The ill-effects and negative fall-out of excessive involvement of the army in internal strife is too well known to be recounted here in detail.
Sufficient to state that embroilment of the army in anti-Naxalite operations can prove counterproductive and highly detrimental to national interests. The army is already over-committed in Kashmir and the North East. It barely finds time to carry out required training and field exercises to hone its skills. Participation in internal security duties will make a huge impact on the functional characteristics of the army that may even dent its professionalism. Dilution of its capability to perform the primary task of defence against external aggression can have very serious consequences for the country.
As every failure of governance forces the Government to look up to the army to bail it out of the mess, a stage may come when the army hierarchy may start questioning the rationale of their being asked to do the `dirty work` after the civil administration wrecks the environment through sheer incompetence.
Further, the role of the military in internal security duties should never be allowed to get institutionalised. Soldiers are very conscious of their public image. They want to be respected and loved by their countrymen. Therefore, they want to be seen and identified as defenders of national sovereignty and not as an instrument of law maintenance apparatus.
Some experts suggest employment of limited military force as a short-term shock action therapy against the Naxalites. It is a very impractical and perilous proposition. History bears testimony that internal insurgencies have always been long drawn affairs. They have an uncanny knack of sucking in more and more troops. For example, in case a military column gets ambushed and suffers heavy casualties, the army will be forced to deploy more resources, giving rise to a vicious cycle. Internal insurgencies are like a quagmire wherein entry of a force is easy but disengagement and extrication extremely difficult. We have enough experience in this regard and should never repeat the mistake.
Image: Soldiers of the Central Reserve Police Force celebrate after their graduation parade at a military base on the outskirts of Srinagar, India, Wednesday, June 2, 2010. Picture copyright Associated press. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited