TERRORISM--- OLD AND NEW
(ENDOWMENT LECTURE DELIVERED UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE S.PARTHASARATHI IP MEMORIAL TRUST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS ON FEBRUARY 29,2008)
India is presently facing the problem of ideological terrorism in the tribal belt of central India, ethnic tribal insurgency in its North-East bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar, separatist terrorism in parts of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and jihadi terrorism in J&K as well as certain other parts of India. In the 1980s and the 1990s, it was also faced with the problem of Khalistani terrorism by some sections of the Sikh population in the Punjab, who wanted an independent State for themselves to be called Khalistan. Their activities have considerably declined since 1995, but some of their leaders continue to be active from their sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Another threat to India’s internal security arises from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka. The LTTE used to enjoy some support from sections of fellow-Tamils in Tamil Nadu, but this has declined after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister, by a suicide bomber of the LTTE near Chennai (Madras) in May,1991. Despite this decline in public support, the LTTE continues to use the Indian territory in Tamil Nadu for the procurement of material required for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other material such as medicines etc. The naval and air capabilities of the LTTE are of great concern to India since they could pose a threat not only to the security of Sri Lanka, but also to peace and security in the region as a whole.
The oldest insurgent-cum-terrorist movement in India is the ideological terrorist movement inspired by the peasants-led model of the Chinese Revolution. It is essentially rural terrorism, which has not spread to urban areas. It made its appearance in certain parts of Andhra Pradesh in 1948, when Andhra Pradesh was not yet a separate State and formed part of the undivided State of Madras. From there, it spread to the Naxalbari area of West Bengal in the 1960s and came to be known as the Naxalite movement. It has since spread right across the tribal belt in Central India and has now come to be known as the Maoist movement. It is led by the Communist Party of India (Maoist), but there are other smaller groups with different names which are also involved. They have the same ideology as the CPI (Maoist), but prefer to retain their separate identities instead of merging themselves with the CPI (Maoist).
The Maoists are inspired by the ideology of Mao Zedong and the Shining Path Guerillas of Peru. Like Mao, they advocate the initial “liberation” of the rural areas and then taking their revolution to the urban areas. They believe that power comes out of the barrel of the gun. The fact that China has almost discarded the Maoist ideology has not had any impact on them. They used to be in receipt of material assistance from China till 1979. This assistance has since stopped after the late Deng Xiaoping gave up the policy of exporting the revolution.
The Maoists of India maintain close relations with their counterparts in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. There were unconfirmed reports in the past that some of their cadres had been trained by the LTTE, but there have been no recent reports of such assistance. The Maoists are the only terrorist group in India, which has not received any assistance from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The Maoist movement is essentially an indigenous movement with external ideological inspiration, but it has no trans-national operational linkages.
It has considerable public support in the tribal belt of Central India. The social and economic grievances of the tribals arising from factors such as exploitation of the tribals by non-tribals, rich landlords, money-lenders and forest contractors, the absence of land reforms in order to reduce the number of landless peasants and lack of economic development in the tribal areas have been driving sections of the angry tribals into the arms of the CPI (Maoist), which has been exploiting them in the hope of achieving power through a peasant-led revolution. The leaders of the movement are well-educated and strongly influenced by Marxism and Mao Zedong’s Thoughts, but their cadres are ill-educated.
The Maoists use terrorism as well as guerilla warfare tactics. They mostly operate with hand-held weapons, IEDs and landmines. They operate in small clandestine cells as well as in large conventional fighting formations. Extortions from rich landlords and forest contractors is their main source of revenue.
Pockets in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Jharkand, Orissa and West Bengal have been affected by their activities. The Government has been adopting a two-pronged approach in dealing with this terrorism ---- the law and order approach in order to reduce their capability for terrorism and the hearts and minds approach in order to address the legitimate root causes of the people. Despite this, the Maoist terrorism is not showing any signs of coming under control due to the neglect of rural policing, weak capability for intelligence collection in the rural areas and lack of satisfactory economic development in the tribal areas. Compared to the non-tribal areas, which have been progressing at a rapid rate, the progress of the tribal areas has been slow due to poor infrastructure, low level of education and poor scope for starting industries, which could generate jobs and reduce the pressure on land. This problem is likely to continue for at least another five to eight years till the capacities of the rural police and intelligence agencies are strengthened, there is visible economic prosperity in the tribal belt and the present divide between the tribals and non-tribals is reduced, if not eliminated.
