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Lecture by Dr Madhav Godbole on "Securing India’s Borders—The Way Ahead"

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  • Dr Madhav Godbole, Former Home Secretary, Government of India
    December 03, 2014

    Introduction

    I am grateful to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) for inviting me to deliver the Y.B. Chavan Memorial Lecture. My gratitude is for more than one reason. I had known the founder of the Institute, K. Subrahmanyam, rather well since the days he was doing the ground-work for setting up the Institute. His deep understanding of strategic issues and wide-ranging interests have been responsible for the pre-eminent position enjoyed by the IDSA over the years. Also, I had the privilege of working closely with Y.B. Chavan as his private secretary for over three and half years during 1968 to 1972 when he was union home and finance minister. Chavan was one of the most out-standing Home Ministers this country has seen. An able administrator, statesman and astute parliamentarian, he was cast truly in the mould of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India. Chavan had the rare distinction of being in charge of three major Ministries, namely, Defence, Home and Finance in very critical times. Chavan steered the Home Ministry through really turbulent times marked by political instability, growing threat of naxalism and student unrest, and severe strains on centre-state relations. I have seen at close quarters the keen interest Chavan took in the working of the IDSA. Coming here to give this lecture has meant refreshing old, fading memories and reliving through those difficult times.

    India's Borders

    Management of international borders for a country like India is a challenging task with its land border of 15,106.70 kilometers (Kms) spread over 92 districts in 17 states. All states except Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Delhi and Haryana are frontline states. In addition, India has a vast coast-line of 7,516.6 kms touching 13 states and union territories (UTs). India has 1,197 islands accounting for 2,094 Kms of additional coast-line. Reference must be made to 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh.
    Perhaps, no other country has such varied borders--thickly populated borders such as of Punjab and Bangladesh, sea coast, islands, desert stretches, marshy lands, creeks, snow-bound areas, forests such as on Nepal and Myanmar border, and so on. This brings out the real challenges in guarding of borders and also the large extent to which the state governments are concerned with and have to be involved in any strategy for management of borders.

    First Comprehensive Review Following Kargil War

    The subject of border management came up for comprehensive examination in the government of India for the first time only after the Kargil war, with the government setting up four task forces to look into the problems pertaining to national security. One of the task forces was on border management, headed by me. In my talk today, I propose to deal with a few policy issues pertaining to border management. The areas of air defence, coast guard and border roads are excluded from its purview.

    Perfunctory Follow Up Action on Task Force Recommendations

    It is gratifying to see that, as a follow-up of the recommendations of task force on border management (TFBM), Department of Border Management was created in MHA in January 2004, though unfortunately, it does not seem to have made much difference to action on the pertinent issues.

    The first thing which strikes one is how little the people at large know about this crucial subject. The government’s excessive preoccupation with maintenance of secrecy is responsible for it. The task force on border management had, while submitting its report, recommended to government that its full report should be made public to increase public awareness of the issues. Unfortunately, the government did not agree and only the report of the group of ministers (GOM), which contained only the recommendations of the task force which were accepted by the group, was made public. It is high time, this approach is reviewed. It is only by creating public awareness and close involvement of the people at large that interests of safeguarding national security can be served best. The importance of this assertion can be evident from some instances referred to hereafter.

    Equally important is the question of follow up action on the decisions of the Group of Ministers. The predecessor-successor complex in the government is so acute that generally decisions taken by the previous government of different political colour are put in cold storage so as not to give credit to it. This seems to have happened so far as border management is concerned. It is a travesty that national security was undermined in the process. Now that the NDA government is back in power, I hope concerted action would be taken for speedy follow-up action.

    The task force was anxious that guarding of borders should not be neglected by withdrawing border guarding forces for internal security or other duties such as VIP security. The ITBP seems to have been drafted for VIP security duties in recent years. Same is true of some other border guarding forces. The task force had emphasised that the state governments may be persuaded to expand their police forces so as to reduce the draft on central forces. The task force had also recommended the strengthening of other forces such as the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), and the CISF(Central Industrial Security Force) to take over VIP security duties. It was suggested that a firm policy may be announced by the central government. This does not appear to have happened so far.

