Homeland Security

India: Challenges & Opportunities - The War against Terror
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 28 May , 2020

India has faced insurgencies and terrorism since independence with the ingress of ‘Razakars’ from Pakistan with an intermix of regulars, reportedly even led by British Officers! The 80’s saw a growth of such acts and post 1984 began the terrorism in Punjab demanding a separate state of Khalistan, 1990 marked the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits and Pakistan’s ‘OP Topac’ which intensified acts of terror in J& K.  

We are perhaps the only country to have successfully brought insurgencies under control in numerous states, Mizoram, Punjab, to an extent in Assam and even Nagaland. Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Kashmir remain active. Pakistan’s continued support to the Terrorist Organisations operating in Kashmir keeps the pot boiling. Constantly changing names to avoid flak from the International forums including FATF they have managed to save their skins this far, however, their voices have of late been rather feeble.

Political Initiatives:  Article 370, 35 A and Beyond.

As has been oft stated, the abrogation of Article 370 and 35, bringing the Valley directly under the Centre eases its administration while it also opens opportunities for the people there for further benefits from Central Policies. It further re-enforces the fact that these territories are beyond doubt a part of India, therefore, precludes meddling by a third party or any other nation. The impact of these changes can only be expected to bear desired results if there is a meaningful implementation of policy change.  Bridge ‘The Trust Gap’ and get the Stake holders to participate actively in bringing in the change for peace and harmony. It is only ‘peace, harmony and a sense of security’ which can be expected to change lives for the Kashmiries.

Recent developments indicate that Pakistan has formed two terrorist groups with LeT, the ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF) and ‘Tehreek-i-Milat-i-Islami’ (TMI), both have been covertly formed by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence).These groups are actually eyeing to recruit locals so that no one can point fingers at Pakistan after the terrorist attack. Of a total of 400 to 500 terrorists, it is believed, that 350 are Pakistan Nationals.

The present Government has been politically vocal and quick to claim credit for Balakot and Surgical Strikes , however, recent events and the increase in border violations/terrorist attacks indicate that these actions have not exactly had the desired impact in controlling Pakistan. The term ‘Terrorism’ does not seem to hold good any more, a look at the attacks both in Chhattisgarh  as well as J& K reflects that  civilians are no longer the targets, therefore not ‘terrorised’ any more like in the past . An indication of emboldened strikes against SFs rather than civilian targets is a compulsion, perhaps to garner local support against a ‘Common Enemy’.    India’s demand for Pakistan to vacate all illegally occupied territory gets louder each day as Political Leadership make public their statements  which are also echoed by the Military Leadership. How the population in these regions responds, remains to be seen.

Advantage for Governments

Such problems are essentially ‘Political’ and require initiatives from the Government for final resolution. Powerful factors in favour of the Government are:-

•  Resources, which include the security forces and funds, both of which can be exploited in the Governments favour and out match those at the disposal of Terrorist Organisations.

•  Time, which can be exploited in combination with other resources to bring the situation to a level of normalisation.

•  The number of effective terrorists is limited, by eliminating the most skilled and dangerous terrorists through arrests or targeted killings a state can greatly disrupt the operations of a terrorist organization.

•  If the pace of arrests and killings is rapid enough, then the terrorist organization can lose the critical mass of skills and capabilities that it requires to function.  The wherewithal available to the Government is capable of maintaining momentum.

•  International support from countries which share a common interest (USA & Israel) to our forces in terms of technology, data, intelligence sharing adds further teeth. On the other hand, foreigners as terrorists are likely to alienate the local population and also expose the country which supports them.

•  While terrorists can be highly skilled, they are far from perfect and they are prone to make mistakes. The biggest weakness is the desire to project themselves as ‘Super Humans and Heroes’, this ‘Macho’ attitude invariably gets them down  due to an overestimation of their own abilities.

•  Other influencing factors are Religious Polarisation, International Relations, Human Rights Organisations, Propaganda machinery and Media.   

