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Lok Sabha TV Insights: Terror – An End in Sight?
Recent terror attack in Punjab has added a new dimension to Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Earlier attacks were limited to state of Jammu and Kashmir or they were orchestrated in high profile urban centers like Delhi, Pune, Bangalore or Mumbai. These types of target result in pan India panic and publicity, which is precisely what terrorists want.
However, recent attack was at an unimaginable rural place in Punjab, which is only a few kilometers from border with Pakistan. At first it triggered suspicion of revival of dormant Khalistani terrorism, but latter it became clear that it was a typical Lashkar-e-Taiba style attacks. Motivation behind these attacks is hard to understand.
State of Jammu and Kashmir has three layered security cover and is overall heavily militarized. BSF has in last few months punctured numerous attempts of Pakistan based terrorists to infiltrate into India. This might have forced terrorists to find new routes. Punjab border is already used by ISI backed drug smugglers for illicit trade. Further, near Gurdaspur, border is riverine as river Ravi runs between two countries. This makes it little hard to monitor the border. There has been no attack in Punjab from long, this have surely softened attitude of intelligence agencies and BSF, which culminated in this gigantic security lapse.
Another suspicion is that ISI and its allies may be targeting north India in future to inculcate more terror and instability. Civilian governments of both countries are trying hard to overcome these interruptions and engage toward arriving at a solution. In such scenario similar attacks were seen in past.
Now there will be pressure on Indian government to call off upcoming National Security Advisor meet of both countries. Submitting to this pressure will result in obeying command of terrorists. There must be some larger motives behind upcoming talks, based on some classified information and understanding, which can’t be made available in public domain. Indian media, opposition and public should understand this and trust government on this.
As this act was departure from past patterns, it easily evaded Indian intelligence. Though there was an alert regarding infiltration of some people from Pakistan, yet one couldn’t have imagined that target will be so unconventional. Further, it is often complained about our intelligence agencies that their inputs are too broad and general, and hardly any action can be taken based on it.
There is huge network of intelligence in our country. Army has its own military/border intelligence, RAW comes under cabinet secretariat and reports directly to PM and Intelligence Bureau comes under Home Ministry. Also there are state level crime branches which too have useful intelligence. But unfortunately they work more in silos and often fail to synergize work of each other.
Few years back Cabinet Committee on Security cleared a proposal to create a National Counter Terrorism Center. As intended, this center will help in coordination, analysis and dissemination of useful information from all different bodies under various ministries and states. It also hatched a plan to create a National Intelligence Grid or NATGRID, which will put at disposal of NCTC database from 20 sources, like immigration records, travel records, international calling records, Income tax records etc. But this plan was stonewalled by states citing violation federal principles. Another big lacuna is of investigation which is in hands of ‘National Investigation Agency’. Some experts argue that intelligence and investigation should be in hands of same body; while some others fear that this would result in abuse of power.
In these attacks it was seen that local Punjab Police fought alone with terrorists. This indicates that there was lack of coordination among center and state. Alternatively, it is also quite possible that state police’s threat perception didn’t feel need of support of Special Forces. Punjab police was poorly equipped and they fought with old rifles, while terrorists were equipped with AK-47. They weren’t using any protective head gear or modern communication devices. There is serious need for modernization of state police forces. Numerous experts have advised that instead of expanding paramilitary forces, Government should focus on improving efficiency state police forces. This will yield immediate and long lasting results.
Terrorism is a global problem and probably no country is insulated from terror. Fact that these terrorists are indoctrinated to such an extent that they volunteer to sacrifice their lives, makes things even harder. Once a terrorist is out on mission, he has just to kill maximum people, before getting killed. Even in a country like U.S. which spends astronomical sums on defence, once in a while, a random guy kills scores of people. So governments can just minimize this menace. On a positive note it should be commended that terrorists found it impossible to perpetrate attacks as they did in past. They have little or no rules, principles and values to follow, nor are they responsible to anyone. They can change their targets as per free will. At same time our government is bound by numerous constitutionalities, laws and principles. So our government can best respond to changed attitude of terrorists.