In­dia’s In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity Woes

In­te­grated chal­lenges to home­land se­cu­rity have to be han­dled at the na­tional level with a cen­tralised frame­work for ad­e­quate re­sponse. The gov­ern­ment would do well in com­ing out with a white pa­per on in­ter­nal se­cu­rity chal­lenges and get on with an ef­fect


AT A RE­CENT SEM­I­NAR on Home­land Se­cu­rity Chal­lenges held in New Delhi, a pan­elist took um­brage to a re­mark that Maoist in­sur­gency could per­sist for an­other 20 years. Though he could not lie the fin­ger on the ex­act date when nor­malcy would re­turn in the af­fected ar­eas, his re­sponse was that it would be over much ear­lier. As­sess­ments sure are dif­fi­cult when we have been con­tend­ing with ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gen­cies for decades but have yet to come up with a composite and com­pre­hen­sive re­sponse mech­a­nism not­with­stand­ing some steps ini­ti­ated post the 26/11 Mum­bai ter­ror­ist strike. How long the Maoist in­sur­gency will last is maybe a mat­ter of con­jec­ture but the fact re­mains that In­dia’s knee­jerk re­ac­tions to such move­ments that pose grave threats to our se­cu­rity, al­low them to continue in­def­i­nitely. If that was not the case, the Maoist in­sur­gency should have been over within a few years if not months of hav­ing given them a crush­ing blow at Nax­al­bari by em­ploy­ing an In­fantry Division decades back.

Cur­rent State

The of­fi­cial list of ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions oper­at­ing in In­dia re­leased by the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs (MHA) talks of 29 or­gan­i­sa­tions but makes no men­tion of or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Students Is­lamic Move­ment of In­dia (SIMI), In­dian Mu­jahideen (IM) and Pop­u­lar Front of In­dia (PFI) de­spite proof of their rad­i­cal acts and in­ten­tions. Browse the web and you have some 178 out­fits (both ter­ror­ist and in­sur­gents) listed oper­at­ing in In­dia though this list also omits or­gan­i­sa­tions like SIMI, IM and PFI. Me­dia re­ports of the Maoists es­tab­lish­ments in ur­ban cen­tres (in­clud­ing Delhi/NCR) and sim­i­lar re­ports of the PFI need to be taken se­ri­ously. As per a book ti­tled From a Head, Through a Head, to a Head au­thored by a Pak­istani and pub­lished in Karachi in the year 2000, states, “Zhouen-Lai sug­gested to Ayub Khan that Pak­istan should pre­pare for pro­longed con­flict with In­dia in­stead of short-term wars. He ad­vised Pak­istan to raise a mili­tia force to act be­hind en­emy lines.” Ap­par­ently, Ayub Khan took the ad­vice of Zhou-en-Lai very se­ri­ously and Pak­istan nur­tured the mili­tia force in the form of ji­hadi rad­i­cals to act be­hind en­emy (In­dia) lines. Un­for­tu­nately, In­dia has per­mit­ted the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­tri­cate in­ter­na­tional ter­ror net­work on its own soil (in­ducted de­lib­er­ately by Pak­istan since early 1980s) that can now eas­ily be op­er­ated with a ‘re­mote’, and which now is ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult to iden­tify. No won­der, the global ter­ror­ism map shows the Afghanistan-Pak­istan-In­dia re­gion as the most volatile and dan­ger­ous.

Re­cent ap­pre­hen­sion of three Lashkar-eToiba (LeT) op­er­a­tives in con­nec­tion with planned ter­ror­ist strikes in Chandni Chowk area in New Delhi con­firms LeT-Maoist links as also LeT con­nec­tion with Pak­istani stooge Gee­lani, head­ing the Hur­riyat. Gov­ern­ment’s ac­knowl­edge­ment of the Strate­gic United Front of the Maoists high­lights the grave dan­ger to home­land se­cu­rity and must be viewed cou­pled with the ex­pand­ing panIn­dia group­ing of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism with its in­ter­na­tional links and grow­ing in­ter­de­pen­dence and link­ages be­tween in­sur­gent and ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions within In­dia. In­tel­li­gence sources had been re­port­ing for last two years that LeT op­er­a­tives had been at­tend­ing Maoist meet­ings and were mak­ing per­sis­tent ef­forts to in­te­grate ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­sur­gents within In­dia. LeT has all along been the covert arm of the ISIPak­istani Mil­i­tary and will leave no stone un­turned in mak­ing ef­forts to balka­nise In­dia. The ar­chi­tec­ture of this phe­nom­e­non has been emerg­ing over the past decade plus when Pak­istan started in­sert­ing armed ter­ror­ist mod­ules into all states of In­dia covertly, know­ing well that if these mod­ules re­mained in­ac­tive sleep­ers for some time, it would fa­cil­i­tate their merg­ing into the In­dian pop­u­la­tion and ac­quir­ing In­dian iden­ti­ties given the vote bank pol­i­tics here.

