A follow-up to the previous blogpost on a politically attractive anti-Maoist strategy.
Today’s Hindu has a brilliant piece by Praveen Swami explaining in great detail, and in a very rational manner, that the only way to secure victory against the Maoists is to build the local police forces and establish intelligence collection mechanisms at grassroots level. In theory, no one can disagree with the solution prescribed by the venerable journalist. But as with most such security solutions, these steps will take substantial time to implement and an even greater time to show results on ground. This strategy might be a Win strategy for the security professionals but it is not a Win strategy for the politicians; because security goals are mid- to long-term while political goals — read electoral gains — are short-term in nature.
As explained in this blogpost yesterday, any anti-Maoist strategy has to be a Win-Win strategy for both the politicians and the security professionals. Any such strategy thus has to meet the following inviolable benchmarks: it must visibly stall the momentum of the Maoist onslaught with irreversible gains; the political class must be able to demonstrate successful results from the security strategy in a very short span of time; and it must allow the security forces to seamlessly build upon and reinforce the initial success. In response to the suggested strategy of security operations moving outwards in concentric circles like an oil drop, a couple of issues about the strategy have been flagged by commenters such as ex-R&AW chief Vikram Sood, and my fellow blogger Retributions.
Retributions raised the very pertinent issue that as the state concentrates its forces in the designated target districts, it will provide an attractive target for the Maoists to launch their attacks in other districts. This danger exists but it needs to be borne in mind that other districts aren’t being completely denuded of security forces. These districts already suffer from insufficient forces but these security forces will now have to conduct counter-terror operations only to disrupt the Maoists. This will not be easy but it is far easier to disrupt the Maoists than to destroy them with limited forces, provided they have access to better intelligence. If there are setbacks, which will inevitably occur as Maoists retaliate to increasing pressure from the security forces, the government will have to manage the environment with a smart Strategic Communication strategy which focuses on the success of the state in the target district and highlights the desperation of the Maoists in launching their attacks.
There are a couple of issues raised by Mr Sood that deserve to be highlighted. His first point is the availability of the administrative resources to govern the target districts once the state has secured them, after clearing them of the Maoists. This should not be a problem for the first few districts where the state government can easily muster up the number of administrative and governance professionals from its cadre. Once the strategy progresses, the states will have no option but to regenerate the capacity for governance in its administrative cadre. A short-term solution to overcome this deficit has been proposed earlier at Pragati — to raise a new agency called CIMPCOR (Civilian Military Partnership for Conflict Resolution) for undertaking development in conflict-ridden environments. While the state governments would have to address the issue in the initial districts, the central government could raise and employ CIMPCOR for developmental work in the later districts as security operations move outwards.
The second issue raised by Mr Sood is of cultivating local intelligence. It is a challenge in any counterinsurgency but previous experience shows that once momentum seems to perceptibly shift towards the security forces, better intelligence is available to the government forces. This would need a strong push from the states and the centre which will have to progress concurrent to another step essential to the success of this strategy — police reforms.
The most substantive question though comes from Smita Prakash, Editor (News), Asian News International. Ms Prakash avers that it is not incumbent upon the security professionals and the media to make it worthwhile for politicians to accept a course of action. The political leadership has been elected to render national service and it is their bounden duty to do the right thing. While this is a noble and attractive thought, it ignores the Clausewitzean dictum that war is also politics by other means. Thus it is equally incumbent upon the security professionals to take note of the political considerations, while advising the political leadership or proposing a security strategy to the government.
An intellectual exercise in a political vacuum to devise a security strategy may be fit for seminars, conferences and professional journals but it will achieve little progress in the real-world of political decision-making. Moreover, as the situation stands today, the greatest challenge for this nation is to generate the political will to kick-start security operations against the Maoists immediately. If the political leadership is unwilling or unable to back the security professionals without any reservations, other stakeholders in the process have to find ways to force the political leadership to take the right decision. It may not be the ideal way of going about such things but it is certainly the most practical and pragmatic response to the current crisis. And it is surely in the national interest.