Fighting terror: If France can, why can't we?

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India stands at number 6 when it comes to being hit by terror. While we have seen a spate of attacks on Indian soil over the past several years which includes an attack on Parliament and also 26/11, the picture when it comes to investigations is not a very good one.

After the brutal attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo at Paris on Jan 7 which killed 12 persons including the editor of the magazine, it took the French police less than 10 hours to release the sketches and circulate it. In addition to this they also cornered the third gun man who surrendered before the police.

Terrorism: If France can, why can't we?

All this in less than 24 hours and why because a nation stands united in its fight against terror.

Take the most recent case of the Bangalore blast. There does not appear to be one concrete lead and the police are still verifying the accuracy of the sketches drawn by them. Also take into account the recent interception of the Pakistan boat.

The media and the political class were a completely divided lot with a large number of people questioning the authenticity of the operation.

Where does the problem lie?

The problem lies everywhere, right from the politics in an investigation to coordination among the forces. In the event of a terror strike, the debate is more focused around whether the state police or the NIA shall investigate the case.

By the time it is decided which agency shall probe the case, the terrorists would have managed to move away from the city of crime by a large distance.

In the meantime, the police are too busy ascertaining which group may have carried out the attack rather than tracking the attacker himself.

It would be mandatory to mention here the manner in which the US carried out its investigation in the New York attack where right from the start it went on to profile the bomber instead of trying to find his organization first. They were proved right, he belonged to no outfit and turned out to be a lone wolf.

Is the NIA from Mars?

As absurd as this may sound, but on a couple of occasions we have actually heard state police officials questioning the capabilities of the NIA.

"Are they from Mars or they are after all police men like us," are some of the statements that we get to hear at the start of a terror investigation.

This ideally means that the probe starts with an ego clash and each agency tries to outdo the other no in terms of bettering the investigation, but in deliberately trying to make it hard on each other.

NIA officers have often complained that state police do not cooperate and there have been times when they have been made to wait for days before they could meet the officer who investigated the matter first.

State and Centre coordination:

No doubt law and order is a state subject. But the question is whether that should be applicable to cases of terror as well? Terrorists often plan attacks overseas and in 9 out of 10 cases come from a different state.

In this context is important that a central agency probes the matter instead of leaving it with the state which will faces jurisdictional problems when it comes to investigating in other states.

The NIA charter clearly states that there is no requirement to take the state government's approval to probe matters of terror.

However, India has a different approach and always feels that in the spirit of the law it is better to inform and seek consent of the state before ordering the NIA to probe a terror case.

The lack of coordination is evident not just in the investigations, but also in the sharing of intelligence. The state and the central intelligence bureau need to coordinate when there is an alert.

Several experts pointed the need to have a centralized agency to coordinate with the states and analyse alerts before deciding on whether it was actionable or not.

Lack of expertise:

Very many times we have witnessed the complete lack of scientific knowledge when it comes to fighting terror. India's premier agency which probes terror, the NIA lacks staff who have expertise in cyber surveillance, forensics and also decrypt information on computers.

India according to a survey would need to hire at least 500 ethical hackers to keep a tab on cyber threats. The problem is that hacking is considered to be a bad word in India even if one were put the word ethical before it.

Moreover with Jihad being fought largely on the internet, Indian agencies have a tendency of taking a reactionary approach.

They would not bother to scrutinize suspect accounts. The material on the web is found to be analysed after an event which itself is an extremely post reactionary approach.

Infighting:

This has been a perennial problem be it in politics or policing. There is too much infighting reported within the agencies.

While the agencies fight among each other when it comes to a probe, the politics attached to any terror case only goes on to make it worse.

When a country like France or the US is attacked, everyone stands as one and lets the agencies do the job in national interest. Very rarely do you find the opposition questioning the steps taken by the government.

An officer with the intelligence bureau says that the moment an investigation begins there are questions raised by opponents of the ruling party which demoralizes the force.

Governments have gone hard and soft depending on the political weather and this is just not good for a probe. In countries such as France and US the nation united in times of a terror attack, but in India we have seen the nation being divided.

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