5. Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

India’s internal security problems are a manifestation of internal weaknesses and external attempts at waging a proxy war. Inadequate socio-economic development, apathy towards the genuine grievances of the people, political brinkmanship amongst other reasons, has created internal contradictions, which have led to over five decades of internal strife. Similarly, a number of internal security challenges faced today are fuelled and controlled from Pakistan.

Transnational organized crimes, drug trafficking and international terrorism, are labelled as “non-state actors”. These are, today, major challenges for internal and international security and strength.

In present situation, India faces manifold security challenges. India’s security concerns is its ‘internal security’ and it is a major national security challenge. Among many indeterminable factors of India’s security system, internal security is considered as one of the principal fundamental aspects.

Awkwardly, in current scenario, there is an obscuring distinction between internal and external threats. Some experts debated that “India does not face an external threat in the conventional sense” but only internal security threats from external sources. These external sources, consist of both state and non-state actors, combined with those anti-state forces within India, have made the situation more intricate. All over the world, few countries are placed in an unfavourable, troubled and uncertain security environment as India is. External sources of threats to India’s internal security spring from almost all countries of its neighbourhood.

According to famous economist of Maura times, Kautilya, a state could be at risk from four types of threats such as internal, external, externally-aided internal and internally-aided external. Among all threats, the internal threats should be tackled immediately for internal troubles, like the fear of the lurking snake, are far more serious than external threats. Thus, the most dangerous opponent is the enemy within. However, external state and non-state actors both have played an active role to disturb internal security and raise numerous problems in India.

India is currently facing four major threats such as
– Separatism in Jammu and Kashmir
– Insurgency in North East India
– Left Wing Extremism
– Terrorism in the Hinterland.

Out of them, the first and the last are a direct appearance of Pakistani influence, which includes the ISI and Pak military. Recently, these two threats are more serious due to rise of ISIS in Middle East. The rebels in north east get direct and indirect support from neighbours of India around its permeable north east border. The left wing extremism has direct and indirect support from Nepal, China and other countries of South East Asia. Traditionally, India has border clashes with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. The problem with India is that it is situated on the epicentre of terrorism and dealing with so many hostile neighbours, all at once. India had direct wars with our neighbours in 1947-48, 1962, 1965, 1971 and 1999.

Therefore, the entire matter can be divided into following:
– Role of state and non state actors in Pakistan
– Role of state and non-state actors in China
– Role of state and non-state actors in Nepal
– Role of actors in Bangladesh.

External State Actor:

Countries surrounding India have been active in exploiting the volatile situation present in different part of India. Not only countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but also smaller powers such as Bhutan and Nepal have been involved in the region.

 These countries are impacting India’s internal security through

  1. Proxy war / limited war
  2. Trade war / Economic War
  3. Cyber attack / Cyber warfare
  4. Political  and ideological backing backing e.g. Maoism
  5. Economic assistance to insurgent
  6. Logistic support to separatist
  7. Military training to separatist
  8. Arms supplies to insurgent group

Role of state and non-state actors in Pakistan:

It is evident that there is covert and overt threat from Pakistan to India’s internal and external security system. Since its origin, India has fought four wars in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1998 with this rogue country. Resulting to its military inability to confront with India in direct war, India is facing low intensity conflict in J&K assisted and sponsored by Pakistani military, in the North-East and through support to various fringe extremist groups within the country.

India also face huge economic challenges due to the fake currency rackets. Pakistan is one of India’s main concerns both on external and internal security fronts. Due to its continued strategic partnership with China, it can stretch Indian armed forces capabilities in the Eastern sector also. The Chi-Pak link has given rise to external concerns such as modernization plans of Karakoram highway, development of Gwadar as a naval port and covert assistance in Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program.

The various state and non-state actors in Pakistan include:

Inter-services Intelligence and Pak Military Islamic terrorist groups like the Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and the Pakistani Taliban along with various other Jehadi Tanjims. The surreptitious activities of these apart from terrorist attacks in various parts of the country, include training and facilitation to armed insurgents by ISI in various training camps in Pakistan.

Apart from Kashmiri militants, ISI has in past and present trained the Sikh Separatists also. Recently, according to union government, the ISI has been trying to revive the Sikh Militancy to perform terrorist attacks in Punjab and other parts of the country.

State and Non-State Actors in China:

Conventionally, China has provided financial support, arms and sanctuaries to Naga, Mizo and Meitei extremist’s right since the British Period. The military encroachments and conflict of 1962, India was defeated and became psychologically weak. Since then, China has been astutely following a policy of strategic containment of India by regional coalitions and arming India’s neighbours Myanmar, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

As far as internal security is concerned, China’s interest lies in North East as well as the Left Wing Extremism. The Nagas were the first to approach Beijing, but China made best use of it. Other groups such as MNF, ULFA, PLA, ATTF and NDFB followed. However, it cannot confirm that the linkage was unilateral.

