Apart from religious polarisation and the isolation of the human population on the basis of language, colour, religion or sect, a pattern that seems to emerge as the biggest threat is the isolation of communities within nations on the one hand, and internationally, on a bigger plane on the other, thus creating challenges both internally and at the global level. We run the risk of further escalation of hostile acts, contraction of humanity, international isolation based on religion and which side we stand in the so called “war on terror” as well as economies/natural resources which shall in times to come, become the centre of competition further escalating conflict. The future does not augur well for us.
Religion and politics have been known to play an important role in strategy for ages. The Neo Strategy which has an underlying aim of politics as we see it emerge, is once again cloaked in the garb of religion and given the name of terrorism. The world has seen two competing forces playing with each other – terrorism and counter-terrorism; state and non-state players in a power struggle which appears to have no end in sight.
In the ultimate analysis, populations will migrate into areas where they feel secure; into ghettos, colonies where they live in isolation from others…
Much like the Tank vs Anti-Tank weaponry and tactics, each of these has held centre-stage for years; the only difference being that in this game of power and domination, there are other forces and influencers – national strategy, economic resources, communities, religion, politics and poverty as well. An explosive admixture for trouble! Governments and so called non-state actors, fundamentalists, extremists, terrorists or whatever they are called, have compelled humans to live in fear! The world no longer remains the same.
Gone are the days when one could thumb a lift from a motorist at any time or when people could trust a neighbour, an employee, domestic help or a paying guest. The era of warm and trusting relationship on face-value has ended. Suspicion is the keyword for safety and should be too if one has to survive. Therefore, one now needs to look with suspicion at neighbours, paying guests, tenants, domestic help, unattended baggage, unusual activity, overdue car parking, odd life styles and many other aspects which are out of line.
Apart from religious polarisation and the isolation of the human population on the basis of language, colour, religion or sects, a pattern that seems to emerge as the biggest threat is the isolation of communities within nations on the one hand and internationally on a bigger plane, thus creating challenges both internally and at the global level. We run the risk of further escalation of hostile acts, contraction of humanity, international isolation based on religion and which side we stand in the so called “war on terror” as well as economies/natural resources which shall in times to come, become the centre of competition further escalating conflict. The future does not augur well for us. The indirect approach to strike at will against citizens of countries, which are cooperating in the ‘War against Terror’, will continue to be the future course adopted by Al Qaeda/ISIS. Frustration amongst some communities will generate home-grown extremists. Nations must, therefore, look inwards. Isolated incidents of violence using knives or automobiles in Europe and personal weapons in a weapon-liberal country such as the United States (US) will see a likely rise.
In the ultimate analysis, populations will migrate into areas where they feel secure; into ghettos, colonies where they live in isolation from others. As in France, where there are approximately 750 such localities, where the Muslim communities reside and such areas are not open to policing, so also in India there are areas called “Chota Pakistan” and “Hattas” inhabited by a particular community where even the police fear to enter, brings me to conclude that there is every likelihood of an exodus by those threatened in such areas to move into/out of various pockets/regions. What can we look for in such an eventuality? Religious polarisation leading up to conflict in areas such as Europe and India which has a very high percentage of Muslim population and an equal and opposite reaction in Islamic countries? Greater risks during travel, loss of privacy for the sake of security, changes in immigration laws and much more, given the intolerance to freedom of expression and even cartoons! The question is – have we taken the freedom of speech too far, so far as to ignore the other man’s sensitivity? Like India, France is also secular. Is freedom of speech and religious intolerance going to cost us our secular culture and spirit?
The issue of security requires a balanced and holistic approach with an intermingling of the different segments of civil society…
While one may comment on the polarisation of religion, the split within Islam too is likely to emerge as a growing challenge. While one faction might gain favour with the Western world, the other will not and this would in turn, drive a further wedge within the community itself. The danger is of one sect being referred to as ‘Good Muslims’ and the other as ‘Evil’ as has been the case with ‘Taliban in Pakistan or Afghanistan’ with reference to the US and the Pakistan government’s position from time to time of a ‘Good and Bad Taliban’.
Given the above situation, nations and leaders, both political and religious, need to tread with care and soften their clamour to propagate their faith, while people need to exercise tolerance. The need of the hour being tolerance, respect and solidarity as displayed by the French as well as the new cover conveyed by Charlie Hebdo “all is forgiven” even though it may sound utopian, it is a must. Immigration laws and code of conduct in Europe will undergo a change to become stricter, impose restrictions on the use of the hijab, turbans and other religious symbols. Crackdown on immigrant colonies will be carried out in various European countries to ensure that immigrants stay in line with expected norms of conduct as it happened in Italy, France and elsewhere as Europe copes to explore new strategy to contain the perceived threat from such colonies. The economic slowdown and jobless environment is likely to make the Governments take tough decisions in favour of citizens rather than immigrants or refugees.
