Mumbai, the financial capital of India and its busiest metropolitan city, has been a prime target for terrorist attacks.
In the last two decades, the number of terrorist attacks in Mumbai have caused over 700 fatalities.
On 26 November 2008, ten transnational terrorists attacked Mumbai, which included the busiest railway station in peak hour, five-star hotels, a café shop and hospitals.
The multiple attacks and control measures lasted for three days, leading to the deaths of over 149 people which included civilians, foreign nationals, security personnel and hospital staff.
The attack was a meticulously planned and executed act of terrorism where explosive devices and gunfire were used to cause the maximum number of casualties and lasted for 60 h.
This attack was therefore different from previous attacks which were serial blasts in Mumbai in 2006.
The modes of transport of patients were mainly taxis, handcarts, fire brigade vans, ambulances and private vehicles, assisted by local people. The in-hospital disaster plan was activated immediately, as large numbers of patients were expected.
Terrorism is the unlawful exercise of random and ruthless violence against property or individuals, usually innocent civilians, in order to intimidate governments or societies for political or ideological purposes.
Terrorism is hardly a postmodern phenomenon. Several of the terror attacks in the 21st century reflect a paradigmatic change in the tactics of asymmetric warfare and the practice of violence.
Attacks carried out in different corners of the world by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and similar terror outfits, are very different from those witnessed in the previous century.
The tactics employed may vary, but the objective is common, viz. achieving mass casualties and widespread destruction.
26/11 Attack in Mumbai:
The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was one of a kind and not a mere variant of previous instances of terrorist violence.
It was the rarest of rare cases, where one state’s resources, viz. Pakistan’s were employed to carry out a series of terror attacks in a major Indian city.
It was a case of ‘war by other means’, in which the authorities in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Pakistani armed forces, were involved.
The Mumbai terror attack was not based on a sudden impulse. Several years of planning and preparation had preceded the attack, even as the peace talk was going on between India and Pakistan.
From an Indian standpoint, it was for the first time that an operation of this nature involved Rapid Action Force personnel, Marine Commandos (MARCOS), the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Mumbai Police.
Work in progress in coastal areas:
Police forces have also been equipped with fast motorboats and anti-terror equipment.
A continuous dialogue with the fishing and shipping agencies has led to better coordination and fishing boats are being installed with Automatic Identification Systems.
More coastal police stations have been set up and CCTV cameras installed in several important places and in areas with high human density.
The Navy regularly coordinates joint exercises between these agencies. Our ships spend long days at sea extending our surveillance layers.
However, it is important to strike a note of caution here. The sea is essentially a fluid medium and one cannot build impregnable fences or walls on water.
Further, over-regulation can adversely impact freedom of navigation and trade.
Coordination between multiple agencies may lead to unintended communication gaps and inherent time delays. Many such creases need to be ironed out; our training, equipment and preparedness always need to be ahead of the curve. So, coastal security is a constant work in progress.
While the Navy will continue to patrol the seas and guard our coasts, it requires every citizen to be conscious, aware and vigilant.
Terrorism takes new forms:
Internet is often utilized to promote and support acts of terrorism, in particular with respect to propaganda (including for the purposes of recruitment, radicalization and incitement to terrorism), training and financing, planning and executing such acts.
Emphasis is also placed on the opportunities offered by the Internet to prevent, detect and deter acts of terrorism.
These may include the gathering of intelligence and other activities to prevent and counter acts of terrorism, as well as the gathering of evidence for the prosecution of such acts.
Counter-narratives and other strategic communications may be an effective means of disrupting the process of radicalization to extremist ideals, which may in turn be manifested through acts of terrorism.
A demonstrated understanding of the broader issues underpinning radicalization is also important in engaging in constructive dialogue with potential recruits to a terrorist cause, and in promoting alternative, lawful means to pursue legitimate political, social or religious aspirations.
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism:
- Respect for human rights and the rule of law is an integral part of the fight against terrorism.
- In particular, Member States reaffirmed those obligations in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, recognizing that “effective counterterrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, but complementary and mutually reinforcing”.
- The effective implementation of a rule-of-law approach to countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes must be continually assessed during all stages of counter-terrorism initiatives, from preventive intelligence-gathering to ensuring due process in the prosecution of suspects.
Objectives of CCIT:
- To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law
- To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps
- To prosecute all terrorists under special laws
- To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.
- India condemned terrorism in its all forms and stressed that it requires a holistic approach and collective action to tackle it.
- Despite India’s efforts, the conclusion and ratification of the CCIT remains deadlocked, mainly due to opposition from three main blocs – the US, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), and the Latin American countries.
- All three have objections over the “definition of terrorism” and seek exclusions to safeguard their strategic interests.
- For example, the OIC wants exclusion of national liberation movements, especially in the context of Israel-Palestinian conflict.
- The US wanted the draft to exclude acts committed by military forces of states during peacetime.
Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy:
Member States have resolved, pursuant to the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, to take urgent action to prevent and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and, in particular:
(a) To consider becoming parties without delay to the existing international conventions and protocols against terrorism, and implementing them, and to make every effort to reach an agreement on and conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism;
(b) To implement all General Assembly resolutions on measures to eliminate international terrorism, and relevant General Assembly resolutions on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering
(c) To implement all Security Council resolutions related to international terrorism and to cooperate fully with the counter-terrorism subsidiary bodies of the Security Council in the fulfilment of their tasks.
In addition to the resilience and resolve that we constantly demonstrate, let us also remind ourselves that eternal vigilance is indeed the price of liberty.
Dealing with the menace of terrorism would require a comprehensive strategy with involvement of different stakeholders, the Government, political parties, security agencies, civil society and media.
A strategy for fighting terror in India has to be evolved in the overall context of a national security strategy. To tackle the menace of terrorism, a multi-pronged approach is needed.
Socio-economic development is a priority so that vulnerable sections of society do not fall prey to the propaganda of terrorists promising them wealth and equity.