Homeland Security

Three Years After 26/11 New Delhi unable to control terror
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 20 Nov , 2011

The decisions to set up a National Intelligence Grid and the NCTC have not yet been implemented—reportedly due to a lack of convergence of views among the various agencies and Ministries that would be involved in the implementation of these decisions as to how to go about it. The implementation process has been lethargic and glacial.

The decisions to set up a National Intelligence Grid and the NCTC have not yet been implemented”¦

Fortunately, we have not had any major act of mass fatality terrorism ( with fatalities of more than 100) since 26/11. However, despite the proclaimed strengthening of our preventive and investigative capabilities since 26/11, we have had five acts of low or medium fatality terrorism after 26/11 in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Varanasi. Despite the proclaimed strengthening of our preventive capability, none of them could be prevented and despite the proclaimed strengthening of our investigative capabilities none of them could be successfully detected.

We are clueless as to who committed them, how many undetected cells are operating, are they indigenous or Pakistani, wherefrom are they getting their explosives, detonators and triggering mechanism etc. While our preventive capability has generally been below par, our investigative capability used to be good. This too seems to have deteriorated now due to politicisation and communalisation of the investigation process.

We are clueless as to who committed them, how many undetected cells are operating, are they indigenous or Pakistani”¦

An equally worrisome aspect is the seeming deterioration in our TECHINT capability. While our HUMINT capability was not satisfactory, our good  TECHINT capability made up for our HUMINT deficiencies—— contributing to successful neutralisation of new cells and successful investigation of terrorist strikes. The detection of the electronic chatter of terrorist suspects has become weaker after 26/11. As a result, good TECHINT is no longer compensating for the poor HUMINT. My assessment is that our terrorism-related intelligence collection capability today is weaker than it was before 26/11.

A reason given for our failures to detect the electronic chatter of terrorist suspects after 26/11 is that the terrorists now have access to better communication technology and gadgets and have better evasive capability and that, consequently, they have become smarter. I do not buy this explanation. I have not seen any evidence to support this. Our poor performance after 26/11 is not because the terrorists have become smarter, but it is because our agencies have become less smart than the terrorists.

Our poor performance after 26/11 is not because the terrorists have become smarter, but it is because our agencies have become less smart than the terrorists

We are yet to find an effective way of dealing with the sanctuaries of the terrorists in Pakistan. While our peace initiatives are welcome, they are not going to induce Pakistan to act against these sanctuaries. The peace process has to go hand in hand with a counter sanctuary process through deniable covert actions. Peace does not mean surrender or resignation. Peace means willingness to talk without letting it dent our courage and readiness to act against the sanctuaries. Action to create a counter-sanctuary capability continues to be totally neglected.

The continuing deficiencies in our counter-terrorism thinking and reflexes is due to a disinterested approach on the part of the Congress as well as the BJP. Both are equally guilty of politicising and communalising counter-terrorism. Both are equally guilty of failures to build up our counter-terrorism capabilities. The public is equally disinterested. There is hardly any meaningful debate on the issue either in the parliament or in our media or in public fora. The beneficiaries are the terrorists.

The public has to sit up and exercise pressure on the political class. The voters have to make it clear to the political class that their counter-terrorism record will be an important factor in influencing voter preference. Unless the public stirs itself up and moves, the political class is not going to move.

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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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