Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

'There can’t be a permanent defence'

Terrorism overwhelmingly finds its targets in urban concentrations, with the highest priority placed on metropolitan areas and cities of critical national importance on a political, economic or cultural scale.

It is only when terrorism secures a spread verging on insurgent dimensions that rural areas are also targeted, primarily to establish dominance and to force populations into submission. The reasons are not far to seek — ease of operations and anonymity in urban areas; the abundance of potential targets; exponential ‘returns’ by way of publicity; direct and disproportionate impact on key political constituencies, among others.

It is evident that India’s cities will continue to come under repeated attack in the ongoing ‘ISI terrorism’ that has manifested itself with sickening regularity across the country.

It must be understood that there can be no such thing as a strategy of ‘permanent defence’. You cannot contain terrorism at its delivery points, and all the barriers and checkpoints in the world cannot protect India’s cities from future attack.

You have to go to the sources of terrorism, and to deal with its networks, wherever they exist.

You cannot, moreover, have an efficient counter-terrorism response in a collapsing internal security and justice administration. Security is an indivisible, and there is no such thing as a ‘small crime’.

The recent exhortation by Delhi’s Chief Minister to ‘go after terrorists and not cycle thieves’ is both uninformed and misconceived. It is doubtful that the city’s harried Police spend any significant proportion of their time chasing ‘cycle thieves’ and other petty miscreants. More significantly, the same networks service both petty crime and major crime, including terrorism, and the same enforcement agencies ‘look the other way’ when such crimes occur.

The same hawala networks service corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, as well as terrorists. Smuggling channels that bring grey market goods into the country also bring in arms, ammunition and explosives.

You cannot protect cities if the rural hinterland and mofussil India is unpoliced and ungoverned. While terrorists struck in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi in the recent past, the mobilisation, planning and at least part of the training occurred in areas apparently unaffected by ‘terrorism’ — in Madhya Pradesh and in small towns of Uttar Pradesh, among others.

Counter-terrorism is a ‘small commander’s war’. The task of policy is to empower first responders. Force and intelligence capabilities at the thana and Police post have to be adequate to deal with every foreseeable eventuality, and the necessary manpower, tactical and technological capabilities must be created for immediate responses at this level.

Intelligence penetration cannot be effective if it is concentrated only in potential target areas and in the cities. It must be distributed across the country and must infiltrate the networks of terrorism and their support structures.

The police may, at this stage, be degraded, inefficient or corrupt, but this is the only instrumentality available to the state, the only surviving bulwarks against a complete collapse of order. Don’t abuse and demonise them. Reform them; give them the capacities necessary to confront the threat; empower them fully; and make them more accountable.

The source of the terrorism that targets urban India today is, overwhelmingly, the ISI. Since there can be no strategy of ‘permanent defence’, India must have effective overt and covert strategies to inflict costs on the Pakistani establishment, and to weaken, if not destroy, this source.

(Published in Economic Times, New Delhi, September 21, 2008)





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.