INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 418
Whenever there is a major terrorist strike anywhere in India,I get immediately a large number of telephone calls from journalists and others in India for my comments. After the Bengaluru blasts of July 25,2008, I got more telephone calls and messages from abroad than from India. Some of the callers were from foreign media. Many were the executives of foreign corporate houses having offices in Bengaluru. Among the questions they posed were: Were the blasts meant to convey a message to foreign investors, businessmen and experts working in Bengaluru? How would I quantify the the threat to foreigners working in Bengaluru? Are the Indian police and intelligence agencies capable of preventing and successfully investigating such acts of terrorism? Why they give the impression of being helpless without any comprehensive strategy? I gave suitable replies to reassure them about the effectiveness of the Indian counter-terrorism mechanism. I also told them that while their concerns would be understandable, any nervousness would be unnecessary.
2. Bengaluru is a favourite destination for foreign investors. One understands it has the largest concentration of foreigners working in South India. Perpetrators of acts of terrorism in Bengaluru would have two audiences. Firstly, the Indian nationals living in Bengaluru, who would take such acts of terrorism in their stride. Secondly, the foreigners who are not used to such frequent acts of terrorism in their home countries. They would tend to get nervous quite quickly if action is not taken to reassure them about the steps being taken by the local administrastion to protect the lives of people in Bengaluru.
3. One noticed a similar nervousness, but on a much smaller scale after the terrorist strike on the participants in a conference of scientists in a hall of the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru in December,2005. Almost all the offices of major foreign corporate houses in Bengaluru have their own security officers. Most of them have recruited retired officers of the Indian Armed Forces and Police for this purpose. Some have brought security experts from their home countries to look after the security of their Bengaluru offices. The executives in charge of security in their corporate headquarters periodically visit Bengaluru to review security arrangements in their local offices and to assess the local security situation. Ultimately, whether investments would continue to flow to Bengaluru or not would depend not only on economic and administrative factors, but also on the assessment of the security officers. It is, therefore, very important for the local adminstration to keep interacting with them on a regular basis in an attempt to remove from their minds any fears or nervousness they may have and to give them any advice the local administration might like to give.
4. I have touched upon this subject in my latest book titled 'Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" (Lancer Publishers, New Delhi) in the following words: "Close interactions between the police and the security officers of private establishments is more an exception than the rule. Sometimes, I am invited to address gatherings of such security officers in different urban areas. Almost all of them complained of a lack of accessibility to senior police officers and the reluctance of the police to keep them briefed on developments having a bearing on terrorism. They complained that it was rarely that police officers took the initiative in briefing them when the media carried sensational stories about the plans of the terrorists. When they asked for a briefing, they were asked to meet junior officers, who often were not in a position to brief them adequately and did not have the required self-confidence to be able to answer their questions. It is important that senior police officers interact with the security officers of important private establishments----particularly those from abroad---- at least once or twice a year as a matter of routine and also on other occasions, when there is a need for it. Senior police officers cannot be expected to interact with the private security officers of all establishments---big or small, important or unimportant. However, such interactions should take place with the private security officers of large establishments, which play an important role in our economy. Perceptions of police indifference towards them could have a negative impact on the investors’ confidence in the security environment in the country and in their particular areas of operation. "
5. Bengaluru has been the favourite destination of foreign investors, businessmen and experts because of its high reputation for efficiency, investor-friendly atmosphere and security of lives and property. If doubts arise as a result of incidents like those of July 25, its reputation for security could be dented, thereby affecting the flow of foreign investments. We must remember what happened to Karachi, which used to be the most favourite destination for foreign investors in Pakistan. When its reputation for security was damaged due to acts of terrorism in the 1990s, foreign investment flows dried up and even many of those, who had invested in the past, wound up their businesses. This contributed in an important measure to the steep deterioration in the Pakistani economy.
6. The local administration in Bengaluru should pay attention to measures for strengthening the police capability for preventive intelligence and successful investigation and prosecution. At the same time, it should have a permanent mechanism for constant interactions with foreign investors, businessmen and experts to discuss their security concerns and remove any apprehensions or nervousness they may have. Avoiding such interactions at senior levels will only add to their nervousness. (26-7-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )