Originally Published 2006-07-26 09:49:49 Published on Jul 26, 2006
In the aftermath of the serial train blasts in Mumbai on July 11, the question uppermost in public mind has been, ''Why has India become the most affected target? Are we in a no-win situation against terrorism?''
Terrorism is an act of war Fight it with multi-dimensional plan
In the aftermath of the serial train blasts in Mumbai on July 11, the question uppermost in public mind has been, ''Why has India become the most affected target? Are we in a no-win situation against terrorism?''&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Since the mid-1980s, India's share of terrorists' incidents and civilian casualties has become the highest in the world. In its current phase, terrorist organisations seem to have perfected their modus operandi. Serial, high-intensity blasts in crowded places of metropolitan cities get them the best results - maximum damage and the&nbsp; <br /> loudest message. Such incidents require strategising, meticulous planning, extensive logistic support and trusted execution. Only large and well-organised outfits with considerable means, expertise and support can carry out such deeds.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The graphs of terrorist activities showing countrywide sharp upward movement lately is a clear indication that (a) the attacks are on India, not on any particular symbolic target. It is a proxy war against India. (b) India is becoming a soft state. (c) India's external and internal security has got enmeshed as never before.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Regrettably, despite long and hard experience, India continues to treat terrorism mostly as a law and order problem. There is ambiguity in our counter-terrorism policies between the states and the Centre, and lack of intelligence and operational coordination. Our inability to pursue intelligence leads vigorously, and to book the culprits to a logical conclusion is evident in most terror cases.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The most important and possibly the most difficult counter-terrorism requirement is preventive intelligence. Post-Kargil macro-level review of our intelligence capabilities has not achieved much success in inter-agency frictions, adequate technological upgradation (to be able to penetrate terrorist networks), or in the Centre-state intelligence and operational coordination. The multi-disciplinary centre under the Intelligence Bureau (IB) comprising representatives of all Government&nbsp; <br /> of India agencies dealing with terrorism has yet to make its mark.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It has become fashionable to call terrorists as the faceless enemy. That does not help. It conveys defencelessness and makes us more vulnerable. Who do we take action unless we can identify the terrorists and their sources? Identification of terrorist group(s) responsible for each incident is a major challenge for our intelligence agencies. I am certain they would be fully involved in this already. But if they need specific directives and additional resources - technical and non technical - these must be given to them on priority.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> We should have no qualms in taking hard measures against identified fundamentalist and extremist outfits that spread hatred in the name of religion. A Chief Minister giving a clean chit to an organisation that has been named and banned by the Centre cannot be accepted. Hawala, gun-and-explosives-running drug-running and any terror act having external linkages should be treated as federal offences under the Central Government authority.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> We need tougher anti-terrorism laws. Legal punishment to terrorists, their active or logistic supporters, and corrupt officials who enable smuggling of arms and explosives into India need to be made more severe. Our political parties keep fighting over counter-terrorism legal provisions.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Terrorism is an act of war. During such circumstances, nations suspend their normal laws. We must ensure that the perpetrators of terrorist acts are punished promptly. At the same time, adequate care should be taken to prevent the abuse of such laws. The United States and the United Kingdom have provisions in their anti-terrorism laws that are much tougher than India's.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It is time our professionals had greater say in framing appropriate anti-terrorist legislation. The professionals should advise political leaders sincerely and expose anyone who misuses these provisions for political interests.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Till date, we have failed to take action against those involved in the Coimbatore serial blasts in February 1998. The law enforcement agencies need to be energised and revived. We need special and more accountable judicial officers and courts.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> We have had sufficient experience of handling terrorist activities in urban areas. Mumbai alone has been affected by five major incidents in recent years. Our human resources as well as equipment, particularly surveillance and communication equipment, in metro cities and urban areas need to be upgraded. Security of the areas where a large number of people tend to congregate should be reviewed. Unnecessary visitors at airports and railway stations (including those who come in hordes to receive VIPs) should be discouraged. There is a cynical view that our police forces get no respite, or refresher training, because a large number is deployed round the clock on VIP protection duties.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> In the aftermath of a terror attack, it is important for the state administration and its agencies to reach out to the people immediately so that they are not alienated and come forward as willing partners in counter-terrorism efforts of the government. Every city needs a robust action plan to deal with the fall-out of a terror attack and to provide immediate relief to victims. We have a disaster relief management plan for each big city (worked out along with the armed forces). Similar plans should be prepared for major terrorist activities or breakdown of law and order. For this purpose, the civil defence set-up in urban areas can be rejuvenated.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The current situation requires a well-defined, comprehensive, multi-dimensional policy and action plan to deal with terrorism. This would be possible only when we have an empowered and dynamic minister, fully supported by the Prime Minister, to deal with the subject exclusively. He would need a team of professional advisers with a relevant background and expertise to formulate policy/action plans and ensure political as well as operational management. The action plan&nbsp; <br /> would need to be pro-active: direct overt and covert action against terrorists and terrorist groups, within the country and those based in foreign countries.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> How should we deal with external elements?&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Pakistan, for long, has supported anti-India terrorist groups. General Musharraf has failed to deliver on the promises and agreements that he made in January 2002 and 2004. Anti-India terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan remains in tact. Cross-border terrorism has been and continues to be an instrument of its foreign policy to keep alive the Kashmir issue and to bleed India. Many retired Pakistani officers and strategists have confirmed this privately, and now the Foreign Minister&nbsp; <br /> of Pakistan has gone public. There is no room for laying excessive emphasis on the peace process with Pakistan at the cost of our fight against terrorism.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Strategically, India cannot afford to be perceived to be buckling down under terrorist pressures. That would be disastrous. Neither can it afford to depend on others to take care of its internal security. Hard decisions, based on a hard analysis of options in the current trend of terrorist activities have to be taken. We need to make&nbsp; <br /> counter-terrorism statements clear and sting-loaded, if necessary, to all neighbours who persist in supporting terrorism against India.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> In the wake of the Mumbai blasts, neither platitudes nor political rhetoric will work as counter-terrorism. Excessive rhetorical public statements make people cynical after some time. They want action. There is no alternative to defeating terrorism.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> </font> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <em>The writer, a former Chief of Army Staff, is President, ORF Institute of Security Studies, New Delhi. <br /> <br /> Source: The Tribune, Chandigarh, July 21, 2006. <br /> </em> <br /> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em> <br />
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