20 Years After Kargil: Report Card on Northeast India

Immediately after the Kargil conflict ended in July 1999, a Kargil Review Committee, chaired by the renowned strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam, was instituted and subsequently, a Group of Ministers (GoM) was set up thereafter. Both these reports highlighted the weaknesses in the lack of coordination between the R&AW, the IB and the military intelligence just prior to the war, and their inability to share information due to lack of inter-agency coordination. Further, R&AW’s human intelligence gathering techniques were found to be weak. Later, a review of the entire national security system by a credible body of experts was recommended and a full time National Security Adviser (NSA) was instituted.

The GoM Report

The GoM report was mandated to comment on broadly four major areas of national security i.e. Intelligence, Internal Security, Border Management and Management of Defence.  Further, as a part of its mandate, these recommendations were forwarded for implementation to the concerned Ministries/Secretariat i.e. the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) for Intelligence, Ministry of Home Affairs for Internal Security and Border Management and the Ministry of Defence for Management of Defence.

Vulnerabilities of Northeast India 

Northeast India is the easternmost region of India and comprises eight states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal, with a width of 21 to 40 kilometres (or 13 to 25 miles), connects the North Eastern Region with the rest of India. The region shares an international border of 5,182 kilometres, with the neighbouring countries, 1,395 kilometres, with Tibet Autonomous Region, China in the north, 1,643 kilometres, with Myanmar in the east, 1,596 kilometres with Bangladesh in the south-west, 97 kilometres with Nepal in the west and 455 kilometres with Bhutan in the north-west. It comprises an area measuring 262,230 square kilometres, almost eight percent of that of India. The total population of Northeast India is approximately 46 million with 68 percent of that living in Assam alone. Assam also has a higher population density of 397 persons per km² than the national average of 382 persons per km². The literacy rates in the states of the North eastern region, except those in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, are higher than the national average of 74 percent. As per 2011 census, Meghalaya recorded the highest population growth of 27.8 percent among all the states of the region, higher than the national average at 17.64 percent; while Nagaland recorded the lowest in the entire country with a negative 0.5 percent. It has over 220 ethnic groups and equal number of dialects. The hill-states in the region like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Nagaland are predominantly inhabited by tribal people with a degree of diversity even within the tribal groups. The region’s population results from ancient and continuous flows of migrations from Tibet, Indo-Gangetic region, the Himalayas, present Bangladesh, and Myanmar. What distinguishes these states from the rest of country is the sensitive geopolitical location with the existence of diverse ethnic groups with different historical backgrounds. The Northeast as a whole is not a single entity with a common political destiny; rather it comprises eight states. The Tribal communities in Northeast India are living on the fringe of three great political communities, India, China and Burma. Historically, some of them played roles of buffer communities, and others the roles of bridge communities between these three great political communities.

The NE region of India is of immense geo-political importance to the Indian sub-continent due to its terrain, location and peculiar demographic dynamics, and is one of the most challenging regions to govern. However, its 40 million population accounts for only 3.1% of the Indian population. Post-independence, the history of this region has been marred by bloodshed, tribal feuds and under-development. Protracted deployment and operations by the army and the Assam Rifles have been instrumental in the abatement of the levels of violence and restoring the security situation to ensure that civil governance elements can function. At present, a delicate, uneasy peace prevails in the region. Having realised the futility of violence, several insurgent groups have resorted to Suspension of Operations (SoO) or ceasefire, thus paving the way for negotiations and hopefully, a resolution of problems.

Indo-Myanmar Linkages

India-Myanmar relations are rooted in shared historical, ethnic, cultural and religious ties. India shares a 1643 km-long border with Myanmar in the four North-Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram with Myanmar’s Sagaing Region and Chin State. The Singrouphos and the Tai groups such as the Ahoms, Khamtis, Phakes, Aitons, Turungs and the Khamyangs moved to North East India from the Shan state of Yunnan and Myanmar. In the same way Nagas, Kukis, Mizos, and the Lushais entered North East India from Burma. The people collectively known as Chins by the Burmese live along the border of North East India and Myanmar. Similarly, there are still a good number of Naga tribes inhabiting western Myanmar adjacent to the Indian state of Nagaland. All these people still maintain their language, traditions, arts, crafts, lifestyle as well as traditional religious practices. The interests are protected by the Indo-Burma treaty of 1951 on Border Affairs which allows free movement of the local ethnic tribals on both sides for the purpose of carrying on local trade and social visits within 16 km either side of the international border.

