Tuesday, May 27, 2008




Since 9/11, no political party or leader in the US and other Western countries can hope to win an election if perceived as soft on the issue of terrorism.

2. During the Presidential campaign in the US in 2004, which followed immediately after the release of the report of the National Commission, which had gone into the 9/11 terrorist strikes, the relatives of the victims of the terrorist strikes saw to it that terrorism was a major issue in the campaign and that the two candidates----Mr.George Bush and Senator John Kerry--- made firm commitments to implement the recommendations of the Commission. The co-Chairmen of the Commission too ensured that the recommendations of the Commission figured prominently in the pre-election debate and that the voters forced the two candidates to take up strong position on the issue. It is generally believed that voter perception that Senator John Kerry was soft on terrorism was among the major causes for his defeat.

3. Even though India is a major victim of terrorism of various hues----jihadi and non-jihadi--- terrorism had never figured as a major electoral issue in the past. Political leaders and parties, who were soft on terrorism, did not have to worry that their negative image on terrorism might cost them their election. Victim activism is yet to develop strongly in India. Relatives of victims of terrorist strikes never activated themselves as strongly as their counterparts in the US.

4. There are indications of a welcome change since the serial explosions in the Mumbai suburban trains in July,2006,and the Glasgow terrorist strike of June,2007. Public opinion in India was shocked by the attitude of the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh, to these two incidents. He did telecast a message to the nation after the suburban train explosions but his speech hardly showed any anguish over the death of over 180 civilians and hardly any indignation over the act of the jihadi terrorists in killing so many innocent men, women and children. As against this, he displayed a lot of anguish in his remarks over the arrest of an Indian Muslim by the Australian Police in connection with the Glasgow incident, in which a relative of the arrested Muslim was one of the perpetrators.

5.Talking to media persons, he said that he could not sleep the whole night after watching on the TV the grief on the faces of the relatives of the person detained by the Australian Police. He chose not to visit Mumbai to pay homage to the victims of the suburban train blasts on the first anniversary of the explosions. Similarly, one hardly saw any sign of anguish in him after the Jaipur blasts of May 13,2008. While Mrs.Sonia Gandhi visited Jaipur to share the grief of the relatives of the over 60 innocent civilians, who died in the explosions, Dr. Manmohan Singh did not make any such gesture.

6. He is possibly a strong and silent man, who does not like making a public exhibition of his grief and anguish. But he did make a public exhibition of his anguish when an India Muslim suspect was detained by the Australian Police----wrongly as it turned out. The advisers of the Prime Minister might not have noticed it or might not realise it, but his publicly exhibited sensitivity to the feelings of Muslims and a publicly perceived lack of sensitivity to the trauma and grief of the relatives of the victims of jihadi terrorism were widely noticed and commented upon during the recent election campaign in Karnataka. "He spent a sleepless night over the injustice done to one Muslim by the Australian Police, but hardly spent even a few sleepless minutes over the brutal massacre of dozens of innocent civilians by the jihadis"----this was the comment which was widely circulating in the Internet.

7. The PM's advisers don't realise the increasing role played by the Internet in shaping public opinion and perceptions. A recent analysis in the US attributes the remarkable success of Senator Barrack Obama in the campaign for Presidential nomination to the understanding displayed by his aides of the role played by the Internet and their use of the Internet to project a positive image of Mr.Obama in the eyes of the American voters---particularly young voters.

8. More than grown-up Hindus, young Hindus are displaying growing anger over the repeated jihadi terrorist strikes in different cities and the perceived inability of the Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh to control it. As I had pointed out in one of my previous articles, the record of the Manmohan Singh Government is much better than that of the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government. More sleeper cells of different terrorist organisations---jihadi as well as non-jihadi--- have been identified and neutralised and more leaders of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) have been arrested from their hide-outs in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and other States during his tenure than during the tenure of Shri Vajpayee.

9. There has been a qualitative change for the better in the ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir since Dr.Manmohan Singh assumed office four years ago. A study made by the Institute for Conflict Management of New Delhi says: " Viewed purely in terms of fatalities, the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has now crossed the threshold from a high-intensity to a low-intensity level. For the first time since 1990 (when they were 1,177), fatalities in this terrorism-wracked State in 2007 – at 777 – fell below the ’high intensity conflict’ mark of a thousand deaths. In 2008 (till May 25), 192 persons, including 140 militants and 26 civilians have been killed. At their peak in 2001, fatalities had risen to 4,507. Evidently, 2007 is a watershed year for J&K, bringing tremendous respite to its people. Figures for 2007 and early trends in 2008 reconfirm the continuous decline in terrorist violence in the State since the peak of 2001. According to data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management, the fatality index in 2007 decreased by 30.38 percent in comparison to 2006. While there was a substantial decrease in civilian fatalities (164 in 2007 as against 349 in 2006) and those of the militants (492 in 2007 as against 599 in 2006), there was a relatively smaller decline in Security Force (SF) fatalities (121 in 2007 as against 168 in 2006)."

10. The two negative points in the track record of the Government are the frequent jihadi terrorist strikes in other parts of India outside J&K despite the neutralisation of many sleeper cells and the lack of progress in their investigation. The recurring terrorist strikes indicate one or all of the following:Many sleeper cells in different parts of the country have managed to remain undetected; the interrogation by the police of different States of those arrested has not been thorough with the result that the interrogation did not lead to the detection of other cells; new jihadi organisations ---possibly of Indian Muslims--- have come into existence and have not been identified by the police because of their over-focus on the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI).

11. Our police seem to be committing the same mistake which the American investigators were committing after 9/11. The Americans used to immediately blame Al Qaeda after a terrorist strike and then start collecting evidence about it. Later on, they realised that lots of others not directly connected to Al Qaeda were involved.Similarly, our intelligence agencies and police have got into the habit of blaming the LET and the HUJI after every terrorist strike even before collecting evidence---instead of keeping their mind open. This results in the real culprits getting away and the agencies and the police getting discredited when their initial theories and speculation prove wrong subsequently. A real professional holds the fire till the adversary who opened fire is identified.

12. The less than thorough interrogation could be attributed to the failure of the Government to strengthen the powers of the police to interrogate suspects thoroughly. This is one of the objectives of all special laws relating to terrorism all over the world and of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which was abrogated by the Manmohan Singh Government after it came to office. Even if the POTA posed an ethical dilemma to it, one would have expected it to find some other way of strengthening the powers of the police to interrogate terrorism suspects. It has not done so.

13. Counter-terrorism is no longer dealt with in a professional manner. It has become a political football kicked around in different directions by the political parties in order to draw political mileage out of it. There has not been a professional discussion in the Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the States on terrorism and counter-terrorism for nearly two decades now. What we have in place of a professional discussion is a verbal duel. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) projects the POTA as if it is a magic wand which would end all terrorism. The Congress (I), the leftist parties and other so-called secular elements decry it as the ultimate evil, which was responsible for driving more young people into the arms of different terrorist organisations.

14. Has any of the political parties----the BJP, the Congress (I), the Leftists or others--- ever come forward with a positive suggestion as to how to improve counter-terrorism and urban and rural policing? We face a very complex terrorism situation --- with urban terrorism represented by the jihadis, ethnic terrorism represented by the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and other similar groups and rural terrorism represented by the Maoists. The jihadi terrorist scene is further complicated by the role of our own nationals such as the Kashmiris, the members of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and other similar organisations, and Al Ummah of Tamil Nadu as well as by that of the Pakistani organisations. The jihadi and ethnic terrorism survives due to the strong support of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

15. No other country in the world is faced with such a complex terrorism scene. We need a nuanced counter-terrorism policy--- ruthless towards the Pakistani and other foreign nationals operating in our territory and introspective and carefully measured against our own nationals. The careful measurement against our own nationals should be intended to serve the dual purpose of putting an end to their terrorism without driving more youth into the arms of terrorist organisations through over-projection of the threat posed by them, over-reaction and disproportionate use of force.

16. How to shape such a policy which would cater to our special needs and have it implemented? That is the question, which needs to be debated seriously and professionally in the run-up to the next elections to the Lok Sabha. The effective answer to terrorism is not the BJP's constant wailing over the demise of the POTA. Nor is it the parrot-like repetition of the statement by the Congress (I) that its policy is one of zero tolerance to terrorism. (27-5-08) Concluded

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Monday, May 26, 2008




(Extracted from my book "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" being published on June 8,2008, by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi. www.lancerpublishers.com )

Counter-terrorism intelligence is of three categories:

* Strategic: This is about the organisational set-up of the terrorists, their office-bearers, aims, modus operandi, source of funds, weapons and explosives at their disposal, contacts with external elements, including foreign intelligence agencies etc.