    Illegal Migration from Bangladesh

    As will be discussed later, the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh is far too serious but the common man in the street is not aware of its full implications. As a result, the campaign which was launched by the Shiv Sena- BJP government in Maharashtra in 1995-96 to detect and deport illegal migrants in Mumbai was frustrated due to the opposition of the then Left Front government in West Bengal. Maharashtra police had, for once, been successful in obtaining the orders of the magistrate under the Foreigners’ Act to deport a batch of illegal migrants. Armed with this order, the Maharashtra police party had escorted the migrants to West Bengal to take them to the Bangladesh border but their efforts were frustrated in Kolkata itself. The West Bengal government refused to give any assistance to Maharashtra police. There were public demonstrations and even stone pelting by leftist parties. As a result, the Maharashtra police had no alternative but to return to Mumbai with the illegal migrants and to release them in the city to live happily thereafter!! The situation would have been quite different if illegal migration from Bangladesh had not become a vote-bank issue with communal over-tones. I am not aware of any other instance of any other state government making efforts of rounding up illegal migrants and pursuing their cases in the court, except for the stray cases in the north-east.

    The gravity of illegal migration from Bangladesh hardly needs to be over-emphasised. It has changed the composition of several areas not only in the states adjoining Bangladesh but far off places like Delhi. It was not therefore surprising that an illegal Bangladeshi migrant was appointed as a special executive magistrate in Mumbai. It is only after public outcry that the order was cancelled. Fears are being expressed that if the present trend continues, India may be faced with a demand for second partition. The illegal migrants are so well assimilated that in Nagaland, for example, illegal migrants are known as "Naga Mias". In parts of Assam, it has led to repeated large-scale racial and communal violence. According to present estimates, over 3 crore Illegal Bangladeshi migrants are residing in India. Earlier, in a public interest litigation the Supreme Court and very recently in November 2014, Delhi High Court has castigated the central government for neglecting the issue and not taking any worthwhile action. (Loksatta, 7 November 2014)

    The same public apathy is evident in the employment of illegal migrants from Bangladesh in low-paying jobs in the north-east and other states. It is seen that local persons are not prepared to take up certain types of jobs. Ready availability of illegal migrants seeking employment is a boon to the local people. Such labour is not unionised, is hard-working and diligent and is often prepared to work for long hours, in contravention of local labour laws. The question of passing a central legislation to prohibit employment of illegal migrants in any trade, profession, economic and commercial activity, service industries, etc. needs to be pursued vigorously. Since migrants are now spread over not only in the north-east but also in far off states such as Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and so on, such a law will have to be passed by Parliament to have all-India application.

    Illegal migration from anywhere, and particularly Bangladesh, is due to both push and pull factors, which would continue to operate in the foreseeable future due to disparity in the development in India and Bangladesh. It would be futile to lose sight of this reality. The Task Force on Border Management (TFBM) had therefore suggested that a system of work permits should be introduced under which a certain number of persons will be permitted to enter India for a specified period of time. The main advantage of adopting this policy would be that authentic information will be available regarding the number of persons who are permitted to enter the country in search of employment. At the end of the stipulated period, the person will have to leave India. The Group of Ministers was not inclined to agree and felt that this will open the flood-gates for migrants. But, this apprehension seems to be baseless. A number of countries are operating such schemes with reference to their neighbours. I would suggest that this proposal should be seriously considered to find a long term solution to the problem.

    The task force report had invited particular attention to the striking proliferation of madrasas on the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Nepal borders and their serious implications for the over-all security situation. The task force had also underlined that partly this was due to non-establishment of primary and secondary schools by the concerned state governments in the border areas. This left no option to the parents but to send their children to the madrasas. The large funding of some of the madrasas and places of worship through funds received from abroad, often through havala and other clandestine channels, was also highlighted by the task force. Though over a decade has elapsed since the submission of the report, these issues have continued to be neglected and have reportedly come up again in the investigations by the National Investigation Agency in the Burdwan bomb blast inquiries in October-November 2014.

