( The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), New Delhi, had set up in February a Task Force to come out with a set of recommendations on strengthening counter-terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 26-29,2008. I am a member of the Task Force. The following is a list of action points suggested by me to the Task Force for consideration for its report ---B.Raman)
(A).PREVENTION THROUGH INTELLIGENCE: The Government is already reported to have taken some steps for toning up the intelligence collection capability by strengthening the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) headed by the Intelligence Bureau, which had been set up as recommended by the Spectal Task Force for the Revamping of the Intelligence Apparatus, headed by G.C.Saxena, former head of the R&AW and Governor of J&K, in 2000. Shri P.Chidambaram, the Home Minister, is reported to have taken action to address the staff and resource constraints faced by the MAC. Even before the Mumbai attack, the National Security Adviser (NSA) had set up a new Task Force headed by Dr. S.D. Pradhan, former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), to have a fresh look at measures required for further strengthening intelligence collection and co-ordination in the light of developments since 2000. Inter alia, this Task Force is also expected to address the resource and manpower shortages faced by the intelligence agencies and to remove red tapes in the processing of their proposals in this regard. While these measures would result in short-term improvements in the functioning of the intelligence community, there is a need to think strategically of medium and long-term measures. Such strategic thinking has to be based on the assumption that any significant improvement in our bilateral relations with Pakistan is unlikely in the near future and that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism would continue to be the most serious internal security threat. Such strategic thinking should also take into consideration a scenario where the developing strategic relations between India and the US makes India a target of global terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. To provide a strategic framework for improving our capability for prevention through intelligence, it is necessary to set up a Special Task Force exclusively dedicated to intelligence-driven counter-terrorism to come out with a set of recommendations for this purpose. The piecemeal measures initiated by the Government since the Kargil conflict for improving co-ordination among intelligence agencies have not completely removed all the deficiencies which led to our being taken by surprise by the clandestine occupation of the Kargil heights by the Pakistan Army. Presently, the responsibility for intelligence coordination is with the NSA as recommended by the Saxena Task Force. The time has come to create a post of National Intelligence Co-ordinator to handle the task of co-ordination on a full-time basis. Like the NSA, he could work under the Prime Minister.
(B).PREVENTION THROUGH PHYSICAL SECURITY: Physical security is a very important component of counter-terrorism. If physical security is weak, even the best of intelligence cannot thwart a terrorist attack. If physical security is strong, a terrorist attack can be thwarted even if the available intelligence is inadequate. This was one of the lessons of 9/11 in the US. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was created after 9/11, is not an intelligence co-ordination Department as it is assumed in India. It is the nodal point for all physical security. It regularly monitors physical security at all identified vulnerable points, identifies deficiencies and initiates action to remove them. The success of the US in preventing another 9/11 so far is as much due to the strengthening of physical security through the DHS as due to the enhancement of the legal powers of the police, the immigration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). There is a need for creating a Department of Physical Security in our Ministry of Home Affairs to act as the nodal point for co-ordinating and strengthening all physical security measures. Large-scale illegal immigration weakens physical security. If the flow of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh remains unchecked, even the best of intelligence and physical security set-ups will have difficulty in controlling externally-sponsored terrorism.
( C ).PREVENTION THROUGH FOLLOW-UP ACTION: In his statement in the Lok Sabha on the Mumbai terrorist attack of 26/11, Shri P. Chidambaram, the Home Minister, admitted that the responsibility for follow-up action on the intelligence collected was diffused. This made it difficult to establish responsibility for failures in this regard. 9/11 has given rise to new ideas for better integration of all intelligence regarding likely terrorist attacks and co-ordinated joint action on the integrated intelligence. Equal emphasis is now placed on co-ordination and joint action. For this purpose, the US has set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre which works directly under the newly-created Director, National Intelligence, who, in turn, works directly under the President. A separate National Security Council for Homeland Security has also been established. In the UK, a special centre has been set up for integration and follow-up action. In India, the responsibility for integrated analysis and follow-up action is on paper with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office and works under the NSA. The JIC has become an omnibus body with various responsibilities relating to external and internal security, conventional and unconventional threats. There is a need for a separate JIC with exclusive responsibility for an integrated analysis of all intelligence on terrorism and co-ordinated follow-up action.
( D ). PREVENTION THROUGH IMPROVED DATA-BASING: An up-to-date database is an important aid to prevention. A database is a storehouse of all relevant information collected by the intelligence agencies and the police, all open source information on terrorism and all information collected by the police during the interrogation of terrorist suspects. Such a database is useful only if it is constantly updated and if all those in the centre and in the states responsible for counter-terrorism have direct access through appropriate passwords and firewalls to prevent unauthorized persons from having access to it. Israel has had such a database ever since terrorism became a major threat to its security after the Israel-Arab war of 1967. The US has reportedly set up such a database after 9/11. Before 9/11, each agency in the US reportedly had its own database, but there was no integrated database jointly maintained by all agencies. The setting-up of such a database should receive priority attention
( E ). PREVENTION THROUGH BETTER POLICING: In India, the police station used to be looked upon as the cutting-edge of counter-terrorism. The initial inputs regarding suspicious, terrorism-related activities used to come from the beat constables through local enquiries made by them and through contacts in the local community established by them during the beat duty. The Station House Officer in charge of the police station used to be responsible for crime control, law and order and prevention of terrorism. Cordial police-community relations help in prevention and investigation, if prevention fails. As a result of the coming into being of special Anti-Terrorism Squads and other specialized rapid action forces, the role of the police stations, their Station House Officers and their beat constables has been diluted. This process has to be reversed and the police stations and their beat constables should once again be energized to play their important role in counter-terrorism.
( F ). PREVENTION THROUGH REVAMPED COUNTER-TERRORISM MACHINERY IN METRO CITIES: Outside Jammu & Kashmir, the externally- sponsored jihadi terrorists have been focusing mainly on metro cities such as Mumbai (three mass-casualty attacks in March,1993, July,2006 and December,2008), Delhi (two mass-casualty attacks in October,2005 and September,2008 plus the unsuccessful attack on the Parliament in December,2001), Hyderabad (two mass casualty attacks since 2006) and Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore ( one mass casualty attack each in 2008). Only Chennai and Kolkata have so far escaped mass casualty attacks. These mass casualty attacks have, inter alia, the purpose of shaking the confidence of our people as well as foreign investors and businessmen in the capabilities of our counter-terrorism machinery. Future attacks are also likely to be directed at such metro cities, which are the economic nerve-centres. In addition to a national plan for strengthening counter-terrorism, we should have separate tailor-made plans for Delhi, Mumbai,Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. These plans should focus on capacity-building through improved manpower and resource availability and better training.
( G ). PREVENTION THROUGH BETTER CO-ORDINATION BETWEEN THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS: One of the objectives of the externally-sponsored jihadi terrorists is to shake the confidence of the business community----Indian and foreign. This should be countered by the Central and State Governments through close interactions with the business community on terrorism-related matters, easy accessibility of senior police officers to those in charge of physical security in big private establishments, readiness to give advice to private establishments as to how to strengthen their physical security and encouraging them not to hesitate to bring their concerns to the notice of the police for appropriate advice and follow-up action. After the London blasts of July,2005, the British authorities have reportedly set up posts of counter-terrorism co-ordinators in all important police stations of London to constantly interact with the business community and the public in their respective jurisdiction and advise them on preventive measures. This is a very good idea which we could adopt in our Metro cities. (3-4-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies. Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )