Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

Political consensus is crucial

There are, of course, major tactical differences in necessary counter-terrorism responses across States and against different patterns of terrorism. However, certain principles established in the Punjab — and that have been reaffirmed in other successful campaigns across the country and globally — are common across theatres. These include, first, the necessity of political consensus. It was during the very brief periods of clear political consensus in the Punjab that the principal counter-terrorism successes were secured. Intervening periods of political division and contention, in fact, were characterised by drastic roll-backs in counter-terrorism campaigns and major terrorist consolidation.

The current divergence of political views regarding the recent blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad, and the recovery of explosives in Surat, only highlights a persistent deficiency in our response to terrorism. Indeed, the current political posturing is a false debate. The UPA suggests that the lack of a constitutional mandate for operation in the states is the key obstacle, and that its proposed Federal Investigation Agency is the panacea. The NDA, and particularly the BJP, feels that the need is for a ‘strong law’ like Pota. The reality is, neither proposal is, critical to effective counter-terrorism responses. Adding one more under-manned and under-resourced agency to the existing array of under-performing Central agencies will not help. In any event, the proposed FIA may (and this is itself dubious) improve the investigative record but it could hardly have any preventive impact on terrorism. And while a strong anti-terrorist law is desirable, a review of terrorism at the time of TADA and POTA does not suggest that either of these instruments was able to constrain terrorism, particularly in a situation of virtual judicial collapse under the threat of terror.

The second critical principal is dominance. The state must establish an effective enforcement presence across its entire territory. This requires adequate manpower - severely deficient at present - training, technologies and effective deployment. A surveillance map of each state and an objective assessment of vulnerabilities is a pre-requisite. Crucially, fullest protection must be assured to the men fighting terror, targeted not merely through acts of terrorism but through fabricated cases. The harassment campaigns against officers in Punjab holds a vital lesson.

The third critical principal is penetration. The present intelligence cover at the centre and states is too frail and widely dispersed to be effective. Intelligence capacities - human and technical - must penetrate not only of networks across the country and across borders but also of the range of supporting institutions/ structures that feed extremist mobilisation. A manifold augmentation of current intelligence capacities across all agencies, and an enhanced mandate to engage for aggressive intelligence gathering, even covert, if needed, must precede any effective counter-terrorism response.

None of this can be achieved through peripheral tinkering with the present system. Generational changes and capacity augmentations are required across the entire intelligence establishment, which has been neglected and been allowed to decay for decades.

(Published in Daily News and Analysis, Mumbai, August 02, 2008)






Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.