Our nation has faced the problem of insurgency and terrorism for many years. The state of Jammu & Kashmir (J & K), the Northeastern States are affected by insurgency and terrorism. As a result of the violence caused due to insurgency and terrorism in these regions, many civilians and security personnel have lost their lives. 

Our armed forces are playing a very important role in the fight against the insurgents and terrorists operating in the region and protecting India's citizens and its integrity. However, the dynamics of the Indian armed forces involvement in these operations are significantly different due to the nature of the origin of the insurgency in these specific regions.

Direct Role

The Indian Army has been playing a direct role in fighting insurgency and terrorism in J & K and the Northeastern States for decades. This is despite the fact that the Army is a force that is raised and trained primarily to protect India from external threat.

However, the reason for Army's direct involvement in these volatile regions is because there is enormous amount of external involvement in abetting and supporting the insurgency with the intent to cause social unrest in India. The situation is such that the CAPF can not maintain peace & deal with the insurgants.

In J&K our hostile neighbour to the west i.e. Pakistan mainly instigates the problem of insurgency and terrorism. For over three decades the terrorist operating in Kashmir are being provided direct assistance for their activities in J&K. Pakistan has organised terrorist camps situated in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Pakistan provides following assistance to the terrorists:

  • Training camps for newly recruited terrorists.
  • Provide launchpads for carrying out terrorist attacks across the border on the Indian Soil.
  • Terrorists are provided arms ammunition communication equipment for their operation in J&K.

Hence, for countering this menace of cross border terrorism in J& K the Army has been taked with bring peace to the state by reducing the violence.

As part of the direct involvement the Indian Army has raised a specialised counter insurgency force named Rashtriya Rifles (RR) which is specifically trained to carry out counter insurgency operations in the high altitude theatre of J &K.

In the Northeast a number of insurgent groups like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) are carrying out their terrorist operations against the Indian establishments by operating across the porous border between India and Myanmar. These terrorist groups have their bases in Myanmar and receive their arms and ammunitions from various Southeast Asian nations.

The border is very difficult to be fenced mainly due to its geographic terrain which consists of mountains, valleys and dense forests. Hence the insurgent groups easily move in and out of India to carry out their terrorist activity. Due to the nature of the border it makes the task of the Indian security forces to patrol and secure the boarders extremely difficult.

Assam Rifles

Similar to the Rashtriya Rifles in J & K, in the Northeastern States the Assam Rifles is the specialised force that carries out anti- insurgency operations in difficult terrain of the region. The Assam Rifles raised as Cachar Levy in 1835 is the oldest Central Para Military Force in India. The Force was raised mainly to guard the alluvial plains of Assam from the wild and unruly tribes inhabiting the surrounding hill tracts.

This was the earliest embodied unit of what eventually developed into the Assam Rifles. The Force is a potent organization with 46 battalions and its associated command and administrative back up. It is designated by the GoM committee as the Border Guarding Force for the Indo - Myanmar border and is also its lead intelligence agency.

Some of the specialist functions are:

  • Conduct counter insurgency operations in the north-east and other areas where deemed necessary, under control of the army.
  • During peace and 'proxy war', ensure security of the indo-china and indo-myanmar borders.
  • During war, rear area security in the area. Act as penultimate interventionist force of the central government in internal security situation, under the control of army; when the situation goes beyond the control of central paramilitary operations.

Indirect Role

The Indian Army is playing a direct role in the fight against insurgency and terrorism in J & K and the Northeastern States due to the complex role of external involvement in the nature of the security threat there. However the nature of the security threat in Central India posed by the Naxalite insurgents is very different from that of the situation in the J&K and the Northeast.

The cause of insurgency in Central India is mainly due to the socio-economic problem in the tribal belt of India. The people who are the perpetrators of Naxal insurgency are essentially misled Indians who are lured into carrying arms against the Indian establishments to create a communist government.

Despite the fact that the Naxals are carrying out a violent armed struggle against the Indian establishment and population for decades, the Indian Government has steadfastly refrained from using its Armed Forces directly against the Naxalites. We must understand the fundamental reasons for this. This is due to two factors.

First, the perpetrators of the Naxal insurgency are politically misguided Indians from poor socio-economic background in the tribal belt of India.

Second, it is a fact that it is taking place in Central India away from our nation's boundary, which reduces the chances for hostile external factors utilizing the Naxal problem as an opportunity to create national security problems for India.

We must understand from the above factors that the Indian Armed Forces which has the fundamental objective of protecting India and its citizens against external threats are not tasked to carry out anti-naxal operations as it would mean that the Indian Government is using armed forces against its own citizen.

However, the Naxals are armed and therefore require force to stop them. The Government of India is primarily using its paramilitary force Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the state police of the respective naxal infested States in Central India. So far the Indian Armed Forces have played an indirect role in the fight against Naxalism.

The Indian Army trains the CRPF commandos in the Art of jungle warfare and to defuse the Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that are predominantly used
by the Naxalites in their attacks against the security forces.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has employed its helicopters to carry out immediate medical evacuation of wounded paramilitary soldiers from the naxal insurgency hit areas where counter-insurgency operations are taking place. Over the recent years the IAF transport helicopters, the Mi-17 have also been used to transport the paramilitary troops fighting the Naxalitis.

Apart from this, the IAF has also used its unmanned aircrafts to carry out aerial reconnaissance of the Naxal movement and shared the information with the CRPF commandos carrying out operations on the ground.

Protecting India's Strategic Assets

Another important task of the Indian Armed forces in India's internal security protection of India's strategic assets. The term 'strategic assets of a nation' denotes the important military and civilian infrastructures, which are essential for a nation's security, technological advancement and economic growth. The strategic assets of India include the following:

  • Military Bases
  • Ports and airports
  • Oil refineries
  • Nuclear power plants
  • National capital - Parliament
  • Important bridges across major rivers
  • Dams - example Bhakra Nangal dam
  • Offshore oil rigs

These infrastructures are also very essential for the three wings the Armed Forces to operate during wartime. Assets like naval ports and airbases are the most vulnerable because terrorists and other hostile forces may attempt to sabotage them as our powerful warships and aircrafts are the most vulnerable while they are on their respective bases.

The 2016 Pathankot airbase attack is an important example on how the terrorist groups may target an important strategic asset of India. Hence it is the vital duty of the our armed forces to protect their respective strategic assets.