There is a view that civil society is emerging as the new ‘war frontier’ for fourth generation warfare.

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Question – There is a view that civil society is emerging as the new ‘war frontier’ for fourth generation warfare. Do you agree with this opinion? Justify with logical arguments. 10 March 2022

AnswerCivil society is an arena of voluntary collective actions around shared interests, purposes and values distinct from families, state and profit seeking institutions. It includes a wide array of organizations including community groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations. When it mobilized, civil society has the power to influence the actions of elected policy-makers and businesses.

In recent times, it has been argued that certain sections of the civil society are slowly emerging as a frontier for ‘Fourth-generation warfare’ wherein the State is fighting non-state actors.

In today’s digital age, the horizon of war has become limitless. Now the war has reached not only on the frontier, but also in the homes of the common people, that is, at the core of the society. Anti-India elements make every effort to break the social system of the country. For such efforts, many types of NGOs are formed, so that upheaval can be created in the society. In view of this, the responsibility of internal security of the country has also increased manifold.

There are many such NGOs, who want to destabilize the society in any way by getting funding from abroad, even if it is by protesting against the construction of a road on the border with China by India.

In 2014, the Intelligence Bureau in its report stated that there has been a concerted effort by select foreign funded NGOs to shut down Indian development projects. The report estimated that such anti-development activities have a negative impact on GDP growth of 2-3% per annum. According to the report, funding for such campaigns came under the guise of donations from foreign donors, for issues such as protection of human rights, violence against women, caste discrimination, religious freedom and protection of livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

NGOs have been put under scrutiny by the government in the past, for allegedly fueling protests against development projects like nuclear power plants. More than 10,000 NGOs have lost their permits due to new stringent rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

However, putting all CSO’s in the same category as terror and insurgent groups would be a gross miscalculation:

  • Many civil society agents provide significant value by standing apart from commercial or political interests and highlighting important aspects that require more attention.
  • Given the complexities of governance, there is an enduring need for independent organizations and individuals who can act as watchdogs, moral custodians and advocates of marginalized or underrepresented communities.

The role of civil society is vital to the success of democracy. Therefore, civil society in all its forms must continue to hold all stakeholders, including itself, at the highest level of accountability. Only those sections of the civil society whose track record is doubtful or have vested interests need to be weeded out. In view of their usefulness, there is a need to set up a National Accreditation Council with wide representation so that genuine and well-meaning groups are not unduly harassed.

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