Being a neighbour, Myanmar played a significant role in the spread of Indian culture, trade, commerce, philosophy, customs, religious practices and belief systems through land to South East Asian Countries. As the land of Lord Buddha, India is a country of pilgrimage for the people of Myanmar(89% population in Myanmar follow Buddhism). A large population of Indian origin (estimated about 2.9 million) live in Myanmar. North Eastern States of India and Myanmar had strong people-to-people contacts since ancient times and therefore had a lot of ethnic and cultural linkages. Saigang Region bordering with Nagaland and Manipur has Bamar, Chin, Shan and Naga population practicing Buddhism and Christianity.

Security challenges along the India-Myanmar border

Indian and Myanmar insurgents often cross the international border and establish camps in the vast jungles and largely ungoverned areas of Myanmar. Since the inception of insurgency in the Northeast in the 1950s, Naga, Mizo, Meitei, and Assamese insurgents have been crossing over into Myanmar to set up bases, especially in the Chin state and Sagaing Region, where they rest, recoup, train, plan and launch future offensives, and take shelter when pursued by the Indian security forces. There are today approximately 55 such camps that have been established by the existing insurgent groups. Earlier tacit approval of the Myanmar army and fraternal ties with the population across almost guaranteed their safety. This coupled with other insurgent groups combining to facilitate the establishment of these safe havens was indeed alarming.  In fact, this shelter and support that the Indian insurgent groups received from across the border was one of the most important factors which helped them in sustaining their insurgency.

Further, theseinsurgent groups procured arms from the existing black markets of Southeast Asia as well as from Myanmar-based insurgent groups such as the United Wa State Army (UWSA). While the bulk of the weapons from Thailand and Cambodia were smuggled through the sea route, some of them are also smuggled overland through the India-Myanmar border with the help of Chin and Arakanese insurgents. Weapons produced in China are also routed across the Myanmar border at Ruili and then trucked via Lashio, Mandalay and Monywa to enter the Indian border through Phek, Chandel, Churachandpur and Champai.

Narcotics and the ‘Golden Triangle’ Proximity to the ‘Golden Triangle’ makes the India-Myanmar border vulnerable to trafficking of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) produced in Myanmar. These narcotics are trafficked into India through the states of Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland from Bhamo, Lashio and Mandalay. The most important trafficking route is the one which enters Moreh in Manipur through Tamu and travels thence to Imphal and Kohima via National Highway-39.  Reverse trafficking of precursor chemicals such as ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine as well as codeine-based medicinal preparations from India to Myanmar takes place through the same route. While the bigger insurgent groups are not directly involved in drug trafficking to generate funds, they do so indirectly by demanding protection money from drug mafia for allowing safe passage to the drug consignments through their area.

The 1967 boundary agreement

The susceptibility of the India-Myanmar border to these threats and challenges stems from a number of factors. First, even though the international boundary between the two countries had been formally delimited and demarcated (except the northern tri-junction where India-Myanmar and China meet, pending the final resolution of the India-China boundary dispute) following the boundary agreement on March 10, 1967, the boundary has not crystallised on the ground as lines separating two sovereign countries. This is because like most of the boundaries that India shares with its neighbours, the India-Myanmar boundary is also superimposed on the socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, dividing several tribes and forcing them to reside as citizens of different countries. These tribes, however, refuse to accept the artificial line and continue to maintain strong cross-border ethnic linkages. Such linkages are often exploited by the insurgents to find shelter across the border among their own kinsmen who are sympathetic towards their ‘cause’.

Genesis of Insurgency

North East India has been in turmoil since independence. The oldest insurgency dates back to 1947 with the Nagas raising the issue of self rule and sovereignty. Since then, myriad insurgent movements have sprung up in most parts of the constituent states of the Region. Due to several common and specific abetting factors, violence mushroomed in different areas and during varied time periods.

The reasons for  insurgency  differs from state to state. Several factors like common ethnic stock, similar historical background and comparable geo-politics are responsible for abetting insurgency in the region. In addition, certain other factors specific to states, regions or tribes also acted as abetting factors for insurgency in the NE.

