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Creating a Diplomatic Security Force: The need to go beyond cosmetic exercises

Brig. (Retd.) V. Mahalingam is a security affairs analyst.
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  • February 18, 2013

    If media reports are to be believed, a Diplomatic Security Force (DSF) and a Parliament Duty Group (PDG) are in the offing. The Ministry of Home Affairs is said to be in the process of fast-tracking a Delhi Police proposal to set up a dedicated force to protect foreign missions and envoys. Israel is rumoured to have expressed its willingness to train the Force. It has also been stated that the specialized force may be deputed to protect India’s diplomatic missions abroad subsequently. The PDG, it is understood, would draw its personnel from the best trained men and women of the CRPF with commando and tactical training besides expertise in dealing with biological and nuclear emergencies.

    Security methodologies do not change with individuals

    Professionally speaking, the methodologies for providing security to an individual, a group or to structures do not change based on who the protected is. The level of security to be provided would be based on intelligence inputs and assessment. The location and the circumstances too will have a say in the matter. If protection is the criteria, the state police providing security to the Chief Minister could not be any different from the Special Protection Group (SPG) providing security to the Prime Minister. The degree of protection is based on the threat and not on whose life is more important.

    Rationalization vs. empire building

    A number of organizations including the SPG, National Security Guard (NSG), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), various state police and other agencies provide security to an assortment of people of different risk categories. Each of these organizations adopts its own method based on training, competence and perception. In a number of cases more than one agency is drawn in and the responsibility is shared. Should so many agencies adopting different methodologies be involved in providing security, a job that requires almost similar competencies? The needs of financial prudence, efficiency, professionalism and accountability suggest rationalization of the entire system.

    Creating a concoction by milking personnel from State Police Forces and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), each with a different culture and ethos, would be nothing more than adding one more to the already existing alphabet soup of security forces. An IPS officer, who is more of a manager than a leader, to head the organisation would be a further disaster. Training a few officers and men by specialists from some foreign country or the other would be a mere publicity stunt. Turnover, promotions and wastages would further nullify the anticipated dividends. The creation of DSF or PDG, in the manner as has been suggested, would be a mere empire building exercise without any tangible upgrade to professionalism, which is missing in all the existing security establishments.

    Create a system and not physical numbers

    If the Government is indeed serious about creating an institution with a difference and break from the present work culture and ethos of the Police Forces in the country, this is an opportunity that should not be wasted.

    The aim should be to create a single Security Group (SG) consisting of a training establishment specializing in security issues and a number of units to meet different areas of security as per the requirement. The organisation should be capable of handling all envisaged security situations of the protected throughout the country in an unobtrusive manner. It should have an inbuilt bomb detection, disposal and electronic surveillance capability.

    Personnel may be transferred from one unit to the other to avoid them becoming stale. The establishment needs to take into account the need for regular training to maintain the standards of physical fitness and professional skills. The best of the lot could be picked and posted to the DSF and PDG. As and when more numbers are trained, they could be utilized to replace the existing arrangements manned by the other agencies of the centre. If need be our diplomatic establishments abroad could be staffed by these personnel subsequently. As and when this force is made operational, corresponding numbers could be offset from the other establishments. If ego is not an issue, the best of the lot could also replace the SPG. States could make use of the central selection and training facilities for bringing their apparatus at par with the central agency.

    As a first step, it may be prudent to put a training infrastructure in place as a feeder organisation for the SG as against creating the DSF or PDG from personnel milked from various organisations. A pool of instructors for the training establishment could be trained in selected foreign countries. The instructors need to be trained to meet our specific requirements and the course content specifically designed to meet our needs and demands. The training would be at two levels; one for the officers and the other for the rest.

    Designing and creating the organisation

    Two to three selected experts with practical experience and knowledge in the field should be entrusted with the task of designing and creating this organisation. This selected team of consultants could visit training establishments in selected countries and have extensive discussions on the possible course content and organizational models. They may also witness their training, view training facilities, infrastructure, weapons and equipment in use. It would be in the interest of the organisation to exclude personnel from the existing security establishments or police personnel in this mission. This organisation should under no circumstances be allowed to acquire the Police culture or ethos.

    Back home, the consultants should be able to contour the organizational structure of these establishments. The infrastructure, training facilities, weapons, equipment and other needs of the organisations would be a logical output. Incidentally, the training establishment need not necessarily be situated in or around Delhi.

    The Manpower

    Fresh graduates should be recruited on an all-India basis for manning the organisations. Besides others, the criteria would include social adaptability and attitudinal suitability. The initial lot could be put under a selected team of Army instructors for preliminary training preferably at the Infantry school. The syllabus could include physical fitness, marksman training, field craft and minor tactics besides a few academic subjects including law. The emphasis should be on creating the right kind of ethos, culture and soft skills. At the end of the training, based on the instructional capabilities exhibited by the trainees, a team of potential instructors could be sent abroad for specialized training as a prelude to being employed as instructors at the Training Establishment. The balance could be part of the SG.

    As for officers, it would be most appropriate to select the required number of officers from the cadets passing out of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) for permanent absorption to SG. Those selected should be allowed to do the Young Officers (YO) course and preferably a six month attachment with an infantry unit. Those found suitable as instructors could be sent abroad for training. This lot would be physically fit, motivated and with basic military training capable of absorbing specialized training abroad.

    It may be preferable to have a serving or a retired Lieutenant General to head the organisation with a mandate to develop the right ethos, work culture and attitude in the Force.

    Other issues for consideration

    While creating such an agency, its specific role as well as division of responsibility between the state police and the SG need clear definition. Directions regarding briefing and assistance by local police and intelligence agencies including at outstations need to be spelt out. Logistic arrangements for out station duties need to be formalized with a one point contact for efficient functioning. The aspect of investigations also need clarity as unlike the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, our Security agency may not have the wherewithal and resources to carry out investigations. Instructions for the protected should be scripted and communicated to the users for better utilization of the force.

    Conclusion

    A lot has been said about the politicization, inefficiency and corruption in the ranks of our Police Forces. These issues have affected their public image and ability to discharge duties efficiently. It is time we find a way to cleanse the system. The creation of a SG without any streak of the Police in it would be a step in that direction. A single agency to take care of all the security needs within the country would instil accountability, professionalism and continuity.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the IDSA or of the Government of India.

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