* Tactical: This relates to their specific plans of action. This is also called preventive intelligence, which would enable the State to frustrate their plans.

* Psychological: This covers details of the psychological warfare (psywar) propaganda of the terrorists against the State, which need to be countered, and data relating to the terrorists, which would enable the State to mount its own psywar against them. As examples of such data, one could cite indicators of discontent against the leadership in terrorist organisations, the use of coercive methods by them for the recruitment of volunteers, misuse of children for terrorist operations etc.

It has generally been seen that while the coverage of strategic and psychological intelligence by the intelligence agencies has been satisfactory, their collection of tactical or preventive intelligence has left much to be desired. This has been due to difficulties in penetrating the terrorist organisations for the collection of human intelligence (HUMINT) and their communications set-up for the collection of technical intelligence (TECHINT).

While strategic and psychological intelligence can be collected from open sources, peripheral secret sources, interrogation of captured or surrendered terrorists and scrutiny of captured documents, precise preventive intelligence can generally be obtained only from moles in key positions in the terrorist organisations and through the interception of their communications. Occasionally, such intelligence may also be forthcoming from captured or surrendered terrorists, their couriers etc, but such instances are rare.

Penetration of terrorist organisations is an extremely difficult task . It is easier to penetrate the sensitive establishments of an adversary State than a terrorist organisation. It poses ethical problems, which are not appreciated by public opinion. If an agency plants a mole in a terrorist organisation, its leadership would first ask him to carry out a killing or some other similar act to test the genuineness of his adherence to its cause and his motivation. If the source comes back and asks his handling intelligence officer whether he should kill in order to establish his credibility in the eyes of the organisation's leaders, the handling officer would be faced with a dilemma. He can't tell his source: "Go and kill so that we can prevent other killings in future." Setting a thief to catch a thief may be permissible for security agencies under certain circumstances, but committing a murder to catch a murderer is definitely not.

There is another way of penetration--by winning over and recruiting terrorists, who are already accepted members of the terrorist organisations. To be able to successfully do this, the recruiting officer should preferably be from the same ethnic or religious group to which the targeted terrorist and his organisation belong. Intelligence agencies often tend to avoid the recruitment of operational officers from the ethnic or religious group, which has given rise to terrorism, and this comes in the way of penetration by winning over a terrorist already in the organisation.

There cannot be a regular flow of preventive human intelligence without the co-operation of the community to which the terrorists belong. Such co-operation is often not forthcoming, particularly in respect of jihadi terrorist organisations. Feelings of religious solidarity and fears of being perceived as betraying the cause of Islam by co-operating with the intelligence agencies come in the way of help from law-abiding members of the community.

Penetration of their communication set-up is the other way of collecting precise preventive intelligence. In the past, terrorist groups relied mainly on couriers for communications. This made the penetration difficult unless the courier was caught and interrogated. However, with the expansion in the area of operations of terrorists and their external networking, they have increasingly been resorting to modern means of communications such as telephones, fax, the E-mail, the use of the World-Wide Web etc. This makes them vulnerable to detection by the intelligence agencies, provided the latter could break their codes and get some details of their communications drill.

Many successful post-1990 counter-terrorism operations all over the world could be attributed to successful communications interceptions. But, even this is now becoming difficult due to the availability in the market for anyone with money of sophisticated concealment, deception and evasion technologies and the reluctance of the political leadership, the judiciary and human rights organisations to admit the need for the updating of our laws and procedures relating to communications interceptions in order to empower the intelligence and security agencies to deal with the new situation and to deny to the terrorists and other law-breakers the benefits of these technologies.

Terrorists too continuously learn from their failures and keep changing their modus operandi in order to frustrate the efforts of the intelligence agencies to collect intelligence about them. The successful use of TECHINT by the US for the arrest of some senior operatives of Al Qaeda in Pakistan after 9/11 has made the jihadi terrorists more cautious in the use of modern communication gadgets such as the satellite and mobile phones and adopt better communication security procedures.

Intelligence agencies themselves are conscious of their inadequacies and of the gaps in their knowledge. They are making unpublicised efforts to improve their capability and performance. Better human material with language skills and knowledge of the cultures of their non-State adversaries are being recruited. Better training methods are being used, with the agencies of different countries helping each other in producing better trained operators and analysts.

There is an awareness that training methods and tradecraft evolved over the years for collecting intelligence about other States with rational, predictable behaviour would not do for the collection of intelligence about non-State actors, with irrational, unpredictable behaviour. The need to build a core of analysts who could think unconventionally like the terrorists often do and visualise various scenarios is now understood.

A determined effort is being made to associate more scientists and technologists with counter-terrorism. An Indo-US Workshop on the use of S&T in counter-terrorism held in Goa in India in January, 2004, was but one example of such determination. More resources are being allocated for strengthening the counter-terrorism capability of the intelligence agencies.

The results are already evident in the capture of many terrorist operatives since 2002 and the unearthing of the clandestine cells of jihadi organisations allied to Al Qaeda in India, the US (the detection of a cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba) and other countries. Clandestine remittance of funds for terrorists has been made more difficult.

Despite this, failures there have been and failures there will be. No intelligence agency in the world, whatever be its human and material resources and its technical and technological capability, can claim or hope to be all-knowing. Intelligence agencies were never all-knowing even in respect of conventional State adversaries. They cannot be expected to be all-knowing in respect of their unconventional non-State adversaries.

The resulting gap has to be made good by better analysis and utilisation of the available intelligence, however sparse it may be, better co-ordination amongst different agencies of the intelligence community, better physical security and better international co-operation. Many breaches of national security occurred in the past and continue to occur today, not for want of intelligence, but due to poor analysis of the available intelligence and inadequate follow-up action on it and co-ordination.

The enquiries in the US into the performance of the intelligence agencies in the months preceding 9/11 highlighted the weak analytical capability of the US intelligence and law-enforcement agencies in the field of counter-terrorism, their lethargic follow-up action and their persisting habit of keeping each other in the dark about what they knew and their anxieties. Questions which should have been posed, for example, as to why so many Arabs, with no commercial flying background or aspirations, were undergoing training in commercial flying, were not posed strongly enough by the analysts and an answer sought. Immigration alerts were treated casually. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) did not share with each other all that they knew or talk to each other about all that was preoccupying them.
Such deficiencies are not something unique to the US. They are there in all countries of the world, including India, and the terrorists notice and take advantage of them.

The post-mortem in the US on the suicide attack on the US Marines in Beirut in the early 1980s brought into practice new principles of counter-terrorism management and co-ordination. Those were based on a recognition of the fact that there has been a globalisation of terrorism, that this menace can no longer be dealt with effectively if each agency of the intelligence apparatus operates independently from inside its own cocoon and that, therefore, there is a need for a multi-agency set-up under a common leadership.

Amongst the various models of multi-agency set-ups under a common leadership, which started functioning in the world, one could cite the Counter-Terrorism Centre (CTC) of the US, which consisted of experts from different agencies working under a common roof, with a common data-base and under the common leadership of the Director, CIA, in his then capacity as Director, Central Intelligence, and national intelligence adviser to the President.
The CTC had experts from the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA),the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Council Secretariat, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Police, the Immigration and the Attorney-General's office. They were supposed to jointly evaluate all terrorism-related intelligence, identify the gaps and advise the Director,Central Intelligence, on the action to be taken on the available intelligence and to fill up the gaps. Counter-terrorism experts in the US used to say that this did improve co-ordination and results.

If, despite this, 9/11 occurred, it was partly because the CTC, like the agencies constituting it, had its attention focussed on likely threats to US nationals and interests abroad and paid inadequate attention to likely threats inside US territory. The creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the US and the implementation of various new co-ordination and physical security measures are meant to remove this deficiency.

In August 2004, President George Bush established the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC) to serve as the primary organization in the United States Government (USG) for integrating and analyzing all intelligence pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism (CT) and to conduct strategic operational planning by integrating all instruments of national power. In December 2004, Congress codified the NCTC in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA) and placed the NCTC as part of the newly-created Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who was made responsible for supervising it. The DNI now performs the co-ordination tasks of the intelligence community as a whole, which were previously being performed by the Director of the CIA in his additional charge as the Director, Central Intelligence. The NCTC under him performs the tasks previouasly performed by the CTC of the CIA. Thus, the responsibility for co-ordination in CT matters has been entrusted to a separate body supervised by the Director, National Intelligence.

