(copyright: B.Raman. Prepared for an edited volume of papers by different experts titled “Comprehensive Security For An Emerging India” being brought out next January by the Centre For Air Power Studies of New Delhi. Cannot be copied or used in any manner without my prior clearance)
Just as terrorists are constantly evolving in their thinking and ideology, in their educational background and skills, and in their modus operandi, so too the counter-terrorism strategy of the State actors has also been evolving to meet the threat posed by them.
Before 1967, counter-terrorism was seen largely as the responsibility of the Police and the civilian intelligence agencies. After the terrorist organisations took to aviation terrorism involving aircraft hijackings and blowing up aircraft in mid-air as one of their modus operandi, the need for special intervention forces trained by the army was felt. After a surge in acts of terrorism against Israeli nationals and interests in Israel and outside after the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, counter-terrorism in Israel acquired an increasingly military dimension with the role of the police subordinated to that of the armed forces.
This trend towards the increasing militarization of counter-terrorism acquired a further momentum after vehicle-borne suicide bombers, suspected to be from the Hezbollah, blew themselves up outside the barracks of the US Marines and the French paratroopers then deployed as part of an international peace-keeping force in Beirut killing 241 US servicemen and 58 French Paratroopers on October 23,1983. It was after this incident that the US started talking of a strategy to combat terrorism instead of a strategy to wage a campaign against terrorism. Al Qaeda’s attack against the US naval ship USS Cole in Aden in October, 2000, and the subsequent discovery of the plans of Al Qaeda to indulge in acts of maritime terrorism in ports and in choke points such as the Strait of Gibraltar and the Malacca Strait to disrupt international trade and the flow of energy supplies and to damage the global economy gave a naval dimension to counter-terrorism.
Even long before 9/11, counter-terrorism had acquired a scientific and technological dimension due to the increasing use by terrorists of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), but this dimension was restricted to detecting the presence of IEDs and neutralizing them. This S&T dimension has since grown in importance due to the attempts of Al Qaeda to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) material and its proclaimed readiness to use them, if necessary, to protect Islam. This dimension has further expanded due to apprehended threats to critical information infrastructure that could arise from terrorists or hackers helping terrorists, who are adept in the use of the information technology for destructive purposes.
Before 1967, terrorism was largely a uni-dimensional threat to individual lives and property. It has since evolved into a multi-dimensional threat to the lives of large numbers of people, to the economy and to the critical information infrastructure. It is no longer viewed as a purely police responsibility. It is the responsibility of the police, the armed forces, the scientific and technological community and the experts in consequence management such as psychologists, fire brigade and medical personnel and experts in disaster relief and rehabilitation. How to ensure co-ordinated and well-synchronised action by the different elements of the counter-terrorism community and what kind of counter-terrorism architecture is required is the question constantly engaging the attention of national security managers of countries affected by terrorism.
Combating terrorism military-style evolved into a war against terrorism after the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US Homeland. The new concept of a war against international terrorism in the US has had three implications. Firstly, a no-forces barred approach in combating terrorism----- whether it be the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Police or the Special Forces; secondly, an enhanced leadership role for the armed forces in the war against terrorism; and thirdly, a new criminal justice system to deal with terrorists that not only provided for special laws and special courts, but also enabled the armed forces to deal with foreign terrorists operating against US nationals and interests as war criminals liable to be detained in special military camps such as the one in the Guantanamo Bay and to be tried by military tribunals and not by civil courts.
Keeping pace with this evolution of a new strategy to combat terrorism, there has been a simultaneous evolution of the counter-terrorism architecture with the addition of many new elements to this architecture. The two most important elements in the US are the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Counter-Terrorism Centre. The DHS acts as the nodal point for co-ordinating all physical security measures against terrorism and all crisis management measures to deal with situations arising from successful acts of terrorism in US territory or on its borders as well as with natural disasters. While the Department of Defence created in 1947 is responsible for all policy-making and co-ordination relating to US military operations abroad, whether against a State or a non-State adversary, the DHS is responsible for all policy-making and inter-departmental co-ordination relating to internal security and natural disasters. A Homeland Security Council in the White House performs an advisory and policy-making role in respect of internal security and natural disasters.
The Homeland Security Council is structurally similar to the National Security Council, with a Secretariat of its own, which is headed by an official, who is designated as the Adviser to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism. Its meetings are chaired by the President and attended by various Cabinet members having responsibilities relating to internal security.
