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Anti-Naxal operations - Army, Ministry differ

New Delhi : The apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that meets this Thursday to discuss and decide the Home Ministry's rejuvenated plan to deal with the Naxal issue needs to bridge the differences between the Home Ministry and the Armed Forces on the conduct of operations.

While the CCS paper does not talk about Army or Rashtriya Rifles deployment at any stage at present, the larger picture ultimately has to be addressed by the UPA leadership. It cannot afford to yet again clear a six-line, confused mandate to the Home Ministry, like it cleared at the October 8, 2009, meeting.

According to sources, the Army differs on the following:

*It wants a politician or chief minister to head the unified command, and not a chief secretary or any bureaucrat, for better decision making.

*It wants that a Brigadier-level officer trained in counter-insurgency be deputed as advisor for planning anti-Naxal operations but wants that this officer report to the Home Ministry and not to the state government. Already there is a rethink on the performance of a Brigadier who has been attached to the anti-Naxal cell in the MHA.

*The Army brass feels that a more cohesive force like the Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) or Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) would be more suited for anti-Naxal operations than the humongous CRPF, which it believes is only suited for law and order situations or election management.

*It backs training, planning and providing logistics to central paramilitary forces for Maoist operations but does not want to get involved in the de-mining mess as insurgents are using non-conventional improvised explosive devices.

While a series of meetings have taken place at the highest levels to discuss the Home Ministry's latest paper on Left Wing Extremism (LWE) in the past two weeks, there has been hardly any firm view except the MHA advocating a two-pronged approach of development and security .

The Ministry's broad plan is to set up a Unified Headquarters in Chhattisgarh, headed by the state chief secretary, and a cell headed by Member-Secretary (Planning Commission) to monitor development schemes in the Naxal-affected states on the basis of validated economic and social data. On the operational front, the MHA wants Army advisors to plan tactical operations for paramilitary forces, more troopers with force multipliers on ground and more air support.

National Security Advisor (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon believes that a finely crafted anti-Naxal strategy and not merely increased hardware would yield results. In his discussions with Army Chief General V K Singh, he has stressed the same.

(Indian Express, 8th June)