Assam: The roots of insurgency in Assam began with the protests/ agitations of the All Assam Students Union (AASU) against illegal influx of Bangladeshi immigrants. A break-away faction of the AASU formed the ULFA in 1979 with an objective of creating a ‘sovereign socialist Assam’.

With signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, the AASU ended its agitation and constituted the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). This regional political party participated in elections and subsequently formed the government. However, ULFA continued with its struggle, with sovereignty as the prime motive. Apart from ULFA and Bodo insurgents, the Dimasa groups of North Cachar Hills (now Dima Hasao District) had been claiming ‘Dimaraji’, a Dimasa state based on historical records and presence of Dimasas in majority.

These demands were in direct clash with the interests of Nagas who claimed the overlapping areas as parts of ‘Greater Nagaland/ Nagalim’. The Dimasa insurgency was brought under control with the signing of Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) in 2012 with consequent formation of North Cachar Hill Autonomous Council (NCHAC). However, splinter Dimasa groups continue to venture out and carry out acts of kidnapping and extortion.

Manipur:  The roots of insurgency in the State date back to 1964 with the creation of United National Liberation Front (UNLF).The discontentment was for the alleged forced merger of Manipur and delay in conferring Statehood.Subsequently, groups like People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) in 1977, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1978, Kangleipak Communist Party in 1980 and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) in 1994 emerged in Manipur. All insurgent groups propagated the idea of an independent Manipur with minor variation in ideologies.

In the Hill districts, contiguity with Nagaland and inhabitation by Naga Tribes enabled spillover of Naga insurgents into the State. NSCN (IM) has laid claim over these hill districts in the scheme of ‘Nagalim’ or Greater Nagaland. Kuki-Naga clashes in the Hill districts of Manipur in early nineties instigated the creation of several Kuki groups in the State. The groups which were initially formed to resist oppression by Nagas subsequently started demand for a separate ‘Kukiland’ state encompassing the Kuki-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam, Mizoram and even parts of Myanmar. However, most of these groups are now under SoO with GOI.

Islamist groups like the People’s United Liberation Front (PULF) have also been founded to protect the interests of the ‘Pangal Muslims’. Links with other insurgent groups of the NE and camps in Myanmar have been corroborated. The insurgents have been broadly divided into Valley Based Insurgent Groups (VBIGs) and others comprising the Nagas, Kukis, Muslims and those representing minor tribes.

Nagaland: Nagaland is home to the oldest insurgency in the North East. The idea of a sovereign nation was conceived by the Nagas even before the independence of India. Nagaland attained Statehood in 1963 and today comprises 18 districts divided on the basis of Tribal affinities.

The Naga struggle for sovereignty commenced with the formation of Naga National Congress (NNC) in 1946. The entry of the Indian army in 1953 to prevent armed rebellion resulted in the party forming an armed wing called the Naga Federal Army (NFA). An underground government called Naga Federal Government (NFG) was also formed.

The first major effort towards peace was the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975. However, the peace accord led to rebellion within the NNC which led to the creation of the NSCN in 1980. Difference of ideologies between the top leaders of the NSCN led to the splinter in the group in 1988 resulting in the formation of NSCN(IM) and NSCN(K). Both groups pursued the objective of creating a sovereign Nagalim encompassing areas of the present Nagaland state, Naga inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. NSCN (K) further split in 2011 to form a splinter group called NSCN (Khole-Khitovi (KK) which further split into NSCN (Khitovi-Neokpao or NSCN(KN)). In the same year, a split by the Zeliangs in NSCN (IM) resulted in formation of Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF).

In 1997, NSCN (IM) entered into a Ceasefire with the Government of India followed by NSCN (K) in 2001. On formation, NSCN (KK) also signed a Ceasefire with the government. In 2012, NSCN (K) further entered into a Ceasefire agreement with the Government of Myanmar. This agreement granted autonomy to NSCN (K) in the districts of Lahe, Leshi and Nanyun in Sagaing province of Myanmar. In 2015, NSCN (K) unilaterally abrogated the Ceasefire agreement. This decision of the group led to another split and resulted in the formation of NSCN (Reformation). NSCN (K) further went on to join hands with ULFA (I), NDFB (S) and KYKL to form the United National Liberation Front of Western SE Asia (UNLFW). In 2018, the NSCN (K) further split after the death of its founder Khaplang and now a smaller portion consisting mainly of Indian origin Nagas under the leadership of Khango Konyak left the group and have entered into a Cease Fire with the GOI as NSCN (Kango) and have joined the peace talks as a part of the NNPGs (Naga National Political Groups).

