Prime Minister’s speech at the Chief Minister's Conference on Internal Security
"We last met to discuss internal security issues in December 2007, a little over a year ago. The twelve months that have passed since then have been a difficult period for us. The security situation has, if anything, become even more complex. Many predictions made a year ago have unfortunately turned out to be true. In some cases the scale and magnitude of terrorist attacks appear to have been stepped up exponentially. In the prevailing circumstances we cannot afford to take a partial or segmented view. A holistic approach to our security concerns is definitely called for.
During the past year, we faced a severe challenge from terrorist groups operating from outside our country. Many of them act in association with hostile Intelligence Agencies in these countries. The attempt has been to exploit our vulnerabilities, and at times they do succeed as is evident from the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Our problems are compounded by the fact that we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighbourhood. The Governments in some of our neighbouring countries are very fragile in nature. The more fragile a Government, the more it tends to act in an irresponsible fashion. Pakistan’s responses to our various demarches on terrorist attacks is an obvious example.
We face multi-dimensional challenges of different kinds, but the most serious threats are those posed by Terrorism, Left Wing Extremism and insurgency in the North East. Left Wing Extremism is primarily indigenous and home-grown. Terrorism, on the other hand, is largely sponsored from outside our country, mainly Pakistan, which has utilized terrorism as an instrument of State policy. Insurgency in the North-East exploits disparities in income and wealth but it is also sustained by the sanctuaries provided to the leaders of insurgency movements in the neighbouring countries. There are, hence, fundamental differences in the way we need to view the internal security challenge and deal with the three threats that I had mentioned.
In the previous meeting it had been mentioned that terrorists were enlarging the canvas of threats. Increasingly, their concentration was on attacking economic, infrastructure, and iconic targets, apart from political, military and security ones. Mention had also been made of the fact that the sea route was now being exploited and explored as an alternative to land routes. It had, therefore, been suggested that there should be greater vigilance along our coast line and better monitoring of maritime activity in our territorial waters. The terrorists who carried out the attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008 used the sea route, and managed to evade our coastal surveillance.
Calculating and responding to security challenges of this nature is in itself a complex exercise at the best of times. It becomes even more challenging in the circumstances I have just now mentioned. Our security calculus is a matrix of many imponderable factors, but there are two fundamental and underlying aspects, i.e., protecting the territorial integrity of the country and ensuring our internal security.
A strong sense of nationhood is important to withstand both these types of threats. Our nation is clearly united in our determination to defeat both external as well as internal security challenges. Our determination and sense of nationhood derives from our inheritance of a great historical experience of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-caste and multi-lingual society. To-day, even as Pakistan engages in whipping up war hysteria, our nation remains steadfastly united and, if anything, the process of national consolidation is becoming stronger.
Dealing with internal security problems does not alter this dynamic. The situation may appear challenging and it is challenging but it is by no means beyond control. Concerns may exist that our defence mechanisms to thwart the numerous threats are inadequate. There may be criticism that the range of the instruments that we possess to deal with internal security threats, are not sufficiently sophisticated. Clearly, there is need to review the effectiveness of our set up for the collection of technical signalling and human intelligence. The training and equipment provided to our security forces also requires a careful review. I will admit that a great deal more can, and needs to, be done. Both the Centre and the State Governments must attend to this national task with speed, efficiency and utmost commitment.
Our external policies have been dictated by a desire to have a supportive neighbourhood. Unfortunately, we cannot choose our neighbours, and some countries like Pakistan have in the past encouraged and given sanctuary to terrorists and other forces who are antagonistic to India. We have tried to minimize the impact of such hostility by erecting certain defences. We have fenced our border along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, from where the vast majority of the infiltrations into India tended to take place. We are currently fencing our border with Bangladesh, from where also a number of infiltrations have been reported.
Consequent upon this, those in charge of the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan have resorted to other stratagems to infiltrate terrorists into India. Infiltration is occurring via Nepal and from Bangladesh, though it has not totally ceased via the Line of Control in J&K. We are aware that the sea route is another option that is now being exercised. A few interceptions have taken place, though we failed to intercept the 10 Pakistani terrorists who came by sea from Karachi on November 26.
The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Taiba. On the basis of the investigations carried out, including the Agencies of some foreign countries whose nationals were killed in the attack, there is enough evidence to show that, given the sophistication and military precision of the attack it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan.
We are aware of the existence of different concentric circles of terrorism which impact on our security. The Mumbai terrorist attack fell into the category of one carried out exclusively by a foreign based outfit. There are other concentric circles of terrorism that often involve a combination of external forces backed by internal elements. There are still others which are essentially indigenous in character.
Recent patterns of terrorist incidents also suggest that increasingly the attacks have a pan-Indian and trans-national aspect. The terrorists are able to fashion new techniques and employ new skills. There is growing emphasis on ‘mass casualty attacks’. Terrorist communications have become state-of-the-art. Use of the Internet and Voice Over Internet Protocol connectivity, gives the terrorists greater anonymity and makes detection difficult for the authorities.
Attacks today are again less random than previously. In the case of Mumbai, a definite link can be discerned between our economic and security interests. Targetting of foreigners, specially from the West, was obviously intended to convey an impression that India was unsafe as a destination for the West and Western investments. We need to effectively counter this impression. We need to ensure that another major terrorist attack does not take place on our soil. We must implement the policy of ‘Zero Tolerance of Terrorism’ with total commitment.
