Thursday, June 28, 2012

Are we a soft state?

Perhaps a few definitions of the modern era have seen such diverse opinions as the definition of the word “state” has. Thinkers around the world from the onset of the 18th century have tried to define state in one form or the other. Yet it is now accepted that Max Weber’s definition of state perhaps holds the best possible explanation in the present circumstances that we live in today. Max Weber had defined state as a political organisation that maintained a monopoly of the legitimate use of force within specified territory. And like everything else that has been true for the human society, with the progress of time this definition of state too has undergone a metamorphis.

As time progressed the threats to a nation changed its fundamental nature .From massive wars the world began to see a rise in small armed conflicts .And with this came a fundamental shift in the way strategic power of a nation was calculated. The question was, was a particular nation able to negotiate the threats it faced internal and external? Nations which did so were states which were able to successfully tackle challenges to its securities while those who faltered were termed “soft state”. Soft state essentially meant those nations which had failed to send a strong message to the perpetrators of terror that it would be tough to wage a war against that state.          
And it is in the backdrop of this premises that we must evaluate whether India is a soft state or not.
In order to deal with the question of India we must go back to its history to understand its roots. A famous Persian poet had once remarked
“Carvan aatey gayeHindustan basta gaaya”

In short it meant that historically people poured into India from all over the world and made it its home. This in turn meant that India was a country which was truly build on the ethos of multiculturalism. And yet this multiculturalism also presented India with one of its first challenges –equitable development.

Historically in India development has failed to reach the downtrodden masses. Very often the society is divided in so many levels in horizontal as well as vertical direction that those in the periphery are left out from the benefits of development. And very often these people resented sometimes it took the form of Naxalism ,sometimes Maoism and on other occasions misguided youths indoctrinated in the language of hate with their misery as a justification to wage a war on the state. These expressions of grievances are often played by external states in order to gain a strategic influence or hold over India. Thus the internal threat that exists to this nation is compounded by external players threatening the sovereignty the existence of this nation. And v very often at the root of internal threats lie grievances, unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Yet such threats to nations have existed around the world. The Baluchistan problem in Pakistan, the Urughyuir problem in China, the North Dagestan problem in Russia and the recent division of North and South Sudan illustrates that historically inequitable development has always resulted in internal threats for a country.

A second facet that has emerged as a threat to a state today is external .Yet these external factors are often non-state actors. This essentially means they are not affiliated to any particular nation but rather belong to a group whose basic agenda is to create terror. While they may resort to rhetoric as a means of justifying their ends they usually lack a coherent ideologue apart from belonging to a group which only resorts to violence.
 A very poignant example would be the Boko Haram group of Nigeria. Although it claims to adhere to a certain ideology yet it is a widely known fact that this group is merely a front organisation for Al Qaeda the global terrorist network. Another example is the Haqqani network. These organisations operate on a global scale through various fronts. They don’t identify themselves with any particular goals. Their agenda is only to spread terror. This form of threat of violence is formless and hence more dangerous.

India when rated on combating these two parameters presents a mixed picture. In 2010 the Prime Minister of India had famously declared that Maoism today was the number 1 threat to this nation. Coming at the backdrop of Dantewada massacre (where a large number of CRPF jawans lost their lives) this was perhaps an apt definition of the situation. India has failed a number of times in combating internal security issues .Maoism has refused to bow down from the country and every time the government has tried to stem its roots in one state it has spread itself to another. Kashmir as a security issue continues to bog down administrators of this nation.

Yet overall the situation itself is far from dismal. The situation in the North Eastern region has improved tremendously. The Indian government has been able to negotiate peace deals with NSCN (IM), a faction of the ULFA, the NDFB, the PRPK the BLT and so on. In the fast few years violence in the NE has come down on a large scale. The Kashmir valley has witnessed an era of relative calm and peace since the ugly protests of 2010.The Maoists have been forced to wind up their operations in the South .Operation Greenhunt has been a major success in Andhra Pradesh which has- flushed this once hotbed of Maoism-free of them.

In matters pertaining to threats emancipating from external factors India has faced greater questions. Indian prestige hit the lowest point when it had to negotiate with terrorists in 1999 and had to agree to a exchange deal with the terrorists. Since then India has been repeatedly hurt by forces whose roots lie elsewhere, the Mumbai blasts, the Best Bakery blast of Pune and a number of others blasts and terrorist attacks have their roots in foreign shores. Such threats neutralisation often requires support of foreign states which invariably complicates matters. Thus the success and failure of India dealing with external factors must be weighed against this critical parameter as well. And in this backdrop often without support from other nations India has performed reasonably well.

When these factors are analysed there is a clear picture that India has been able to present itself as a confident state which can take on enemies which threaten its unity and integrity.Yet a lot more needs to be done to further improve the position. A few steps in this regard can be :

Development can always act as a potent tool to quell internal dissatisfactions arising in country. However we must make sure that this development is not “top-down” but rather implemented through the “bottoms-up” approach. The IAP (Integrated Action Plan) in the 9 naxal affected states is a welcome step in this regard. The various Horticulture projects being implemented in the NE states are other indications of robust programme which have been able to fulfil local aspirations thus quelling the clamour of apathy and ensuring all round development and equitable growth.

Security of a nation doesn’t merely lie in the arms of the soldiers or the policeman. The onus is on the judicial system as well. Hence steps must be taken to create a further robust and stronger judicial structure. In this regard a few steps that can be taken are : establishing fast track courts to adjudicate on matters which threaten the unity and integrity of the country, making stringent rules of punishment for those involved in perpetrating crimes against the state. Existing laws in the country should be strengthen and new ones should be framed, the face of threat today in the global context is changing and hence the laws of the country too must be equipped to handle the changed context.

Today strategic dimensions of a nation are very important in order to be able to handle a threat perception. The foreign policy of a nation must be equipped to handle the changing behaviour of global threats for e.g. global terrorism. For this India must strive to further strengthen global security initiatives like the Interpol and put its own agenda forward in order to obtain global help in dealing with its own security issues. India must also strengthen extradition treaties with nations across the world so that perpetrators of violence caught in other nations couldn’t escape due to legal loopholes. A famous example in this regard is the case of ULFA leader Arup Chetia. He was nabbed in Bangladesh in 1990’s but is yet to be tried by an Indian court since India is yet to sign an extradition treaty with Bangladesh. Hence international cooperation must be strengthen and India must play a proactive role in the global scenario.

Seen in the light of the above arguments it is clear that India neither lacks the will to fight threats and nor has it been a failure. Thus India cannot be called a “soft state” under any circumstance. However there is still a  long way to go in creating a strong robust workable security regime so that citizens of the country feel safe and secured.

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