It was a relationship of convenience and an alliance of opportunism between China and Indian militant groups. Both Issac Swu and Muivah have been visiting the Chinese embassy officials in Geneva and there are reports of Chinese offer of basses in Yunan. The Maoist movement got philosophical, moral, financial and intellectual support from China.

State and Non-state actors in Nepal:

India and Nepal are good neighbours and share an open border with free exchange of people and currency across the borders. The CPN (Maoists) have become difficult political power (non-state actors so far, but state actors now) and this brings new implications for India’s internal security mainly in view of their known linkages with Indian Left Wing Extremists.

Furthermore, India’s dominance in Nepal is not remains the same as in past as the Maoists have been continually upping the ante against India, accusing India of invoking in internal Nepali affairs. Consequently, Nepal can significantly add to India’s Maoist threat by supporting the rebels in the red corridors of India. Thus, the clarifying political and security scenario in Nepal would have to be closely monitored.

Role of various players in Bangladesh:

Trans-border relocation from Bangladesh is a major issue in Assam and other areas of the North East.

It is well recognised that Bangladesh refugees create communal and ethnic tension. It was well proved by the Assam agitation and successive events. There are estimated to be 15 to 18 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in India, who expanded their netwo

In some states, these illegal immigrants have turned the majorities into minorities. The invasion is likely to continue unless checked and those already identified are deported. Their wrongdoing into land and providing cheap labour is a cause of social and economic insecurity for local communities and a cause of tension and violence. Such problems are intense. India needs to make strong policies to curb immigration.

Non-state actors

Non-state actors, in the context of national security, are those organizations, which have sufficient social, political and economic power to influence the security of a nation. With globalization and ease of connectivity, these non-state actors have crossed boundaries. Therefore, India’s foreign policy and relations with other nations will have to factor in the threats posed by the non state actors.


  1. Terrorist organizations
  2. Drug cartels and gun runners
  3. Human-trafficking cartels
  4.  Agents of trade wars
  5. Agents of share wars
  6. Fake currency rackets
  7. Cyber attacks
  8.  Maoists/ Naxalites
  9.  Insurgents/cross-border ethnic groups
  10.  Illegal immigrants Trans-national/multinational corporations (TNC/MNC)
  11. Civil society organizations / NGOs
  12.  Pirates
  13.  Gamblers, foreign bookies and cricket mafias
  14. International antiquates smuggling rackets
  15. Terrorists and nuclear weapons

Terrorist Organisations

India faces all types of terrorist threats – ethnic, religious and ideological. Secessionist groups have been attacking government institutions, symbols and officials. Innocent people have also fallen victim to these attacks and several have fled the region.

Apart from secessionist groups, Islamic fundamentalists have been involving in terrorist activities in the Kashmir valley. Among them the Al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Taliban pose the gravest threat.

Even outside the valley major attacks have been staged by these fundamentalist groups including the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, the 1993 Mumbai serial blast, 26/11 attack, etc. The Pakistan based LeT has been operating networks in more than 18 countries including India, the US, France, the UK, Australia  etc

Other emerging insurgent groups like HUM, HUJI, and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) have also been playing a major role in influencing the peace and stability of the nation. These and many other such organisations have been banned by the Government of India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 2004.

Drug Cartels

India’s proximity to the two main drug-producing areas of the world – the golden triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos) and the golden crescent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran) – makes it more vulnerable to drug trafficking. India is being used as a major transit route and as a destination for drugs.

These drug traffickers have established themselves as powerful syndicates and lobbies to control drug trafficking in India from Pakistan and Dubai. This has also had a serious effect on the security of the nation as they have established links with terrorist groups, thereby acting as funding mechanisms for various terrorist groups.They have also been involved in money-laundering activities affecting the economy of the country.

The Military, Paramilitary, State Police, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Revenue department, Enforcement directorate, Home Ministry and External Affairs Ministry have been coordinating to curb the menace of illegal drug trafficking. Further, India has been coordinating with various foreign intelligence and investigating agencies to fight drug trafficking. A National Policy on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance, 2002 was enacted to ensure greater cooperation and coordination at both central and state levels.

Human-Trafficking Cartels

In India, human trafficking in major part involves abduction, buying and selling of women and children for prostitution, forced marriages and bonded labour. Poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are the major reasons that make people vulnerable to human trafficking.

India has been not only source but destination also of human trafficking. Women and children are trafficked from Nepal and Bangladesh to be sold inside the country for prostitution. India acts as a source of cheap labour to the West Asia and other European countries. They are employed as low-skilled labourers, domestic workers and face sexual exploitation. Sri Lankan refugees from Tamil Nadu being trafficked to Australia.

According to a 2012 report of Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, India has the largest number of child labourers (aged < 14 years). India needs to have a comprehensive approach to curb the menace of human trafficking and protect the vulnerable sections of the society especially women and children.