Situation Post Kargil GoM Report

Narcotics-Arms Nexus: The narcotics trade and the smuggling of arms and explosives are intimately linked and adversely influence the security and the social fabric of the affected region. India is located between two drug producing areas of the Golden Crescent in the West and the Golden Triangle in the East, which has resulted in drug trafficking through the country as well. The drug mafia has been improving its network and escalating its level of activities. Many of the existing insurgent groups are receiving weapons mainly from across the borders with the assistance of organised smuggling groups. Most of the arms are being smuggled via Bangladesh and Myanmar.  These continue with a lesser degree despite a number of measures being taken by the security forces and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Fake Currency and Money Laundering:  Along with narcotics and illicit weapons trade, generation of black money and money laundering, there is a progressive blurring of lines between legal, financial and business operations and criminal activities; these create ample space for collusion between organised criminal and legitimate enterprises. A large amount of fake Indian currency continues to be smuggled into this region. This reduced to an extent during de-monetisation but has re-started to almost the previous levels.  Laundering of proceeds continues to sustain a large variety of criminal activities, including kidnapping and blackmail. Co-operation and collusion between organised crime and insurgent  elements continues.  Given the law and order as well as insurgency situation in the North east  the narcotics trafficking, arms smuggling, fake currency and money laundering rackets, provide a boost to the already fragile adverse situation. The prevention of money laundering is essential for safeguarding internal security.  The MHA and the Ministry of Finance have taken substantial action and provided  additional allocation for strengthening the resources of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Central Bureau Narcotics (CBN) and Foreigners Division (MHA) in the North East especially in the vulnerable areas of the NE, like Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal and Nagaland. These arms of the state need further strengthening.

Illegal Migration: The law and order problems of the North East were aggravated by large scale unchecked migration from Bangladesh. Post 1971 illegal migration from Bangladesh into various States of the North East is estimated to be of the order of approximately more than 12 million people. This has generated a host of destabilising political, social, economic, ethnic and communal tensions. Politically, the Bangladeshi migrants are in a position to influence the results of the elections in a large number of constituencies in the North East (about 32% of the constituencies in Assam).  Economically, increased pressure on land, resulting in depletion of forest wealth, undercutting of wages of unskilled jobs, forcible occupation of Government land by the migrants and a host of other such issues, generate a ripple effect in the entire North East creating social and ethnic frictions which finally lead to violence. Illegal migration has decreased to a substantial level mainly due to untiring efforts of the security forces both the Assam Rifles and the BSF, the completion of the fence along the Indo- Bangladesh border and the forward movement of the Assam Rifles to the Indo- Myanmar International Border. Also with the recent measures being carried out due to the implementation of the NRC and the likelihood of the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the parliament, further reduction in illegal immigration is expected.

The Free Movement Regime

The India-Myanmar border has a unique arrangement in place called the Free Movement Regime (FMR). The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions. While the FMR has helped the tribes continue maintain their age old ties, it has also become a cause of concern for the security establishment as its provisions are exploited by the Indian insurgents to cross over to Myanmar unrestricted and establish safe havens.  Today a 16 km free movement regime MOU has been promulgated post the acceptance by Myanmar Government. However, in this situation, due to the existence of only two border control points at Moreh and Zorawathor in Mizoram available along the 1635 kms long border and the lack of effective border control mainly due to an extremely difficult jungle terrain, lack of effective policing on the Myanmar side and the existence of insurgent camps in Myanmar, illegal trade activities in a variety of contraband items flourish along the Indo-Myanmar border. In order to check these practices, the several measures as under were recommended by the GoM to be adopted, these are as given below:-

(a)  Trade should be regulated only through one gate. This less the trade between the residents of the Free Move Regime (16 km belt) is in the process of being enforced.  Now, an Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Moreh located on NH-39 on the India-Myanmar border in the Tengnoupal district at about 110 km. from Imphal, the State capital of Manipur has started functioning w.e.f. 31 March 2018. Tamu is the corresponding town in Myanmar opposite to Moreh. And in addition, the Asian Highway (AH-1), a part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is being developed that will connect Moreh to Mae Sot in Thailand, via Mandalay and Yangon in Myanmar. Later, this road will be further linked to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Moreh will also be an entry/exit point for ASEAN and would thus be instrumental in facilitating India’s trade with ASEAN region

(b)  Border Fencing on a 10 km stretch along the Manipur-Myanmar border at Moreh was started in 2011 mainly to check free movement of insurgents and illicit trade. However this was abandoned after fencing an area of only 1.6 km on either side of the Land port at Moreh, due to public pressure of the locals living on both sides of the International Border.

