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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! - SEP 2015 ISSUE

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Even as details are yet to be worked and the’re a work in progress, the announcement of an agreement with the NSCN (IM) is the best news that has come from the national security sphere. For a long time there has not been any positive news of this type. And in terms of importance there has not been any news of this level since the short-lived and hurriedly aborted, ceasefire with the Hizbul Mujahideen. That was in the last decade and when it has taken so long to produce good news the scale of the national security drought can be well understood.

Interlocutors worked on the NSCN (IM) agreement over a long period of time and are now in the process of thrashing out the details. Just as the talks proceeded away from the media glare, so should the negotiations over details. There is a lesson in how this agreement has worked out and it holds good for other eagerly awaited talks as well. It will make good political sense and have a crucial national security impact as well, to once again pick up the threads of the ceasefire with the Hizbul Mujahideen. It is important and will send a political message of far reaching impact.

National security is, after all, also about sending political messages. Politics and security are ultimately interlinked. And so for good politics it is vital to have an amiable security environment. The recently aborted NSA level talks with Pakistan are a case in point. Far too much media attention and posturing through sound bites, made the talks unworkable from the beginning. That is a pity. It is important to have good neighbourly relations, of course, but that can only come from an element of sincerity. It would be good if Pakistan were to maintain a consistency in their intentions and it would be good if India were to maintain silence in terms of statements. There is a lesson in the Prime Minister’s tactics.

It takes every kind of tactic, ultimately, to tackle the biggest national security challenge facing India. In fact there are two ‘biggest’ challenges facing India, but it is difficult to discern which one is a graver threat. It is impossible to downgrade one to second most important and because they are of such contrasting natures they need equal treatment. One is entirely internal and the other involves international responsibilities of an equally significant nature.

The continuing menace of Naxal violence, or in bureaucratese Left Wing Extremism, eats at the core of Indian statehood. It doesn’t challenge the idea of India, or its territorial unity, or even its relations with other countries. What it does is to question the very basis of parliamentary democracy and the functioning of governing structures. It challenges and questions the edifice of governance and the worrisome fact is that it has takers. So many takers that they’ve got the manpower to hit at security forces for year upon year. Since they don’t make the headlines at a regular level, only because the numbers are not spectacular, national attention is spared. But when the annual figures are computed the casualty figures are indeed spectacular and warrant great attention and coordination of strategy.

Strategy of an entirely different type is required to tackle the other equally important national security threat. And that is the continuing spread of the Islamic State menace in India. Because it hasn’t hit India with its gore and violence, yet, the country at large hasn’t taken it with the seriousness it deserves. But it continues to spread its tentacles, recruit motivated volunteers and nutcases. The very essence of IS is a grave threat to India, on account of its ideology, its contrived and contorted vision on offer. The IS is the biggest global terror threat and India is not immune either. Currently it may be making news because of its activities in Iraq and Syria. But it has the capacity to inflict damage to a larger number of countries, India included. Greater international coordination and participation, is required to take out the threat it poses.

In India’s case even more so since the very basis of IS recruitment undermines the core national ethos and cultural harmony. IS feeds on disharmony and when that happens the first casualty is certain to be urban peace. When the future of Indian planning revolves around smart cities, securing them will have to get priority. Tackling the IS threat is fundamental to securing India’s future smart cities.

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