The Task Force for the revamping of the intelligence apparatus set up by the Atal Behari Vajpayee Government in 2000 had recommended a co-ordination office for CT inside the Intelligence Bureau on the model of the CTC of the CIA. It was set up under the name of a Multi-Disciplinary Centre, but it is reportedly not functioning satisfactorily due to inter-departmental friction and egos. Officers from other agencies apparently are not enthusiastic about working under the leadership of the IB. Similar frictions and ego clashes were there in the CTC of the CIA too. That was why the co-ordination role was given to the NCTC, which does not come under the jurisdiction of any agency of the intelligence community. The time has come to examine whether a similar model needs to be created in India by placing the body responsible for co-ordination in CT matters directly under the National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister.

Preventive Intelligence , preventive physical security and consequence management are the three important components of comprehensive counter-terrorism management. If the intelligence machinery fails to provide early warning about an apprehended act of terrorism, the physical security apparatus should be effective enough to thwart the terrorists in their attempts to indulge in terrorism even without advance warning. In the event of both the intelligence and the physical security mechanisms failing, the consequence management infrastructure should be able to cope with the sequel. On 9/11, while the intelligence and physical security apparatus failed in the US, the consequence management machinery performed commendably, without letting itself be paralysed into inaction by the trauma of the terrorist strikes.

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 the 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.

The developing international co-operation post-9/11 has been at the political as well as the professional levels, at the multilateral as well as the bilateral levels. Regional organisations such as the Europrean Union (EU), the SAARC and the ASEAN have made counter-terrorism a principal point of their preoccupation. New organisations such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation have given the required political guidance to the nuts and bolts of professional co-operation.

At the multilateral level, the UN and other international organisations have been more active than in the past in giving shape to the developing international counter-terrorism co-operation. On September 12, 2001, the UN General Assembly , by consensus of the 189 member-states, had called for international cooperation to prevent and eradicate acts of terrorism and to hold accountable the perpetrators of terrorism and those who harbor or support them. The same day, the Security Council unanimously determined, for the first time ever, any act of international terrorism to be a threat to international peace and security. This determination laid the foundation for Security Council action to bring together the international community under a common set of obligations in the fight to end international terrorism.

On September 28, 2001, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1373 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This established a body of legally binding obligations on all member-states. Its provisions require, among other things, that all member-states prevent the financing of terrorism and deny safehaven to terrorists. States were asked to review and strengthen their border security operations, banking practices, customs and immigration procedures, law enforcement and intelligence cooperation, and arms transfer controls. All states are required to increase cooperation and share information with respect to these efforts. The Resolution also called upon each state to report on the steps it had taken, and established a committee of the Security Council to monitor implementation.

The networking at the professional level is even more important than that at the political level. Such professional networking has to be at the multilateral as well as bilateral levels. The multilateral networking would take care of the development of appropriate concepts, technologies and data bases, mutual legal assistance in dealing with terrorism, exchange of training facilities etc. For this purpose, the creation of a separate International Counter-Terrorism Organisation (ICTO) is necessary, jointly funded, staffed and led by the members of the international coalition against terrorism.

Sensitive operational co-operation has to be at the bilateral levels and cannot be the subject of multilateral discussions since leakages could come in the way of the effectiveness of such co-operation, which may involve ideas such as the mounting of joint operations to penetrate terrorist organisations to improve the quality of available HUMINT.

Trans-national intelligence co-operation has three aspects: Making available training facilities to each other; sharing of intelligence collected independently; and joint operations for the collection of intelligence through penetration and for neutralising terrorist organisations identified as common enemies.
The sharing of training facilities has made satisfactory progress. Intelligence-sharing has also improved though not to the desired extent. However, there is still considerable mental resistance to the idea of joint intelligence operations. Political and subjective factors such as one nation's terrorist being another's freedom-fighter and one nation's state-sponsor of terrorism being another's strategic ally against terrorism continue to come in the way of joint operations. So long as such mental resistance continues, trans-national intelligence co-operation would remain half-hearted and only partially effective. The terrorists and their State-sponsors would be the beneficiaries. To be continued.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Thursday, May 22, 2008




"Any agreement reached by the ruling coalition with the Pakistani Taliban could prove to be as short-lived as the agreements reached by Musharraf with the very same elements in 2005 in South Waziristan and in 2006 in North Waziristan. While thus focussing on reaching a peace agreement at least with Baituulah and his followers in South Waziristan and with Fazlullah and his followers in the Swat Valley, the coalition has been silent on its attitude towards the terrorist infrastructure of Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the Pakistani territory. It has been equally silent on the demands being voiced in jihadi circles for lifting the ban on anti-India jihadi organisations and anti-Shia organisations imposed by Musharraf in January 2002 under US pressure and for unfreezing the bank accounts of identified financiers of Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban such as Al Rashid Trust. Both India and the US have reasons to be equally concerned over the demands being made in Pakistan to reduce the pressure on the terrorist organisations and ultimately restore the status quo ante as it was before OP Enduring Freedom started. If the jihadis have their way, India would be the first to feel the impact and the US thereafter. The developing situation requires close monitoring."

------Extract from my article titled "JIHADI WINDS FROM PAKISTAN" of April 27,2008, at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers27/paper2682.html
Disturbing signals from Pakistan relating to the various deals being made with different jihadi groups by the coalition Government headed by Mr.Yousef Raza Gilani should be a matter of great concern not only to India and the US, but to the international community as a whole. Among these signals are:

The indefinite adjournment of the hearing in the case relating to the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist of the "Wall Street Journal" at Karachi in January-February,2002. In this case, the appeals filed by Omar Sheikh, the principal accused, against the death sentence awarded to him and by the state against the lenient sentences awarded to some other accused were being heard for the last more than five years. Even though the Anti-Terrorism Act of Pakistan lays down that all such appeals should be heard by the court on a day to day basis without any adjournment and disposed of in seven days, the case has been dragging on for over five years with frequent adjournments granted by the court under some pretext or the other. The State had not objected to these adjournments. Previously, the adjournments used to be for short periods at a time.Now, the hearing has been adjourned indefinitely without any objection being raised by the State Prosecutor. Reliable police sources in Sindh say that Omar Sheikh is playing a role, at the request of the Gilani government, in trying to persuade the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), headed by Maulana Masood Azhar, to agree to a ceasefire in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The JEM and the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, popularly known as FM radio Mullah because of the FM radio station run by him, were operating jointly in the Valley against the Pakistani Army. While the TNSM, which is a constituent of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), headed by Baitullah Mehsud, its Amir, has agreed to a ceasefire and reached a so-called peace agreement with the authorities of the NWFP, the JEM has refused to adhere to this agreement so far. The JEM is a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) and not of the TTP.The JEM and dissident elements from the TNSM, which are opposed to the peace agreement, blew up two girls schools and a gas pipeline, set fire to a house and attacked a police post at Nengolai near Mingora in the Swat Valley on May 21,2008, killing a policeman. They also attacked the Matta police station. These Police sources say that Omar Sheikh has been taken to the Swat Valley to contact the JEM and the TNSM dissident elements and persuade them to accept the peace agreement.

One of the demands made by Baitullah and Fazlullah as a price for the peace agreement is that all those arrested during the commando raid in the Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July last year should be released and the criminal cases filed against them withdrawn. While the Government of Gilani has not withdrawn the cases, it is no longer insisting on the quick disposal of the cases and has not been opposing bail applications moved on behalf of the accused. It is only a question of some weeks before all the accused, including Maulana Abdul Aziz, the principal accused, come out on bail and re-join the Masjid in their original positions. The Government has reportedly accepted the demand of Baitullah that the two madrasas---one for boys and the other for girls--- attached to the Masjid should be allowed to function again without any hindrance.

As part of the peace agreement with the TNSM, the Government has not only agreed to enforce the Sharia in the entire Malakand Division of the NWFP, including the Swat Valley, but also to regularise the FM radio station operated by Maulana Fazlullah by granting formal permission.It has also agreed to grant similar permission to all other FM radio stations being run by Mullahs and madrasas in the tribal belt, which are being used by the Neo Taliban for carrying on a vicious propaganda against the US and other NATO forces and against the Hamid Karzai Government in Kabul. Many of these radio stations have been repeatedly calling for the overthrow or assassination of Karzai.

