Counter Insurgency

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  • Abhishek Ratkal asked: How prudent is an idea to formulate a national counter-insurgency policy in view of the LWE and northeast insurgencies?

    Vivek Chadha replies: I completely agree with you on the need for a national counter insurgency policy. It may have been noted by you that some countries undertake this kind of planning process on a regular basis. It not only provides guidance and direction, it also helps in synergising the efforts of various organs of the government.

    In the Indian context, the LWE is in fact an exception wherein there have been broad policy parameters laid down by the government. However, these have not been replicated in other areas like the Northeast. To be fair to the government, this process does have its share of challenges. This includes differences in approach between the centre and the states, large variation in the nature of challenges in different areas and external support to terrorism in case of J&K.

    Amongst the few attempts in this regard, the army did come out with a sub conventional doctrine in December 2006, which lays down broad parameters. However, this does not substitute the need for a national policy which is very much recommended.

    Role of Morals, Ethics and Motivation in a Counter-insurgency Environment

    Morals, ethics and motivation are the bedrock of the Indian Army, since it is considered more than a profession: a way of life. These qualities are put to test under most conditions of soldiering; however, there cannot be a more difficult environment than involvement of an army in protracted counter-insurgency (CI) operations. The conditions faced pose peculiar challenges, which force a soldier to adapt. This adaptation can potentially become a morally corrupting influence unless the ethical standards of a force and its moral bearings continue to guide actions.

    April 2013

    D. Aravind asked: Why can’t the Tripura model be replicated in other insurgency hit states (especially the states suffering from Left Wing Extremism)?

    Vivek Chadha replies: Every insurgency has its own peculiarities and dynamics, which defines and characterises it. Even two insurgencies in a single state could have a very different character. A look at the Bodo and the ULFA led insurgencies in Assam is an example. Similarly, the dynamics of various insurgencies in Manipur, which includes the Naga insurgency in the hills and Meitei dominated insurgency in the plains, is different, as is the Kuki led insurgency. Therefore, every insurgency should be tackled according to its peculiarities.

    India’s Maoists: The Party shall be over!

    Although there has been little change in the influence of Naxalites across the country over the past couple of years, patience and concerted effort shall no doubt make the Maoists irrelevant.

    September 07, 2012

    Rajesh Singh asked: What is the difference between insurgency and terrorism?

    S. Kalyanaraman replies: Insurgents, by and large, target the security forces and the state apparatus. They work to mobilise the people, acquire popular support and eventually overthrow the government. Insurgents, in Mao Tse-tung’s famous formulation, are the fish and the people are the water in which these fish swim. In contrast, the common people are the targets of terrorist violence today, although this was not the case when terrorism first emerged in the modern era. When terrorism came to be first employed as a strategy in the late 19th century, the targets were symbols of political authority—kings, emperors, viceroys, political leaders, government officials, etc. Further, these attacks were intended to serve as ‘propaganda by deed’, meaning advertisement for the cause. And these attacks were carried out only as the final resort and mainly against autocratic rulers and governments. In contrast, ‘there are no innocents’ is the motto of contemporary terrorists who moreover target democracies in the first resort. And, unlike 19th century terrorists who proudly proclaimed that they are indeed terrorists, terrorists today cloak themselves in the garb of freedom fighters and holy warriors.

    Be that as it may, both insurgents and terrorists engage in violence in order to attain certain political or increasingly politico-religious objectives-national liberation and independence, establishing a communist system of government or an Islamic form of government, restoration of the Caliphate, etc.

    Sairam asked: Why do states like Bangladesh and Myanmar support insurgency in India?

    Anand Kumar replies: There is considerable change in the policy followed by both Bangladesh and Myanmar in supporting insurgency in northeast India. Bangladesh started supporting insurgency after 1975 when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of the country, was killed in a coup on 15 August 1975. After his killing, right wing forces asserted themselves in Bangladesh. After a series of coups and counter coups, General Zia ur Rahman came to power. He reversed the policies followed by Mujib. He started following a policy that was hostile to India. One of the offshoots of his policy was the revival of support to northeast insurgents that was earlier taking place during the Pakistan rule. However, after coming to power in January 2009, Sheikh Hasina reversed this policy and is taking action against Indian insurgents groups who have been using Bangladeshi territory.

