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In the Covid-19 fight, how the Indian armed forces can help the State | Analysis – analysis


The Indian armed forces have been called to combat terrorists, violent ideologies, and natural disasters. On rare occasions, they have been ordered to enforce law and order in unrest situations. However, they have not dealt with pandemics.

Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) currently represents a threat that, which affects the entire spectrum of society and the State, can be classified in terms of its first and second order impact.

The first order or direct impact is on the patient affected by the virus in terms of illness, possible death, and the risk of infecting others. Medical services and related infrastructure are also directly affected. The second-order impact is multiple and on infrastructure and services, such as communications, law and order, and finance. These can be administered and controlled through various government departments. The questions that arise are: Should the armed forces be deployed to deal with pandemics? If yes, what are the ways to use them?

To answer this, one must understand the concept of securitization. This means that security, as it is understood from a realistic point of view, is a social construction rather than a condition. In other words, the affected political system can define what is a security threat, and may not be what is commonly considered a threat. Armed forces can cope with pandemics as a leading agency in countries when they are defined as security threats and if the forces are equipped accordingly. However, if defined from the perspective of aid to civil authorities, the forces are likely to face the second-order impact. Furthermore, the forces have an excellent reputation in the public eye and this can be “armed” and used to stabilize the situation, if it worsens.

The armed forces have developed several advanced capabilities in communications, logistics, inventory management, surgery and insertion, and rapid deployment of modular equipment. While pandemics are involved, the military can be used to complement and sometimes complement the efforts of the civil administration.

The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) have significant capabilities, such as robust and secure communications, presence and dominance near blue water, and strategic air transportation, which places them in the driver’s seat when it comes to contingencies. outside the area. After the Covid-19 outbreak, the two main contingencies that emerged were the evacuation of Indian citizens from affected countries and the provision of trained medical personnel to friendly countries. The mass evacuation of Indians and nationals from at least 23 countries was successfully carried out during Operation Raahat in 2015 from Yemen. In the case of Iran, India took some of its scientists from the Indian Council for Medical Research on an IAF plane to set up a laboratory to test 1,200 Indians stranded for Covid-19. On March 13, doctors and paramedics from the armed forces were transferred to the Maldives to provide medical assistance. Both actions were possible thanks to bilateral and multilateral exercises with friendly countries on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, port calls, participation in air shows, seminars and debates in various multinational forums. With Covid-19’s gravity and expansion increasing, the military will likely see an accelerated deployment cycle in the Indian Ocean region.

The sharp increase in the number of infected cases in almost all affected countries is an indicator that India will face this situation soon. There will be a clamor for wards and open spaces for patients, in case hospitals are overwhelmed. As forces have shown, by creating quarantine zones and wellness centers from pre-existing accommodation, they have the capacity and manpower to do so on a larger scale and in a much shorter period of time. Local formations can use engineering equipment in the Army inventory to support and enhance civilian capabilities in the respective areas. The human resources of the armed forces can also be used to quickly convert open spaces such as stadiums and parks into closed spaces with basic facilities.

If there is a collapse of law and order, there may have to be flag marches or other force interventions. This is in case the police and central armed police forces are overwhelmed. The panic that is likely to be generated by news of the death toll can lead to violence, which can either be intrinsically created or inflated by external factors.

The armed forces should use their perception of impartiality in cases of intra-community violence, if it exists. The violence in a jail in Bogotá, Colombia, by the Covid-19 rumors, which resulted in 23 deaths and 83 people injured in March, is a clear reminder of what can happen if false information is allowed to spread uncontrollably. . In such a situation, forces can be pressured into action.

With resilient distribution networks, the military is adept at distributing basic services during natural calamities, as has been evident after many natural disasters in India and abroad. These capacities can be used by the local government and administration to provide basic food and medicine to remote locations as well as to specific sectors of society most affected by the closure. The forces can also be used to carry out awareness campaigns within the civilian population, thanks to their credibility.

The unique capabilities of the armed forces in terms of skilled labor, communications, and extensive distribution networks will complement government efforts. They must be prepared for a role that will be challenging and risky. However, all of these capabilities can be harnessed on the condition that the forces themselves are safe and infection-free.

Lt. Col. Akshat Upadhyay is a serving officer and author of Coercive Diplomacy against Pakistan.

The opinions expressed are personal.

Hindustan Times