The Government has quietly withdrawn the orders issued by Musharraf in the past for the registration of all madrasas as a condition for financial assistance to them by the Government.Similarly, all restrictions regarding the admission of foreign students have been withdrawn. The madrasas are once again being given financial assistance irrespective of whether they are registered or not. As part of the peace agreement with Maulana Fazlullah, the NWFP Government has agreed to give financial assistance for the establishment of an Islamic University in Imamdheri, the headquarters of the TNSM, to be run jointly by the Government and the TNSM.

The Government has agreed to return to the TNSM all its buildings and other real estate which had been occupied by the Army during the military operations against the TNSM.

Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's Ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped by suspected Neo Taliban elements on February 11,2008, was released on May 17,2008. While the Gilani Government has been claiming that he was got released by the security forces during an operation and has denied any deal with the Neo Taliban, spokesmen of the TTP have asserted that in return for the release of the Ambassador, the Gilani Government has released Maulvi Obaidullah, former Defence Minister of the Neo Taliban, who was a close associate of Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Neo Taliban, and 54 other members of the Neo Taliban, who were in different jails in the NWFP and Balochistan. Local police sources say that in return for the release of the Ambassador, the Gilani Government has assured Mulla Omar that no further action would be taken against the Neo Taliban.

Mr.Asif Ali Zardari, the co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), who used to demand a UN-sponsored investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, has toned down his demand. The police has also reportedly been told to go slow in the investigation into the case in which the principal accused is Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah has been demanding the release of all his men arrested during the commando action in the Lal Masjid and subsequently.The Government has already conceded his demand, though a formal peace agreement is yet to be signed.

The Pakistani media has claimed that as part of the peace deals with Fazlullah and Baitullah, the Government has agreed to withdraw the Army from the Swat Valley and the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and restore to the Frontier Corps the responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the tribal belt, but this has been strongly denied by the Government, which has been saying that there will be a re-location of the Army in the tribal belt, but not a withdrawal.

The restrictions on Dr.A.Q.Khan, the nuclear scientist, have been eased.While he continues to be under ostensible house arrest, he is allowed to visit friends and relatives, accompanied by security personnel.

2. Concerns over these developments were voiced in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on the FATA on May 20,2008. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who appeared before the committee, said:. “We are not the advocates of negotiations with terrorists.We have real reservations about negotiated agreements with extremists. One of the metrics to measure Pakistan’s success in the war on terror would be the reduction in cross-border attacks inside Afghanistan. Another would be if you saw the government operating effectively against some of these militant extremists – like, for example, bringing Baitullah Mehsud, the head of this extremist group in South Waziristan, capturing him and bringing him to justice, which is what should happen to him. Washington has repeatedly cautioned Islamabad about the talks despite a pledge from the Gilani government not to give “free space” to the extremists operating in the tribal areas.The United States is concerned there were elements in the Pakistan government pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.We hope that they proceed cautiously and not accept an outcome that will give extremist elements the ability to use the FATA with impunity to carry out attacks on Pakistan, on Afghanistan or the United States or the rest of the world.There is a lot at stake here and we have made that point repeatedly.”

3. The fact that not all factions of the TTP support the cease-fire being observed by Baitullah and Fazlullah against the Government became evident on May 18,2008,when at least 12 people, including four soldiers,were killed and 23 others injured when a suicide bomber struck a military-run bakery near the Punjab Regiment Centre at Mardan in the NWFP. The TTP unit in Darra Adam Khel has claimed the responsibility for the attack. It has demanded a separate peace agreement with it under which the army would be withdrawn from the area under its jurisdiction. This is the first incident of suicide terrorism since the Gilani Govt. came to office two months ago.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Wednesday, May 21, 2008




Preventive intelligence, preventive physical security and thorough investigation and successful prosecution are the main pillars of effective counter-terrorism.

2.Intelligence agencies all over the world complain that for every successful terrorist strike, there were at least two or more, which were thwarted due to timely intelligence collected by them. They further complain that while they are blamed for their failures, no public credit is given to them for their successes because the details of their successes are not announced to the public for reasons of operational secrecy. This is true. At the same time, intelligence officers should understand that the public would judge them by their known failures and not by their unknown successes. Known failures are a bit too many in India.

3. Complaints made against the central intelligence agencies by police officers responsible for prevention are:
They give general intelligence and not specific. If they are able to get specific intelligence, terrorist strikes can be easily prevented.

Intelligence agencies try to protect themselves in advance from any criticism, by flooding the police with a large number of low-grade reports. They focus on quantity and not quality.

4. After having served as the head of the counter-terrorism division of the Research & Analysis Wing for six years, I have to admit the validity of such complaints. It is not as if the intelligence agencies do not give specific intelligence. They do often. A good example, which is now publicly known, is the intelligence gathered by the R&AW about the plans of the Khalistani terrorists to kill Rajiv Gandhi when he went to Rajghat in October,1987. The R&AW was able to get complete details of this plot including when, where and how the Khalistanis would try to kill Rajiv Gandhi. The report was totally correct,but the R&AW's credibility with the Delhi Police was so low that they did not act on this report thinking that it must be one of those "gups" of it. Rajiv Gandhi was saved because of the incompetence of the man deputed by the Khalistanis to kill him.

5. If the R&AW's credibility with the Police officers in different States is low, that of the Intelligence Bureau is even lower. The only way of improving the credibility of the organisations in the eyes of the state police is by improving the quality of reporting instead of focussing on quantity. All Prime Ministers----barring Indira Gandhi---- tended to defend the intelligence agencies from charges of failure of intelligence. Indira Gandhi was the only Prime Minister, who did not have this conditioned reflex of going to the defence of the intelligence agencies, even if they did not deserve it. She did not hesitate to hold them accountable if they failed to perform. Under her, heads used to roll from time to time in the intelligence agencies because of poor performance, but this does not happen under other Prime Ministers.

6. A Prime Minister should give the intelligence agencies all the backing they need in the form of personnel, equipment,funds and enhanced powers, but if, in spite of this, they fail to perform he should not hesitate to act against them in public to make it clear to senior intelligence officers that poor performance and incompetence would not be tolerated. I cannot think of any instance in recent years when a senior intelligence officer had to pay a price for his demonstrated or perceived incompetence. Once officers reach the top positions, they manage to continue till their superannuation irrespective of whether they improve the performance of their agencies or not.

7. One will notice that in the Western intelligence agencies, officers rise to be the chief at a comparatively young age. Mr.Robert Gates, the present US Defence Secretary, was a career officer of the Central Intelligence Agency. He rose to be the Director of the CIA when he was still in his 40s. This was because of the constant weeding out of incompetent officers at different levels. In India, R.N.Kao became the first head of the R&AW at the age of 50 and N.F.Suntook, the third chief of the organisation, at the age of 52. All others became the chiefs after they had crossed the age of 55 and were approaching superannuation. Unless there is constant weeding out of incompetent officers at different levels, efficiency and competence will not improve and there will be no incentive for good performance. Such weeding out takes place in our armed forces, but not in our intelligence agencies.

8. Even though we have been facing the problem of religious, ethnic and ideological terrorism for decades, collection of intelligence relating to terrorism and insurgency has not been given the high priority it deserves. In India, one tends to emulate Israel for the wrong reasons.One must emulate it for the right reasons. One of these right reasons is that the performance of intelligence agencies and their officers in Israel are assessed purely on the basis of the preventive intelligence relating to terrorism collected by them. An officer may get brilliant reports on military or political intelligence, but none of these will help him in his career if he fails to get good preventive intelligence reports on terrorism.

9. The time has come for a detailed look into the charters and priorities of our intelligence agencies in order to ensure that collection of terrorism-related intelligence is given a high priority, if not the highest priority. It must be made clear to the agencies and their officers that their performance will be judged with the yard-stick of counter-terrorism. (21-5-08) To be continued.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Monday, May 19, 2008




A streotyped question often posed is: If the US can prevent any more acts of terrorism in its homeland after 9/11, why can't India do likewise? Those, who pose this question, attribute the lack of any terrorism in the US homeland to the strong legal and operational measures taken by the US authorities after 9/11. They advocate similar measures in India.

