During the year 2020 The Republic of India was witness to unprecedented onslaughts across all verticals of its sovereign pillars, the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the informal Fourth Estate, the Media.
By Col RS Sidhu
“Maintaining national environment conducive to enterprise is the essence of the complete spectrum of obligations of the Executive towards the State.”
During the year 2020 The Republic of India was witness to unprecedented onslaughts across all verticals of its sovereign pillars, the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the informal Fourth Estate, the Media. The threats extended from external armed ingress impinging the territorial integrity of the country, large scale civil society upheavals attempting to coerce the Government of the day to repeal laws legally passed by the Parliament, national pandemic leading to economic slowdown deeply impacting the State and its Citizens alike, attempts to influence the Supreme Judiciary through insinuations amounting to willful contempt, and emergence of partisan news coverage by media divided along politico-ideological lines, and of even greater concern, breaching public trust by manipulating TRP ratings.
The year 2021 is progressing with most of the underlying issues behind these threats remaining unresolved.
REVIEW OF INTERNAL SECURITY THREATS & VULNERABILITIES
“In a democracy the State personifies the Will of its People as codified in the Constitution. The Executive is just the Government of the day, bound to discharge only stated responsibilities for a quantified duration of time.”
Fast paced advancements in Cyberspace, Artificial Intelligence (AI), biological vectors and autonomous air-land-sea mobile platforms have phenomenally enhanced the internal security vulnerabilities to threats emanating not only from within but also from beyond the national borders. Degrading the cyberspace, economic, commerce, and human capital resources even during ‘peacetime’ is the new normal in geostrategic rivalry enlarging the scope of internal security domain that needs to be secured.
Trans Border Threats Impinging Internal Security Situation
Over the past decade the Chinese state has deployed massive resources to establish strong pockets of influence amongst selected targeted countries across the spectrum of political organisations, commercial entities, influential sections of media, and dissatisfied groups in society, with the Chinese state orchestrating their actions to sow discord and stall or slow down decision making process inimical to Chinese interests. Consequently the faceoff with China is also impacting the internal security dimension within India.
Convergence of interests between China and Pakistan, further adds to the security concerns of India. It magnifies the terrorist activities being engaged in India by separatist organisations with covert trans-border support. Both China and Pakistan are also known proliferators of sensitive advanced technologies.
Extension of deep Chinese influence in Nepal has added to the internal security threat dimensions within India. The border is highly porous and lightly manned, enabling relatively easier cross-border movement of contraband and personnel.
Turkey and Malaysia are overtly furthering the cause of the Islamic Ummah. With India having a substantial percentage of Islamic population, they have the potential to vitiate the internal security environment in India by funneling funds to organisations inimical to Indian interests.
Indian Diaspora has attained substantive political influence in several foreign countries. Whereas this factor contributes favourably towards the CNP of India, it also has its demerits when influential Indian origin individuals and organisations sympathetic towards groups with separatist ideology, are able to prevail upon foreign leaders to issue statements tantamount to interference in internal affairs of India.
MNCs in the new age technology fields have the potential to pose a threat to national security, especially in the data security and cyberspace domains, and also by influencing the policies of their respective Governments.
Non-State Organisations with anarchic and fundamentalist ideologies repugnant to the secularist credentials of India are potential threats to the peaceful internal security environment of the nation.
Multiple and strong political parties are the bedrock of stability in a democratic country like India. Indian polity currently boasts of only two robust National level political parties with a strong pan India presence, the Bhartiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress. Collapse of any one of the two major national parties is not in the best interest of the country. It would likely release centrifugal forces by bringing the sole relevant national party in direct competition with state parties, and resultant appeal to parochial pride and Centre-State discord.
The basic building block of current politicking in the country is premised on divisive parochial appeal which further exacerbates civil society divide.
These are major vulnerabilities readily available for being taken advantage of by inimical commercial and foreign interests.
The quality of governance of the Government of the day can be assessed from the degree of achievement in “maintaining national environment conducive to enterprise.”
Resolute pursuit of a reformist agenda by the government of the day with insufficient public discourse has generated disquiet within influential sections of society. Though the reforms are in the overall interest of the State and society at large, it is the failure of the Executive to anticipate and think through ways and means to overcome their vociferous opposition which is proliferating public discord.
Effective law & order and legal redress mechanism, responsive local governance, a just revenue administration system, social safety net for the underprivileged in society, safety from inimical foreign influence, are all essential deliverables by the Executive for maintaining harmony in society.
However, pervasive political interference over the aforesaid organs of the Executive detracts from their efficiency, and coupled with an indifferent bureaucracy generates disenchantment with the State. This provides fertile ground for exploitation by external influences.
The search for efficiency in governance and provision of services is also leading to increased reliance on cyberspace. But reliance on foreign origin infrastructure and weak investments in cyberspace security is creating major vulnerabilities in the internal security domain.
Endemic corruption in public services and the economic domain is a critical vulnerability.
A strong and independent judiciary is vital to the security of the country, being one of the three constitutional pillars safeguarding the Constitution of India. That allegation have been leveled with impunity even against the Chief Justice of India, the judicial independence of the Supreme Court has been openly questioned in acts tantamount to willful contempt, and increased frequency of allegations and disciplinary actions in the higher judiciary, is a major chink in the security of the country.