(c)  Free movement regime should be restricted to tribals moving with head loads, comprising authorised local produce. An MOU was prepared and shared with the Myanmar Government in 2017-18. This is in the process of being implemented on ground.

(d)  Establish additional trading points in Tirap and Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Border trade with Myanmar is expected to not only lead to economic upliftment but also wean away the populace from insurgency. Other than Moreh and Zorawather, no other established trading points exist.

(e)  Further, a construction of a road running roughly parallel to the Indo-Myanmar border along its entire length was considered. At present this project has not been implemented but needs to be expedited.

Assam Rifles

The Assam Rifles needed to be conferred with powers under the Customs act and Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), as in the case of the BSF.  This is in the process of being completed and will bring about a change in the ability of the Assam Rifles to effectively manage the Indo- Myanmar border. To that end, 16 additional AR units were raised mainly for the difficult task of Border management between 2005- 09 and are in the process of moving to the international border.

The GoM had further recommended that “In order that for the Assam Rifles play its role effectively, it should be placed under the complete control of the MHA. The DG, Assam Rifles should be selected and appointed by the MHA and report to it directly. This issue however needs a rethink and is not recommended especially since at present the Assam Rifles enjoys seamless interface with the Army in an extremely difficult task of both managing a live and difficult Indo-Myanmar international border as well as deal with an ongoing difficult insurgency in many parts along the international border.  Further, it would be prudent to take a historical perspective of AR to understand the full potential of its utilisation. Assam Rifles traces its beginning to 1835 when it was raised as Cachar Levy.  Its current strength is 46 battalions. 80 per cent of its officers are from the Army, while the balance 20 per cent are promotes from the ranks.

To their credit, AR battalions have participated in the 1962 Sino-Indian operations  and even the Indian Peace Keeping Operations in Sri Lanka. In 1966, when the MNF uprising overran the state, it was only the AR battalion at Aizwal that held its ground providing a foothold for launching  operations to beat back the insurgents. It also allowed the use of IAF resources from within the state.

During the 1971 Bangladesh War, AR relieved regular army units in the northeast for employment in erstwhile East Pakistan. A few AR battalions were deployed in Sri Lanka during Operation Pawan in 1987. AR units were deployed in J&K during the initial stages of the insurgency. During Operation Vijay in 1999, AR battalions manned the Line of Actual Control with army formations moving out to the western theatre. Then there is the question of ethos, tradition and practices followed by the Assam Rifles. Since 80 per cent of AR officers are from the army, the organisation has developed military ethos in sync with the Indian Army. It is these intangibles like ethos of a battalion, morale and ethics that have decisive influence on the operational efficiency of a force. The best of equipment and training cannot bring about the culture of sacrifice for achieving victory in battle.

What would placing Assam Rifles under the MHA achieve? Making the AR a pure police force will dilute its operational efficiency. It takes years to build a battalion and hardly any time for the force’s combat capability to slide without the strong leadership and environment that is required to sustain the state of morale.

As is also evident from the history of employment of the force, it has been utilised in difficult war situations  to take on priority tasks in the depth and also hold lesser threatened sectors where the army units and formations had been relieved. The threat from China to our North eastern Borders has not reduced. Infact, over the years it has only enhanced. Such arrangements require very agile units that have the grit and determination as well as training to undertake such frontline tasks.

The over 1635 km of Indo-Myanmar border that the AR guards is difficult mountainous  cum jungle terrain. It has no fence, nor will a fence prove to be of much use in such areas. Across the border are camps of Indian insurgent groups. The insurgents are well trained, armed and experienced. To guard such a difficult border, there is a need to have a para-military-force that is steeped in the military culture and operates shoulder to shoulder with the army. The army officers who lead these battalions provide them the kind of leadership required to be effective in the terrain and environment that the AR operates.