2. A counter-question, which is relevant is: How many acts of terrorism were there in the US homeland before 9/11 when these special measures did not exist? Hardly any. The Oklahoma explosion of 1995, the Atlanta explosion of 1996 and some fire-bombing incidents against Hindu and Jewish properties during the 1990s by a Pakistan-based organisation called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra were not strictly viewed as acts of terrorism by religiously or ideologically motivated organisations. They were instead viewed as violent acts of marginal elements in the local society.

3. If we exclude these incidents, there has never been any major act of terrorism in the US homeland before or after 9/11, except the February 1993 explosion in the World Trade Centre by a group of jihadis. The terrorist strikes of 9/11 were an exception. They were staged by Al Qaeda in retaliation for the US cruise missile attacks in August,1998, on its camps in Afghanistan and on a chemical factory allegedly run by it in the Sudan. According to the US, this factory produced chemicals for use in acts of terrorism. According to Al Qaeda, it produced anti-malaria medicine for poor people.

4. A group of 19 Arabs--- all foreign citizens---entered the US, underwent flying training and staged the terrorist strikes against the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and against the Pentagon headquarters in Washington DC on 9/11. The US was taken by surprise. It was prepared for attacks in foreign territory, but not in the US homeland. It viewed these strikes as a Pearl Harbour-style attacks by a non-state actor. It decided to retaliate against them militarily in Afghanistan from where these strikes had originated. It called it a war against terrorism and has been using its armed forces against Al Qaeda with no holds barred.

5. The US and its people never excuse an adversary, who dares to attack them in their territory. During the second World War, even though both Germany and Japan were the adversaries of the US, it used the atomic bombs only against Japan and not against Germany because it wanted to teach Japan a lesson for daring to attack it by stealth in its territory.

6. Similarly, the US and its people are determined to teach Al Qaeda and Muslims who support it a lesson for daring to attack them by stealth in their territory. The US is prepared to fight against Al Qaeda and the organisations allied with it for as long as it takes to destroy them and thereby prevent another 9/11 in their territory. While many political leaders in the US criticise its involvement in Iraq and demand the withdrawal of its troops from there, one does not find similar criticism in respect of Afghanistan. There is support for the view often expressed by President George Bush that if the US leaves Afghanistan with the "war" half-finished, Al Qaeda will attack the US again in its territory.During the current pre-presidential campaign in the US, the criticism against Mr.Bush is not for the US involvement in Afghanistan, but for the failure to kill Osama bin Laden and his senior associates and neutralise Al Qaeda.

7. The US has been using its Army, Air Force, Navy, the Marines and covert action groups against Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. The US use of heavy weapons and air strikes and the over-militarisation of the US counter-terrorism operations have resulted in large civilian casualties. There has consequently been an aggravation of the anti-US anger in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Islamic world. This has led to more support for Al Qaeda and the Taliban and more terrorism. Highly-militarised counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a root cause of aggravated jihadi terrorism.

8. Since the US has been waging its "war" against terrorism against foreign nationals in foreign territory, the kind of restraints, which normally operate in counter-terrorism campaigns against one's own nationals in one's own terrotory do not operate. The more ruthless the US strikes with its armed forces, the more the civilians killed. The more the civilians killed, the more the recruits to Al Qaeda.The more the recruits, the more ruthless Al Qaeda's operations The more ruthless Al Qaeda's strikes, the more ruthles the US military strikes. It has become a vicious circle.

9. More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists in different countries after the post-9/11 special legal and operational measures than before 9/11 when such measures were not there.The post-9/11 special measures might have protected the US territory from any more terrorist strikes so far, but they have not protected US nationals in different countries. In fact, US nationals abroad and countries which support the US are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks today than they were before 9/11.

10. It is in view of this that an increasing number of analysts is advocating a mid-course correction with partial, if not total, dimilitarisation of counter-terrorism. At the annual conference of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific (CSCAP) held in Jakarta in December,2003, I was invited to speak on India's non-military approach to counter-terrorism.

11. It would be incorrect to compare India with the US and unwise to advocate an emulation of the US counter-terrorism measures by India. The US is located thousands of Kms away from the Islamic world.India is right in the middle of the Islamic world. The US has no Islamic state as its neighbour. India has two--- Pakistan and Bangladesh--- both not well disposed towards India. In addition, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Repupblics are nearby. Most of the non-Palestinian jihadi terrorist organisations of the world were spawned in this region. Whenever the ill-winds of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism blow from their region, India is in their path. India has the world's second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It has to be concerned all the time about the likely impact of its counter-terrorism policies on its Muslim citizens.The US has a very small Muslim population. It does not have to worry about the impact on them.

12.The situation in India is further complicated by the involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh in sponsoring and assisting terrorism of different hues in Indian territory--- the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Khalistanis of Punjab, the indigenous Kashmiri organisations and the indigenous Muslim organisations in other parts of India and of pan-Islamic Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HUJI) of Pakistan, the HUJI of Bangladesh and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF).

13. These complications render the tasks of Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, including the Police, much more difficult than those of the US. We have to fight terrorism in our own way according to our own ethos without letting our counter-terrorism policies becoming copy-cat models of those of the US or Israel.

14. Despite the frequent incidents of terrorism, we have not been doing too badly. This would be evident from the fact that the terrorists have not succeeded in disrupting the communal harmony or political stability or the economic growth. Even at the height of Khalistani terrorism, Punjab continued to play its role as the granary of India and feed all of us in the rest of India. Despite the surge in jihadi terrorism in different parts of India, we have emerged as the leading IT power in the world. Our economy continues to grow at eight plus per cent. Foreign investment flows continue to remain high.

15. After every terrorist attack in a tourist resort---whether Bali or Mombasa or Casablanca or Sharm-el-Sheikh--- there was an exodus of tourists from there and large-scale cancellations of air and hotel bookings. This has not happened after the Jaipur blasts of May 13,2008. This shows the gratifying confidence still displayed by the international community---including the business class--- in the Indian ability to deal with this problem and to protect them.

16. There is no reason for us to indulge in breast-beating after every terrorist strike. By doing so, we only add to the image of the terrorists in the eyes of their community. It is often easier to destroy the terrorists than the image which the media and the agencies unwittingly create of them by projecting them as if they are invincible. They are not. (20-5-08) To be continued

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Wednesday, May 14, 2008




The serial blasts in Jaipur on May 13,2008, which killed about 60 innocent civilians, have many general characteristics, which are common to many terrorist organisations in South Asia. Among important examples of such characteristics are the use of bicycles to plant improvised explosive devices (IED) in crowded places and mixing projectiles such as the ball-bearings of cycles with the explosive.

2. Bicycles as carriers of IEDs have often been used by different terrorist groups since the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Jihadi as well as non-jihadi groups have been using cycles. Among the non-jihadi oprganisations which use bicycle bombs is the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

3. The greatest advantage of bicycles for terrorists is that they are used by millions of people and unattended bicycles left in crowded places do not attract suspicion. Cycles are also used under certain other circumstances---- when the terrorist organisation has only limited funds, when it has no capability for stealing cars and motor-cycles and having them driven to the targeted place and when it wants to use an unconscious cut-out for having the IED reached to the spot without using its own cadres for this purpose. The ULFA uses such cut-outs for having cycles fitted with IEDs left in crowded areas for which they are paid. In this manner, the cadres of the ULFA escape identification and arrest.

4. Ball-bearings are also often used to increase the lethality of the explosive.The LTTE has been using them for nearly 20 years now. When the Sri Lankan authorities imposed severe restrictions on the sale of ball-bearings in the Tamil areas, the LTTE started smuggling them in sackfuls from Tamil Nadu. By mixing ball-bearings with the explosive, one can not only increase the lethality of the IED, but one can also economise on the use of the explosive. A small quantity of explosive can cause a large number of casualties if mixed with ball-bearings and other projectiles.By mixing ball-bearings, a low-intensity explosive can be made to cause a high-intensity killer effect.

5. The IEDs at Jaipur were activated by mechanical timers. According to published details of one IED, which failed to explode, the timing mechanism was an ordinary clock. This was similar to the modus operandi of the Khalistani terrorists in Punjab in the 1980s. The new trend among jihadi organisations in other countries has been to use the alarm mechanism of the mobile telephones for timing an IED. This was apparently not used in Jaipur.