Even where governments may be considered weak, they will almost always prove stronger than the terrorists in the event of an open confrontation. Therefore, the argument that some governments want to crack down on terrorists but cannot, is an argument that cannot be accepted. Targeted killings, arrests and defensive measures are means of managing a conflict, not means of solving it. A lasting settlement to the problem in Kashmir conflict requires a political solution, but such a settlement is only possible once security forces can reduce the problem of terrorism to manageable levels and here is where the government must not be seen to vacillate in their support. 

Role of Security Forces.  

In a democracy the security forces work within the framework laid down by the government.  One such measure of support is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, this must not be diluted. The main responsibility which rests on the Security Forces is that of bringing the situation to a level which permits the Civil Administration to function. Going beyond this, the Armed Forces/SFs would be called upon to bring the Anti National Elements to the table for dialogue. This aspect is once again related to the policies aimed at resolution of the problem.

Where the situation gets blurred between a hostile neighbouring country, resulting in the engagement of the Military on both sides, Government support in terms of funds and equipment as well as protection from prosecution gain much more importance. This tends to become what one might call a ‘No War No Peace’ situation  and an Asymmetrical War.

It  must be  remembered that under such circumstances the Armed forces are deployed in   National Interest in a mix of their ‘primary and secondary’ responsibility.

The Security Scenario and Intelligence

Interacting with some residents of Kashmir, in an effort to motivate them to provide information about Anti National Elements (ANEs), deny administrative support and discourage the youth from joining, the response was honest and spontaneous; ‘We have to live in this environment Sir, your men or the police can come only on patrols, but these boys live amongst us, they will kill us once you leave, you cannot protect us at all times’! A recent elimination of a terrorist, threw up a voice recorded message calling for residents from the locality to ‘commence throwing stones’ at the armed forces. Large crowds can still be seen gathering at burials of killed terrorists. Both these indicators are worrisome.

The remark referred to above throws up the challenge of Intelligence Gathering, which in turn generates a discourse between Privacy and National Security.  Monitoring of Social Media such as Emails, Face Book and others to check on backgrounds of various contacts, who ,  unknown to the user may have links to Terrorist organisations is another measure which has been proved useful in preventing acts of terror. A price the residents of the UT have to pay for their safety. Israel for example does this ruthlessly. Many such solutions, using “Deep Analysis”, are available, off the shelf, even for trials if required. Efforts must combine Technology and Humint.

Futuristic Operational Scenario

Artificial intelligence and the use of Drone Technology has resulted in a paradigm shift for Nations fighting terrorism.

An approach that combines the use of electronic /radio transmissions/ signatures emitted over a diverse system of media/communication medium, be it cell phones, radio, satellite or any other transmission to track, monitor, locate and not just identify but also neutralise the target by employing Drones/UAVs or even Aircraft has been repeatedly demonstrated in the recent past by various Nations.

Voice recognition and face recognition, combined together deliver an almost fail proof method of identifying a person and getting pin point coordination of their locations. However, in the post Covid19 era when face masks will be the norm, a more innovation solution will need to be evolved.

Further linking the system with   precision guided missiles or munitions which can be released from standoff distances has given an edge to security forces permitting them to neutralise the designated target with little or minimum collateral damage while own forces do not run the risk of any losses.

Guarding borders where required is being effectively done through a plethora of measures.

The use of  acoustic and seismic sensors has proved effective along the long borders as well as built up areas  successfully to  home onto hostile fire and return fire to pin down the source of such fire while a response team deploys to neutralise  the terrorist.

The US and Israel Defence Forces and if I may say so, terror groups too, have demonstrated the successful use of such technology in the past .The Indian Army may consider taking a ‘serious look’ at such technology as well as information which friendly countries could consider sharing.

Taking a cue from Israel and US both  countries which have had to address the problem of terrorism based out of foreign soil, key terrorists who are actively masterminding attacks are difficult to arrest without significant risk to the security forces, therefore elimination is the best option, applicable in the case of  Hafiz Muhammad Saeed a Pakistani militant and  a co-founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and others who enjoy the patronage of  Pakistan.