In August 2004, President Bush established the National Counter-Terrorism Center (NCTC) to serve as the primary organization for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to terrorism and counter-terrorism (CT) and to conduct strategic operational planning by integrating all instruments of national power. In December 2004, the Congress incorporated the NCTC in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) and placed the NCTC under the supervision of the Director of National Intelligence, a newly-created post to co-ordinate and supervise the functioning of all intelligence agencies of the US.
In the UK, as in the past, the Police and the MI-5, the security service, continue to have a pre-eminent role in counter-terrorism of a classical nature such as acts involving the use of hand-held weapons and IEDs. The Armed forces and the S&T community play an enhanced role only in respect of likely terrorist strikes involving WMD material, aviation and maritime terrorism and terrorism through the Internet.
A long-term Counter-terrorism Strategy called CONTEST formulated in 2003 has four components ---- Prevention, Pursuit, Protection and Preparation. Prevention refers to the role of the political leadership in preventing British citizens and residents in the UK from joining terrorist organizations through appropriate measures for redressing grievances and for countering the ideology of the terrorists. Pursuit refers to the responsibility of the intelligence and security services and the police to collect preventive intelligence regarding planned terrorist operations and to disrupt the functioning of terrorist organizations through physical security measures and successful investigation and prosecution of terrorist incidents. Protection refers to the physical security measures required to prevent acts of terrorism based on threat or vulnerability perceptions. Preparation refers to the various agencies being in a state of readiness to meet the consequences of an act of terrorism. This is what we in India call crisis management.
Between 9/11 and July,2005, in the UK too, as in the US, the military dimension of counter-terrorism tended to acquire a greater importance than before due to the perception that the main threat to the UK would be from foreign-based Al Qaeda elements. This perception changed after the July,2005, terrorist strikes in London by four suicide bombers, who had grown up in the UK. The Intelligence and Security Committee, a Parliamentary oversight committee that reports to the Prime Minister on the performance of the intelligence agencies, which enquired into the failure to prevent the July, 2005, attacks, concluded that the police and the security agencies had failed to adjust sufficiently quickly to the growth of domestic terrorism. It said: “We remain concerned that across the whole of the counter-terrorism community the development of the home-grown threat and the radicalization of British citizens were not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking.”
The counter-terrorism strategy and architecture evolved in the UK emphasize the role of the Police working under the over-all supervision of the Home Secretary. A lesson drawn by the British from the July 2005 terrorist strikes in London is that no counter-terrorism strategy will be effective unless it is supported by the community from which the terrorists have arisen. The importance of police-Muslim community relations for preventing the radicalization of the youth and for de-radicalising those already radicalized and of police-business community relations in order to motivate and help the business community to protect itself from terrorist strikes on soft targets are now two of the important components of the British counter-terrorism strategy.
Among the new elements in the British counter-terrorism architecture, one could mention. the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) . The NaCTSO, which is funded and operated by the Association of Chief Police Officers, works on the 'protect and prepare' strand of the government's counter-terrorism strategy. Its aims have been defined as follows:
raise awareness of the terrorist threat, and spread the word about measures that can be taken to reduce risks and mitigate the effects of an attack;
co-ordinate security advice through the counter-terrorism security adviser (CTSA) network and monitor its effectiveness ;
build relationships between communities, police and government agencies ; and
contribute to the the national and international counter-terrorism policy
It trains, tasks and coordinates a nationwide network of centrally funded, specialist police advisers known as counter-terrorism security advisers (CTSAs). The primary role of these advisers is to provide help, advice and guidance on all aspects of counter-terrorism security to the public. It has developed and published guides on physical security against terrorism in sporting stadia and arenas, shopping centres and bars, pubs and clubs. It has undertaken the preparation of similar guides for other soft targets.
The Israeli Counter-Terrorism Strategy has three components------- defensive, operative and punitive. Defensive and operative refer to prevention through timely and precise intelligence and operations to disrupt planned terrorist strikes and punitive refers to retaliation by the State against terrorist organisations and their foreign State or non-State sponsors. No intimidation by terrorists, no succumbing to pressure by terrorists, making the terrorists and their sponsors pay heavily for their acts of terrorism, protection of the lives and property of Israeli citizens at any price and a refusal to be paralysed into inaction against terrorists due to fears of adverse reactions from the international community are the basic principles underlining the Israeli counter-terrorism strategy.
A Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 8,2006, laid down that any plan of action against terrorism should have the following four components:
Measures to address conditions which could be conducive to the spread of terrorism.
Measures to prevent and combat terrorism.