The second longest insurgency-cum-terrorist movement is in India’s North-East, where it is a separatist movement caused by feelings of separateness from the people in the rest of the country. There the demand was not for economic and social reforms as in the tribal belt of Central India, but for the creation of independent States in the tribal areas of Nagaland, Mizoram,Manipur and Tripura and in Assam, which is not a tribal area. The separatist movement started first in Nagaland in the 1950s and from there spread to Mizoram in the 1960s, to Manipur in the 1970s and to Tripura and Assam in the 1980s.The movement has the least public support in non-tribal Assam, but used to have more public support in the tribal areas.
The insurgents/terrorists operating in these areas have been in receipt of financial, training and arms assistance and sanctuaries from the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh. The separatists of Nagaland and Mizoram were also in receipt of similar assistance from the Chinese intelligence between 1968 and 1979, but this has since been discontinued. The Nagas and the Mizos, who are largely Christians (mainly Baptists), were also being assisted by Western Baptist missionary organizations. The separatists in Manipur, Tripura and Assam are largely Hindus, but they look upon themselves as ethnically different from the Hindus in the rest of India. The failure of successive Governments at New Delhi and in these States to check the large-scale illegal migration of Muslims from Bangladesh into these areas----particularly Assam--- was one of the root causes of the separatist terrorism in these areas. There has been a steady increase in the Muslim population in these Hindu-majority areas due to this illegal migration and fears in Assam that the Hindus might one day find themselves reduced to a minority have aggravated the problem.
The modus operandi of the insurgents and terrorists of the North-East include the use of hand-held weapons and IEDs and kidnapping for ransom and extortion. In Manipur, the problem is compounded by the smuggling of narcotics from the Golden Triangle of Thailand and Myanmar through this area. More narcotics ---natural as well as synthetic--- come into India from the Golden Triangle than from the Golden Crescent in the Pakistan-Afghanistan area.
Here too, the Government of India follows a two-pronged approach in dealing with the problem---- a law and order approach to neutralize the terrorists and insurgents and a hearts and minds approach to wean the people away from terrorism and insurgency through the grant of greater political powers to them and through the economic development of the affected areas. Through these methods, the so-called Naga Federal Government, the main insurgent organization in Nagaland, was persuaded to end its insurgency in 1975 and the Mizo National Front in 1986. There has been a decline in insurgency in Manipur and Tripura. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), another Naga insurgent organization, and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the main insurgent organization in Assam, have not yet given up insurgency. The NSCN is observing a ceasefire and is negotiating with the Government, but the ULFA has rejected all approaches for a negotiated solution.
The third oldest terrorist movement in India was in Punjab where some Sikhs, instigated by their fellow-religionists in the UK and Canada, took to arms in 1981 to demand an independent State for the Sikhs to be called Khalistan. Actually, the Khalistan movement was started first by some members of the Sikh diaspora in the UK and Canada. From there, it spread to Punjab. It was partly a separatist and partly a religious terrorist movement. It took a very violent form through targeted killings of political leaders, officials, Hindu migrant workers and others, indiscriminate use of IEDs, kidnappings and hijackings of the planes of the Indian Airlines etc.
Their violence further increased after a raid by the Indian Army into the Golden Temple at Amritsar in June,1984, to arrest some terrorists who had taken shelter there. The temple was damaged during the raid. This led to a series of acts of reprisal terrorism. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, was killed by some of her Sikh security guards. Gen.A.S.Vaidya, who was the Chief of the Army Staff during the raid, was assassinated after he had retired. “Kanishka”, a plane of the Air India, was blown up in mid-air off the Irish coast in June,1985, killing all the passengers and crew.
The Khalistani terrorists also indulged in acts of terrorism in and from foreign territory. Alarmed by this, Western intelligence agencies closely co-operated with their Indian counterparts in keeping them under surveillance. The Khalistani terrorists had no legitimate root causes. Punjab was a highly developed State and the Sikhs enjoyed a place of honour in the Indian society. As a result, the public in Punjab, which was initially intimidated, stopped supporting them and the movement lost steam from 1995.