Security and Counter-Terror Operations
Terrorists can strike at will on the target of their choice and the Paris attack exposes the fact that those who have the courage to speak freely about a religion may find themselves at the wrong end of the barrel. That security forces may find their families targeted as demonstrated in the Peshawar school shooting or the attack on the military camp at Samba, thus, raising questions and costs of security of homes, families, schools and crowded areas. Society offers a wide array of attractive targets in every city, making it prohibitive to ensure safety and security of citizens at each place at all times. Hence the need for an aware and proactive society and responsive police force. Small cells with limited and improvised weapons/munitions will be sufficient to raise hell and draw attention through the media to instil fear in the minds of the public while exposing weaknesses in the Government’s ability to protect their citizens. This brings me to the next aspect – intelligence.
Technology as well as physical means must be fully integrated to monitor the activities of criminals as well as past offenders…
Security forces will invariably find themselves on the losing side for want of operational intelligence. Thus the issue of security requires a balanced and holistic approach with an intermingling of civil society which comprises governments, citizens, media, technology and governmental institutions such as the police and Special Forces. Integration of technology involves the use of monitoring radio transmission, satellite, cell-phone, voice-over IP along with face recognition dove-tailed with target acquisition and designation from stand-off distances using drones. In the absence of each of these being well integrated to work in unison, terrorists will strike successfully imposing great costs to men and material. Therefore, the first step through
intelligence is prevention through measures of de-radicalisation. Next is operational intelligence leading to pre emptive arrests to foil strikes and of course, the need for response teams to track and hunt down the perpetrators.
Prevention is better than cure and for counter-terrorism, prevention can only be through subtle means such as prevention of radicalisation, fair and transparent policies to prevent disgruntled citizens, development of a good value system through education and finally, accurate operational intelligence. While technology will invariably be an asset, experience shows that even in the technologically advanced Western world, success in operations by security forces has been due to timely inputs by public and not through ‘electronic intelligence’ alone. The ‘Shoe Bomber’, ‘Underwear Bomber’ and the ‘Boston Bomber’ fooled every detection system! Humint will play a more important role for ensuring pre emption than credited with thus far. For this, there is a need for the police and the citizens to synergise. Resident Welfare Associations RWAs play an important role as do beat constables provided they are educated and integrated into the system. Neighbours need to ensure the safety and security of the neighbourhood.
A holistic approach for monitoring financial transactions, hawala, internet sites and social media needs to be worked out…
Technology as well as physical means must be fully integrated to monitor the activities of criminals as well as past offenders. Given the unscrupulous ways of terror organisations, they are more likely to employ criminals and disgruntled elements for achieving their nefarious objectives. A holistic approach for monitoring financial transactions, hawala, internet sites and social media needs to be worked out. Any site or hostile activity ‘must not’ be shut down, but be monitored closely. Shutting it down will deny crucial information. This leads onto the urgent necessity for training persons with expertise to read into such activities.
Small teams at the levels of police stations supported by an aware public, medical teams and BDUs have to be the norm rather than an exception. Surveillance by well-trained police personnel in plainclothes who can spot as well as report suspicious activities, is a must and much more effective than policemen seen loitering around in uniform.
Responses and Tactics
The most unfortunate aspect of any terrorist attack is that for the first hour or so, there the first responders are usually those under attack. This in turn leads me to suggest that some degree of basic training for all citizens on what to look out for, who to report to and how to respond to such emergencies, is a must.
The French forces as well as government responded well and ‘Paris’ brings out some important issues as under:
• Need for learning from various encounters: The Western world did well to rehearse the Mumbai-like situation and prepare for such eventualities. Pakistan failed to learn from the Indian experience of the attack at Samba or Belsan School episode.
A policy review is called for and needs to focus on “rewarding states which maintain a healthy security environment” rather than an unstable and risky state of affairs…
• Need to keep past offenders under scrutiny: Had the two brothers been kept under scrutiny, things might have been different. In the 26/11 incident, had the citizens been alert enough to report Headley’s activities, things might have been different too. Such organisations which stick their necks out, need to be provided ‘plains clothes’ surreptitious security cover which would surprise and neutralise any attacker.
• Respect for each other’s sensitivities: Whether religious or otherwise, respect for all is a must and laws required to prevent as well as punish those who speak out against any community, caste or religion. All places of worship, content and leaders need to be regulated under a central law.
• Need to be prepared for multiple attacks: In the Paris incident, the two terrorists were rather weak and had limited weapons as well as objective, yet they held hostage a nation for over 72 hours. The second incident was merely a one-off effort at divergence to seek some relief for the other two terrorists. There were no explosives or other munitions which could have caused much devastation and posed a challenge for the GIGN. Small teams at police station levels are a better response.
• Build up a good tracking system: The reason perhaps that the two brothers decided to become ‘martyrs’ was the fact that France has a good system of tracking individuals and they realised that they could not flee the country, the best option therefore was to escalate, get more media focus and go down! Therefore, the need of a sound and robust tracking system.
Divisive politics which lead to polarisation is a nightmare for CT intelligence and provides easy access to safe heavens as well as targets…
• Observation from the air, ground and through walls as well as radio signals, pays in tracking, locating and neutralising terrorists while at the same time keeping track of hostages if any and their condition, location and safety during operations.