Measures to build counter-terrorism capacities and to promote international co-operation.
Measures to protect human rights and to enforce the rule of law.
While India has been facing the problem of insurgency in the North-East and left-wing extremism in Andhra Pradesh since the 1950s and political violence by the Naxalites of West Bengal from the late 1970s,it started facing terrorism as a major threat to internal security only from 1981 when the Khalistanis, backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), took to terrorism in Punjab and Delhi and also against Indian targets abroad. The Naxalite movement spread to the tribal belt across Central India. The 1980s also saw the emergence of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) as a terrorist force in Assam and the evolution of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as an insurgent-cum-terrorist organisation in Sri Lanka with a capability for suicide terrorism.
Since 1989, India has been facing threats to its national security from the ISI-backed indigenous Kashmiri organisations. The 1990s saw the ISI diverting Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations of Afghanistan vintage initially to J&K and subsequently to other parts of India with the two fold objective of helping the terrorists in Kashmir and radicalising the Muslim youth in other parts of India to take to jihad, The March 1993 serial explosions in Mumbai were the first attempt by the ISI to strike at the developing Indian economy through surrogates.
The anger in the Muslim community over the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, led to domestic jihadi terrorism in the form of acts of reprisal by the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in the North and by Al Umma in the South. While the Al Ummah was effectively neutralised by the Tamil Nadu police, the Police in the North failed to deal equally effectively with the SIMI, which acted in concert with the Pakistani jihadi organbisations. Since 2006, one has been seeing the phenomenon of Muslim youth from well-to-do and educated backgrounds getting motivated either through the Internet or by the Pakistani organisations to take to jihadi terrorism with pan-Islamic objectives. The so-called Indian Mujahideen (IM) has been an outcome of this process. The period since 2001 has also seen the Naxalites or Maoists transforming themselves into an insurgent-cum terrorist force and establishing de facto control over large areas of our tribal belt in Central India.
Thus, whereas other democracies such as those of the US, the UK and Israel have been facing only terrorism of one or two kinds, India has been facing terrorism of multiple origin with varied objectives and different areas of operation. Our intelligence agencies and security forces have been facing cross-border terrorism and hinterland terrorism; urban jihadi terrorism and rural Maoist terrorism;ideological terrorism, religious terrorism and ethnic or separatist terrorism; indigenous jihadi and pan-Islamic jihadi terrorism; and indigenous and Pakistan and Bangladesh sponsored terrorism. The likelihood of maritime terrorism and WMD threats from Al Qaeda based in Pakistan’s tribal belt and cyber terrorism from IT-literate terrorists have added to the complexity of the scenario.
Against this background, India’s counter-terrorism strategy has to have a common core with principles applicable to all terrorism and separate modules tailor-made and suited to the different kinds of terrorism that we have been facing. The principles of this common core, some of which are in force even now, are:
A.The Police would be the weapon of first resort in dealing with hinterland terrorism of all kinds and the army would be the weapon of only last resort.
B.In dealing with cross-border terrorism in J&K and with the ULFA and the tribal insurgents in the North-East, the Army would have the leadership role---with the police operating in the interior areas and the Army operating nearer the borders. The para-military forces would be available for assistance to the Police as well as the Army.
C.Intelligence collection against hinterland terrorism would be the joint responsibility of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the State Police and in the border States of the IB, the Police and the Military intelligence. Intelligence collection regarding the external ramifications of all terrorist organisations would be the responsibility of the R&AW.
D.Physical security against hinterland terrorism would be the joint responsibility of the State Police and the central security forces such as the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF). In the border areas, it will be the joint responsibility of the Army, the para-military forces and the Police.
E.The new mutations of terrorism, which could strike India one day, such as WMD, maritime and cyber terrorism have to be dealt with jointly by the Armed Forces, the scientific community and the police------ with the army having the leadership role in respect of WMD terrorism, the Navy/Coast Guard in respect of maritime terrorism and an appropriate S&T organisation in respect of cyber terrorism.
F.While dealing with jihadi terrorism calls for the strengthening of urban policing, dealing with Maoist terrorism cannot be effective without strengthening the rural policing.
G.While we should follow a no-holds barred approach to crush terrorists from Pakistan and Bangladesh operating in our territory, our strategy in respect of our own nationals who have taken to terrorism should be nuanced with a mix of the political and security strands.
