The CPMFs must work out an arrangement with the army to not only allot more vacancies in army courses but also to run special courses for CPMF personnel in their training academies. With their present organisational structure, organic weapons and rudimentary surveillance capabilities, they are not adequately, equipped to effectively counter nearly full-blown insurgencies with secessionist tendencies supported by inimical powers is time for a bipartisan National CPMF commission to take a hard look at the organisational structure of all CPMFs and recommend viable practical measures to revamp and prepare them for the tasks at hand.
The last two decades of the 20th century witnessed a spate of internal security problems, terrorism and insurgencies in Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and in India’s northeastern states. Though law and order is a State subject, the level and intensity of the “proxy war” sponsored by Pakistan willy nilly led to the increasing involvement of the Indian army and the CPMFs in an ad hoc manner for internal security duties and counter-insurgency operations without adequate regard for their primary roles. Besides the army, the Rashtriya Rifles and the Territorial Army, the Assam Rifles, the Border Security Force, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Special Service Bureau, the constabulary and provincial armed police of the concerned states and, occasionally, forces like the National Security Guard are being employed in internal security duties at present.
The CPMFs have suddenly witnessed a spate of new raisings since the late 1990s. The BSF, CRPF and ITBP battalions now outnumber the army’s 350 plus infantry battalions. This makes the CPMFs the largest central police and paramilitary forces after China. Both the BSF and the CRPF are raising about 15 to 20 battalions every year. While there may be strength in numbers, quality is bound to be diluted. It may be possible to manage the induction of additional manpower without seriously compromising the quality of intake as there is no dearth of volunteers, but it is virtually impossible to recruit and train junior leaders on a war footing.
Since young officers and JCOs or inspectors are at the cutting edge of leadership in internal security and counter-insurgency operations, the new units are unlikely to be able to perform creditably. Worse still, these are likely to be left under-staffed due to an overall shortage of officers, leading to an extra burden being placed on the handful of officers posted to the units. Another area of concern is the increasingly greying population of CPMF inspectors. Most of them are above 50 years of age and are physically unfit to lead men in tough and challenging operations in rugged mountain and jungle terrain over long distances at night. They are cautious in their approach and are loath to take operational risks.
Though the CPMFs have their own training academies, the quality of instruction being imparted in them leaves much to be desired. Neither the junior officers nor the NCO instructors have the qualifications and the experience necessary to teach counter-insurgency skills that demand a high degree of competence in close quarter battle, jungle warfare tactics and sensitivity towards human rights. Only a handful of CPMF instructors are trained in many training establishments each year. The CPMFs must work out an arrangement with the army to not only allot more vacancies in army courses but also to run special courses for CPMF personnel in their training academies. Ideally, the army should be called upon to provide newly-retired volunteer personnel who are suitably qualified on re-employment basis to the CPMFs as unit instructor to improve training standards. As the operational responsibilities being discharged are similar, commonality of approach in training is necessary in order to carry out joint operations effectively and achieve better results.
At the higher level too the CPMFs are not getting the type of leadership that is required. Most of the posts of DIG and above are being given to officers of the Indian Police Service. These IPS officers are schooled basically in policing duties, criminal investigations, traffic control and in “bandobust” for political rallies and “bandhs”. They have absolutely no experience whatsoever in internal security and counter-insurgency operations that are highly specialised operations. Unless an officer comes up through the mill he is unlikely to attain the deep understanding that is necessary and can never hone his instincts. As they lack training and experience in the task that is entrusted to them, they shy away from taking the initiative and seldom adopt a pro-active approach. As such, they are merely passengers and confine themselves to routine administrative responsibilities.
Most of the planning and coordination work is done by junior officers who have risen through service in the units but lack a real understanding of the larger picture. Also, the appointment of IPS officers to lead these forces generates resentment among the directly recruited officers who bear the brunt of active operations but are denied opportunities for promotions in the higher ranks. With low morale at the cutting edge of junior leadership, poor results in operations are only to be expected. Hence, at the national level, the results obtained are not commensurate with the colossal effort being put in by deploying a massive force of CPMF units in J&K, Assam and other northeastern states. The CPMEs must develop an army-like ethos to effectively discharge their internal security responsibilities.
Another major weakness in the operational deployment and tactical employment of CPMF units is the propensity to establish company level posts or bases. The commanding officer of the battalion, normally an officer of the rank of commandant, is traditionally given only administrative responsibility while the company commanders who are deputy commandants or assistant commandants, equivalent to army majors and captains, are left to independently handle operations. There have been occasions when a CP has stayed behind with his battalion HQ at say Allahbad while five companies are sent to Jammu and Kashmir for operations for over a year at a time. This results in complete lack of cohesiveness. A battalion’s organisational capabilities must be optimally utilised by employing it as a cohesive unit where a CO with much greater experience can exercise proper command and control, guide, warn and correct his officers and keep a hawk eye out for indicators of low morale. There have been several incidents in the recent past in which CPMF personnel have either shot dead their own colleagues or committed suicide, with service weapons.
The lack of seriousness at the national level in tackling festering insurgencies is reflected in the fact that despite almost 50 years of experience, not enough investment has been made to streamline the intelligence gathering apparatus for gaining information about the plans and movements of various militant organisations and their linkages with foreign benefactors. Each type of force involved in counter-insurgency operations has its own intelligence agency and is loath to share information and intelligence with other forces. This results in a disjointed and uncoordinated approach and increases the human and material costs of conducting successful operations. It is of crucial importance to establish institutionalised intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination structures at the directional, operational and the functional levels so as to achieve synergy in the conduct of operations. All-systems analysis centres must be set up to collate and synthesise raw information of extract usable intelligence from it. The communication channels between the army and the CPMFs must be made compatible and must be secure.
The CPMFs have performed creditably in meeting the challenges of internal security confronting the country. However with their present organisational structure, organic weapons and rudimentary surveillance capabilities, they are not adequately, equipped to effectively counter nearly full-blown insurgencies with secessionist tendencies supported by inimical powers is time for a bipartisan National CPMF commission to take a hard look at the organisational structure of all CPMFs and recommend viable practical measures to revamp and prepare them for the tasks at hand. At the same time the nation’s decision-makers would do well to understand that there cannot be a military solution to an insurgency. The army and other security forces can only achieve temporary military control over the law and order situation. The root causes of insurgencies require sensitive political handling and long-term politico-economic strategies, that are not based on vote bank politics before they can be eliminated.