6.In recent months, the police in Karnataka, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh had claimed to have neutralised a number of jihadi sleeper cells constituted by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) with the help of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).During their interrogation, those arrested reportedly spoke of the plans of these organisations to attack Israeli and Western tourists in Goa. In fact, Goa had been repeatedly figuring in interrogation reports as a possible target for attacks by the LET or the HUJI or both. Jaipur had not figured in the interrogation reports.

7. The fact that Jaipur and not Goa was attacked is mysterious. This would indicate one of two things: Either those arrested and interrogated earlier had misled the police by talking freely about Goa when their real target was Jaipur; or the Jaipur blasts were carried out by an organisation totally different from the organisations ( the LET and the HUJI) to which those arrested earlier belonged,.

8. Tourism has been an important target of the terrorists all over the world. Al Gamah Al Islamiyah of Egypt used to attack tourist targets in Egypt in the 1990s. The Jemaah Islamiyah of Indonesia targeted the Australian tourists twice in Bali in 2002 and 2005. Al Qaeda targeted the foreign tourists (mainly Israelis) in Mombasa in 2002, in Casablanca in 2003 and in Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt in 2005. Their primary targets were foreign tourists though locals also got killed. In Jaipur, there was no targeted attack on foreign tourists. No foreigner has been killed. They did not attack restaurants, bars, hotels etc, which are known to be frequented by foreign tourists. The terrorists targeted the tourist potential of Jaipur, but not foreign tourists in particular.

9.Some police officers and embedded journalists have already started blaming the LET and the HUJI even though the blasts do not carry any unique signature of any organisation. The only way of identifying the organisation responsible is by arresting the perpetrators and interrogating them. Till we reach that stage, it will be premature and unwise to blame anyone.

10. Almost 24 hours after the blasts, two TV channels of New Delhi claimed to have received an anonymous E-mail claiming responsibility for the explosions on behalf of a group called "the Indian Mujashideen.The E-mail was purported to have been sent by guru_alhindi_jaipur@yahoo.co.uk.The most significant thing about this message is that it has included the picture of one of the cycles alleged to have been used in Jaipur with the number of the cycle readable. If a cycle with that number had, in fact, been used in Jaipur, this claim could acquire some authenticity.

11. In the 1980s, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) of the UK used to follow a similar MO whenever it planted an IED. Through phone calls, it used to give clues to the police to enable them establish the authenticity of the IRA's claim of responsibility.

12. It may be recalled that before the blasts outside some courts in Uttar Pradesh in November last, a message claiming responsibility for the blasts on behalf of "Indian Mujahideen" was received by local TV channels. There was also a reference to Guru-al-Hindi in another messsage. This was suspected to be a reference to Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death in the case relating to the attack on the Indian Parliament in December,2001 and who has appealed for clemency.The message of November,2007, had also claimed that the Indian Mujahideen had nothinbg to do with the LET or the HUJI.

13. It is not clear whether the cycle is the one recovered by the police with the IED intact after it failed to explode and whether they released the photo to the media. If so, the inclusion of this photo in the E-mail is not significant. If not, it is.If the cycle figuring in the photo is found to have been used and successfully activated, that would be an indication that an organisation of Indian Muslims hitherto unknown to the Police has been operating undetected by the Police. In this connection, please refer to my following comments in my article on the November blasts in UP at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers25/paper2474.html
"It has been reported that an E-mail message purported to be from "Indian Mujahideen" received by some TV channels before the explosions indicated that these explosions were about to take place. However, it referred to explosions in two and not three cities. "Indian Mujahideen" does not refer to any organisation, but it refers to Indian Muslims in general and says that the Indian Muslims have decided to take the offensive and wage a jihad. In justification of this decision, it refers to the severe penalties awarded to the accused in the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, and the lack of action against Hindu police officers, who committed atrocities on Muslims. It also refers to the Gujrat riots of 2002 and the recent assault on arrested JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) suspects by some lawyers. The message is not only a warning of their intention to act, but also an explanation of why Indian Muslims have decided to act. The main point, which the sender of the message has sought to convey, is that the criminal justice system treats the Muslims severely, but is lenient to the Hindus. The language used is typically Indian, the context and arguments used are typically of Indian Muslims and the issues raised are those which have been agitating the minds of sections of Indian Muslims such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992, lack of action against the Hindu police officers of Mumbai who were found guilty of excesses by the Sri Krishna Enquiry Commission, the severe penalties awarded to Muslims who had retaliated in March,1993, and the Gujrat riots.

"It admits that the Muslims were responsible for the explosions in Varanasi, Delhi, Mumbai and in a restaurant and park in Hyderabad, but says they were not responsible for the blasts in Malegaon in September, 2006, in the Samjauta Express and the Mecca Masjid of Hyderabad this year (2007). It is silent on the recent blast in the Ajmer Sharif, a Muslim holy place famous for its tolerant Sufi tradition..

"It says that the Indian Muslims have decided to wage a jihad for Islamic rule and talks of a "war for civilisation." It warns that their next targets will be police officers." (15-5-08)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


(In connection with the serial blasts by unidentified terrorists in Jaipur on May 13,2008, I am reproducing below a chapter from my forthcoming book titled "Terrorism: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" being published by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi later this month . www.lancerpublishers.com ) )

Soft targets are those not subject to special protection that are frequented by the public, which could be local nationals or foreigners. Attacks on such targets cause many human fatalities and demonstrate the capability of the terrorist groups to operate without being detected by the intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies. Destruction of or damage to economic or other capabilities is not the primary aim of such attacks. The primary aim is to kill human beings, though destruction or damage of capabilities may also result from such attacks.

For such attacks on soft targets, a long period of preparations such as keeping a surveillance on the target etc is not required. All that is required is the creation or infiltration of a sleeper cell to undertake such attacks and reaching to the cell the weapons or explosive devices to be used. A sleeper cell is a small group of operatives specifically raised to undertake a terrorist strike. The cell generally consists of persons, who will actually undertake the strike with the help of hand-held weapons or IEDs, and some others, who will provide the logistics such as smuggling in the weapons or explosives, storing them safely till the time for the strike comes, providing a hide-out for those who will actually undertake the strike if they come from outside the area and facilitating their get-away after they have carried out the strike. Those, who carry out the strike, are generally specially trained in the handling of weapons and in the assembly of IEDs.Those, who help in the logistics, need not be specially trained, but they should support the ideology and objectives of the terrorist organization, which undertakes the terrorist strike, and should enjoy its confidence.

Those who carry out the strikes are generally from outside the area where a target is chosen for attack. A resident of the area may develop qualms of conscience about killing people whom he had known and with whom he had grown up. Moreover, his absence from the area after the terrorist strike makes the identification of the perpetrators by the police easier. An outsider is unlikely to have such qualms of conscience and his get-away may not attract attention. Those providing the logistics back-up could be from the same area or from outside. Thus, a sleeper cell could consist completely of outsiders infiltrated into the area of intended operation or could be a mix of outsiders and residents of the area. These are called sleeper cells because its members are specially trained or have a natural aptitude for maintaining a low profile and are able to lead a normal life as students or in some occupation without attracting attention to themselves. In the case of the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, the perpetrators were easily identified by the Police because many of them except Dawood Ibrahim were normal residents of Mumbai and not from outside. Their get-away from Mumbai after the explosions attracted the suspicion of the Police.

A new modus operandi (MO) for attacks on soft targets noticed in recent years is the use of unconscious bombers by the sleeper cells so that the explosions cannot be easily traced back by the Police to the real perpetrators. The ULFA in Assam has been periodically using this MO by paying unsuspecting individuals for leaving bicycles fitted with IEDs in markets and other crowded areas. Al Qaeda was reported to have used this MO in Casablanca in May,2003, and in Baghdad on February 1,2008. In Casablanca, an unsuspecting individual was asked to carry a package containing a remote-controlled IED to a third person. As the carrier was walking in front of a restaurant the IED was activated through remote control. In Baghdad, two mentally disturbed women, who used to beg in market places, were fitted with IEDs and these were exploded through remote control as they were begging in the markets. The Chechens had also used this M.O.

