Homeland Security

Agenda for Obama's Visit : Counter - Terrorism
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 20 Oct , 2010

Indo-US co-operation in counter-terrorism has the following components:

Assistance in capacity building in traditional counter-terrorism: Started in the early 1980s during the administration of Ronald Reagan when some officers of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) were sent initially to the UK and then to the US for training in matters like dealing with hostage situations.

Aviation security to prevent and deal with hijacking was an important initial area of US assistance in capacity-building. This has since expanded to cover other areas such as forensic examination of explosive devices.

The trust level between the Indian and US agencies leaves much to be desired. The US anxiety to protect Pakistan adds to the distrust.

Assistance in capacity-building in non-traditional areas: Started in 2001 during the administration of George Bush at the initiative of Richard Armitage, the then US Deputy Secretary of State. Cyber security was the initial area of US assistance. This was extended to other areas such as maritime security in ports and container vessels, prevention of catastrophic acts of terrorism involving the use of weapons of mass destruction material etc.

Assistance in strengthening the physical security of vulnerable establishments and sectors such as urban transport: Started during the administration of George Bush after the explosions in some Mumbai suburban trains in July,2006.

Mutual legal assistance in the investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases: Started during the second term of Ronald Reagan when the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was sought by India for the investigation of the assassination of Gen.A.S.Vaidya, retired Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), by some Khalistani terrorists in Pune in 1985. The co-operation declined during the administration of Bill Clinton.

The US agencies were only partly helpful when their assistance was sought in the investigation and prosecution of the Mumbai blasts of March,1993. The co-operation has improved under the George Bush and Barack Obama Administrations. Under the Obama Administration, the FBI was helpful in the forensic examination of the intercepts during the 26/11 terrorist strikes.

Before 26/11, the US had hardly ever shared with India any worthwhile preventive intelligence.

For the first time, FBI officers testified before the trial court through video-conferencing. In the past, the FBI’s policy was not to allow its officers to testify before an Indian court.

Intelligence-sharing: This is the most unsatisfactory aspect of Indo-US counter-terrorism co-operation. Before 26/11, the US had hardly ever shared with India any worthwhile preventive intelligence. However, in 2008, during the Bush Administration, the FBI was reported to have passed on to Indian agencies three fairly specific bits of information about the plans of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) to launch a sea-borne attack on some seafront establishments in Mumbai including the Taj Mahal hotel. This information cannot by any means be described as vague or non-specific.

If the Indian agencies had promptly acted in strengthening physical security as a follow-up to this, 26/11 might have been prevented. Despite this instance, intelligence-sharing from the US has generally been unsatisfactory due to the following reasons. Firstly, the large, prosperous and politically active Sikh community in the US prevented their Governments from co-operating fully with the Government of India in dealing with Khalistani terrorism.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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