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Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part II

(Also see: Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part I)

In the first part of this two-series article, I reviewed the government’s response to the November 25, 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks, specific intelligence and coordination failures between State and Central agencies and armed forces, the political fallout in the aftermath of the attack, and the government’s responses to addressing an impotent internal security apparatus. In this article, I will examine what needs to be done by the government of India if it wants to demonstrate that it is committed to securing the lives of its citizens.

In response to the terror attacks, the Indian government is planning to increase the headcount of the National Security Guard (NSG) and establish centers in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.  The second item on the government’s plan of action involves establishing a Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) along the lines of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Based on the “Combating Terrorism” report issued by the Second Administrative Reforms Committee, the FIA will be established as an agency of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and will be responsible for investigating federal crimes, including organized crime, terrorism, sedition, trafficking in arms and human beings, etc.

What else can India do? The past couple of days have made it particularly painful to watch Indian news channels or read Indian newspapers. Uninformed jingoism, poor grammar and unhinged newscasters have made following the coverage of the aftermath truly agonizing. On Times Now, for example, I was never quite sure if I was watching news coverage of the terror attacks or a trailer for Mission Impossible IV. If the media is to be believed, the Indian army is about to launch punitive assaults on Pakistan any time now. I hate to break this to them, but their mouths are writing checks their government can’t cash. India will not fight Pakistan, because to do so would be to write your own death certificate, along with that of Pakistan’s. Does this mean we lie down and take a kicking? Not necessarily. If India is serious about the security of its people, here are things that it should do:


Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s spy agency, has been spiraling into a bottomless pit for over 10 years. The agency was defanged during the IK Gujral administration in 1997, and has not been authorized to engage in aggressive intelligence tactics (espionage, sabotage, etc.) since, Pakistan’s accusations of involvement in Afghanistan and Baluchistan notwithstanding. The organization has become a pawn in the hands of the powerful at South Block and is being used against political rivals rather than against enemies of the State. High profile defections, penetrations by foreign spy agencies and accusations of harassment have done little to help RAW’s image. It’s capabilities to strike at adversaries is critical to India’s ability to defend itself against terrorism.  We’re facing a stateless adversary and Pakistan is unwilling and/or unable to dismantle terrorist facilities such as those in Muridke and Muzzafarabad. An unconventional attack requires an unconventional response.  B. Raman believes that the organization can be a very useful tool in taking the attack to the enemy, as it were.

This can only happen by appointing capable leaders, bolstering recruitment, providing intelligence gathering and technology training, as well as adequate compensation to employees. In addition to on-the-ground human intelligence, the wing will also need to develop significant expertise in counter-cyber-terrorism, infiltrate terror newsgroups, forums and websites.  The fact that RAW only has two Arabic language experts doesn’t help matters much. All of this, of course, requires a significant budget outlay. In addition, RAW will also have to leverage the assistance of intelligence agencies of friendly foreign countries, such as Israel.  Unfortunately, Israel’s bloodied history parallels ours, but there is a tremendous opportunity to learn from a force as potent as Mossad.

Ministry of Internal Security

Internal Security should no longer be a part time job for the Home Minister. India needs to learn from America’s lessons post-9/11. India’s 4,700 mile coastline comes within the purview of the Coast Guard, Port Trust, Civil Aviation, Customs and Immigration and Border Security, which report to six different Ministries. The lack of coordination and communication is one of the primary reasons why the Mumbai attacks were so successful. These organizations need to be streamlined and rolled into one Ministry. According to K. Sumbrahmanyam, “the creation of a single homeland or internal security ministry, separate from the home ministry” should be a critical security reform. The ministry should be headed by a Minister of Internal Security, who will be a Union Cabinet minister with single portfolio, preferably with an IPS or Defense background, and report directly to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Show Me the Money

“No separate budget allocation has been made for ATS and they have to use funds from crime branch. Next year provision will be made for ATS separate funds.”


— Martyred Mumbai Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare in an interview with NDTV in August, 2008.

India’s law enforcement agencies, including Central Police Force, State Police Forces, NSG, and State Anti Terror Squads (ATS), are poorly funded. Images of Maharashtra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare trying on helmets and bullet proof vests an hour before he was martyred will continue to haunt India.  Not a bullet unleashed by the terrorists failed to pierce his body, because his bullet-proof vest was ill equipped to handle AK-47 fire. We’re not the same impoverished country that we were in 1962 when we had to reassess our defense capabilities. We have to consider the disproportionate allocation of funds between national defense and internal security.  For example, our defense budget is $30 billion (2008), with our Army alone accounting for $8 billion.

This does not include capital expenditure of $10 billion, set aside for replacing aging MiG-21s and military hardware.  Our internal security forces (including the NSG, which reports to the Home Ministry) is set at a pitiful $19 million.  That’s 11% of the total budget of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.  The budget of spy agencies around the world isn’t public knowledge; however some people in the know have thrown numbers around.  Reportedly, RAW’s budget is between $16 – $140 million.  If it is closer to $140 million, this is money down the drain because RAW hasn’t done anything useful in years.  Consider, however, the reported budget of the CIA ($28 billion) or the MI-6 ($56 billion).  The old saying, “if you throw peanuts, you’ll get monkeys”, holds true for the state of our internal security apparatus.  Across the board funding increases are required for city, state, central and special police forces, anti-terrorism squads, external and internal intelligence agencies, the coast guard, civil aviation security for recruitment, training, and equipment.

