written by Mr. Vikas Chauhan
The global war on terror has made the Indian Government (including the state governments) take action to address the menace in due seriousness. Investments have been made to equip security agencies with latest cutting edge technologies, laws were tightened to ensure terrorists are apprehended & punished swiftly & severely. Many other such initiatives have been taken such as setting up of National Investigation Agency (NIA) for investigating terror incidents on pan India basis.
However, terrorists have been able to strike at will leaving the common man at the mercy of their cowardly acts. This points to the fact that while there is a genuine willingness to tackle & deal with terrorism but still results are not as effective as one would hope for. Govt has taken various actions to strengthen the security architecture as well as apparatus however these steps have addressed the issues from the superficial or symptomatic level. The root cause of the problems in getting dismal results in effectively dealing with terror & terrorists lies un-addressed.
For an efficient & effective homeland security strategy, all the stake holders have to be addressed & gaps filled across the matrix. Boosting capabilities partially in the security chain will still make the country vulnerable to terror attacks time & again.
The stakeholders in the security chain are:
Intelligence community plays the more critical & significant part in protecting the country from terror threats which could come from external state or non-state actors as well as internal home grown right wing or left wing (naxal) elements. The reasons for such terror attacks vary from ideological differences, religious fundamentalism to geopolitics. Whatever be the motivation & how best to deal with them, which can be endlessly argued till the cows come home but the fact remains, they have to be stopped from materializing. The brunt of the attacks is faced by the innocent people resulting in severe injuries, lost lives & damaged assets. Not to forget, the economic turmoil from such attacks.
The recent seizure of RDX in an abandoned car at Ambala city is an example of successful intelligence operation in foiling a terror strike. The car, in which the explosives were concealed, was on it’s way from Jammu to Delhi where the strike was targeted. It was being monitored & followed by intelligence agencies due to which terrorists abandoned their plans & left the vehicle at Ambala which is 200 kms from Delhi. There are many such successful ops which may not have been reported in media due to obvious reasons.
However, there have been instances where the intelligence machinery failed in foiling the attacks. Recent terror attacks like 13/7 serial blasts in crowded Mumbai markets & bomb blast outside Delhi HC in Sept. this year are still fresh in public memory. It’s often said, agencies have to succeed/ be lucky all the time whereas terrorist has to succeed/ be lucky just once to carry out the terror strike. But then, it’s not as if Indian Intelligence is the only one who is often unsuccessful to prevent the terror attacks. United States, with its technical prowess & support structures, could not stop 9/11 from happening. The article http://www.9-11commission.gov/hearings/hearing1/witness_kleinberg.htm brings out the systematic failures in USA to prevent 9/11 & demolishes the “all the time vs just once lucky” argument. While US may have failed in 9/11 but it learned from its mistakes & made necessary systematic changes. It’s commendable that they were able to foil 40 terror strikes since 9/11.The details of all such foiled attacks are as per the link http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/09/40-terror-plots-foiled-since-9-11-combating-complacency-in-the-long-war-on-terror
In many cases, friendly foreign intelligence agencies provide information which, shockingly, gets lost in the intelligence bureaucracy due to which timely dissemination, coordination & actions are not taken to prevent the strike. 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008 is just one example. US had provided intelligence inputs as early as Sept. 2008 about an impending terror strike exploiting the Mumbai shoreline. While the quality of the US intel on it’s actionable value can be debated by some, but the glaring fact remains that no tangible actions, whatsoever, were taken in due seriousness. Result of which: 10 armed terrorists could enter Mumbai via sea in a rubber dinghy & wreaked havoc for over 2 days.
There are more than 15 intelligence agencies which are responsible for external as well as internal intelligence activities which range from strategic, military, anti-terror, financial, technical, electronic intelligence etc. Among other things, one of the critical areas of concern is the overlap & confusion between various intelligence agencies. For instance, technical intelligence gathering using assets such as satellites, interception equipment, secret aircraft etc are dispersed among various agencies, leading to their ineffective utilization.
There are also serious differences of opinion among agencies such as the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), Defense Intelligence Agency etc. NTRO is yet to be notified as a monitoring agency because of objections from IB, while RAW and IB have concerns about NTRO’s efforts to develop analytical capabilities instead of limiting itself to mere collection of technical intelligence.
There is also worry about the haphazard manner in which various Indian intelligence agencies are in contact with their foreign counterparts. What was once the exclusive domain of RAW is now almost a diffused and disorganized activity. On many occasions, friendly foreign agencies are known to give the same information to different agencies, creating an artificial sense of importance about the information. Many believe that the unbridled nature of contacts with foreign intelligence groups could backfire and prejudice the Indian intelligence setup.
Tired of the turf battles between various intelligence agencies, many within the system are demanding that the government set up a National Coordinator for Intelligence to oversee various intelligence agencies. One of the suggestions is to nominate the National Security Advisor as also the National Coordinator for Intelligence. The other is to create a new and separate office in the Prime Minister’s Office, on the lines of the Director of National Intelligence of the United States.
One of the tangible benefits of setting up of National Coordinator for Intelligence (NCI), as claimed by those who are pushing for it, would be improved accountability among various intelligence agencies. NCI would also help in improving the working of inter-agency organizations such as the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) and the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
There has been considerable delay in setting up of National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC). Same has been the case with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), which after substantial delays since 2009, was approved in principle recently by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. NATGRID will facilitate robust information sharing among law enforcement agencies to combat terror threat at home and abroad. The NATGRID will have access to about 21 categories of database like railway and air travel, income tax, bank account details, credit card transactions, visa and immigration records etc. Access to the combined data will be given to 11 agencies, which include various Central intelligence agencies and the National Investigation Agency among others. NATGRID will take some 3 years to be fully functional in delivering its mandate.
In the subsequent posts, the role of Law Enforcement agencies, Corporate Establishments & Civil Society will be discussed.
This article describes issues which are in public domain as reported extensively by leading media such as Times of India, Hindustan Times, DNA etc. for which due credit is acknowledged. The intention is not to vouch or cast aspersions on individuals or agencies but to present before readers issues, without any bias or prejudice, which are being or have been discussed at various public platforms. Readers are advised to form their own opinions.