China has been giv­ing tacit sup­port to Pak­istan’s ji­hadi ac­tiv­i­ties in In­dia and has even pro­vided train­ing and sup­port to United Lib­er­a­tion Front of Asom (ULFA), be­sides be­ing be­hind the Maoisits of Nepal whose links with In­dian Maoists were con­firmed more than two years back through in­ter­ro­ga­tion of ap­pre­hended Maoists—some­thing which our gov­ern­ment is afraid of stat­ing fear­ing that it would an­noy the dragon. The fact is that through gross in­ad­e­quacy in han­dling so­cial change, we have pre­sented an ex­pand­ing asym­met­ric bat­tle­field in In­dia that our ad­ver­saries are al­ready ex­ploit­ing and will continue to do so. In­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions (like Al-Qaeda and LeT) have link­ages with other ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing In­dia in the name of global ji­had and for tar­get­ing na­tion­als of coun­tries like the US, Is­rael and In­dia. This is what Hafiz Saeed, the mul­lah, was ad­vo­cat­ing in Mul­tan to a 50,000 strong rad­i­cal con­gre­ga­tion re­cently. Let us not get car­ried away by il­lu­sions of Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary be­com­ing an­swer­able to the civil­ian gov­ern­ment. Per­haps we should think of some sem­blance of civil­ian author­ity in Pak­istan only when the In­ter-Ser­vice In­tel­li­gence (ISI) is de-linked from the mil­i­tary and brought di­rectly un­der civil­ian con­trol.

De­spite the eu­pho­ria over the killing of Kishenji, the Maoist in­sur­gency ap­pears to be get­ting more for­mi­da­ble by the day. The fact is that the re­sponse is largely left to the states with MHA merely dishing out com­pa­nies of Cen­tral Armed Po­lice Forces (CAPF) in ad­di­tion to pe­ri­odic in­tel­li­gence in­puts— an ap­proach that is not work­able. The situa- tion on ground is that CAPF in­ducted into the area have not been suitably re­or­gan­ised, equipped and in some cases have not had any pre-in­duc­tion train­ing. Be­sides they are too thin on ground. Their ven­tur­ing into the some 400-square-kilo­me­tre area that was de­clared ‘lib­er­ated zone’ by Maoists few years back is ques­tion­able and un­likely to have hap­pened.

Bomb­ing of Is­raeli Em­bassy Car

The re­cent ter­ror at­tack on an Is­raeli of­fi­cial’s car out­side the Is­raeli Em­bassy in New Delhi and in close prox­im­ity to the max­i­mum se­cu­rity zone of the Prime Min­is­ter’s res­i­dence in Fe­bru­ary this year and our in­abil­ity to pre­vent the ac­tion, iden­tify and ap­pre­hend the per­pet­u­a­tors af­ter the in­ci­dent, in­di­cates our weak­nesses. There was me­dia blitz of a new magnetic de­vice and new tac­tics, which are mis­nomers. There is noth­ing new about mo­tor­cy­cle-borne ter­ror­ists undertaking ter­ror mis­sions. In fact, it is rou­tine. There is noth­ing new ei­ther about ar­eas out­side for­eign mis­sions be­ing very prone to ter­ror threat. In­dia should have known bet­ter with our mis­sion in Kabul sub­jected to ter­ror at­tack twice al­ready. The re­quire­ment of 24 x 7 con­tin­ued sur­veil­lance (both man­ual and elec­tronic) out­side for­eign mis­sions in In­dia, par­tic­u­larly of a coun­try like Is­rael, needed no em­pha­sis. The magnetic bomb should have been no sur­prise ei­ther. Lim­pet mines with clock­work mech­a­nism (that can be at­tached to any metal­lic ob­ject) have been avail­able for the past sev­eral decades (not years). Most likely a tim­ing de­vice was used by the bomber that per­mit­ted him to es­cape and gave time for de­fus­ing a sim­i­lar de­vice in Ge­or­gia.