Pakistan’s ISI was their main source of support in terms of funding, sanctuaries, training and arms and ammunition. Even today, some of the Khalistani terrorist leaders are living in Pakistan and have been trying to revive the movement. However, they have not met with much success so far.
Terrorism made its appearance in J&K for the first time in 1971 when two members of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) hijacked an Indian Airlines plane to Lahore and blew it up after asking the crew and passengers to vacate the plane. However, it took a virulent form only from 1989 after the jihad against the Soviet troops had ended in Afghanistan. The ISI diverted to J&K from Afghanistan much of the funds and many of the experienced jihadis, arms and ammunition and explosives in order to achieve Pakistan’s long-term objective of annexing J&K.
After 1989, there was a mushrooming of terrorist organizations in J&K. They fell into three groups. The first group consisted of separatist elements, which wanted independence for the whole of J&K, including all parts which were under the jurisdiction of India, Pakistan and China. Between 1989 and 1991, they were in the ascendancy. Alarmed by the support gathered by the separatists, the ISI reduced its assistance to them and started encouraging a second group, which called for the merger of India’s J&K with Pakistan and justified its demand on the basis of religion. Thus, from a separatist movement it turned into an indigenous jihadi movement. When this group, which too consisted largely of indigenous Kashmiris, failed to make headway, the ISI infiltrated into the State from 1993 onwards Wahabised pan-Islamists, who were veterans of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet troops. The majority of them were Pakistani nationals, who had fought in Afghanistan. They belonged to four principal organizations called the Harkat-ul-Ansar (HUA), re-named as the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) in 1997, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), formed in 2000 as a result of a split in the HUM. They described their aims as the “liberation” of the Muslims of not only J&K, but also other parts of India from the control of the Hindus and to incorporate them into an Islamic Caliphate.
These Pakistani organizations spread the jihadi terrorism from J&K into other parts of India. They joined the International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People formed by Osama bin Laden from Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1998. They support the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda and project their jihad in India as part of the global jihad against what bin Laden described in April 2006 as the anti-Islam conspiracy of the Christians, the Jewish people and the Hindus. They introduced what is called the practice of fidayeen attacks (suicidal terrorism) in J&K after 1999. The jihadis are using hand-held weapons, IEDs and kidnappings, but suicide bombing of the kind seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is not yet seen in India.
Before 1993, there was no jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside J&K. The Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was the only organization of Indian Muslims outside J&K, which was in touch with the ISI and the Pakistani jihadi organizations. Even before 1989 it had sent some of its members to Pakistan for training, but when they came back they never took to terrorism. No Indian Muslim had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980s to join the Jihad against the Soviet troops. No Indian Muslim had gone to Pakistan to study in the jihadi madrasas. The Indian Muslims by and large resisted the attempts of Pakistani and Saudi organizations to Wahabise them and the pan-Islamic ideology advocated by Al Qaeda and the Pakistani organizations had no attraction for them.
But, all this started changing gradually due to the anger caused in the Indian Muslim community by the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya by a group of Hindu nationalists in December, 1992. Since then, Indian Muslim youth in small numbers started gravitating towards the pan-Islamic ideology and participating in acts of jihadi terrorism by collaborating with the ISI and the Pakistani jihadi organizations. After 1998, pro-Al Qaeda Pakistani organizations such as the LET, the HUJI, the JEM and the HUM set up sleeper cells in different cities of India in order to take advantage of the anger among small sections of the Indian Muslim youth and spread jihadi terrorism. Initially, they recruited from the Indian Muslim community in India and subsequently from the Indian Muslim diaspora in the Gulf. The number of Indian Muslim youth, who have joined the pro-Al Qaeda Pakistani organizations, is still very small when compared to India’s large Muslim population, which is the second largest in the world after that of Indonesia, but it is the beginning of a disturbing trend.
While small numbers of Indian Muslim youth in India and the Gulf thus started joining the pro-Al Qaeda Pakistani jihadi organizations and helping them in organizing terrorist attacks in different parts of India, they still kept away from Al Qaeda, which was and continues to be a largely Arab organization. As a result, Al Qaeda as an organization has not so far been involved in any act of terrorism in Indian territory though it has been wanting to target American and Israeli nationals and interests in Indian territory.