    The confiscation of large quantities of illegal arms and ammunition in Burdwan in West Bengal in October 2014 and the alleged laxity of state police in the matter has come in for considerable comment. The representatives of the ruling Trinamool Congress party have stated that the fault is due to the porous Bangladesh border and the neglect of the concerned central government agencies to safeguard the border properly. This is a typical case of shifting the blame and finding a scape-goat. But the basic thrust of the argument in terms of the importance of safeguarding the border cannot be lost sight of. The terrorists involved in a number of recent heinous crimes have confessed that they were trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan and had used Bangladesh and Nepal for clandestine cross border journeys. This, once again, highlights the importance of putting in place mechanism for assessing the work of border guarding forces, referred to above. It is imperative that the data in regard to performance appraisal of forces is in the public domain and made available under the Right to Information Act.

    A section of intellectuals in Bangladesh has been arguing on the basis of the concept of lebensraum or living space to claim that Bangladesh has a right to the living space around Bangladesh to accommodate its increasing population. Over the years, the reality is much worse than what this totally unacceptable concept seems to convey. The living space thus claimed is not just in the adjoining areas but also all over India in far of states such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and so on. Now some political parties in Bangladesh are even advocating the setting up of an union of Bangladesh and West Bengal. It is high time India awakens to these horrendous impending dangers.

    Over-Staying Visitors

    Another instance of public apathy is equally disconcerting. Over-staying visitors from Bangladesh and Pakistan has been a matter of serious concern for a very long time. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had, therefore, reissued a circular some years ago to make it obligatory on a person, with whom a foreigner may be staying, to inform the police if the foreigner over-stayed beyond the visa period. These unexceptional instructions too had to be withdrawn due to the clamour in the English media. This shows pitiable lack of awareness in the country on matters of interest crucial to national security. The government also did not make any effort to explain the position to educate the public opinion and preferred to meekly submit to public pressure and withdraw the instructions.

    Aadhar Card--Misconceived Scheme

    The Aadhar card scheme launched by the government of India may have some merit in terms of establishing the linkages of the persons with disbursement of subsidies, identification of beneficiaries under various welfare schemes, plugging loopholes in implementation of various development programmes and so on. But, the scheme is clearly counter-productive in terms of detection of illegal migrants whose number now exceeds over 30 million, even by a conservative estimate. Under the scheme, any resident of India, irrespective of whether he is an Indian citizen or not, is eligible to get an Aadhar card. And the process of obtaining the card is so simple that all illegal migrants can easily get such cards. Since this card is being accepted as a proof of one’s residence, it is bound to become a ‘passport’ for his citizenship. According to a news item (IE, 20 September 2014),the prime minister has directed that passports be linked to a Aadhar data in order to prevent duplication of work and ensure maximum utilization of the collected information. According to yet another news item, the central government is likely to make Aadhar card mandatory for issue of passport. (IE, 11 November 2014) This will make it easier for illegal migrants to obtain Indian passport. The whole governmental system seems to be working to make their life in India as comfortable as possible! The concerned bill—The National Identity Authority Bill, 2010—is still languishing in Parliament for want of consensus among political parties. Even though the bill is yet to be passed, thousands of crores of rupees are being spent on the scheme each year. This is a travesty of parliamentary democracy. I had hoped that the NDA government on assuming power in May 2014 will review the scheme as it undercuts the efforts of identification and deportation of illegal migrants. Unfortunately, the NDA government has extended its full support to the scheme. This is an outstanding example of how ministries in government of India have been working at cross purposes even in matters involving national security. On the contrary, as brought out by the 124th Report of the Standing Committee of Ministry of Home Affairs presented to the Rajya Sabha on 20 March 2007, the Multi-Purpose National Identity Card Scheme has been languishing since 2003.

    Importance of Border Trade

    Any programme of border management must encourage border trade so as to reduce the scope for clandestine activities. The flourishing illegal trade in cattle on Bangladesh border is a case in point. Number of cattle seized in each of the three years from 2010 to 2012 is over 1.25 lakh and the number of persons arrested is nearly 400. This must represent a miniscule percentage of actual smuggling of cattle and the corruption it must lead to. Cow slaughter is banned in India. The Supreme Court decision in the matter itself needs to be reviewed. But, there is no reason why export of cattle to Bangladesh should not be legalised. By doing so, it will not only lead to considerable accretion of foreign exchange but stop clandestine practices in the border areas and in the border guarding forces.