Na­tional Counter-ter­ror­ism Cen­tre

The re­cent furore over the Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­tre (NCTC) has caused con­sid­er­able tur­bu­lence. Many Chief Min­is­ters and po­lit­i­cal par­ties have raised strong ob­jec­tions against its es­tab­lish­ment. The main ob­jec­tions are the fear that the gov­ern­ment will use the NCTC to tar­get non-Congress politi­cians and non-Congress sup­port­ers, NCTC will be an in­fringe­ment on the rights of the states and that the is­sue was not dis­cussed with the op­po­si­tion and the states. The first part of the ob­jec­tion by the con­cerned Chief Min­is­ters is very gen­uine con­sid­er­ing what M.K. Dhar, for­mer Joint Di­rec­tor In­tel­li­gence Bureau, wrote in his book, Top Se­cret–In­dia’s In­tel­li­gence Un­veiled. He says that ir­re­spec­tive of which party is in power in In­dia, the en­tire in­tel­li­gence ef­fort of the coun­try is fo­cused on how to do down the op­po­si­tion.

The sec­ond ob­jec­tion of ‘in­fringe­ment on states’ too is gen­uine since we have failed to delink ter­ror and in­sur­gent acts from rou­tine ‘law and or­der’ un­der re­spon­si­bil­ity of the states. The third ob­jec­tion of the is­sue not hav­ing been dis­cussed too is gen­uine con­sid­er­ing that it has taken 22 ex­cru­ci­at­ing months to ac­cord ap­proval for the NCTC dur­ing which the is­sue should have been dis­cussed and con­sen­sus ar­rived at. In­dia has failed to look at how our Con­sti­tu­tion should strengthen our hands in fight­ing the twin malaise of ter­ror­ism and in­sur­gency.

There was con­sid­er­able merit in the Home Min­is­ter’s orig­i­nal pro­posal that the en­tire counter-ter­ror­ism ar­chi­tec­ture in­clud­ing the pro­posed NCTC func­tion un­der the MHA till the cre­ation of a MIS. The mere fact that the Home Min­is­ter him­self pro­posed a MIS im­plied that the cur­rent set up is in­ad­e­quate. How­ever, what even­tu­ally has been sanc­tioned im­plies that while Multi Agency Cen­tre (MAC) hith­erto run by the In­tel­li­gence Bureau is sub­sumed into NCTC, but or­gan­i­sa­tions like the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA) and the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Grid (NAT­GRID) will continue func­tion­ing in­de­pen­dently al­beit all in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are to pro­vide in­puts to NCTC. Even in the pro­posed shape, the NCTC will take many months/years to at­tain op­ti­mum level of re­al­time op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency. To start with, it must have data links and stan­dard­ised pro­to­cols with and amongst all in­tel­li­gence agen­cies for real time pas­sage of in­for­ma­tion. More sig­nif­i­cantly, State Counter-ter­ror­ism Cen­tres (SCTCs) must be es­tab­lished to en­sure reg­u­lar flow of ground level in­tel­li­gence up­wards and dis­sem­i­na­tion of col­lated and an­a­lysed in­tel­li­gence flow­ing down­wards. SCTCs should be es­tab­lished in all states and not like UHQ (Uni­fied HQ) in se­lected few as is the cur­rent prac­tice, for the sim­ple rea­son that the threat of ter­ror­ism is om­nipresent that can oc­cur at any place with­out warn­ing.


In­dia needs to do much more to gear up on home­land se­cu­rity. The cur­rent re­sponse to the Maoist in­sur­gency is not co­he­sive to say the least. Tak­ing 22 months to sanc­tion a NCTC in­di­cates the lack­adaisi­cal ap­proach we have in coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism as well. We need to speed up the pace and cater to­day to the type of threats in­clud­ing new tech­nol­ogy and tac­tics that the ter­ror­ists may use to­mor­row. In fu­ture, we could well wit­ness cy­ber at­tacks on crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, fi­nan­cial and ki­netic at­tacks, dirty bombs, maritime, chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal ter­ror­ism, and even ra­di­o­log­i­cal/nu­clear black­mail to spread panic and cre­ate hys­te­ria. In­te­grated chal­lenges to home­land se­cu­rity have to be han­dled at the na­tional level with a cen­tralised frame­work for ad­e­quate re­sponse. A di­luted NCTC can hardly be ef­fec­tive. The gov­ern­ment would do well in com­ing out with a white pa­per on in­ter­nal se­cu­rity chal­lenges and get on with an ef­fec­tive re­sponse post en­sur­ing a speedy con­sen­sus. Con­tin­ued group­ing of ter­ror­ist and in­sur­gent acts un­der ‘law and or­der’ would only en­dan­ger na­tional se­cu­rity fur­ther.

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