Thursday, September 8, 2011




The terrorism situation on the ground is more and more worrying. It is not just because the terrorists have become smarter than they were before. They have, of course, but that should not be the main cause of worry.

2. It is because they have become more invisible, more inaudible and more unquantifiable than before. After nine terrorist strikes since 26/11, three each in Mumbai and Delhi and one each in Pune, Bengaluru and Varanasi, we still do not have an idea of who they are, what is their ideology, what are their demands, how strong they are, how are they organised, are they home-grown or externally sponsored, where are their roots etc etc

3.After nearly three years, we are not in a position to make a meaningful assessment of the new post-26/11 terror threat faced by us for want of essential data. You get the data from the network of your human agents spread across the country and abroad, from your TECHINT set-up inside the country and along the international borders, from your interrogation and surveillance of suspects, from your local enquiries and from your interactions with different communities.

4. How come not one of these means of collecting data seems to be functioning? Our HUMINT was generally below par, but deficiencies in our HUMINT coverage used to be made up by our above par TECHINT coverage. Many sleeper cells of terrorist organisations were detected and neutralised before 26/11 and many terrorists were identified and arrested after the commission of a terrorist strike by intercepting their electronic chatter.

5. Why there has been no worthwhile electronic chatter after 26/11? Have the terrorists stopped using modern means of communication or are they using more modern means of communication which our TECHINT set-up is not able to identify and break through?

6. You could see that the counter-terrorism capability of our TECHINT set-up seems to have weakened from the fact that there have been very few instances---if at all there are any--- of new sleeper cells being tracked down and neutralised and new suspects being rounded up and interrogated.

7. What is this apparent weakening of our counter-terrorism TECHINT capability due to? Turf battles? Non-recruitment of qualified and motivated TECHINT experts? Non-investment in equipment?

8.Whatever be the reason, it is a worrisome development. HUMINT and TECHINT work in tandem. If one is weak, the other makes up for it. If both become weak simultaneously, we start groping in the dark unable to see or hear the terrorists and sense their furtive movements and actions across the country.

9.Counter-terrorism has three components---prevention through timely and actionable intelligence, prevention through effective physical security and attrition of the terrorists’ capability through successful investigation and prosecution.

10. The physical security should be so tight that even if intelligence fails or is not up to the mark, we are still able to thwart the terrorists. Physical security cannot be blamed for seven of the nine terrorist strikes that have taken place since 26/11.But, poor physical security has definitely contributed to the two strikes outside the Delhi High court in May and on September 7,2011.

11. Since November,2007, the Indian Mujahideen (IM) had been repeatedly criticising the Indian judiciary and on November 23,2007, it had carried out seven explosions outside courts in three cities of Uttar Pradesh. Yet, for four years, we do not have seem to have made any physical security audit of important courts---particularly in Delhi and Mumbai --- and taken necessary action to strengthen their physical security---either through governmental means or by putting private physical security agencies on the job.

12. It used to be said and believed before 26/11 that while our preventive capability was weak, our ability to cause attrition in the ranks and capability of terrorist organisations through good investigation and prosecution was high. Even this capability, about which we used to boast before 26/11, seems to have weakened with the result that we have not made much headway in the investigation of the post-26/11 terrorist incidents.

13.The series of terrorist strikes carried out by the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Pakistani organisations across India outside Jammu & Kashmir since the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, made us realise that jihadi terrorism---whether home-grown or imported from abroad—had become a pan-Indian threat and that it cannot be dealt with in the same manner as we were dealing with cross-border terrorism in J&K, which was a different kettle of fish.

14. It was this realisation which brought into existence post-26/11 the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which functions under the control of the Home Minister of the Government of India. But the NIA as it has evolved is neither a donkey nor a mule. One does not know what it is.

15.Many of us---like me--- who had been advocating a new counter-terrorism investigation machinery to deal with the new pan-Indian terrorism, wanted some set-up similar to the counter-terrorism division of the USA’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI is exclusively responsible for all preliminary enquiries, investigation and prosecution in all terrorism incidents of a federal dimension.