Inter Agency cooperation, accurate, timely and actionable intelligence is necessary for targeted killings. Rapid intelligence sharing and avoidance of “stovepiping” (when an agency retains information or intelligence and does not share it with others) is essential.

By reducing the number of skilled terrorists through arrests, targeted killings, makes it more difficult for the terrorists to communicate with each other, a state can make it far harder for the remaining terrorists to plan attacks that can overcome significant hardening of possible targets.

Propaganda & Psychological Issues

Propaganda and Psychological Warfare have been conspicuous by their absence so far, these require a serious review. Highlighting the hardships faced by the families ,friends and the likelihood of a short life span of terrorists; not more than 2 to 5 years at best, should be exploited to discourage further enrolments. Simultaneously the hardship being faced by local population due to the disturbed environment, must be used to wean away the support to terrorists. A comparison of conditions on either side of the border is another aspect which merits attention while the economic loss caused due to an insecure environment is another issue which should be driven home.

A policy of providing financial aid/projects based on an index of peace and security is another aspect for the government to consider.


The LOC and borders between India and Pakistan are likely to experience more ‘heat’ as summer rolls on , US troops withdraw, allowing  the Taliban and Pakistan’s army to focus on India. Renewed efforts of China’s CPEC and the contract with Pakistan to construct a Dam in Gilgit , illegally occupied by Pakistan could well become our ‘West Bank’ or ‘Gaza Strip’ in times to come. Policy makers need to take this into account and prepare the Nation for such an eventuality. Whether the turmoil in Pakistan occupied areas is exasperated and conflict heightened or peace and stability is ushered in bilaterally, either way, we stand at a cross road and enjoy the initiative of a proportionate response.

A frustrated Pakistan has not been left much choice but to agitate in the UNSC and other forums which have yielded scant results so far. The collusion with China can be seen already in the ‘jockeying’ for advantage along the borders. Whether USA plays the reliable ally or  emerges as self seeking is yet to be seen.

Whilst the US experience with their local Government partnership of Pakistan has threw up the challenge of a half hearted /passive partner, in the case of a US –India relationship the reverse is applicable!

Effective local partners are vital for counter terrorism in the case of the US-India partnership, their long term reliability and support in ‘Capacity building’ and sharing of Intel to support India in the fight against terror is critical and will be put to test.

Our valiant Armed Forces and CAPF make huge sacrifices each day while their families bear the brunt of separations, cope with responsibilities normally undertaken jointly by both parents, they suffer tense times, lives of the husbands being uncertain.

Increased border engagements and terrorist attacks on CAPFs, Police as well as the Army are reported daily, these add to the already stressed lives of the families. The Nation as a whole owes its Armed Forces as well as CAPFs greater support not merely the Government but also from Society.

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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

Brig Pradeep Sharma

a regularly contributes defence related columns to news dailies.

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One thought on “India: Challenges & Opportunities – The War against Terror

  1. After the Balakit air strike, the Pakistanis reported to have changed their tactics in Kashmir valley. One was to engage only the army/police forces, 2nd organise the Kashmiri insurgency as a resistance movement, to launch a strong perception war against India with Indian citizen help to belittle India at the international forum. The Pakistnis were successful in their perception war after the Balakot air strike, when India kept on defending itself against various allegations. Our own political leaders, part of media helped them. India need to change it’s tactic to counter the violence of the insurgents & also to perception war. India also must ensure with help of friendly countries that the FATF stranglehold over Pakistan is not loosened. We may keep on saying that we are from the same stock & our culture etc are same. But we must remember that in the absence of education majority of Pakistani people are religious fanatics. Only educated a minor % wants total peace. This is an artificial situation. Therefore, India must never go back to “Aman ke Rista” sentiments & loosen its grip. Recalibration of constituency in J&K must be done on priority, strangle hold of few Kashmiri families on central Govt money must be broken, Hurriayt leaders must not be given any mercy. Bring up new young educated men/women in political arena. Put an effort to bring back the “Sufi” Kashmiri culture by systematically banishing the Wahabi aggression that has taken over the mosque, establish more central schools, colleges. Many more such things are essential to cool down Kashmir.

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