    Importance of Evaluating the Performance of Border Guarding Forces

    This leads me to an important recommendation of the task force which pertained to evaluating the performance of border guarding forces. The task force had recommended the principle of ‘one border one force’ with a view to making the border guarding forces accountable for their actions and inactions. It was suggested that the evaluation criteria and mechanism should be carefully worked out and annual evaluation of each border guarding force should be carried out sector-wise and made public. No information is available in the public domain on the action taken in this behalf so far.

    Border Fencing and Demarcation of No Man's Land

    Over the years, considerable emphasis has been placed on border fencing and flood-lighting, particularly on the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders. One aspect has however been neglected all along. Bangladesh border is an artificial border in most parts and often divides a village or even a residential house in two. In such a situation, safeguarding the border becomes impossible. Efforts will have to be made to redemarcate the border in selected places by mutual agreement between India and Bangladesh. But, this process has been rendered next to impossible due to the Supreme Court decision in the Berubari case involving exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh. The apex court decided in the said case that every such transfer of land or settlement will require amendment of the Constitution, making the whole process highly politicised and time-consuming. One can imagine how contentious and controversial will be any settlement of China border, leave aside the enclaves in the Bangladesh border areas.

    A facet of border management which has been neglected, all these years, is of demarcating a no-man’s land along the border so as to keep it fully sanitized and to safeguard it from any human activity. Creation of such a strip would make the task of border guarding forces so much easier. This is particularly necessary in some segments of Bangladesh and Pakistan border but due to financial implications and the likely problems in resettlement of the population, this subject has been put on the back burner all these years. With recent unprovoked firing on civilian population in the border areas in Punjab and J&K, demand has been raised by the affected people themselves to have them resettled in the other safer areas. It is high time priority is given to this aspect for time-bound action.

    Coastal Security--The Weakest Link

    As is well known, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. One of the weakest link in border management pertains to coastal security. It is seen that the programme of coastal security is being implemented in nine coastal states and four coastal union territories since 2005. The programme involves setting up of 73 coastal police stations, 97 check posts, 58 out-posts, and 30 operational barracks, and to equip them with 204 boats, 153 jeeps and 312 motor-cycles. However, the available data on the subject is disconcerting. Praveen Swami in his article "India's marine police programme floundering" (The Hindu, 4 August 2011) has brought out how the ill trained and unequipped crews are unprepared to deal with terrorist threats, how police boats are 'floating hell' and have not even been provided with toilets, and how the programme is marred by poor planning.

    Maharashtra is an outstanding case in point. This state had the dubious distinction of suffering heavily due to utter neglect of coastal security. The 13 serial explosions in Mumbai on 12 March 1993 which killed 257 persons were due to contraband bomb-making material brought in on Ratnagiri coast. The involvement of customs staff, police and others has been well documented. All concerned persons should have been dealt with in an exemplary manner. But, the cases were permitted to be dragged on in the courts for years together. There is no reason why provisions of Article 311 of the Constitution could not be invoked to take exemplary action which could have had a deterrent effect on others for creation proper climate.

    A Classic Case Study

    Attention must also be invited to the daring and dastardly attack by Pakistani terrorists on Mumbai by sea route on 26 November 2008 which killed 170 people, including 25 foreign nationals, 18 security personnel and 5 sailors on high seas. V. Balachandran, a highly respected I.P.S. officer who had worked with in the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Cabinet secretariat and who was a member of the two-man enquiry committee appointed by the state government, has stated: The 26/11 Mumbai attacks were marked by several new features.1 For the first time, heavily armed terrorists invaded India through sea route and engaged in active combat for almost 68 hours. All earlier attacks on Mumbai were explosions through timed devices. It was also for the first time that so many foreigners were killed, mostly in 5 star hotels. Mounting of simultaneous attacks by terrorists on five targets totally confused an unprepared Mumbai police and public, much like the 11 September attacks in U.S.A. The psychological damage and panic created in civilian population resulted in severe public anger resulting in the resignation of several senior politicians including the state chief minister and the union home minister.

