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India’s Counter-Terrorism Responses:
A Reality Check
by Dr.Subhash Kapila Bookmark and Share

India’s counter-terrorism responses need to be checked out on the record of responses of the Central Government in New Delhi and not on the performance of a particular State Government where a terrorist attack occurs. The reason is simple and basic. India’s counter-terrorism strategy is basically national in character, counter-terrorism intelligence is only within the means of the intelligence agencies at the command of the Central Government, and the procurement of specialized weapons and equipment and sophisticated communication equipment is routed through and controlled by the Union Home Ministry. The State Governments have virtually no say except for local intelligence.  Mumbai being repeatedly targeted for serial terrorist attacks is not a reflection on the State Government but a severe indictment of the Union Home Minister and the vast array of agencies under his control.

Mumbai terror footprints lead all the way to Bihar and West Bengal which have porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh whose territories are being exploited by Pakistani intelligence agencies as lifelines to feed the terrorist modules and sleeper cells in and around Mumbai.

Mumbai being repeatedly subjected to terrorist attacks arises from the failure of the Indian Government’s counter-terrorism strategy; in that less emphasis is placed on penetration of terrorist networks and obtaining timely intelligence enabling pre-emptive responses. The focus is more on how to manage events after the terrorist attacks have taken place and innocent lives lost. Repeated terrorist attacks on Mumbai arise from repeated intelligence failures. The Indian people and especially Munbakars have every right to view the Congress Government in diminished terms.

Mumbai’s latest terrorist attacks once again brings into focus a review of the Indian Government’s counter-terrorism strategy, its full implementation of the recommendations made by the Commission appointed after Mumbai 26/11 and the modernization and enhancement of counter-terrorism capabilities of State police forces to effectively deal with such attacks. Regrettably, going from the agonizing admissions candidly made by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan it seems that his own Congress Party Central Government in New Delhi has not been fully alive to the challenges that afflict Mumbai as the repeated target of terrorist attacks.

Secure and effective communication systems between the Chief Minister and senior Mumbai Police officials is an inescapable imperative as part of an effective counter-terrorism strategy and the crisis management that follows a serial terrorist attack. The country was aghast to learn from the Maharashtra Chief Minister’s and shared his agony that for full fifteen minutes after the terrorist attacks he was out of touch with senior Police officials. The reason being that they were on the move and could not be reached on landlines and the cell phones network stood jammed by the flood of calls. Obviously, post-Mumbai 26/11 no arrangements had been put into place to provide secures and dedicated VHF wireless links to the Chief Minister and his counter-terrorism and crisis management machinery. This can only be provided by the Central Government and it had not done so so far.

The Chief Minister admitted in interviews that orders for advanced weapons and bullet-proof jackets for Special Teams for counter-terrorism operations though approved were stuck for the last two years by bureaucratic procedural hassles of procurement within the Home Ministry in New Delhi. He made the pertinent point that such weapons and equipment need to be fast-tracked and not made captive to lowest tender offers. The requirement was for the best equipment and weapons for counter-terrorism irrespective of the cost.

Mumbai terror footprints lead all the way to Bihar and West Bengal which have porous borders with Nepal and Bangladesh whose territories are being exploited by Pakistani intelligence agencies as lifelines to feed the terrorist modules and sleeper cells in and around Mumbai. Here too the failure is of the Central Government in not arranging effective sealing of the borders and not being stringent on illegal immigrants that abound in Mumbai and other metros of India.

The Congress Governments much publicized policy of “Zero Tolerance on Terrorism” even publicized in a Presidential Address sounds rhetorical and hollow as the realities on the ground especially in Mumbai do not match with the repeated loss of innocent lives in Mumbai. 

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