International concerns grow over the safety of the Indian Nuclear Arsenal

The Naxalite Threat

LONDON – Far removed from the photo-shopped images of ‘Shining India’, lies a dark and sinister shadow that stalks the Indian Republic. The spectre of the Naxalite threat now has middle-class urban Indians nervous as they watch increasingly worrisome media reports of the repeated failures of Indian Security Forces in containing the ‘red menace’ in the jungles and hinterlands of India.

What was once only a peripheral threat to the Indian State has now reached a critical mass that has left even the ivory-tower Indian elites in New Delhi with furrowed brows. An embarrassing problem once ignored and neglected has now broken out into the worlds glare. And rightly so. As the vigour of the Reds grows from strength to strength, and the impotence of the Indian Army and Paramilitary is increasingly apparent, questions are being raised of the safety and security of India’s nuclear weapons arsenal. Similar concerns were raised internationally only a few months ago when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan were said to be within spitting distance of Islamabad and Pakistan’s own nuclear arsenal was seen as an obvious target. But whereas the Pakistan Army swiftly and efficiently routed the militants from a standing start within just a few weeks, their colleagues in India have struggled to contain an irresistibly growing Naxalite movement that has pledged to bring New Delhi down.

In fact, there are few parallels that can be drawn with the Pakistani case. Whereas the Pakistani militants numbers in a few thousand and were confined to a tiny fraction in the north of the country, their Indian equivalents boast ranks of at least 20,000 strong (and growing) and have had significantly greater success. Now infesting massive swathes of Indian territory, India’s Naxalite problem is the most prolific and violent insurgency in any nuclear armed nation, and leaves Pakistan’s recent troubles far behind in terms of the implications for regional and indeed international security.

According to Indian government sources, the insurgency, which started in 1967 as a peasant uprising, has now spread to 20 of India’s 28 states – and is showing no signs of exhaustion. A staggering 700 people, including civilians and police, have been killed in the rebellion so far this year, up from 638 in total last year. Observers may be shocked that such dangerous developments have been scarce reported in the world’s media, but in September the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – probably on a break from being feted in world capitals – let the cat out of the bag when he described Naxalism as India’s greatest security threat, and said that security forces were failing to halt it.

With the rebel movement seemingly unstoppable, the international community is becoming increasingly vocal in its concerns of the very dangerous prospect of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of fanatical extremists. A the same time, the Indian government is desperate to save face and avoid derailing its recent global public relations blitz. Thus it is planning a major assault on the rebels across the four states where their presence is strongest. The move comes as new evidence emerges the Naxalites are stepping up their military and operational deployments as their successes have won them thousands of new recruits across the country.

But commentators are sceptical about what this new campaign can possibly achieve considering all of India’s recent botched attempts to stamp out the growing menace. Ajay Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, says Indian forces do not have the strength – in terms of “numbers, training, transportation, arms” – to gain control over such vast swaths of territory. “Until there’s been a steady, tremendous capacity-building, all deployments will be irrational,” he says. “It will just be a nibbling away at the peripheries, and a lot of security forces will be killed.”

As Indian forces are sent into the rebel-infested eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, and Bihar, the world will watch with baited breath. It is too early to say whether international concerns over the security of the Indian state and nuclear arsenal will be alleviated, but considering past performance, the prospect does not look good. The Indian Army may buck past trends and achieve its objectives, but more likely, there will be a great deal of movement in international capitals as contingencies are drawn for the worst-case-scenario.

Atif F Qureshi  PKKH Editorial Team and

  1. hindblogger
    October 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I am sorry friends- this looks like a very week propaganda and nothing else. Writer having all good time and energy has burnt all burners but at wrong place. Naxals- who are poor villagers, for them democracy is a luxury as they are paying heavy price to be heard and seen.

    I do not think NAXALS can be a threat to nuclear arsenal and this looks like to me that writer had never been to any tribal area. Had this been Khalistan movement in any area where nuclear plant is situated- I could have agreed to his view but naxals….I think this is too much to handle.

    P.S= There is cabinet meeting going how to handle naxal terror and we are going to see lot of encounters happening in coming weeks. Get ready you all human right violation crusaders…here comes warm blood of the poor.

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