The 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US and the involvement of 19 Arabs in them led to a strict surveillance on Arab terrorist suspects all over the world and particularly in the Western countries. Arabs had, therefore, difficulties in traveling. Al Qaeda started recruiting from the Pakistani diaspora in the UK, the US, Canada, Spain, Portugal and other countries. The involvement of British citizens of Pakistani origin in the London blasts of July,2005, led to a similar surveillance on the Pakistani diaspora in the West. In view of this, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organizations are now looking for recruits from the Indian Muslim diaspora in the West. Even before the London blasts, there was one instance of Al Qaeda using a British resident Muslim of Indian origin for collecting intelligence about possible targets in the US. The attempted jihadi strikes in London and Glasgow in June,2007, brought out the involvement of two educated Indian Muslims living in the UK----one of them an engineer who tried to blow himself up in Glasgow and died of burn injuries and the other a doctor, who was aware of the plot, but did not alert the Police. The Karnataka Police has recently arrested some educated Indian Muslims, who were allegedly planning terrorist strikes against Israelis in Goa and US companies in Bangalore. A new trend, which has come to notice since the London and Glasgow attempts, is small numbers of Indian Muslim youth willing to take to jihadi terrorism against American and Israeli nationals and interests because of their anger against the Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and the US policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has to be emphasized again that the numbers involved is very small, but it is the trend, which should be of concern.
India is fortunate that the preponderant majority of its Muslim community have remained intensely patriotic and law-abiding. They have kept away from Al Qaeda and its global jihad. They have also rejected so far the Wahabising and Arabising campaigns promoted by organizations in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, India should be concerned over the drifting of small numbers of educated Indian Muslim youth in India as well as in the Gulf and the West towards Al Qaeda inspired pan-Islamic ideologies either because of their anger against the Government of India or because of their anger against the US and Israel. India’s close relations with the US and Israel are threatening to become a new root cause of jihadi terrorism involving Indian Muslims.
India should be able to deal with ideological terrorism in Central India and the insurgencies-cum-terrorism in the North-East in the immediate and short terms without difficulty. As these areas get economically developed and the quality of governance improves, non-jihadi terrorism will wither away. So too the separatist, indigenous terrorism in J&K , which is already showing signs of a decline.
What is likely to become even more difficult to handle than at present is the pan-Islamic terrorism promoted by pro-Al Qaeda Pakistani organizations. Just as the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s led to the beginning and intensification of separatist and religious jihadi terrorism in J&K, the present wave of jihadi terrorism in Pakistan and Afghanistan promoted by Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistani organizations allied to them is likely to have its repercussions in India. Jihadi terrorism in India is likely to get worse before it gets better.
India’s counter-terrorism policy is based on the use of the police as the weapon of first resort and the Armed Forces as the weapon of last resort except in the areas adjoining the Pakistani, Myanmar and Bangladesh borders where the Army has to play the leadership role because of the problem of cross-border terrorism originating from Pakistani territory with the support of the ISI and the weak police capabilities in the North-East. President Pervez Musharraf had assured Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, the then Indian Prime Minister, at Islamabad in January,2004, that he would not allow any territory under the control of Pakistan to be used for terrorism against India. He has not kept up this promise. He has not taken any action against the ISI-supported jihadi terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory directed against India just as he has not acted against the Neo Taliban’s terrorist infrastructure. There has been no change in Pakistan’s policy of using jihadi terrorism against India in order to annex Kashmir and using the Taliban against the Hamid Karzai Government in order to get in Kabul a Government which would serve Pakistan’s interests.
The Joint Counter-Terrorism Mechanism set up by Musharraf and Dr.Manmohan Singh during their meeting at Havana in September 2006, reportedly under US nudging, has been a non-starter. Musharraf continues to project jihadi terrorism in Kashmir as a freedom struggle and jihadi terrorism in Indian territory outside Kashmir as a phenomenon over which he has no control .