    The saga of the attack reads like a crime novel. The preparations for the attack were carried out in great detail. It was in January 2008 that two Indian nationals handed over rough target maps to LeT leadership. This information was fed into five GPS sets procured by the LeT. Fake Indian identity cards were prepared for ten terrorists (in five "buddy pairs") who were taught the Hindi spoken in Mumbai. Cell phones were obtained for them in fake names by payments made in other countries. Five cell phone handsets used by terrorists and abandoned in Mumbai were found procured from China.

    The fully trained terrorists left Pakistan waters on 23 November 2008 in a Pakistani vessel "al-Husaini". Each was armed with 1 AK-47 rifle with 240 bullets, 10 grenades, one 7.62 pistol with 14 rounds, one Nokia cell phone, RDX laden improvised explosive devices (IED) and dry fruits. The group had a satellite phone. On entering Indian waters off Saurashtra coast, they hijacked an Indian vessel M.V. Kuber with five crew members. Four of them were led away in "al-Husaini" and reportedly killed. One was taken to Mumbai coast as a guide, until the last four nautical miles, and then killed. They then inflated the rubber boat with a foot pump, transferred all equipment and abandoned Kuber with the dead sailor, reaching the Mumbai shoreline around 8:30 p.m. on 26 November. On landing in the thickly populated Machimar Nagar (Fishermen's colony) opposite Badhwar Park Railway officers' quarters, they split themselves into five groups and went towards target areas. Some hired taxis while one team walked up to the target area. The rest is history...The killing of senior Mumbai police officers seriously demoralised the entire police force which was engaged in combating operations for 68 hours.

    Balachandran has emphasised that the attacks unveiled a number of innovations in terrorist methodology. The most important was the handlers' ability to direct action from a foreign country. Next was their ability in utilising India's free electronic media as guide for further killings. The elaborate subterfuge which the handlers organised in their communications with terrorists was yet another innovation.

    The two-man committee was aghast to see the state of coastal security. The Committee has noted that despite receiving as many as six alerts between August 2006 and April 2008 about the likelihood of resort to sea route by terrorists, no significant steps had been taken to beef up coastal security by having regular interaction with the Coast Guard although the Government of India had notified on 22 Sep 2003 the Coast Guard as the Lead Intelligence Agency (LIA) for coastal/sea borders .

    It was well known that the patch work joint patrolling started from 1993 (after the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai) had not worked. Nothing other than convening meetings seems to have been achieved as evident from the information given to the committee by Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra. The difficulties of coastal patrolling require serious attention as Maharashtra has a coastline of over 720 kms and Mumbai is an island surrounded by sea and densely forested mangrove creeks.
    The Committee found that arrangements for monitoring security along the coast continued to face several impediments despite some recent decisions at higher levels of the Government of India and the Maharashtra authorities.

    Government of India had notified the Navy as a designated authority responsible for overall maritime security with both coastal and offshore security under its control. However, the exact responsibility of the State Marine Police has not been made clear. The Committee felt that it would be impossible for the Maharashtra State Police including Mumbai City Police to undertake the task of coastal security within their jurisdiction.

    It was brought to the notice of the inquiry committee that on 05-01-2009 the State Government issued a GR sanctioning funds for hiring boats for patrolling. But, the question was not merely of boats but training of policemen in sea operations. Present training by Coast Guard for a few weeks is totally inadequate.

    Also, present arrangements of the Mumbai police, where four police stations are notified as responsible for coastal policing have led to certain degree of confusion among the police stations about the role of the local police stations having jurisdiction over the land but not over adjacent water – a few feet away. One cannot make a fine distinction between illegal activities on land i.e. up to sea shore high water mark and what takes place a few feet inside in the waters.