There are various reasons for which terrorists periodically attack soft targets in widely dispersed areas. Firstly, they want to demonstrate their reach. They want to show that they can operate in any part of the country in the case of indigenous organizations and in any part of the world in the case of the pan-Islamic jihadi organizations. Outside J&K, the pan-Islamic jihadi organizations have struck on soft targets in places such as Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, Faizabad (in UP),Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Coimbatore. Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organizations have struck in places such as Bali (twice), Jakarta, Mombasa, Casablanca, Istanbul, Madrid, London and Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Secondly, they want to discredit the intelligence agencies, the Police and other security agencies in the eyes of the people by demonstrating their capability to strike despite the vigilance of these agencies. In their calculation, this could result in a gradual loss of faith of the people in the efficacy of these agencies.

Thirdly, they want to make the Police and the security agencies over-react in response to their successful strikes. Such over-reactions often come in the form of large-scale arrests of the members of the community from which the terrorists have arisen and the alleged use of harsh methods to interrogate them. This creates animosity towards the Police and the Government in the victim-community and adds to their sense of alienation. Such over-reactions could also create a divide between different communities, thereby resulting in the flow of more recruits to the ranks of the terrorists. Anger resulting from over-reactions facilitates their recruitment.

Fourthly, attacks on soft targets are also undertaken in reprisal for perceived wrongs allegedly committed by the Government or the Police towards the members of the community from which the terrorists have arisen or even towards the terrorists themselves. If they are not able to retaliate against hard (well-protected) targets, they retaliate against soft targets. The LTTE in Sri Lanka often resorts to such attacks on soft targets in retaliation for the government’s strikes against it. Such retaliatory attacks are meant to intimidate the security forces into going slow in their counter-terrorism operations.

Reprisal attacks on soft targets may also be directed against foreign nationals, though local nationals may also die during the strikes. The two explosions in Bali in October, 2002, and October,2005, by the Jemmah Islamiyah (JI) were directed mainly against Australian tourists in reprisal for Australia’s co-operation with the US in the so-called war against terrorism. Many Indonesian nationals also died during the strikes, but the possibility of such deaths of local nationals did not deter the terrorists from exploding IEDs in places crowded by Australian tourists. During the subsequent trial of the perpetrators, they apologized in public for the deaths of fellow-citizens and fellow-Muslims, but did not regret their action in carrying out the strikes. Similarly, Al Qaeda’s attack on a hotel in Mombasa in November,2002, and in the Egyptian tourist resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh in July,2005, targeted Israeli tourists in reprisal for Israeli’s policies towards the Palestinians, but many local citizens also died.

The three explosions outside courts in Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on November 23,2007, were also reprisal strikes against soft targets to protest against the perceived harsh sentences awarded to some of the accused in the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, by a Mumbai court and against the alleged failure of the Government of Mumbai to act against certain police officers, who were blamed by an enquiry commission for allegedly committing excesses against Muslims during the communal riots that followed the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December,1992. An anonymous E-mail received by some TV channels on the day of the explosions alleged that the criminal justice system in India was unfair towards the Muslims.

While these are essentially tactical strikes, certain kinds of strikes against soft targets have a strategic purpose. Strikes in certain places of economic importance such as stock exchanges, crowded market places, offices of business companies and tourist resorts have the objective of disrupting the economy and discouraging the flow of foreign investments by creating a feeling of nervousness about security conditions in the minds of potential investors. The Mumbai blasts of March,1993, and the Delhi blasts of October,2005, would fall in this category. Strikes in places of religious significance-----whether holy cities or places of worship----- are meant to create a communal divide in the long-term interests of the terrorist organization. The blasts in Varanasi in March, 2006, in Malegaon in Maharashtra on September 8,2006, in Hyderabad on May 18,2007, and in Ajmer Sharif on October 11, 2007, would fall in this category.

Soft targets do not have the benefit of protection of physical security measures by the Government, though some of them such as places of worship, business establishments etc may have their own physical security measures. There are hundreds of thousands of potential soft targets of terrorists all over the country. It would be just impossible for the Government to provide them with physical security. One cannot totally eliminate attacks on soft targets, but one can reduce them by effective intelligence capability and policing in order to detect and neutralize sleeper cells before they go into action, educating the public in matters such as looking out for suspicious-looking persons and objects, close police-community relations and close liaison between the police and those in charge of security in those cases where soft targets have their own security arrangements.

While there have been successful instances of sleeper cells being detected and neutralized in time by the intelligence agencies and the police acting in tandem, there are many other cases where the sleeper cells managed to evade detection and carry out the strike. Every successful terrorist strike on a soft target is due to the failure of the agencies and the police to detect the sleeper cell responsible. The agencies and the police do face difficulties due to the fact that the terrorists operate in a vast area and keep moving from State to State in order to attack. They operate like the old so-called criminal tribes, who used to keep attacking in different places in different times in order to make it difficult for the police to detect them. The only way of effectively countering this is through 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. The creation of a Federal Counter-Terrorism Agency patterned after the FBI of the US, with powers to investigate all terrorism-related cases occurring in any part of the country, would facilitate action and prevention, but there continues to be strong resistance from the States to proposals for the creation of such an agency.

The ease with which the terrorists have been operating in different parts of the country is also due to a deterioration in the quality of policing in the urban as well as rural areas. Normal tasks, which the police are expected to perform such as making enquiries about suspicious-looking persons in hotels, inns, railway stations and airports , making a random background check of arrivals from outside etc no longer receive the required attention. Similarly, intense police-community relations, which encourage the people to share with the police information, which could have a bearing on terrorism, are increasingly neglected. The public will come forward to share information only with a police officer whom they know and in whose discretion they have confidence.

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.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Sunday, May 11, 2008




Two types of Olympics-related problems can arise

(a). Olympics-related incidents of a political and a psychological nature, which could be non-violent or violent, but which would not amount to terrorism.

(b). Olympics-related terrorist attacks or attempted attacks.

Examples of likely incidents:

(1). Symbolic protests in the form of wearing T-shirts with a slogan, shouting slogans etc.
(2).Demonstrations, which could be either static as before an office or a building or moving as in the case of a procession.
(3). Violent incidents involving attacks on individuals or private or public property.
(4).Confrontational situations with the police and other members of the security forces.
(5).Obstructions of traffic, public movements etc.
(6). Acts of self-immolation

Objectives of such incidents:
(1).To create an embarrassment for the Chinese authorities and organisers of the Olympics
(2). To bring a bad name to China and to make the holding of the Games in Beijing a controversial issue.
(3). To highlight the grievances of the protestors in the eyes of the international community.
(4). To induce the international community to exercise pressure on the Chinese Government to address the grievances.
(5). To sabotage the successful holding of the Olympics.

Who can indulge in such incidents?

(1). The members of the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC), the supporters of the Dalai Lama and their foreign supporters.
(2). The Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan, the World Uighur Congress and other Uighur dissident organisations---pro-Al Qaeda as well as pro-West, based in China as well as abroad and their foreign supporters.
(3) The Falun Gong.
(4). Human rights activists---Chinese as well as foreigners---agitating against China on issues such as Chinese assistance to the Government of Sudan, alleged violations of human rights in China etc.
(5) Angry individual elements not associated with any organisation or movement.

When can such incidents take place?
(1). They have already started in Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas of China since March 10,2008.
(2).While the incidents in the Tibetan-inhabited areas were widespread and sustained, there have been reports of only one such incident in Xinjiang.
(3). The protest demonstrations against the Olympic flame---some of them violent--- in some countries were also examples of such incidents.
(4). Such incidents are likely to continue with ups and downs till the Olympics are over. The upsurge of March in the Tibetan-inhabited areas has been followed by a decline. There could be more upsurges when the flame is brought to Tibet in the third week of June,2008, and during its passage through the Tibetan and Uighur inhabited areas as well as during the Olympics.

What types of incidents can take place during the Olympics?

Two types of incidents are possible.
(1).Diversionary---Mainly confined to the Tibetan-inhabited areas, Xinjiang and Hong Kong (Falun Gong and foreign supporters of the Tibetans and the Uighurs and foreign human rights activists). The purpose will be to draw attention away from the Olympics in Beijing and embarrass the Chinese Government and create a negative image of it.

(2).Direct---in Beijing itself by the same elements and for the same purpose.

While the Chinese authorities have every right to take whatever action is permissible under the law to maintain law and order, certain do’s and don’ts are advisable. These are:

(1). Avoid over-reaction. This makes the situation more difficult to handle.
(2). Avoid actions of a provocative nature such as large-scale preventive arrests, show-case trials and convictions of arrested suspects etc. These provoke further incidents.
(3).Keep the language against the protesters and dissenters polite and civilised. The State should not compete with the protesters in the use of rude language designed to over-demonise the dissenters. What is required is polite language and strong action of a non-provocative nature, which is justifiable under the law.
(4). Avoid divide and rule tactics such as mobilising one section of the people against another.