• Isolate areas and exits: Keep the attackers fixed till experts arrive and then do what is best. A system of warning through mass SMS to general public giving them advisories is very useful. This was extremely effective during the metro bombings in London in 2007. Lockdown of all doors and windows in the neighbourhood, with curfew around, is a must for reasons of safety.
• Negotiations buy time for security forces to gain information: There must, therefore, be a well-trained negotiator and a formal well-structured negotiation policy to be followed. No negotiation can be successful without knowing the details of terror groups and persons involved, which in turn highlights the need for profiling and ready data.
• Cut all communications when there is the need to isolate the area: ‘Isolation’ includes cutting off terrorists from all communications, power and water supply. Internet, cell and TV connectivity provides them with knowledge and also allows the controlling agencies to give them directions. This must not be allowed at any cost. Isolation will break down the motivation of terrorists to some extent.
• Minimise media coverage for the same reasons given above. Too much liberty to media leads to irresponsible coverage in the race for TRPs. Being contrary to national and operational requirements as well as safety of hostages, if any, therefore as a policy, media must remain at safe distances and restricted to comments by domain experts as permitted by the government. Lose comments and speculation tend to convey wrong impressions and may also spread fear while giving terrorists more credit than they deserve.
• Governments must convey a strong position: The formal government stand on all such attacks must go beyond announcing monitory relief to NOK. There must be a policy in consonance with national strategy in countering terrorism and this must be aired by all spokespersons.
The pillars of society need to stand together in the efforts to usher sanity back in a world going crazier each day…
Regional Experience and India
Sri Lanka ended the LTTE movement through an almost all-out war. This was possible since the particular community was predominantly living in an area separated from the others. Pakistan is mired in acts of terror and does not seem to be able to contain the menace because of the intermix of communities and weak government policies which vacillate between support to some terror outfits to playing the victim, on the one hand, and terrorism being the main pillar of their Anti-India Strategy for its very existence on the other.
India with its admixture of religion, freedom of all citizens to settle across the country barring some restrictions in the State of J&K, the large population and poverty being exploited to create disillusionment amongst various segments of society. Divisive politics which lead to polarisation is a nightmare for CT intelligence and provides easy access to safe heavens as well as targets. Age old tactic of states to demand ‘additional funds’ for development “because they are disturbed” encourages an “insecure environment” since it benefits many. A policy review is called for and needs to focus on ‘rewarding states which maintain a healthy security environment” rather than an unstable and risky state of affairs.
Security of Service Personnel
Interacting with the British Army officers who were at some point of time been deployed on CT Operations in Ireland was rather revealing. While deployment in small teams was the norm, what stood out glaringly was that no one was addressed by name! Each member was given a number instead. When asked about the reason for this, the reply was quite simple. “The IRA get to know even the surname and they trace us back to our families and homes. When the time comes, they either hit us while on leave or hit our families who are soft targets!”
When the NSG was being raised, high risk insurance was asked for and anonymity as well as security of the men/families especially those deployed for VIP security was felt necessary for the very same reasons. The
Visible support and synergy needs to be displayed by each community as well as the central and state governments…
incidents at Nagrota, Samba and Jammu are indicative of what can happen. In addition, the killing of an officer while he was on leave as well as the recent killing of an RR jawan indicates the need for concealing the identity and securing cantonments across the country. Opening up of cantonment roads as well as the unilateral ceasefire are both fraught with danger and will invariably impact the morale of the forces.
To reinforce my view that communal polarisation will be a challenge, reproduced here is data on Muslim population in different countries. While 80 per cent of the world’s Muslims live in countries where they are in majority, significant numbers, about one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, live as religious minorities in their home countries. Of the roughly 317 million Muslims living as minorities, about 240 million – about three-quarters – live in five countries – India (161 million), Ethiopia (28 million), China (22 million), Russia (16 million) and Tanzania (13 million). Two of the ten countries with the largest number of Muslims living as minorities are in Europe: Russia (16 million) and Germany (four million).These minority populations are often quite large. For example, India, a Hindu-majority country, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. The Muslim population of Ethiopia is about as large as that of Afghanistan. China has more Muslims than Syria; Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined and Germany has more Muslims than Lebanon.
The security and safety of a country and its citizens is no longer the job of the police or counter-terror forces alone. Today, citizens, town planners, policy makers and civil society need to come together to fight the scourge of terrorism and insecurity. Industry too has a stake in this and good CSR projects help maintaining peace and security. The role of families, educational institutes, religious heads, and media cannot be over emphasised. People have become the first responders; security forces the last responders and therefore, need to respond by preparing themselves for such events.
Visible support and synergy needs to be displayed by each community as well as the central and state governments. Paris has shown the way in which countries and people have to stand together across all sections, a first in the history of mankind where 40 nations marched together in a show of solidarity against terrorism. The expression of support by the French parliament on the following day, is worth emulating. India’s central and state governments as do all political parties need to learn from this. Not a single minister has ever stood for solidarity against such acts in India. Instead, each party has been quick to criticise, either the party in power or the security forces concerned and almost every time, one or the other religion. This must stop. The pillars of society need to stand together in the efforts to usher sanity back in a world going crazier each day.