IDSA COMMENT

You are here

Calling the Army for Peace Restoration

Col. K C Dixit was Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • August 23, 2010

    The Army has been called upon time and again to restore peace in insurgency and terrorist affected areas. This practice is likely to continue in future as well. The underlying reason for resorting to such a practice has to be clearly understood and analysed in the Indian context. This tendency is the result of trust, faith and confidence in the capability of the Indian Army reposed by the citizens and the government. What needs to be done and how peace can be attained in any insurgency affected area is not something which is unknown.

    Maintaining law and order in states is the responsibility of the civil administration with the assistance of their respective police forces. If people’s basic needs of roti, kapra and makaan are adequately and timely addressed and if basic civic amenities in the form of infrastructure for communications, education, health, security and generation of employment are ensured by the government, the organisations with vested interests will never ever be able to either flame or intensify any insurgency anywhere. This is again very well known to every government. Therefore, one cannot deny that likely insurgencies can be forecasted. If the likelihood of insurgencies can be forecasted, even roughly, why cannot the government establishments initiate necessary measures to nip the causes in the bud and save the innocent public from misery by resorting to fight our own through police forces?

    Even at this stage, the root cause of unrests is overlooked. Instead of initiating fast track measures to meet people’s aspirations, time is wasted by government functionaries on trying to justify their irrational logic of efficiency. And when the situation goes beyond the control of local/state police, the ultimate instrument of national power – the Army, is called upon to restore peace. While pressing this ultimate instrument of national power into action, it is forgotten that it will be only a temporary solution for peace restoration. The crux of a permanent solution will still rest on realistic development of necessary infrastructure and meeting the aspirations of the people. If this is not ensured, the situation will deteriorate immediately after the withdrawal of the Army from such areas.

    By deploying the Army, the insurgents’ activities get restricted and their free movement at night is effectively controlled. During the day-light hours, the police force is able to limit the insurgents’ actions. Thus, the Army with close coordination with local police is able to control violence significantly. In the bargain, as a result of the asymmetric nature of conflict, the security forces suffer disproportionately heavy losses in terms of their precious human resource vis-à-vis militants. After paying such a heavy price and subjecting the innocent population to inherent sufferings, human and material losses and miseries, a suitable atmosphere is created by the security forces to force the aggrieved leaders to come to the negotiating table. It is unfortunate that such an interim opportunity to undertake fast track developmental projects to meet the aspirations of the local population, raising the efficiency of various government departments, and re-generating the faith and confidence of masses in the government institutions is allowed to be lost through inaction.

    Instead of focusing on the development of the affected areas and addressing the genuine grievances of the local population in a quick time frame by taking advantage of the interim peace created by the security forces, political leaders start issuing uncalled for statements like withdrawal of forces and amending the provisions of AFSPA. Such statements confuse simple soldiers and must be avoided. Political mileage should not be gained at the cost of the motivation of troops who derive no pleasure in such risky operations for which they have been requisitioned by the government. It is right that any excesses on innocent people during counter-insurgency operations in any ‘disturbed area’ must not be taken lightly and suitable action must be taken against the offenders. And, this is being ensured by the Army authorities in all seriousness. But it has to be realized that it is because of these powers that the Army is in a position to create an atmosphere of interim peace in the insurgency affected areas by effectively controlling violence through the use of minimum force. Any dilution of AFSPA will not be in the interest of the nation and hence must be avoided.

    Recently, a senior political leader was reported to have advocated handing over of Kashmir to the military. Such a move will again become a repetition of the past, if the underlying principle of finding a permanent solution to insurgency is not suitably exploited by the political leadership in the interim atmosphere of controlled violence achieved by the Army in coordination with other security agencies. Therefore, before taking a call on such a crucial issue, the political leadership must chart out a clear-cut agenda for effective execution in a time-bound manner and gear up all its institutions to ensure its ruthless implementation from the word go.

    The Indian Army has always withstood the test of time and lived up to the expectations of our countrymen. The hardships experienced by soldiers in such types of operations cannot be ignored. The sentiments of soldiers also need to be respected. With a view to mitigate the hardships on account of family problems due to criminal or civil disputes of serving Armed Forces personnel deployed on hard duties in far flung areas, the central government has been approaching state government functionaries to be more pro-active in promptly responding to the grievances and problems of defence personnel and their families. Such communications have not yielded the desired results and such matters are still treated in a routine manner and with no special priority. Such an apathetic attitude on the part of district authorities adversely affects the morale of soldiers and is detrimental to national interests.

    Specific steps should be taken to pay greater attention at Tehsil and Block levels in those areas from where a greater number of personnel traditionally join the armed forces to serve the nation. There should be statutory provisions mandating the district authorities to address the problems and grievances of serving defence personnel within a stipulated time-frame. There is also a need to make institutionalized arrangements in close coordination with the state governments and state government functionaries. The matter relating to making statutory provisions in the Services Acts needs to be re-examined and a solution found even if public, police, local government, land and revenue etc. happen to be state subjects.

    Another important issue which needs greater attention is the shortages of officers in the Army at junior and middle levels. The deployment of the Army to counter insurgency effectively calls for posting of officers to units based on their actual authorization and not the hard scale authorization. Shortages can only be managed by making the service conditions for permanent commissioned officers more attractive through an immediate cadre review by assuring faster and higher promotions to qualified officers and men to enable them to earn their grade pay in the service bracket at par with their civilian counterparts and assuring them a service for 60 years of age. A solution can be found out only if the frozen mindset is melted.

    Top