Terrorism is not new, and even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism has often been an effective tactic for the weaker side in a conflict. Terrorism is a criminal act that influences an audience beyond the immediate victim. The strategy of terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draws the attention of the local populace, the government, and the world to their cause. The effectiveness of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the public’s or government’s reaction to the act. Due to the secretive nature and small size of terrorist organizations, they often offer opponents no clear organization to defend against or to deter.
India is stuck with terror attacks of frightening frequency and ferocity. It has even become more evident in 26/11 attacks. Today we face the same problem that the US faced prior to 9/11 attack: turf wars among intelligence agencies and lack of cooperation. Inadequacies in our intelligence agencies have remained unidentified and unaddressed. Every successful terrorist strikes speaks of an intelligence failure. There is a lack of co-ordination not only among the agencies at the centre, but also between the central agencies and those of the state police.
How to improve the quantity and quality of the intelligence flow? How to ensure better co-ordination at the centre and with the states? What further measures are needed? These issues have to be urgently addressed by a dedicated counter-terror agency.
Successful investigation and prosecution deter future terrorist strikes. Poor investigation and prosecution encourage terrorism. Unfortunately, India is not aware of it and has a poor record in prosecutions. Setting up a NCRC (National Counterterrorism Research Centre) will help to track, resist and fight against terrorism. And, it leads to creation of a national database to which central intelligence agencies and police can have direct access and quick sharing of the results of the enquiries and investigations through this database which could improve our record in investigation and prosecution.
There is a speech among people that our forces are active only for few days from the event of terror attacks and later they forget the wounds and acting normally as such nothing happened badly. It’s because our forces and intelligence agencies are just calculating the probability of attacks. Meanwhile, probability implies blind and unresponsive chance, yet terrorists are likely to respond to the counterterrorism measures put in place by governments: this is a two player game, not a game against nature. Terrorism risk is not caused by an exogenous event such as an earthquake or human error but by the deliberate action of individuals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in counterterrorism security measures.
NCRC will act as integrated and overarching body that will coordinate, collate, calculate risks in a scientific approach and analyse intelligence information besides being entrusted with all tasks including the overall control of counterterrorist forces such as NSG. And even part of the coast guard should also be brought within its ambit since the seaways could prove more difficult to counter as we evidenced in Mumbai massacre. RAW’s counterterrorism missions should also be brought within the purview of NCRC and this organization should not be embodied just with political ideologies and defensive strategies. It must be governed by the scientific advisory panel. We need “science at the table” to take part in critical discussions.
Since attacks against high-profile soft targets are relatively easy and cheap to mount, exposed structures with lower stand-off distance will remain targets of future attacks. The protection of those targets presents particularly difficult challenges since many buildings in India were not built with security consideration in mind or are in exposed locations. Considering this critical issue, India needs to draft “Structural Standards for Anti-Terrorism” which shall act as a shield for structures against any kind of violence.
India as a soft target has another drawback with its security. Any individual with Asian features infiltrating India can walk the streets of the nation virtually indistinguishable from its citizens and defy easy identification, as the nation doesn’t have any system of identity card. And within a definite timeframe, we should be able to give all Indians an ID card that linked to a national database under NCRC.
To create this national database, a separate data mining department should be established under NCRC. It will be an important tool in establishing correlations between various sets of information from immigration authorities, transport bodies, police stations, intelligence databases, mobile telephone operator, etc.
As a concrete and independent organization, the ultimate aim of NCRC is to understand the capabilities & intentions of terrorist organizations, intelligence gathering, surveillance, protection of areas at particular risk including the critical national infrastructure & potential terrorist targets, to develop contingency arrangements for response/recovery to/from a terrorist attack. So the key elements are Pursuit, Protection, Response and Recovery.