Thursday, April 08, 2010

Where Does The Buck Stop?

The lives of 76 CRPF jawans were lost in the deadliest insurgent trap ever laid by Maoists in Chintalnar Tarmetla village in Chhattisgarh on April 6 morning. Reportedly, the CRPF patrol party, tired after four days of continuous operations, ran into an ambush laid by a force of Maoists believed to number between 200-300 and 800-1,000. The latter were deployed on the hills all around the police patrol as it moved on the basis of presumably false intelligence along a narrow path mined with inertial explosive devices on both sides. The patrol was mowed down. The buck in this case must stop with the home minister. For, it is obvious the jawans were not adequately trained, appropriately led or properly commanded.

This kind of situation was anticipated 10 years ago by the Kargil committee which recorded: "There is general agreement that in the light of the new situation of proxy war and largescale terrorism...the role and the task of the paramilitary forces have to be restructured particularly with reference to command and control and leadership functions. They need to be trained to much higher standards of performance and better equipped to deal with terrorist threats. The possibility of adopting an integrated manpower policy for the armed forces, paramilitary forces and the central police forces merits examination."

Unfortunately, these recommendations did not receive the attention they deserved from the group of ministers (GoM) set up to study them. The Kargil committee recommended that the colour service of men in the armed forces be reduced to seven years. It also asked that well-trained men be transferred to the paramilitary forces once they completed the colour service. This would keep the army young, save on pensions and provide the paramilitary forces trained men seasoned in counter-insurgency. This would apply to officers as well. It is not known why the recommendations were not accepted by the GoM.

There has been a strongly held conviction among the leadership of the home ministry and police service that paramilitary forces should be non-military in culture, ethos and standard of training. Tuesday's massacre as also 26/11 is a wake-up call to re-evaluate whether that assumption is wholly correct. Objective evaluation of the comparative performance of the Rashtriya Rifles and the civil paramilitary forces will help in arriving at a conclusion.

Insurgency is a combat situation, not a law and order one. The police forces are meant to handle situations where the people to be controlled are not armed. In insurgencies, the adversary is fully armed and trained as a group in combat skills. Earlier, when the police forces successfully tackled the problem of terrorism in Punjab, they were dealing with single or small groups of terrorists. They were not dealing with groups trained to engage in combat. One report suggests the group of CRPF jawans that was attacked had received training from the army. It is one thing to have a few days' or weeks' training and a totally different thing to have had actual counter-insurgency experience as ex-servicemen would have.

If reports about this encounter and other engagements with the Maoists are correct, we are obviously dealing with well-trained, highly motivated and well-equipped groups. The home secretary mentioned in a talk at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses that there were grounds to believe the Maoists could be receiving training from some ex-servicemen. If that is true, it is necessary to consider training paramilitary forces as per military standards and also to mould their ethos and orientation accordingly.

There is a compelling need to keep the paramilitary as a civilian force under the home ministry. But that should not come in the way of it being trained to infantry standards. The logical, most economical and fastest way of reaching that goal is to adopt the integrated manpower policy recommended by the Kargil committee. This matter is not likely to receive the full attention it deserves as a single ministry issue. It needs to be discussed in the National Security Council (NSC), perhaps with the help of a multidisciplinary task force.

A civilian paramilitary force with men of military standard training as well as a central police force for law and order may need to be considered. The task force may have to examine whether the civil paramilitary force for counter-insurgency and counterterrorism should be independent of the Border Security Force or merged with it. Prima facie, there is a good case to separate them from the Indian Police Service cadres.

There have been demands and suggestions that the armed forces be brought in against insurgency. To their credit, the armed forces have opposed this move. In a democracy, they should be kept out of internal developments to the maximum extent possible. This task is part of homeland security and should be treated as such. It has been recognised that, in the coming years, maintenance of internal security will require a full-time cabinet minister and will occupy much of the NSC's attention. But the primary exe-cutive agency will have to be a ministry of internal security or whatever name it is given.

The writer is strategic affairs analyst.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very well said a