H.While we should avoid the pitfalls of over-militarisation or Americanisation of our counter-terrorism strategy, which would be counter-productive in our country with the second largest Muslim population in the world and with our location in the midst of the Islamic world, we should not hesitate to adopt with suitable modifications the best counter-terrorism practices from the US, the UK and Israel. Among practices worthy of emulation one could mention empowering the police with special laws, the creation of a central agency for co-ordinated investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases, strict immigration control, strong action to stop illegal immigration and to expel illegal immigrants, action to stop the flow of funds to the terrorists from any sources----internal and external --- and the adoption of the concept of an integrated counter-terrorism staff for an integrated analysis of all terrorism-related intelligence and joint action on them. All agencies having counter-terrorism responsibilities should be represented in the staff.
The evolution of our counter-terrorism strategy has been in fits and starts as and when we faced a new kind of terrorism or faced a crisis situation. Similarly, our counter-terrorism community too has grown up in a haphazard manner. Our approach to terrorism has been more tactical than strategic, more influenced by short-term thinking than long-term projections. The time has come to set up a dedicated task force to recommend a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. The strategy has to be community-based to draw the support of all communities, political consensus-based to draw the support of all political parties and should provide for a close interaction with the private sector to benefit from its expertise and capabilities and to motivate it to protect itself in soft areas.
In 2004, the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh created two posts of National Security Advisers---- one for external security, which was held by the late J.N.Dixit, and the other for internal security, which was held by Shri M.K.Narayanan. After the death of Dixit in January 2005, the Government reverted to the previous practice of having a single NSA to deal with internal and external security. This post is now held by Shri Narayanan. A reversion to the 2004 practice of having an NSA exclusively for internal security is necessary for improving our counter-terrorism management.
Another important step should be the reorganisation of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India. Counter-terrorism is one of its many responsibilities. While the trend in other countries has been towards having a single Ministry or Department to deal exclusively with counter-terrorism, our MHA has resisted this trend.
In any unified command and control for counter-terrorism, the Ministry responsible for counter-terrorism has to play a pivotal role. The importance of having a single leader for dealing exclusively with internal security, without being burdened with other responsibilities was realised by Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao. Instead of bifurcating the MHA, Rajiv Gandhi created a post of Minister of State For Internal Security in the MHA to handle all operational matters including waging a joint campaign against terrorism by the Centre and the States. The time has come to create an independent Ministry of Internal Security and post an energetic incumbent in charge of it.
Inadequacies in our intelligence agencies have remained unidentified and unaddressed. Every successful terrorist strike speaks of an intelligence failure. There is a lack of co-ordination not only among the agencies at the Centre, but also between the central agencies and those of the state police. How to improve the quantity and quality of the intelligence flow? How to ensure better co-ordination at the Centre and with the States? Important questions such as these were addressed by the Special Task Force for Revamping the Intelligence Apparatus headed by Shri G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW, appointed by the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government in 2000.
The implementation of its recommendations has not had the desired impact on the ground situation. Why? What further measures are needed? These issues have to be urgently addressed by a dedicated task force on terrorism-related intelligence capabilities.
Preventive physical security is the responsibility of central police forces and the police of different States. While the capability at the centre has improved, it has improved in certain States and declined in certain others. A strong physical security capability can thwart a terrorist strike even in the absence of intelligence. A weak capability may not be able to prevent it even if intelligence is available. Identification of weaknesses in our physical security set-up and action to remove them must receive priority.
Successful investigation and prosecution deter future terrorist strikes. Poor investigation and prosecution encourage terrorism. India has a poor record in successful prosecutions. Effective co-ordination of the police in all the States, the creation of a national data base to which the police of different States can have direct access and the quick sharing of the results of the enquiries and investigations through this data base could improve our record in investigation and prosecution. The creation of a Federal Counter-Terrorism Agency , with powers to investigate all terrorism-related cases only occurring in any part of the country, would facilitate action and prevention, but there continues to be a strong resistance from the States to proposals for the creation of such an agency. It should not be given the responsibility for investigating any other offences such as white collar crime since it could tend to get politicized and face opposition from the political class.
How to prevent attacks on soft targets? This has been a dilemma for all States. Israel, which sees many attacks on soft targets by Palestinian suicide bombers, follows a policy of reprisal attacks by the State on the leaders of the suspected organisations after every attack on a soft target, in order to demonstrate to the
terrorists that their attacks on soft targets will not be cost free. It is able to do it because the targets chosen by the State agencies for reprisal attacks are located in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority. It does not indulge in reprisal attacks in its own territory. Despite such reprisal attacks by the State agencies, Israel has not been able to stop attacks on soft targets. There is no short-term solution to attacks on soft targets except improvement in the capability of our intelligence agencies to collect timely preventive intelligence. Gradual attrition of organisations indulging in such attacks through arrests and neutralisation of their leaders could be a medium and long-term solution. That too would require precise intelligence, which is not always available.
