India no angel in dangerous neighbourhood
By Annie Banerji
Perhaps the finger-pointing at neighbouring Pakistan and the talk of Afghan militancy destabilising the region that New Delhi so often rolls out should be reconsidered. The neighbourhood may well be dangerous, but India is no model pupil.
According to the 2011 Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute of Economics and Peace, which evaluates 153 countries based on the level of ongoing conflict, safety and security and militarisation, India is the world’s 135th most peaceful country, falling seven positions from last year.
This year’s rankings, which indicated a decline in the levels of peace for the third consecutive year overall, placed Iceland in the top spot as the most peaceful country and Somalia as the world’s least.
India’s performance is high on some of the indicators, for instance, level of organised internal conflict, political instability, and relations with neighbouring countries, for which reason India is a part of the 20 least peaceful countries in the world along with Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
India’s unfortunate state of safety and security not only emerges largely from religious conflict with active groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Students’ Islamic Movement of India, but also Naxalism, an ideology of militant Communist groups. Terror activity is not concentrated in a particular region in India, but it has poisonously seeped into almost all areas of the country.
Starting from the north, with the perennial conflict of Jammu and Kashmir due to political and religious imbalances to the north-east, where there are tensions between state governments, the central government and the tribal people. Central India is infested with Naxalist insurgency, which in the past week caused the death of nine police officers.
After the U.S. successfully carried out its operation in killing Osama bin Laden, India also snapped into a fervid mode putting national security on top of its priority list. Subsequently, it handed over a list of its 50 most wanted fugitives to Pakistan two weeks ago, which unfurled erroneous details of a few people mentioned in the list, much to New Delhi’s embarrassment.
With as many as 800 terrorist cells operating within the country, it is quite alarming to see that India is concentrating more on the terror threats of neighbouring countries rather than resolving internal issues at hand. Naxalism causes a huge number of deaths per year, targeting not only the police, but ethnic and tribal groups.
Had the government set up initiatives to tackle internal threats as well, perhaps India would not have found itself in the unenviable list of the world’s 20 least peaceful countries, beside neighbours it likes to chastise for lacking in peace and stability.