Home Articles EditorSpeak: Geoinfo: Integral part of intelligence

EditorSpeak: Geoinfo: Integral part of intelligence

Lt Gen AKS Chandele
Lt Gen AKS Chandele PVSM, AVSM (Retd) Managing Editor
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The primary concern of most governments in the world today is ensuring internal security. The last two decades in particular have witnessed innumerable incidents engineered by extremist organisations and terrorists targeting both infrastructure and individuals across the globe. India has become the focus of such attacks, facing simultaneous threats from terrorists, insurgents and naxalites in a large number of states, resulting in extensive damage to men and material, even effecting the psyche of the nation. Providing internal security has become a very challenging task today because of the large scale movement of both humans and goods through our airports, harbours, our porous and extensive land borders and coastline and across the length and breadth of the country. Our federal structure, with law and order being a state subject, adds to the complexity of the problem. Screening and frisking of the population are considered as an attack on privacy and not welcomed by citizens. Add to that the fact that the attacker can choose the time and place he wishes to strike, whereas protection involves a 24×7 countrywide vigil.

The importance of geographic information systems has been well appreciated in our country for military operations and for e-governance. However, its utilisation as a tool in combating threats to internal security has been relatively less understood. Current and accurate geospatial information is critical, not only for detection, prevention and protection of vital national assets and other vulnerable targets but also for ensuring proper response and recovery.

We do have a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in place and similar such entities at some state and local government levels and more are coming up, but the GIS data with them is mostly for development of infrastructure, planning of public utilities and health services, regulation of land holdings, commerce and emergency response. Due to the lack of common data standards and procedures, this data is often not shareable. For internal security, we urgently need accurate geospatial data, including high resolution images of our complete land and sea borders, mass transportation systems, power and communication lines, high population centres and vulnerable targets. Forest and other inaccessible areas which provide sanctuaries to naxalites and terrorists need to be specially mapped. This data should be easily accessible and shareable between various security agencies, whether central or state level.

There is a need for a change in the thought process of governments, both at the centre and states, and our organisations tasked with providing internal security. They need to consider geospatial information as equally important as all other intelligence.