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Thread: Elections Test India's Security Forces

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    Elections Test India's Security Forces

    Elections Test India's Security Forces

    With the elections underway, India's security is facing internal as well as external threats as never before.

    Some 22 people were killed by Maoist insurgents over two out of five polling days.

    In the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, 10 gunmen laid siege to the city for three days, killing around 170 people - specifically targeting British and American citizens.

    Pakistan has admitted that the Mumbai attacks were partly planned within its borders.

    A British official said 'The biggest threat to… India comes from the Taliban in Pakistan.'

    The leaders of the opposition coalition, the BJP, have accused the government of being 'soft on terror.'

    They -and many voters - criticise the government for being slow in its response to the Mumbai attacks.

    Politicians are now wary of another incident occurring.

    Their recent cancelling of the IPL cricket showed how seriously they are taking election security.

    Last week, India launched an all-weather Israeli-built spy satellite to help Indian security agencies keep watch at the country's borders round-the-clock and assist in anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations.

    A month before that, India test-fired a Ballistic Missile Interceptor.

    The Indian Election Commission has 100% of the polls guarded by uniformed personnel, compared with 70% last time.

    Helicopters, speed boats, electronic voting machines and satellite phones are all in use, while a record 2.1 million security personnel and 4 million civilian officials have been deployed.

    But resources are severely stretched.

    In one state, up to 15,000 college cadets and 22,000 retired police, paramilitary, and army personnel were required to complement regular forces.

    The total Indian electorate is greater than the combined populations of the US and the Russian Federation, and is spread through 28 states.

    Nationally, the ratio of police officers to civilians is around 122 officers for every 100,000 people, lower than in many other countries.

    Ordinary policemen often carry single-bolt Lee-Enfield rifles that pre-date the First World War. Typically, the rifles will only have been fired 10 times during training.

    The recent violence in Maoist strongholds has deterred many voters. A ferocious heat- wave, causing the death of one election official and the hospitalisation of another, hasn't helped.

    International perception of the country is also affected.

    Australia is refusing to play tennis in the forthcoming Davis Cup tie in May, citing security concerns as the reason.

    Though the current government has promised a major reform of the country's security architecture, whatever the results of the election, security will have to remain a strategic issue for India throughout the next decade.

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    Indian troops lock down Kashmir ahead of vote

    SRINAGAR, India (AFP) — Indian police and paramilitary forces locked down Kashmir's summer capital to prevent anti-election demonstrations after protests flared overnight.

    Troops patrolled the deserted streets of Srinagar, the urban hub of a nearly two-decade-old revolt against New Delhi's rule of the Muslim-majority state.

    "We've imposed restrictions on civilian movement to maintain law and order," police officer Pervez Ahmed said as policemen raised barricades and stopped residents leaving their homes.

    The clampdown came a day after 20 people were hurt in anti-election protests in the city.

    The demonstrations came as the region prepared for voting on Thursday in the third of five nationwide general election phases.

    Two earlier stages in Hindu-dominated Jammu division of the state passed off peacefully.

    The elections now move to the sensitive Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, scene last year of major pro-independence demonstrations.

    Separatists oppose elections in Kashmir, arguing that voting legitimises Delhi's rule of the disputed territory, which is held in part by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.

    The boycott call has been backed by a stark warning from the most powerful militant group active in Indian Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahedeen which has said anyone who casts a ballot will be considered a "traitor".

    Separatist passions runs deep in Kashmir, where the anti-India insurgency has left more than 47,000 people dead by official count.

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