to a re-examination of the kind of equipment available to police force. Since the likelihood is growing wherein police forces will need to be deployed to protect lines of communications and maintain law and order against Fifth Columnists operating on behalf and behest of foreign elements, they will need to be as well equipped as the terrorists in both attack and defence. How far and what kind of commonality of equipment should be built into police, paramilitary and Central Police Forces should be part of the review exercise.

- Asian Tribune -

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