Lurking in the Corner: Don’t Take the Terror Threat Lightly

By: Pathikrit
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New Delhi, Feb 5: Even as inflation and corruption continue to be major issues for the forthcoming elections, is terrorism a forgotten subject or is still a pertinent one? In 2012, India was ranked the fourth in the Global Terrorism Index among the countries which have been impacted the most by terrorism. The situation as it stands now is no better.

While the incident of 26/11 attack in Mumbai created major ripples not just in India but across the world, fact remains that terror incidents in India did not stop at that. Since then India has faced several terror attacks by different terror groups including the Maoists.

The gruesome incident of 26/11 was followed by the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh by Maoists, attacks on trains, serial blasts in cities like Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bodh Gaya as well as several ambushes on Army and CRPF jawans in J&K along with even fidayen attacks on Army bases.

With situation in Pakistan going for the worse and it is becoming clearly evident that the Pakistani Government has completely failed to control the radical and terror groups based in Pakistan, serious questions arise as to what would happen in the near future after the Americans quit Afghanistan and how well prepared is India as a nation to combat the emerging situation?

India faces multiple terror threats from internal and external elements

In fact there is an uncanny resemblance between the kind of situation that was building up in Afghanistan in 1989 and what it is now. In 1989, the Soviet exit from Afghanistan left several hundred thousand Mujahids, who had come from all across the Middle East to fight against the atheist Soviet Army, without a job.

For Pakistan, it was an easy way to channelize that entire unemployed but highly radicalised lot into a whole new direction to foment trouble in J&K. Thus the end of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan coincided with the rise of militancy in J&K.

The situation as it is now is no different. With the exit of the American led forces from Afghanistan, there would a huge number of highly radicalised elements left without an alternate job.

With Pakistan based Tehreek-e-Taliban having threatened the Pakistan Government to take revenge on India for the 1971 war defeat, in lieu of buying peace with Tehreek-e-Taliban, the possibility of a massive resurgence of cross border terror acts in India remains a distinct possibility, the symptoms of which can be seen from the rising instances of ambushes in J&K.

A beleaguered Pakistani Government penetrated much by the radical elements can only be expected to do what the extremists want it to do.

Yet India's real problem is not just that but the fact that today India faces threats from a multiplicity of terror groups including the likes of Indian Mujahideen and the Maoists and India needs to counter all of them simultaneously.

Maoists are an extremely potent group and there is no reason to underestimate their strength. Their core consists of nothing less than 10,000 well trained and equipped guerrilla cadres. They are ruthless in their approach and have often portrayed it with beheading of police personnel and even by planting bombs to set booby traps inside the bodies of dead CRPF jawans.

Indian Mujahideen, mostly funded and mentored by Pakistan continues to be equally portentous for India with many of its core modules still remaining active and undetected in spite of the arrest of some of its founding members. In addition to that Lashkar and some Bangladeshi based terror groups like HUJI-B are also a huge cause of concern for India.

In spite of the enormity of the threat of terror that exits, sheer lack of coordination between states and the centre, absence of a comprehensive and an integrated approach to battle terrorism continue to plague India.

It is sad that terrorism is still considered a Law & Order issue which is a fiefdom of the states, even though terrorism in terms of its impact is essentially a national security issue. Politics, centre-state face-offs, political bickering continues to impede seamless anti-terror operations and investigations. Lack of police reforms mean police organisations do not yet have complete autonomy as well as the wherewithal to deal terror with an iron hand.

Further, the bureaucratic approach to dealing with terror has not helped either. India's response to every terror attack has been the creation of an additional organisation or sanctioning a few more battalions of Central Police Forces.

Thus, India today has an Intelligence Bureau for intelligence gathering, National Security Guard for special operations, National Investigation Agency for post terror attack investigation and prosecution, National Technical Research Organisation for technical intelligence gathering as well as a plethora of organisations at the state level for similar activities for each state.

Yet each of these organisations continues to work independently of the other resulting in sheer lack of coordination. The pillars of intelligence, analysis, special operations, investigation and prosecution are platform on which the foundation of a comprehensive counter terror mechanism can be created and made effective.

FBI of US has all of these wings under one organisation. In India each of the five pillars continues to act independent thereby resulting in major void and loopholes in India's counter terror architecture. Further, a weak prosecution continues to be another headache with alleged terrorists, on many occasions, getting acquitted for lack of a fool-proof approach in prosecution.

If this was not bad enough, then here is the icing on the cake. Till 2012, over 51,000 paramilitary personnel had quit the Central Police Forces (like CRPF, BSF, ITBP, and others) in five years. In 2013 alone, 8500 paramilitary jawans quit the Central Police Forces and this exodus of the personnel is not restricted to jawans only.

A large number of young officers too have been quitting. For both jawans and their officers, sheer lack of promotional opportunities, stagnation, indifference of the government, tough postings in some of the worst terrains, long duty hours without concurrent facilities, an ambiguous approach of the government on the issue of dealing with terrorism and Maoism, constant fear of prosecution for human rights violation have all contributed to the increasing level of frustration.

For example, the government has put severe restriction on the use of weapons by BSF jawans posted in the Indo-Bangaldesh border. Jawans are not allowed to fire on intruders and can only use non lethal weapons. Knowing the limitation of the jawans, on several occasions, Bangladeshi cattle smugglers have severely beaten and even killed BSF jawans. One can then wonder why jawans are suffering from lack of motivation.

The situation as it stands down is alarming for India. On one hand, there is enormous terror threat both from inside and outside the nation and on the other hand, India's terror fighting machinery continues to be crippled by a lack of policy directive and exodus of its men, demotivated by a system which is not willing to listen to their grievances and ground realities.

Whoever forms the next government at the Centre would have to make sure that India stop taking the threat of terror lightly and come out of the pigeon syndrome of presuming that the storm would pass over. Terrorism is a potent threat that would not just vanish in thin air. Fighting terror needs both policy direction and motivated personnel.

India needs to reform both top level policy architecture as well as hear out the real problems of the jawans battling the terrorists and Maoists on the ground. Failing on these counts would be self defeating for India and extremely costly for the nation in the long run.

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