    The Committee was of view that present arrangements were of a cosmetic nature. This observation was based on assessment made by officers in the field, who may have to face consequences of lapses, if any, in future. This must be sorted out by the administration keeping in view practical implementation

    The DGP told the Committee that the coastal security plan introduced by Government of India since 1993 was not working well because several agencies have to contribute to its success. According to these instructions local police have to cover shore to 12 nautical miles, Coast Guard 12 to 200 nautical miles and the rest by the Navy. For sea patrolling the Customs had to lend boats, staff had to be provided by police, LMGs to be mounted by Navy etc. One by one agencies, other than the police, dropped out. Navy which in 1993 agreed (Home Department minutes dated 7-4-1993) to provide 8 ships for coastal patrolling withdrew in 2006 by establishing “Quick Response Teams” at Murud & Ratnagiri. This was not adequate as evidenced by 26/11 attacks. The DGP said that all these difficulties had been voiced on several occasions.

    The committee was also told that coastal patrolling was not adequate since the local police did not have high speed boats, did not have trained marine police and were not able to do patrolling during monsoons or rough seas. Besides, the training by Coast Guard/Navy is only for a few weeks which is not enough for the policemen to acclimatize with the problems of operating on the seas.

    The Committee found that the resources available with Mumbai police were not adequate to conduct sea patrolling so as to intercept the boat used by terrorists and hence nothing perhaps could have been done on receipt of such intelligence alerts.

    The Committee felt that senior police inspector, Cuffe Parade, should have set up some effective police presence on the sea front including Badhwar Park.

    The Committee was of the view that there was some confusion about the geographical limits of the jurisdiction of the newly created Marine Police stations along the coastal line. This became evident in the case of incident regarding Machimar Nagar. The Committee has recommended that DGP/Commissioner of Police should clarify the matter so that local police stations are clear of their role.

    The only saving grace was that, unlike in many other earlier terrorist attacks in India, during this incident, there was real time operational co-operation between foreign and Indian intelligence agencies in tracking down communications between terrorists and their handlers. This helped immediate tactical planning for counter measures. Foreign co-operation also actively helped in securing scientific evidence in tracking down the source of procurement of equipment used for the attack. But this was after the event and cannot be a substitute for close attention to safeguarding of borders.

    As for the strategic failures of government machinery, Balachandran has brought out that even though the central agencies received a series of intelligence alerts from 2006 that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) was training teams for seaborne commando attacks on multiple targets including luxury hotels in Mumbai, they did not lead to capacity building by the local police in Maharashtra state. No efforts were made to strengthen sea patrolling. The state police were responsible for guarding 12 nautical miles from shore line, Coast Guard from 12 to 200 nautical miles and the rest the Navy. Owing to several reasons, the state of Maharashtra, which has 720 kms of coast line, could not set up satisfactory coastal security. The central government also failed to order the Coast Guard to keep vigilance despite terror alerts since 2006. Special anti-terrorist squads created in Maharashtra to confront terrorists in the wake of earlier bomb attacks also proved inadequate. The terrorists used "area clearing weapons" like grenades against which the local police had no suitable equipment to counter.

    Prior to the attacks, the central and state governments neglected "open source intelligence" on such attacks. They failed to verify press reports that a suspected LeT vessel with terrorists was intercepted in March 2007 off Mumbai by coast Guard. Similarly, the Mumbai police failed to analyse capacity building by the terrorist groups concerned and and their implications for Mumbai's own security following the Kabul Serena Hotel attack (January 2008) or Islamabad Marriot attack (September 2008).

    The government's response was also disappointing in that it took (almost 11 hours) for the National Security Guard (NSG), the specially trained commando force to counter terrorist attacks, to arrive at the scene since they had to be flown from a location near Delhi. By the time they arrived, most of the killings and arson had already taken place. The army and navy contingents who were deployed in the interim to help the local police proved ineffective in resisting the heavily armed and well trained terrorists. Even the NSG only managed to clear the last terrorists in the afternoon of 29 November. The poorly equipped local police took heavy casualties in the process but contributed most to containing the damage.