Being a self-governing body it is vital that considered remedial actions are instituted, to avoid succumbing to manipulated pressures from entities inimical to the interests of the country.
The Indian media over a period of time has succumbed to divisions along politico-ideological lines and the same is being reflected in its partisan news coverage. But of even greater concern is the breaching of public trust by manipulating TRP ratings.
This has made the media highly susceptible to manipulation by interests beyond the country.
India’s biggest asset is its demography, by far the largest and youngest working age group population in the world.
Covid 19 pandemic is therefore a direct strike on India’s CNP. The resultant economic downturn, loss of jobs and large scale workforce movement created fissures in civil society, and reduced revenue earnings. On the other hand, scarce State resources are being diverted to sustain the weaker section of the society by embarking on one of the largest social welfare programs in any country, as also to develop the medical infrastructure to deal with the pandemic.
Safeguarding the health and welfare of the population shall be of critical importance to the security of the nation in the foreseeable future.
Leveraging civil society fissures and facilitating separatist philosophies to sow further seeds of demographic discord, degrading human resource quality through psychotropic substance habituation, are major vulnerabilities being exploited by adversaries.
Economy & Commerce
The impact of Covid 19 pandemic has adversely impacted the economy and commerce sector.
Weak and coercive regulatory mechanisms and predatory business instincts are at the root cause of disputes in industrial relations, willful loan defaults, impediments to individual enterprise, resulting in the domestic products being uncompetitive in international trade.
Rise in economic growth and industrial productivity, coupled with comparative downturn in small agricultural land holdings, is likely to generate the next wave of migration from rural to urban areas. With already weak urban infrastructure, the additional demographic burden will exacerbate civil society fissures.
Increased trade and industrialisation and a high population growth rate are forcing unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and environment degradation. The biggest impact is likely to be felt on availability of water and forest cover, critical for survival of future generations leading to increased urban tensions.
“Not all civil protests are in interest of the State, as not all actions or inactions of the Executive are in interest of the State.”
External Impacts on Internal Security Situation
Inroads made by the Chinese and Pakistan establishments into the Indian polity shall force the Indian security establishment to divert considerable time and resources to counter the threats emanating from across the borders.
Turkey and Malaysia are unlikely to be able to develop requisite capability to directly influence internal security of India.
Insurgency in J&K and NE States as well as the Maoist rural insurgency will continue to simmer and receive clandestine external support.
New Age technologies are likely to be possessed by terrorist organisations to target key functionaries and installations. Disease spreading sophisticated vectors, specific to potential victim targets, will pose a nightmare for security establishments.
Control and monitoring of air and marine space shall become highly complex, especially for autonomous aerial and underwater marine vehicles.
Frequency and gravity of orchestrated acts of public protests and vandalism shall be on the increase.
Financial sector and public service e-portals shall be high value targets in the cyberspace domain as also critical technical and strategic establishments.
Industrial production and freight and shipping shall be vulnerable to disruption through sabotage, duly facilitated by embedded Fifth Columnists, to create a negative environment for foreign investments.
There is unlikely to be any visible change in the quality of inner democracy in political parties and their adherence to electioneering norms.
As the next general elections approach, the Government of the day shall continue to resolutely pursue its reformist agenda. Key opposition political parties, aware of their inability to influence the passage of such legislations, shall take recourse to legislative disruptions and street protests.
Weak electoral performance will make some political groupings more amenable to external influence. Quality of Parliamentary discourse shall further fall.
The Government of the day shall continue to pursue its reformist agenda. Political unwillingness to take hard executive actions to overcome resultant public discords shall result in the Executive yielding space to Judiciary to adjudicate the fallouts.
The Executive is unlikely to yield political control over administrative and law and order machinery to Constitutional bodies.
Bureaucracy reforms shall pick up pace as the Executive focuses on greater reach of its social welfare schemes amongst the mass of underprivileged voters.
There is unlikely to be any broad basing of the self-governing mechanism of the Supreme Court.
The Executive shall yield further administrative decision making space on contentious issues to the Judiciary. This shall expose the high Judiciary to allegations of partisanship and calls for judicial reforms, a Catch 22 situation for the high Judiciary.
Continued partisan coverage by the mainstream media shall further impact their credibility. Proliferation of social media shall detract from the capability of mainstream media to influence public opinion.
Trans border smuggling of psychotropic substances and threat of biologically induced pandemics shall be major concerns for law enforcement agencies.
Economy & Commerce
Managing migration influx into urban areas will be a taxing focus area for local governing bodies.
Extensive investment in HR management, industrial intelligence and monitoring will be required both at the provincial governance level and by the corporate industries, to pre-empt industrial sabotage.
Investment in new food production technologies and marketing of agriculture produce shall be in focus.
Special focus shall be required to counteract depletion of potable water sources.
Greater measures and focus to stymie depleting green cover will be needed.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran and has published two books, ‘Success from Being Mad’ on entrepreneurship ventures by veterans, and ‘Elephant on the High Himalayas’ on India-China discourse. He can be accessed at his blogspot valleysandvalour.blogspot.com. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)