The threat from Al Qaeda is expanding----geographically and operationally. Despite the losses in manpower, sanctuaries and capabilities suffered by Al Qaeda and the member-organisations of the International Islamic Front (IIF) formed by Osama bin Laden in1998, they have been able to keep up their campaign of jihadi terrorism. Continuing flow of angry Muslim youth to these organizations is mainly responsible for the undamaged resilience of Al Qaeda and the IIF. Many of the young Muslims, who are supporting the operations of Al Qaeda, do not necessarily support its cause and objectives. And yet, they volunteer themselves for joining its operations, firstly, because of their anger over the way the so-called war against international terrorism is being waged and, secondly, because of their belief that in the absence of the willingness of any Islamic State to stand up to the US, only non-State actors such as Al Qaeda and the IIF are able to do so. They ,therefore, deserve the support of the community even if the community does not agree with their objectives and logic. So the Muslim youth think.
Jihadi terrorism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is undergoing a disquieting metamorphosis. More and more individual Muslims are taking to jihad and suicide terrorism out of their own volition. They were not made into suicide terrorists, with offers of money or women or a place in heaven by their religious leaders. One has been seeing this not only in Afghanistan, but also in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Traditional pan-Islamic jihadi organisations allied with Al Qaeda in its IIF such as the Pakistan-based Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, the various brands of Taliban of the tribal areas of Pakistan, the LET, the HUM, the HUJI, the JEM, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami (HEI) have been claiming credit for the acts of terrorism of these citizen jihadis and trying to give an impression as if all that has been happening in the areas on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has been orchestrated by them.
It is true that these organisations continue to play an active role in the further radicalisation of the people of these areas and in egging them on to join the on-going jihad. At the same time, an increasing number of incidents being reported from these areas is the result of individual jihadi initiatives by persons unconnected with any of the known organisations. New leaders, new cadres, new groups and new mullas are coming up and taking to jihadi terrorism.
It is said that many angry Muslims no longer flock to the old
organisations to volunteer their services for suicide terrorism. Instead, they rush to the nearest Internet Cafe to learn how to be a suicide bomber, gang up with a small number of like-minded persons, pool their savings, buy material which could be converted into explosives and embark on their suicide missions.
For these Made-in-the-Internet suicide bombers, the cyber world has become a virtual Ummah and everyone of them looks upon himself as a bin Laden or as an Amir fighting for the cause of his religion. Concern over this development has been openly expressed even by Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM of Pakistan, in a recent article in "Al Qalam", a publication of the JEM. He said: "Now, there are hundreds of jihadi outfits and hundreds of Amirs. Most of these Amirs are computer operators, who have become jihadis by watching CDs of jihad. They have received jihadi training through websites. They think that via the Internet, they have become Amirs. If they come across a gullible youth, they tie a bomb around his body and send him to jihadi battlefields. Some of the jihadis are in the business of drugs, human smuggling and kidnapping for ransom. Jihad has become everybody's business. Now, it is difficult to control these (Made-in-the-Internet) jihadis." Fortunately, India has not yet faced this problem of citizen jihadis, but our intelligence agencies should be alert to this virus spreading to India and our political leadership and civil society should avoid any aggravation of anger among Muslim youth, which gives rise to this phenomenon.
One of the important lessons of 9/11 was the need to anticipate and prepare oneself to prevent other similar unconventional scenarios of a catastrophic potential and, if prevention fails, to have in place a capability for coping with the resulting situation. Amongst such likely scenarios of catastrophic potential increasingly receiving attention since 9/11 are those relating to maritime terrorism, terrorist threats to energy security, terrorism involving the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) material and terrorist threats to critical information infrastructure. Strategic counter-terrorism refers to the drill and the capabilities to be put in place in order to be able to prevent such scenarios and to cope with them if they do materialise despite the preventive measures.
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 may 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 terrorist strikes to the terrorists. Vulnerability analysis has now become as important as threat analysis.
The 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US and the precision and the evil ingenuity with which they were planned and executed created a wave of alarm about the likelihood of similar strikes at coastal and maritime targets. Interrogation of Al Qaeda operatives arrested since 9/11 have brought out that Al Qaeda has been planning a major maritime terrorist operation in order to damage global economy.
Terrorism is a continuously evolving threat. It has been continuously undergoing mutations. From a uni-dimensional threat involving attacks with hand-held weapons, it has evolved into a multi-dimensional threat involving the use of hand-held weapons, improvised explosive devices, landmines, mobile phones as triggers, aircraft hijackings, cyber attacks through the Internet etc. They have been networking with trans-national organized crime and mafia groups such as the one led by Dawood Ibrahim. Terrorism of today is different from terrorism of yesterday. Terrorism of tomorrow is likely to be different from terrorism of today.