Suicide terrorism is a lethal strategic weapon, to which no State has been able to find an effective response. While suicide terrorism against hard, heavily protected targets can be prevented through strict access control, suicide terrorism against soft targets is difficult to prevent unless the suicide terrorist is accidentally detected or the explosive device fails to function.
About 80 per cent of the acts of suicide terrorism are carried out with explosives. Strict explosives control in order to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists can make the problem of suicide terrorism more manageable, but the increasing use of commonly available materials such as nitrogenous fertilisers, cosmetics used by women etc by the terrorists for fabricating explosives has added to the difficulties of the counter-terrorism agencies in preventing explosive substances from falling into the hands of terrorists. Yet, how to tighten up controls over the purchase, sale and acquisition of explosives and substances capable of being converted into explosives is a question, which needs serious attention. While considerable attention has been paid to devising measures to prevent the proliferation of small arms and ammunition, similar attention has not been paid to explosive substances.
Strategic threat analysis has undergone a significant change since 9/11. Before 9/11, analysis and assessment of threat perceptions were based on actual intelligence or information available with the intelligence and security agencies. 9/11 has brought home to policy-makers the difficulties faced by
intelligence agencies, however well-endowed they might be, in penetrating terrorist organisations to find out details of their thinking and planning. This realisation has underlined the importance of analysts serving policy-makers constantly identifying national security vulnerabilities, which might attract the attention of terrorists, and suggesting options and actions
to deny opportunities for attacks to the terrorists. Vulnerability analysis has become as important as threat analysis.
Strategic analysts can no longer confine themselves to an analysis and assessment of strategic developments of a conventional nature arising from State actors, but should pay equal attention to the strategic impact of non-State actors, such as international or trans-national terrorists, crime mafia groups and nuclear proliferators on global security in general and our own national security in particular..
India’s record in dealing with terrorism and insurgency is not as negative as it is often projected to be. We have had a successful record in Punjab, Nagaland (partial), Mizoram, Tripura and in Tamil Nadu in dealing with terrorism of Al Umma. Even in Jammu & Kashmir, the ground situation was showing signs of definite improvement till the recent avoidable controversy over facilities for the Amarnath pilgrims.
However, there are two kinds of terrorism/insurgency where our record has been poor till now---- the jihadi kind, which is essentially an urban phenomenon outside J&K, and the Maoist (Naxalite) kind, which is essentially a rural phenomenon. We have succeeded where the terrorism or insurgency was a regional phenomenon and was confined to a narrow area. We have not succeeded where the threat was pan-Indian in nature with the network extending its presence to many States in the North and the South.
A pan-Indian threat requires a co-ordinated pan-Indian response at the political and professional levels. Unfortunately, the multiplicity of political parties, the era of coalition and the tendency in our country to over-politicise terrorism come in the way of a pan-Indian political response. The tendency of the intelligence agencies and the police of different States to keep each other in the dark about what they know and not to admit to each other as to what they do not know comes in the way of a pan-Indian professional response. There has been a plethora of reports and recommendations on the need for better sharing and co-ordination, but without any effect on our agencies and the police.
The agencies and the Police are largely responsible for the absence of a co-ordinated professional response, but the political leadership at the Centre and in different States cannot escape their share of responsibility. A determined political leader, who has the national interests in mind, can use a whip and make the agencies and the police co-operate. A political leader whose policies and actions are motivated by partisan and not national interests will come in the way of professional co-operation.
Any cure to the problem of jihadi and Maoist terrorism has to start at the political level. A political leader has to play a dual role. He has to help the professionals in taking firm action against the terrorists---whatever be their community and ideology.He has to give them whatever tools they need. At the same time, he has to identify the circumstances and perceptions which drive young Muslims to take to jihadi terrorism and young tribals to take to Maoist terrorism. Anger is one of the common root causes of all terrorism. Unless this anger is addressed, professional handling of the threat alone, however effective, cannot bring about an enduring end to this threat.
An effective political handling has to start with a detailed analysis of the causes of anger and action to deal with them. Our young Muslims, who are taking to jihadi terrorism, are not bothered by issues such as lack of education and unemployment, reservation for Muslims etc. They are angry at what they consider to be the unfairness to the Muslims, which, according to them, is widely prevalent in India. Unsatisfactory political handling of the Muslim youth by all political parties is an aggravating cause of the threat from jihadi terrorism.