Improved Security Situation-2019

RecentlyfromFebruary 2019 onwards,  the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) conducted a series of counter insurgency operations against the camps of the Indian insurgents groups based at the Naga self-administered zone in Sagaing region of Myanmar and were able to  destroy a number of these camps, seized arms and ammunition, and arrested several cadres of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Khaplang (NSCN-K) and Meitei insurgent groups. The Tatmadaw has also asked all non-Myanmar insurgents to leave the country and warned the NSCN (K) against giving shelter to any Indian insurgent groups in their headquarters at Ta Ga. If this continues, the security situation will greatly improve along the Indo Myanmar Border.

Border Area Development Programmes (BADP)

Border Guarding Forces should also be given the responsibility of assisting the state in its  Border Area Development Programmes (BADP) especially since they are deployed in areas where no other arm of the government exists. People living on India’s international borders, particularly on land borders, face myriad problems, like difficult terrain, harsh living conditions and lack of access to public amenities.  Frequent extortion by insurgent groups along the border is the norm along with thinly spread out administration and inadequate social and economic infrastructure, which add to their misery. Concerted efforts are being made by our neighbours through allurements, subversive propaganda and promotion of religious fundamentalism to  generate a feeling of alienation among the border population.  The remoteness of the local administration, its low visibility, illegal immigration, smuggling of arms, explosives and narcotic substances, further accentuate this problem. The Border Area Development Programme (BADP) has been enhanced and now is able to address the special needs of our border population.  In addition, Border Guarding Forces like the BSF and Assam Rifles are now involved in execution of community welfare schemes like holding of medical camps, construction of school buildings and water harvesting structures, building sports facilities etc., where local institutions are weak.  This action greatly enhances their ability to influence the needs of the border villages in a positive manner. This needs to be further enhanced.

Disinformation and Subversive Propaganda 

Forces hostile to India have tended to occupy the vacuum created by inadequate reach of national media. It is, therefore, necessary to initiate measures to combat the subversive propaganda and disinformation unleashed against India through a series of measures which include enabling Internet, mobile and TV coverage for the border areas. Here though many plans exist on paper, there is on ground very little movement in this area. Many villages along the international border still utilse communication networks of Myanmar which is a grave security risk. This needs to be completed with urgency.

Conclusion

What is abundantly clear is that national security is a function of a country’s external environment and the internal situation, as well as their interplay with each other which is influenced by the prevailing international order, its immediate and extended neighbours and the major powers. Further, the internal situation encompasses many aspects of national life, ranging from law and order to economic fundamentals and from the quality of governance to national cohesiveness. The external environment and internal situation of a country do not subsist in watertight compartments but act and react on each other in ways which affect its security. In today’s interdependent world, this earlier distinction between the internal and external security concerns have got blurred thus altering the traditional concept of national security, which in itself has undergone fundamental changes and is no longer synonymous only with sufficient military strength. This now includes economic strength, internal cohesion and technological prowess.   The fundamental security of the individual citizen includes security of life and property, food security, energy security, clean environment, education and health.  A strong sense of nationalism and good governance also form an integral part of national security; as does the ability to retain political and economic sovereignty and autonomy of decision making, in an era of globalisation and increasing economic interdependence. The rise of China, has forever changed the external and internal environment in the North East of India, and now coupled with improvement in nuclear weapons and missiles, the use of cyber technology as a form of warfare, increasing cross-border terrorism, the emergence of non-state actors, the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the narcotics-arms nexus, illegal migration and left wing extremism, gravely impact upon the security of this region. These rapid technological developments underway at the same time not only facilitate these events by reducing our reaction time but add entirely new dimensions of threats and challenges, forcing us to now plan our own Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and enhance our capabilities to plan and fight in the domain of information warfare.

Over the last 20 years since the GoM report, the challenges that face the North East have only increased and once again institutions that were created 20 years ago or merely tinkered with following the report, now need to be once again strengthened and restructured in order to cope with the continuing new and emerging challenges facing us in the areas of Intelligence, Internal Security, Border and Defence Management in the North East.

(Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan, PVSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, after a successful stint of 39 years in the Indian Armed Forces retired in 2018 from the services as the Director General, Assam Rifles.)

(This article is carried in the print edition of July-August 2019 issue of India Foundation Journal.)

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