Anti-Terrorism Law

The ineffectual anti-terrorism law that the Congress I brandishes, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (2004), is not really much of an anti-terrorism law.  For starters, the definition of what constitutes terrorism isn’t clearly spelled out.  According to the Act, terrorism is defined as an act “with intent to threaten the unity, integrity, security or sovereignty of India or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India…” Nowhere does it address the issue of promoting religious or ideological beliefs through violence as an act of terrorism.  Given the types of attacks that India has experienced since 9/11, it is imperative that this be incorporated into any new anti-terror legislation.  For example, the United Kingdom Terrorism Act (2000) defines it as a threat of action where “the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.” (Part I, 1.c).  Indeed, this explicit inclusion is also present in the Australian Criminal Code Act (1995).  Equally weak are the provisions that deny the admissibility as evidence in court, of any confessions made to police officers.  The Act also doesn’t provide for special courts to try the accused.  No matter how good intelligence gathering is, or intelligence agencies and counter terrorism forces are, if we’re working within the framework of an anemic anti-terrorism law, the whole system still fails.

Emergency Preparedness

Everyone goes about their business in India with the refusal to believe that anything can go wrong, despite the glaring holes in security preparedness.  It’s no surprise then that when incidents such as the Mumbai attacks or the December 24, 1999 Indian Airlines hijacking occur, everyone from the political leaders, to the public behave like deer caught in the headlights.  No matter how well controlled India’ s internal security apparatus is, every man, woman and child on the street needs to be security conscious.   Think of what terror can be unleashed in India’s schools, colleges, and universities; in our bustling marketplaces; in our centers of faith.  It is unrealistic to expect high security cover for every school, temple, hospital and mosque in the country.   But citizens need to be made aware of what to do and what not to do in the event of an attack.  If there is a security incident, they should be made aware of how and to whom to report it.

Likewise, our politicians should be involved in end-to-end emergency preparedness drills.  Ultimately, it is they that authorize action against perpetrators.  The Mumbai attacks, as well as the Indian Airlines hijacking show a level of staggering ineptitude and inability of government officials to respond quickly to incidents.  Therefore, end-to-end emergency drills are a must and should be conducted regularly.  These drills should include exercises on coordination between first responders to incidents (usually city police), anti-terror squads, armed forces, counter-terrorism commandos, as well as ministers with security-related portfolios (Home Affairs, Defense, Civil Aviation, etc.).  Lastly, the media must use their judgment in determining what to show during live coverages.  I was horrified when one channel (I think it was Times Now) showed NSG commandos gesturing to each other as they prepared their attack routes outside the Taj.  As it so happened, the terrorists holed up inside were technologically adept, were using BlackBerries and Satellite telephones, and were following the event live on the BBC.


We have to realize that we do not live in Gandhian times, and that there are really bad people that want to hurt us.  Turning the cheek will only get the other cheek bruised as well.  Aggression and security aren’t dirty words and India does not need to feel guilty in doing anything that is designed to protect the lives of its people.  Right or wrong, that is the way the world functions; countries like the US, UK, and China are secure because they have very active intelligence agencies, and strong internal and external security structures.

In 1962, the People’s Republic of China left India’s Army battered and humiliated and its Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru irrecoverably shocked and traumatized.  India embarked on a massive expansion and reassessment drive  in every wing of the armed forces, unbeknown to the outside world.  When Gen. Ayub Khan launched Operation Gibraltar, the covert precursor to the India-Pakistan War of 1965, he counted on the demoralized psyche of the Army to wrest Kashmir from India.  What he saw instead was an army that not only defended Kashmir successfully, but also wreaked merry mayhem on Pakistani Patton tanks, lay seige on Pakistani Punjab, and came within breathing distance of Lahore.  Our present situation calls for a 1962 like reassessment of our internal security forces.  It’s been done before by this country.  Let’s hope our politicians will have the courage to take that step again.

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5 Responses to Terrorism in India: A Cold Analysis – Part II

  1. womanofsubstance December 8, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    Nice post. I agree, we don’t live in Gandhian times and people simply talk about him like it’s relevant to our age and often quote his principles as if they really followed them.

  2. gp65 January 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    You say ‘remember, we do not live in Gandhian times’. I would like o remind you that Gandhiji lived at a time when the British ruled over India. They frequently arrested leaders of Indian freedom movement and imprisoned them for years at an end. Worldwide there was colonialism and 80% of the world was ruled by Britain, France, Spain and the Dutch. He also lived through 2 World Wars. Finally the partition and its horrors is also something he lived through. He personally was shot dead.

    Thus his beliefs were not due to living in particularly peaceful times but in response to the violence around him. We may choose to agree or disagree with his philosophy but to say that his ideas are not relevant BECAUSE he lived in a very different and peaceful era is simply inaccurate.

  3. thefiltercoffee January 13, 2010 at 11:35 pm #

    @gp65: I think you may have misunderstood the intent of the sentence. “Gandhian times” is a reflection of a period where oppression could be effectively countered partly through non-violent ideologies. That was what Mahatma Gandhi did.

    Today, that no longer is the case. India isn’t the India of 1946 and the sooner we realize that and accept that it is kosher to arm ourselves in order to prevent others from harming us, I’m afraid, we will continue to suffer as a nation.


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