Similarly, it is the absence of meaningful land reforms and perceptions of suppression of the tribals by the non-tribals and the administration, which is an important cause of the tribal anger in Central India. It is the responsibility of the political class and the society as a whole to address this. They do not do so and keep nursing an illusion that more and more money, men and equipment for the agencies and the police will end this problem. It won't.
The way we kick around the problem of terrorism like a football blaming everybody else except ourselves can be seen in the TV debates and media columns. The same arguments are repeated without worrying over their validity.
The Congress (I) and the analysts supporting it ridicule the BJPs demand for the revival of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) by pointing out that despite the introduction of the POTA by the BJP-led Government, major acts of terrorism took place during its tenure. The BJP attributes the increase in jihadi terrorism since the Manmohan Singh Government assumed office in 2004 to its abolition of the POTA.
Both the arguments are partly correct and partly wrong. Yes, it is correct that despite the POTA major terrorist strikes took place during the BJP regime. So too, in Western countries, despite special powers given to the agencies and the police major incidents of terrorism took place. The Madrid blasts of March, 2004, the London blasts of July, 2005, and the Glasgow incident of June 2007, took place after special powers were given. Nobody in the West uses these incidents as an argument against special powers.
Similarly, an increase in attacks on soft targets has been faced by many countries of the world after the Bali explosion of October, 2002. So too India. This is due to the tightening of physical security for hard targets after 9/11. The new focus of the jihadi terrorists on soft targets has meant more terrorist strikes and more casualties. The undoubted fact that casualties due to jihadi terrorism have more than doubled since the Manmohan Singh Government came to power cannot be solely attributed to its abolition of the POTA.
Flow of human intelligence about jihadi terrorism is weak because of the post-9/11 phenomenon of global Islamic solidarity and the adversarial relationship between the agencies and the police on the one side and the Muslim community on the other. Feelings of Islamic solidarity prevent even law-abiding Muslims from volunteering to the agencies and the police information about their co-religionists, who have taken to terrorism and from assisting the police in their investigation. The adversarial relationship has resulted in mutual demonisation. How to come out of this syndrome is a matter for serious consideration not only by the police and the agencies, but also by the political class and the civil society, including the media.
Once we allow terrorism and insurgencies of different kinds to make their appearance in our society it takes a long time to deal with them. We took 19 years to deal with the Naga insurgency, another 19 years to deal with the Mizo insurgency, 14 years to deal with Khalistani terrorism and about 10 years to deal with Al Umma. The French took 19 years to deal with the terrorism of Carlos and his group. Even after 41 years of vigorous implementation of a no-holds-barred counter-terrorism strategy, Israel is still grappling with the terrorism of the Palestinians and the Hezbollah. The British took over 20 years to bring the Irish Republican Army under control.
The jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory outside J&K is a post-Babri Masjid demolition phenomenon. This has been rendered more difficult to handle by the post-9/11 emergence of the concept of a global jihad. Our jihadi terrorism is still only a pan-Indian phenomenon, but it has not yet become a part of the global jihadi phenomenon. Preventing it from happening is the responsibility of the political leadership and containing and rooting it out is the responsibility of the professional class. The two have to work together, with understanding and support from the civil society.
The attitude of our political class to terrorism is ambivalent. On the one hand, it is worried---rightly---over this growing threat. On the other, it continues to view this as a vote-catcher. Every political party has been firm in demanding action against terrorism when it is out of power. It becomes soft when it comes to power. That is the bane of our counter-terrorism. Only voter pressure can force the political class to stop exploiting terrorism as an electoral weapon and to start dealing with it as a major threat to national security, which should unite the political class and the civil society.
Finally, the jihadi terrorism in our territory has been able to thrive because of the support from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our anxiety for improved relations with them has been coming in the way of any deterrence to their continued use of terrorism against India. The deterrence has to be in the form of an effective covert action capability, which we should be prepared to use against the terrorism infrastructure in Pakistani and Bangladeshi territory, if left with no other option. The covert action capability, which was reportedly wound up in 1997 out of a misplaced sense of generosity to Pakistan, has to be revived.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India. He headed the Counter-Terrorism Division of the Research & Analysis Wing from 1988 to August 31,1994. He was a member of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India from July,2000, to December,2002. He was also a member of the Special Task force for revamping the intelligence apparatus set up by the Government of India in 2000 )