    As far as Myanmar is concerned, some misunderstanding was created in the Indo-Myanmarese relations after 1962. This prompted Myanmar to allow Indian insurgents to use its territory. Moreover, India’s border with Myanmar is densely forested which is used by insurgents sometime without the knowledge of Myanmarese authorities. However, in recent times, Myanmar government has taken several steps against Indian insurgent groups.

    Amit Kushwaha asked: Is employment of UAVs / UCAVs instead of manned aircrafts a better option for combating insurgency and terrorism in India?

    Vivek Chadha replies: India follows the principle of minimum force during combating insurgency and terrorism. With this as the backdrop, the employment of aircraft for offensive roles is ruled out given the possibility of collateral damage and escalation involved. It is only helicopters which are used for logistics (supply) and casualty evacuation in our context, and at times for movement of forces to ensure better mobility and flexibility. Therefore, while UAVs and UCAVs may not have a direct replacement role vis-à-vis aircraft, however, they can certainly be used for surveillance and tracking purposes. This would help conduct clinical and hard intelligence based operations which are in the spirit of India's counter-insurgency doctrine. Their employment for precision and guided strikes is not relevant in the Indian context, as it is against the very ethos of minimum force - a fundamental principle followed scrupulously.

    Hans Raj Singh asked: What is the basic reason of insurgency in northeast India? How the problem can be tackled efficiently?

    Namrata Goswami replies: There are four basic reasons for insurgencies in the Northeast. First, there was a historical absence of pre-British and British colonial polices to integrate the hill areas of then Assam to the rest of British India. Hence, the absence of historical linkages has created a space for later day feelings of cultural and political differences amongst ethnic communities with the rest of India. Second, most of the ethnic communities view ‘the use of force’ as more effective than non-violent dissent in getting New Delhi's attention which is physically so far away. Third, the continuous lack of economic opportunities creates incentives for unemployed youths to join armed movements where they earn a salary. Fourth, existence of external help from Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar has perpetuated the insurgencies.

    Problem can be tackled by use of efficient policing since absence of law enforcement has led to increase in armed violence. Effective policing should be supported by good governance, civil and political rights. The use of dialogue and negotiations is the only solution to these armed conflicts.

    Neeraj Kapoor asked: How the insurgency in Kashmir is different from the Maoist insurgency or the insurgency in Assam?

    G.K. Pillai replies: The insurgency in Kashmir is different primarily because it arises from differing perceptions with Pakistan and the people of Kashmir valley on the accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union at the time of independence and the special status accorded to the State through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The insurgency in J&K has been actively assisted by the Government of Pakistan and the two countries have fought in 1948, 1965, 1971, and in the Kargil sector on this issue. It has been the official policy of the Government of Pakistan to bleed India through a thousand cuts in order to weaken its resolve that J&K is an integral part of India. Pakistan has, therefore, not lost any opportunity to exploit any discontent in J&K. There are reportedly 22 camps in Pak occupied Kashmir where militants are being trained to be infiltrated across the LOC to attack security forces and vital installations in the State.

    The Maoist insurgency originates from apparent discontent over agrarian reforms and exploitation of the local population, especially tribals; and now has the stated objective of the overthrow of the Indian State and parliamentary democracy. It has got its support by exploiting local grievances against the local government to organise an armed liberation struggle against the Indian State. It draws inspiration from Mao Tse Tung’s Communist movement. It is not limited to any one state since the Maoists do not believe in parliamentary democracy and is currently spread in parts of at least 9 States in India. Maoists have been reported to have got training from the LTTE and are actively seeking cooperation from insurgent groups in the North East, especially the PLA.

    In Assam, there are a number of insurgent groups which are active. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) Paresh Barua faction seeks a sovereign Assam and has its origins in the fear that continuous migration of persons from erstwhile East Pakistan and now Bangladesh will alter the demographic character of the State of Assam to the detriment of its indigenous people. Who are the indigenous people of Assam still remains to be resolved. The BODO insurgent movement also called for an independent BODO State as these tribals felt that they would be discriminated if they stayed within the State of Assam. Then there are a number of other militant groups based on tribal identity and geographical contiguity who have taken up arms to fight for their tribal identity which they feel is not getting due recognition and support within the State of Assam. Both the ULFA and BODO groups have received training and arms from Pakistan.

    ‘Heart as a Weapon’: A Fresh Approach to the Concept of Hearts and Minds

    The recent 'heart as a weapon' initiative in Jammu and Kashmir has been received favourably both by critics of security forces and by the state government.

    November 16, 2011