Wanted: Ministry of Internal Security

Sep 20, 2011, 09:02 IST | Sushant Singh

After the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai, noted strategic analyst, late K Subrahmanyam had called for establishing a dedicated ministry for internal security in India

After the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai, noted strategic analyst, late K Subrahmanyam had called for establishing a dedicated ministry for internal security in India. The thought was echoed by Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram in November 2009 while outlining his plans for 'A New Architecture of India's Security'.

Unfortunately, the idea has since been pushed to the back burner of public discourse. But India already has a Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA). How would a new ministry for internal security be different from the existing ministry? What will it achieve?

As of today, MHA's charter is dominated by functions that are not related to internal security. MHA has a division dealing with freedom fighters but it does not even have a desk dealing with forensic science. It also has divisions dealing with centre-state relations, state-level legislation, human rights, governance of union territories, disaster management and national census. In today's times, internal security is a far more important function that deserves greater political dedication and direction.

Time for action: To supplement the state government's attempts to
counter terror, the centre should establish a dedicated ministry that
will look into matters of internal security

We have a dedicated ministry for external security, which is the Ministry of Defence (MoD). MoD isn't burdened with responsibilities unrelated to external security. In contrast, MHA is doing too much and hence doing it badly. A dedicated ministry for internal security will fix this problem. Unlike defence which is a subject exclusively dealt by the Centre, law and order -- which encompasses internal security -- is constitutionally a matter to be dealt by the states.

There are concerns that a ministry for internal security would impinge upon the federal structure of governance in our country. This fear, however, discounts the expanded range and changed nature of internal security challenges in the last two decades. Before that, major law and order violations were communal disturbances which were localised to one, or in some cases a few districts of a state.

Insurgencies in the north-east were also limited to political boundaries of a state. When states failed to bring the situation under control, the union government would step in, impose President's Rule and central forces would bring a semblance of normalcy and control. The same model was repeated in Punjab in the 1980s and in Jammu & Kashmir in the 1990s.

However, recent challenges to internal security have not only transcended political boundaries of states but have actually exploited these boundaries to further their nefarious designs. More than 200 districts in 20 states of the country are affected by Maoist violence, with seven states being seriously affected. As each state follows its own anti-Maoist policy, Maoists -- with their emphasis on controlling contiguous border districts of neighbouring states -- increasingly move between states to preserve their cadre and assets. This warrants a coordinated national response.

If Maoists have transcended the boundaries of states, jehadi terror in India has a multinational dimension. Jehadi terror strikes across India -- although mainly controlled by Pakistani military and intelligence -- have been planned, financed, resourced and supported from different countries. No state government can individually counter such threats. It needs the complete might of the Indian government which can be brought on by a dedicated ministry for internal security.

Moreover, it is possible to preserve the federal nature of our polity while having a ministry for internal security by emulating the example of US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS, created after the 9/11 terror attacks, develops and coordinates the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the US from terrorist threats. It coordinates  not controls -- the federal government's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the US.

Given the imperatives and the challenges of the times, internal security can no longer be a part of MHA's responsibilities. A division of the current functions of the MHA, resulting in creation of a dedicated ministry for internal security, is the need of the hour.

Sushant K Singh is Fellow for National Security at the Takshashila Institution and editor of Pragati-The Indian National Interest Review.

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