Wrong strategy


The proposal to use the firepower of the Indian Air Force against Maoists is a sign of lack of understanding of the nature of the naxalites’ threat and their tactics. The IAF has sought permission from the defence ministry to open fire at the insurgents in the campaign to be launched against them soon. The government has given indications of an all-out campaign against them. Maoist attacks have increased recently. Last week 16 people were killed in Bihar. A police officer, who had been kidnapped last week, was found beheaded in Jharkhand on Tuesday. Every day incidents are reported from the naxalite-infested areas. The insurgency is growing in strength and spreading to new areas. But to use the IAF against it will only worsen the situation.

IAF has not opened fire even against Kashmir insurgents. An air force offensive against the Maoists will take the fight against them to a new level where the insurgents will have an advantage. Conventional methods of war are of no use against the Maoists who conduct a guerrilla warfare against the state. This has been time and again proved in many strife-ridden regions of the world. IAF chief Air Marshall P V Naik has hinted at the possibility of collateral damage also in the form of civilian deaths in such operations. That will mean that innocent people will be killed, the disaffection against the government will grow and Maoists will get new recruits. Maoists are good at drawing the forces into such situations. They melt into the population when it is needed and can make good their escape at the right time. The government is yet to fully realise that the threat posed by the Maoists is political, social and economic in its nature. There cannot be a military solution to the problem. The use of armed forces in any operations should best be limited to logistical support for the police personnel whose brief it is to fight internal threats.

Home Minister P Chidambaram seems to be receptive to this wrong idea. The home minister also recently said that he wanted the Maoist-controlled areas to be liberated before any development initiatives are to be made there. This is also a wrong strategy. Maoists gained influence in many areas because there was no development. Development efforts should be an important part of the strategy to defeat them. To think that they can follow the campaign is to put the cart before the horse.

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