Terrorists no longer come from under-privileged and economically and socially handicapped families. Many of them have come from affluent and socially well-placed families. They are no longer ill-educated who are manipulated by their leaders. Many of them are highly-educated----doctors, engineers, IT experts etc. They are irrational in their objective of mass casualty attacks, but very precise in planning and executing those attacks. They are technology saavy, but not technology slavish. Their modus operandi keeps changing.
The majority of the post-9/11 terrorist strikes involved the use of IEDs, with suicide terrorists wielding IEDs proving highly lethal. The terrorists have been devising ever new methods of fabricating explosives from commonly available material such as nitrogenous fertilizers, women’s cosmetics etc. No state has so far been able to find an effective counter to the proliferation of conventional explosives and their flowing into the hands of terrorists and proliferation of knowledge regarding the fabrication and use of explosives. If they can fabricate their own explosives in their bath-tub as the London bombers of July,2005, did and use them with devastating effect, one should be worried over the possibility that one day they might be able to similarly fabricate their own WMD and use them.
Just as one used to talk of comprehensive national security, one is now talking of comprehensive counter-terrorism---which has three components, namely, preventive intelligence, preventive physical security and consequence management if the preventive mechanism fails. These three components have to be meshed into a fail-safe mechanism, so that if one fails, others take over.
Preventive intelligence is improving, but not as rapidly as the ability of the terrorists to take us by surprise. The knowledge and tradecraft used by the intelligence agencies were evolved in days when the main threats to security largely emanated from State adversaries. The agencies are yet to evolve appropriate tradecraft tailor-made for use against non-State adversaries. Our intelligence officers largely come from the urban milieu. They have very little exposure to and understanding of the rural milieu, from which the ideological terrorism of today is coming.
Our preventive security has improved, but still there are serious gaps as one saw during the terrorist raid into the CRPF camp at Rampur in UP on January 1,2008. The importance of a well-structured consequence management infrastructure has dawned upon our policy-makers as seen from the establishment of the National Disaster Management Agency by the Government of India. But its thinking seems to be oriented more towards the management of natural disasters than man-made disasters.
After the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, Rajiv Gandhi had constituted a special cell in the Ministry of Home Affairs headed by R.T.Nagrani, an IPS officer from Andhra Pradesh, who had distinguished himself in the R&AW and the Directorate-General of Security, to undertake capacity building in consequence management. After the exit of Rajiv Gandhi and Nagrani, this cell was consigned into the abyss of the Government of India. For 15 years, we paid no attention to it. Only after the Tsunami disaster of 2004 has the mechanism started by Rajiv Gandhi been resuscitated and given a shape and a structure. There is a need for similar structures at the state levels and for close networking between those at the Centre and the States.
Is there a need for a special law to deal with terrorism? Yes, there is. This has been realised by all countries facing the problem of terrorism. Even the UN Security Resolution No 1373 relating to terrorism passed a few days after 9/11 has recognized the need for empowering the police and other counter-terrorism agencies. Empowering does not mean modernization of their training, equipment and methods of operation alone, but also modernization of the laws under which they have to operate. Our Police and counter-terrorism agencies continue to operate under antiquated laws.
In the West, victim activism and citizens activism play an important role in counter-terrorism. We saw it from the determined manner in which the relatives of those killed on 9/11 forced the US Government to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. In India, such activism is sadly lacking.
Counter-terrorism is everybody’s business. It is not just the business of the intelligence and security agencies. Just as the agencies keep a watch on the terrorists, it is the duty of the citizens and the victims to keep a watch on their political leadership to ensure that they are not soft towards terrorism. After 9/11, no political leader in the West can hope to win an election if he is perceived as soft on counter-terrorism by the voters. Our voters should emulate those of the West.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. He was the head of the Counter-Terrorism Division of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence Agency, from 1988 till his retirement in August,1994. He was a member of the Government of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) from July 2000 to December,2002. He was also a member of the Special Task Force appointed by the Government of India in 2000 to make recommendations for strengthening the Indian intelligence agencies. )