16.It is for the Director of the FBI to assess whether an incident of violence amounted to an act of terrorism. Once he decides so, he asks the FBI to take over the investigation. He does not require any prior permission from the President or from any Governor of any State. The decision is his and his alone. As a result of this, the FBI has a total picture of the terrorism situation in the US.

17.The decision to set up the NIA in India was taken in haste after the traumatic events of November 26-28, 2008, in India. As a result, neither the ruling coalition nor the opposition carefully debated as to what kind of investigation mechanism we need to deal with this pan-Indian threat, what powers and responsibilities it should have and how to persuade the States to accept the creation of a pan-Indian investigation agency with teeth.

18. Under the procedure laid down, it is the Home Minister who decides what cases need to be entrusted to
the NIA and what cases need not be. Eight of the terrorist strikes after 26/11 were not entrusted to the NIA. Only the latest strike of September 7 has been. Why the previous cases were not entrusted to the NIA? How can the NIA investigate pan-Indian terrorism in an integrated manner if the MHA picks and chooses as to what cases will be investigated by the NIA and what cases need not be?

19. These are some of the issues that need crying attention after the terrorist strike of September 9. It is hoped at least now the Government and the opposition will start thinking of pan-Indian terrorism in an integrated and professional manner and not in a manner marked more by considerations of partisan politics than professionalism. ( 9-9-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E-mail: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )


audi_krishnan said...

The Govt. is fully corrupt. Each person in Govt. mistrusts every other; the Opposition is a shame; and it does not trust Govt.;the people as a whole do not trust Govt. or the Opposition;

Everyone in power seeks to swindle the country, public funds and the general public.

The problem can be addressed ONLY if 'INDIA ' as a unit develops a healthy mindset. We have the necessary intellectual, technical and other capabilities to tackle the problem. But, inside the head, 'INDIA' is not OK.

How to address this problem ?

The corrupt have cornered all power. They have to be removed by people power.

The second step would be to destroy corruption by destroying all those who are corrupt.

The third step would be to install a Govt. which the people can trust and respect.

The rest will follow if honest people can be put to work.

I am a retired CA,71 years old and these are my views as an ordinary citizen.

Krishna Kacker said...

Failure of the intelligence to locate and eliminate the terrorist stems from two points.One,everything in our country today is loaded with political connotations.Consequently there is nothing on which a universally acceptable view is taken including who is/are responsible for terrorist attacks.If it is said that it is IM or a similar group resposible,immediately there is a cry that it is not IM but right wing Hindu terrorism.Neither is therefore properly investigated.And two,our investigative agencies are all the time looking up to the Powers that are for guidance instead of the other way round.There is thus no fair independent assessment of a security failure.Under such conditions, how can we expect results.HUMINT or TECHINT ultimately will work if there is a willingness to use the tools effectively.

AJ said...

Just as riot investigations in Gujarat were compromised because of the involvement of BJP legislators in the riots, all things point to Congress party involvement in the terror attacks. This is why investigations go nowhere, and it appears as if no TECHINT is found. And Indian intelligence may want a FBI like agency, but are they willing to do what it would take to build one? Is one of the NIA/CBI/RAW/IB directors willing to blackmail the PM and other politicians to get what they want? Hoover's antics played no small role in helping the FBI grow into what it is today.

Bodhi27 said...

HALF MEASURES:Observations by you are very pertinent and timely. Turf battles at all levels, not only in police, at all levels are a reality and because of these turf level, no fresh talent is getting a chance to bring new ideas. Just look at how police postings are made, you will come to know how we are persisting with only those people who have been a proven failure. New institutions are not a panacea or cannot be expected to deliver over night. In any case, creation of new organizations like NIA are only half measures. If NIA cannot decide on merit which case it is required to take up for investigation then it is not truely empowered. Creation of NIA is really a half measures. Counterterrorism turf has been captured by people, including officers, who have vested interests in our security systems. They not only lack committment but also expertise. You have just to study all these CT set up and would realise the naked truth.
Unfortunately, Indian security agencies are not thinking and planning strategically. In fact we lack strategic culture. That is why we have not been able to make assessment of terror or Indian Mujahideen post-26/11. Let us not hope for miracles.