Lessons from the handling of incidents in the Tibetan-inhabited areas and during the passage of the Olympic flame:

(1). Inadequate preventive intelligence in the Tibetan-inhabited areas as well as from the cities on the route of the flame.
(2). Taken by surprise, over-projection of likely threats and over-reaction, which tended to further poison the atmosphere and add to the temperature. Some of these actions played into the hands of the protesters and dissenters. Protesters, dissenters, extremists and terrorists want the State to over-react. By over-reacting, the State plays into their hands.


What are the components of an Olympics-related counter-terrorism architecture?
(1).Preventive intelligence.

(2).Threat and vulnerabilities perception, which may be based on actual intelligence available or, in the absence of such intelligence, on past experience and knowledge and professional insights.

(3). Preventive physical security, which can prevent terrorist threats, whether preventive intelligence is available or not.

(4). Crisis or consequence management if both intelligence and physical security fail.

Is preventive intelligence available on likely Olympics-related plans of terrorist organisations?
Not so far. The security architecture has, therefore, to be based on threats and vulnerabilities perception.

Threats & vulnerabilities perception:

Which organisations will have the motive to indulge in acts of terrorism during the Olympics?

(1).Al Qaeda: It looks upon Xinjiang as a territory, which historically belonged to the Ummah and needs to be recovered for the proposed Islamic Caliphate; it supports the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is a member of the International Islamic Front (IIF) For Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People; it is looking for an opportunity to launch a major terrorist strike against the US in retaliation against the US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq and against Denmark for the cartoons depicting pictures of the Holy Prophet carried by a Danish newspaper. It could look upon the Beijing Olympics as providing an opportunity for a terrorist strike against the US or Denmark or both. It operates from North Waziristan in Pakistan.

(2). The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) led by Tahir Yuldeshev: Member of Al Qaeda’s IIF. Based in North Waziristan. Operates mainly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Its over-all objective is an independent Caliphate in Central Asia consisting of Eastern Turkestan and the Central Asian Republics. Trains the Uighur terrorists in its camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.
(3). The Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or Group. Headed by Ebu Yahya Muhammad Fatih. A splinter group of the IMU. Not a member of the IIF. Supports Al Qaeda’s ideology. Even though it consists largely of Uzbeks, projects itself as a multi-ethnic organisation, with a global objective as against the IMU’s regional objective. It trains Uighurs, Germans and others in its training camps in the Mir Ali area.

(4). The Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan. An exclusively Uighur organisation with links to Al Qaeda, the IMU and the IJU. Strongly anti-Chinese.

How about the Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC)? Is it not a terrorist organisation?
No, it is not. It is a radical organisation, but not a terrorist organisation. It does not accept the Dalai Lama’s objective of an autonomous Tibet as an integral part of China. It advocates an independent Tibet to be achieved through political agitation not amounting to terrorism. It has no links with any terrorist organisation. Its links are with pro-US and pro-Taiwan Uighur organisations, which advocate an independent East Turkestan, but do not support the ideology of Al Qaeda and the IIF.

How about anti-India Pakistani jihadi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ)?

All of them are members of Al Qaeda’s IIF. They are Wahabi in their orientation and support Al Qaeda’s pan-Islamic ideology. They did not exhibit any anti- Chinese feelings till the Pakistani army raid into the Lal Masjid of Islamabad in July,2007.Thereafter, their attitude changed slightly since they suspected that Pervez Musharraf ordered the raid under Chinese pressure after the students of the madrasas of the masjid kidnapped some Chinese women working in beauty parlours in Islamabad.

What kind of terrorist attacks can be expected?

(1) Diversionary: In Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and in foreign countries, particularly in Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics, against Chinese nationals and property. These could be before and during the Olympics.

(2). Direct: In Beijing and Hong Kong during the Olympics. (Note: This was written by me before going to Shanghai. At that time, I did not know that the football matches of the Olympics are to be held in Shanghai. I came to know of this after arriving in Shanghai.In view of this, the possibility of a direct attack in Shanghai too has to be taken into account in the planning )

What kind of diversionary attacks can one expect?

Kidnapping of Chinese nationals, officials and diplomats, hijacking, explosions on board Chinese planes and terrorist strikes in public places in Xinjiang.

What kind of direct attacks can one expect?
Attacks involving the use of hand-held weapons or explosives inside the stadia, in the games village and other places of stay, attacks on public transport such as the metro and attacks from air similar to 9/11.

How to prevent diversionary attacks?

(1).Stepped up coverage of HUMINT and TECHINT inside China, particularly in the Tibetan-inhabited areas, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

(2) Stepped up physical security in these areas for hard as well as soft targets.

(3). Stepped up policing in the form of watch on new arrivals, enquiries at hotels and other places, random checking of identity documents in public places etc.

(4). Intense police-community interactions.

(5).Repeated appeals to the people to report to the police any suspicious activities or the presence of suspicious objects.

(6).Stepped-up physical security for Chinese diplomatic and consular missions abroad and for the flights of Chinese airlines and Chinese ships touching international ports.

How to prevent direct attacks in Beijing?
No terrorist organisation---not even Al Qaeda--- can succeed in Beijing without some local support and without some penetration. The direct threat in Beijing---if it comes about--- will most probably come from a jihadi organisation. The local support will, therefore, be most likely from local Muslims---Uighurs or Huis. The links of the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan with Al Qaeda are well known though details are not available. The Huis are loyal to China, but they may still act as local supporters due to considerations of Islamic solidarity. It is, therefore, very important for the Chinese to intensively interact with the Uighur, Hui and other Muslim communities in order to detect signs of local support. Neither the Tibetans nor the Falun Gong may provide such local support.

How to prevent penetration?
If Al Qaeda or the IMU or the IJU or the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan is planning a terrorist strike in Beijing, it would have already started its penetration attempts. Amongst the ways of neutralising or preventing penetration attempts are:

(1). Strict security vetting of the background of all those employed or to be employed in connection with Olympics-related duties--- in the various stadia, in the Games village, in the various hotels meant for the participants or office-bearers or journalists or spectators. This will be totally the responsibility of the Chinese intelligence and security agencies.

(2).A strict security-vetting of the background of all those who will be participating in the games as team members from various countries and their office-bearers. This will be the joint responsibility of the Chinese agencies as well as those of the participating countries. Assistance of organisations such as the INTERPOL should be sought.

(3).Physical security against aviation terrorism and against acts of terrorism involving explosive and incendiary material would require high attention. Generally, physical security against acts involving hand-held weapons tends to be satisfactory, but against aviation terrorism and acts involving use of explosive and incendiary material tends to be unsatisfactory. This was seen even in China in the incident reported earlier this year in which three Uighur terrorists, one of them a woman, had reportedly smuggled some gasoline into an aircraft by injecting it into a can of soft drinks. Moreover, terrorists have become adept in fabricating their own explosive material by mixing liquids of day-to-day use such as cosmetics etc. This was seen in the case of the London blasts of July,2005, and the thwarted plot in the UK in August 2006, to blow up a number of US-bound planes by taking such liquids on board the planes and mixing them in the toilet to fabricate an explosive material. It was thereafter that severe restrictions were imposed on carrying liquids into aircraft.

(4). Similar restrictions would be necessary on carrying liquids into the various stadia by the spectators. Should such restrictions be imposed on the athletes, players and team officials also? If so, how to enforce them? These are questions, which need to be seriously addressed, if not already done.

(5). Effective airport security not only in Beijing, but also all over China would be necessary to prevent an act of aviation terrorism targeting any of the venues or directed at other targets. The incident on board a plane going from Urumqi to Beijing earlier this year highlighted deficiencies in airport security at Urumqi.

What are the consequence management measures that would be required?

(1). A drill for rapid and orderly evacuation of people from any scene of attack without giving rise to panic.

(2). A drill to deal with attacks involving WMD material such as the Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo Metro by the Om Shinrikyo in 1995.

(3).Capability for rapid intervention by the fire services.

(4). Capability for the rapid mobilisation of medical services including doctors, nurses, storage of blood of different groups, facilities for surgeries etc.

This paper is not exhaustive. It just touches upon some important aspects only. Any exhaustive and comprehensive paper has to be based on a thorough local knowledge and experience. (12-5-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )