India sets up unified command to tackle Maoists

By Bappa Majumdar

NEW DELHI, July 14 (BestGrowthStock) – India announced a unified
command structure on Wednesday to help coordinate a security
offensive against Maoist rebels, but analysts said the move may
not be enough to turn around the battle against the insurgency.

The unified command, which will include a former army
general, underlines government urgency to tackle a rebellion
that has roiled poor rural regions where a sense of official
neglect runs deep.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants decisive actions
against the rebels, not only to show the government is in
charge but also to free up vast tracts of mineral-rich forests
with billions of dollars in business potential.

The rebels, inspired by China’s Mao Zedong, say they are
fighting for the poor and landless and have backed farmers in
land disputes with industry, one of the main obstacles in
Asia’s third largest economy to higher growth and more rural
jobs.

While the economic impact may be small compared with
India’s trillion dollar economy, the insurgency has taken some
toll on business.

Work on a $7-billion steel plant by India’s third largest
steel producer, JSW Steel Ltd (JSTL.BO: ), has been delayed.
Frequent rebel attacks have hit production and shipment at
firms such as India’s largest miner of iron ore, NMDC Ltd’s
(NMDC.BO: ).

Violent land protests backed by Maoists forced the
scrapping of a Tata Motors’ (TAMO.BO: ) Nano car plant and
delayed work on two separate plants by the world’s leading
steelmakers Arcelor Mittal (ISPA.AS: ) and POSCO (005490.KS: ) in
eastern India.

The campaign against the rebels has suffered because of the
decision to avoid using the army for fear of alienating locals,
leaving ill-trained police to fight a guerrilla war in the
jungles of central and east India.

Poor coordination between state security forces has also
hampered the fight, and the central government in New Delhi now
hopes that a unified command would be able to fine tune the
security offensive.

“The efforts of the state governments … have met with
mixed results,” Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a
meeting of chief ministers of the affected states in New Delhi.

The chief ministers also discussed the insurgency with
Singh.

Views diverge on the right response to the rebellion. Many,
including a section within the ruling Congress party, see the
insurgency more as a problem of poverty and underdevelopment
that could not be solved by force alone.

The new plan also involves the use of more helicopters and
logistical support from the army. And as a measure of balance
in the government response, Chidambaram announced more money
for development projects in the Maoist-dominated areas.

But many security experts were unimpressed with the latest
plans, including the unified security command structure, saying
the strategy lacked detail.

“The cosmetic measures they are talking about do not in any
sense increase the capability of the forces and there is no
talk about how they will counter the Maoists in their
heartland,” said Ajai Sahni of New Delhi-based Institute for
Conflict Management.

The insurgency, which Singh has described as India’s
biggest security challenge, is now present in a third of the
country.

A string of deadly attacks this year has undermined the
government’s claim to be winning the war on the Maoists after
it launched a security offensive with thousands of police last
year.

The rebels are blamed for derailing a passenger train last
month, killing at least 145 people. There were two other
incidents since May that testified to their strength — the
killing of 76 police in an ambush and an attack on a bus that
killed 35 people.
(Writing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Paul de Bendern
and Andrew Marshall)

India sets up unified command to tackle Maoists