Few countries have suffered so frequently or faced so much violence at the hands of terrorists as our country. During the past year, there have been terrorist attacks in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Surat, Assam, Mumbai and some places in U.P. and these show higher levels of sophistication with each attack.
What makes terrorism particularly threatening at this moment is the impression of vulnerability combined with the display of greater sophistication in techniques and methodologies of terrorist outfits. The challenges before us are to demonstrate that we have both the capability as well as the sophisticated instrumentalities to anticipate and overcome the shifts and changes in terrorist methods. We cannot, therefore, afford to conceptualize narrowly. We must not react merely to immediate events.
This is the underlying message contained in the Home Minister’s letter inviting you to this Meeting. It is important at this juncture to demonstrate our combined will, and that we are effectively galvanizing the internal security system to deal with future terrorist attacks. Technology is empowering non-state actors across the globe and it is necessary for us to come up with a comprehensive strategy that combines the best of technological and human capabilities within the country to defeat terrorism in all its manifestations.
The Home Minister has already outlined a number of steps that have been taken in recent weeks to erect additional mechanisms to counter future terrorist attacks. The main message is that we need to break down barriers to information-sharing between the various agencies.
What I would add is that we need better intelligence and perhaps, more importantly, sophistcated assessment and analysis of the intelligence that is available. Complaints are often heard that the intelligence provided by the Agencies is not actionable. All intelligence produced is actionable, though it may not always be specific. It depends on the capability and ingenuity of those who assess the information to further develop and convert the fragmentary pieces of intelligence into a complete whole and for those who have to act on it to possibly pursue each and every lead.
Getting information early in time is vitally important and we need to encourage the setting up of an elaborate information system at the village, block and district level to report on any and all untoward events and incidents. Mobile telephones today provide opportunities for easy communication. Even our fishermen out at sea can use mobile telephones to report any untoward incident in our territorial waters. We must understand that no counter-terrorist action can hope to succeed unless it is based on the cooperation of the community and hence the importance of an expanded community policing system in our country. I would request the Chief Ministers to personally attend to this vital task.
The information available from diverse sources, thereafter needs to be properly channelized to reach a common point such as the recently revitalized Multi-Agency Centre in Delhi for collation and analysis. It will, hence, be necessary to establish Centers locally, at the State and lower levels across the country, to collate all the available information which might have a bearing on a potential terrorist situation. Other countries which have a federal structure similar to ours, like the United States, do have such centers spread across the country to coordinate local level responses to terrorism.
A large empirical data base will not yield results without using techniques such as structured analytic methodologies to convert the mass of information into actionable intelligence. Applications such as Threat Assessment Modeling and Artificial Neural Networks will have to be added to the existing analytic techniques. Three Dimensional Modeling of Critical Infrastructure is a new aspect that needs to be introduced. In several situations, we could even think of a Virtual Operations Centre.
I recently had occasion to mention in Parliament that the time had come for us to establish a permanent Crisis Management Group to handle the fall-out of major terrorist attacks anywhere in our country. This is now being established. We have also begun the process of strengthening maritime security against asymmetric threats from the sea. We have coordinated measures to plug loopholes in regard to our air space. The process of augmenting and strengthening our counter-terrorist forces has also begun.
What we hope to achieve is closer scrutiny and attention as well as a more rapid response to new and emerging threats. Our aim is to achieve the concept of total security.
Additionally, I would here also like to refer to the danger from Left Wing Extremism. Naxalite groups do pose a challenge, though of a different nature. Left Wing Extremism has been in vogue for four decades now, but the danger is that over time the nature of the movement has substantially altered. From an ideologically driven movement it has been transformed into one in which the military ethos has become predominant. The CPI-Maoist is perhaps the only militant organization in the country which has its own Guerrilla Army, though, as yet, this is of modest proportions. It is perhaps the only militant body to-day which has a rigid organizational structure. They also have some rudimentary capabilities to manufacture arms. They show increasing sophistication in the way they carry out attacks. They also do not seem to have any dearth of new recruits to the movement.
Quite a few States in the country are affected by Left Wing Extremism, notably Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. As the movement spreads, and becomes more energized and active, we must ponder deeply on how best to effectively deal with it. This is so, as the movement still retains a modicum of ideological appeal. It is still able to garner support from among members of Civil Society and Civil Liberties organizations. It still attracts sections of the youth. Choosing the right methods and adopting a proper strategy are therefore important so that the action we take does not give a greater fillip to the growth of the movement.
Finally, I would like to say that Terrorism should not be conceptualized solely in military terms. While taking all the measures necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, we must simultaneously ensure that the concept of terrorism is delegitimized through better investigation and superior intelligence. We must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics. We must engage vigorously in debates to press the point that ‘soft’ support for terrorism cannot any longer be endorsed. We must demonstrate that an alert pluralistic and secular society such as ours is the best defence against terrorist onslaughts. Terrorism, Naxalism and Insurgency in the North-East, Hon’ble Chief Ministers, constitute major challenges for our national security establishment. We need to mobilize all our wisdom, knowledge and experience to meet these challenges head on. I am confident that our nation has the resilience and will power to emerge victorious in this fight. I wish you all success in your deliberations."