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Jointness: Centre-State Synergy in Counter-Terrorism Operations

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The recent incident involving the damaged Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter and the crew members leaving behind a wounded Chhattisgarh Police radio operator as they went to seek help is a prime example of an absence of jointness in the functioning of security forces, security agencies and the various states vis-a-vis the centre. A thorough enquiry is required into the incident, especially the fact that an injured trooper and a radio operator at that, could be left behind by the IAF crew. This is a grave incident that deserves the most serious attention. The gravity of the incident is both on account of the fact that an injured colleague was left behind alone, even if the crew went looking for help. As also that it reflects poorly on the functioning of central and state forces and agencies.

A dispassionate investigation will prove the culpability, or innocence, of the IAF crew. But what it will not highlight is the poor procedures for jointness that operate in this country. Each service, force and agency believes it can operate on its own and that its troops can only be under its own organisation. That belief defies logic, just as it is in violation of human knowledge, growth and understanding. For success to be guaranteed in the shortest possible time and at the least possible cost, it is essential that the various players involved in the business of securing the country work together with honesty of purpose. There are many words said to this effect by many a senior functionary but they are not meant to be policy. Senior officers will voice platitudes that suggest a belief in jointness, but on ground there is no effort in that direction. Each wishes to retain his own service or force as an empire separate from the other. Many a times the competition is greater with the other services and forces in garnering public accolades and medals.

All this is allowed to persist because there is no concrete structure that is built on the basis of jointness. What does exist is merely on account of ad hoc decisions. Ad hocism never won a war for any country and never defeated an enemy, internal or external. Punjab was won because a structure was built around the capabilities of an individual in an appointment that oversaw all operations and coordinated with all services and agencies in the state. Kashmir was turned around because a functioning and coordinated structure was built into clearly demarcated operational boundaries between various state and central forces. And a unified command coordinated between the political, police and military forces in the state. But that is not the case with the anti-Naxal operations across a vast swathe of land in the heart of India. States seem to be functioning on their own and the central forces quite independently of local authority. That is not how this campaign can be successful. From the district or tehsil level, to the state capital, there will have to be joint structure of all forces and agencies operating in that area. And as the structure rises so should the vision and responsibility of those that are in position. For what is seriously lacking is a vision larger than the self. Once that were in place, jointness would fall into place in no time.

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