Fake Currency Rackets

Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Thailand are the main sources of Indian fake currency. They are supported by ISI to fund the terrorist activity and undermine the financial security of the nation.

These currency notes are usually routed via UAE, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Since the exchange ratio for these notes is in the ratio of approx 2:1, the revenue obtained is high. This is used in funding terrorist activities and obtaining the services of individuals at a lower cost to itself.

The Indian government has taken a slew of measures to counter the menace of fake currencies. A coordinating group has been formed under the Home Ministry to coordinate the information and activities between the state forces and central agencies. Further, a special cell to counter terror funding and fake currency has been formed under the National Investigating Agency.

For its part, the RBI has taken measures to improve the security features of the currency notes and increase the awareness of the people to identify fake currencies.

Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks  not only involve the attack by cyber criminals but also includes attacks by cyber terrorists and other foreign states. Cyber criminals has primary objective to gain monetary benefits.

However, in the case of cyber terrorism, the objective is furtherance of their political or social objectives. In such cases the Web sites of important security establishments are attacked and the Web sites or the network of information may be defaced or some vital information may be stolen or compromised.

As India has witnesses abundant growth in the IT sector and its attachment with state departments make it extra vulnerable to such  cyber attacks.


Although Maoists or Naxalites are internal non-state actors, they have strong supporting hands from foreign leftist organisations from China, Pakistan, Nepal  and Bangladesh. These foreign elements provide them with enough logistics support to mount attacks on the government forces and social infrastructure.

Insurgents / Cross-Border Ethnic Groups

India’s international land border was drawn by the British during the time of independence. Borders were driven by geopolitical, economic and strategic considerations rather than social or ethnic considerations. So the ethnic groups were separated across nations along the borders and this makes it very difficult to identify the foreign nationals.

Moreover, this has led to rising tensions during internal conflicts in neighbouring countries. For instance, the Nagas located in Myanmar support the insurgency activities of the Nagas inside the country.

Another aspect is the threat faced by the Indian diaspora in foreign nations and its influence on bilateral ties. For example, the  Tamil Eelam Wars led to mass exodus of Tamil people from Sri Lanka to South India especially Tamil Nadu and kerala . This has caused strain in the India–Sri Lanka ties. Further, it has led to rising pro-LTTE emotions in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Also the threat from the Indian diaspora from West towards the security of the India cannot be neglected. The financial and political support of the Indian diaspora to the separatists like Khalistan and those from Kashmir are also notable examples.

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal immigrants are those people who migrate to India without any official documents for their stay. Of all, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are the largest followed by the Sikhs and Hindus from Pakistan. These illegal immigrants bring along with them ethnic troubles, insurgency, political instability and commercial problems. Migrants increase  pressure on land, deplete the natural resources available, create unemployment for the local youth, law and order problems, rising crimes etc.

Multi-National Corporations

In current globalised world, multi-national corporations are increasingly influencing the global economy and relationships between nations. Along with their beneficial side in bringing investments to the country they also have a profound negative impact. They employ the locals for a very low wage compared to their global counterparts to reduce their economic burden. Further, they move their production units to such countries where cheap labour is available and ship the finished products. This severely affects the tax income of the government. They are also able to influence the policy decisions of the government and obtain tax concessions and subsidy benefits.

Civil Society Organisations / NGOs

Increasing agitations from various NGOs and Civil Society Organisations on environmental concerns have put a pause to many hydroelectric and energy projects, and projects in the field of biotechnology and mining that are undertaken by the Government of India to fulfill its energy needs.

Although all these projects have environmental concerns, it is the responsibility of the government to go for developmental process and also provide the necessities to its citizen. Here, the most serious concern is that these organisations get funds from foreign countries to protest and other such things to stop the country’s development. To counter these things, the government has brought in the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act in 2010 to have an overview of the money flow amongst the NGOs.


Pirates are one of the biggest concerns for a country like India because India’s trade is highly dependent on sea routes. Compared to all the other sea waters, the Indian waters are quite safe, but the region of the Horn of Africa faces problems with pirates Anti-piracy ships are working around the waters to counter them. The International Maritime Bureau was established to report these pirate ships and their thefts.

To summarize, there are several challenges to India’s internal security. Most external threats originate from a troubled boundary dispute with China and ongoing cross-border jihadi terrorism in J & K sponsored terrorism, supported by ISI and Pakistan-based Islamist fundamentalist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad who, in turn, are inextricably linked with international jihadi groups like Taliban and Al Qaida.

Threat from Bangladesh undertakes serious magnitudes since it became a base for northeast rebellious groups like ULFA and Naga factions. In order to handle external threats to security, it is important to observe internal threat. The opponent within has to be recognised. Numerous socio-economic and religious conflicts within Indian society exist but forging unity in a diverse society.

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