    I have given these extensive details since they pertain to the most recent case study which is so closely related to the subject of border security. Three shocking points pertaining to the above enquiry need to be noted. First, the inquiry was intrinsically incomplete as it pertained only to the actions of Mumbai police. The role of central government agencies such as the RAW, IB, NSG, Navy, and the Coast Guard was kept out of the purview of the committee. It is not known if the central government carried out any inquiry in the matter as this would have been a useful case-study for all concerned. The people have a right to know how these agencies functioned and what needs to be done to avoid such lapses in the future. But, this is not for the first time that the central government took holier than though attitude. In the notorious Enron power project, the centre refused to co-operate with the high level enquiry committee appointed by the state government, under my chairmanship. In fact, the then NDA government went to the extent of obtaining from the Supreme Court an ex-parte stay for the judicial commission of Inquiry set up by the state government under the chairmanship of a retired judge of the Supreme Court! This tendency of hiding its lapses and mis-governance in the name of safeguarding one's turf and secrecy needs to be deprecated.

    The second shocking feature was the refusal of the state government to make the report of the two-man committee public under the ridiculous plea that it would adversely affect the criminal trial of Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who was arrested and finally executed under the orders of the court. In the process, the short-comings of the state agencies and remedial actions which needed to be undertaken were kept away from public scrutiny. Some public spirited persons went in a public interest litigation to the Bombay high court but the state government stone-walled it in the interest of national security! Finally, under intense public pressure, the report was placed on the table of the legislature on the last day of the session. The report has been marked confidential and has not therefore come in for public scrutiny. Such efforts are totally counter-productive. The cause of national security is certainly not served by such tactics. And the third, no action was taken against anyone for the lapses in this case which resulted in such a large loss of precious lives, destruction of public property and the loss of public confidence in government's ability to ensure national security.

    Lack of close co-operation and reluctance to share information among agencies operating on the border is a long-standing problem. The Task Force on Border Management had, inter alia, underlined the importance of institutionalizing the arrangements for exchange of intelligence at various levels. In the anxiety of each organisation to guard it's turf and not permit another agency to share in the credit for any operation, no progress has been made in the matter so far, even though nearly 15 years have elapsed since the submission of the report. The states always seem to complain that the intelligence alerts received by them are not specific enough and are therefore non-actionable. It must be appreciated that by its very nature, intelligence on sensitive issues is, in most cases, non-specific and often general. The skill lies in piecing together such intelligence and to build a coherent picture out of it. Experience has shown that there is considerable scope for capacity-building in this area.

    Some Larger Policy Issues

    Finally, I would like to dwell on an issue which has considerable bearing on national security as also the law and order situation in the country. The founding fathers of the Constitution had not visualised that making water-tight compartments between the responsibilities of the states and the centre would create such enormous problems in a gigantic country like India. According to the Constitution, public order and police are entirely in the domain of the states. This has created enormous problems in dealing with the menace of inter-state crime, organised crime, drug trade, clandestine activities along the borders, and so on. It is time the Constitution is amended to make police and public order concurrent subjects. This will strengthen the hands of the central government substantially. Now that the BJP has a clear majority in Lok Sabha and the people's mandate to give good governance to the country, I hope the central government will make strenuous efforts to build an all party consensus for the passage of the necessary Constitution amendment.

    It is equally important to pay attention to the restructuring of the state and police departments in the states and the centre. It was as far back as 2006 that the Supreme Court laid down guidelines on this subject in a public interest litigation filed by the Common Cause and Shri Prakash Singh. Unfortunately, these guidelines have not been implemented by most of the large states and also the central government. Ultimately, the success of border management will depend on how efficiently the police function in the country. It is a pity that even the orders of the highest court in the land have not been implemented in the country so far. This is a shocking commentary on the state of governance in the country.

    In conclusion, I would like to underline once again the importance of reducing to the barest minimum secrecy in dealing with matters pertaining to management of international borders. It is only by the closest surveillance of the people at large that borders can be safeguarded. Second, the importance of close co-operation of the states in these endeavours cannot be over emphasised. I hope this Y.B.Chavan memorial lecture will help in inviting attention to these crucial issues.

    • 1. V. Balachandran, Dealing with the Aftermath of Attacks: Lessons from Mumbai and Elsewhere on What to Do and What not to Do, National Security and Intelligence Management: A New Paradigm, Indus Source Books, Mumbai, 2014, pp. 258-261.

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