The events of 9/11 in the US in 2001, those in the UK ,
and 26/11 in India have highlighted vividly the links
between security, terrorism, and globalization and drew
into sharp focus the need to understand and counter the
threat of international terrorism. As more sophisticated
technologies emerge, new risks proliferate at an exponential
The information technologies of the 1980s facilitate
international crime and assist terrorism. The technologies
are good for good citizens as also the evil. We live in an
age of globalization and it is now accepted wisdom that the
risks we face are more catastrophic than those of the past
because they are global.
Experience from across the world shows us that terrorism
may be contained or reduced but not completely eradicated.
Nonetheless, some countries that have succeeded in controlling
terrorist attacks include France , England , Germany , USA and,
nearer home, Indonesia and Sri Lanka . Based on their experience
in handling terrorist activities in their respective territories,
various countries have adopted diverse strategies and different
measures to counter terrorist threats.
Some of the common themes adopted by countries in countering
Effective Counter-Terrorism Strategy: An effective counter-
terrorism strategy based on domestic, regional and global threat
perception is vital. Such a strategy should be articulated in
clear terms to avoid mis-interpretations by stakeholders at the
federal as well as at the state levels. The strategy should
incorporate multi-dimensional threats and lay out comprehensive
national objectives. A regular review of the strategy should
become part of the strategy itself.
Following 9/11, the United States launched a large scale,
multi-dimensional global war against terrorism. This war
includes military, diplomatic and intelligence efforts that
transcend America 's shores to cover operations across the
world. Measures relating to immigration; prevention and
reversing radicalization or extremism; international
cooperation; securing critical infrastructure; institutional
development; attacking terror financing; empowering the
police and other agencies are all components of this strategy.
The US set up National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) in 2004
as the Government’s primary organization for analyzing and
integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by various
US Government agencies pertaining to terrorism and counter
terrorism except purely domestic counter terrorism information.
The NCTC conducts strategic operational planning for counter-
terrorism activities, assigns operational responsibility to
lead agencies and serves as the central, shared knowledge bank
on terrorism. Composed of representatives of all intelligence
agencies, the NCTC coordinates all counter-terrorism activities
on US soil.
The PATRIOT Act provides leeway for law enforcement agencies
in dealing with matters pertaining to national security. The
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was inaugurated in March
2003 as the lead federal agency to secure the nation which is
now the third largest department with 180,000 employees with
the Secret Service, Customs, Coast Guard, Immigration and
Naturalization Service as well as the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) under its control. In order to reduce
the impact of any large scale terror attack, the DHS is
responsible for crisis preparation, management and response.
A major focus of the UK and Netherlands counter-terrorism
strategy is to educate the public about the steps taken to
prevent terrorist attacks, and also be on alert.
Protect homeland: Homeland security should be the
pivot of an effective counter terrorism strategy. This calls
for identifying threats posed not only from outside but within,
disseminate the information about the threats and steps to
mitigate such threats among the security forces as well as
the general public. An effective homeland security not only
needs an extraordinary coordination among intelligence agencies
but also should incorporate security forces as well as
investigating agencies of non-security wings of the government.
France’s counter terrorism strategy is considered one of the most
effective in Europe.
The country experienced violence from muslim activists since the
1980s through 1995/96.The key elements of France ’s strategy were
privileged relationship between intelligence agencies and the
magistracy, qualification of terrorist acts as autonomous offences
and centralization of terrorist related judicial proceedings.
Vigipirate (security alert plan) a nation-wide pre-planned
security measure was formulated.
Other preventive measures included movement control to “risky”
countries, provision of personal data by airlines and shipping
companies to state, retention of data by cyber cafes and telecom
providers for one year, major expansion of video surveillance and
easier access to files by investigators.
The strategy also visualizes the use of military, law enforcement,
intelligence and other resources to identify, circumvent, and
neutralize terror groups within France.
For overseeing and coordinating anti-terror activity, the Inter
Ministerial Liaison Committee was set up that supervises the Anti
Terrorism Coordination Unit with members from Interior and Defence
Invest in prevention: Prevention should be the driving force of an
effective counter-terrorism strategy.
This calls not only for greater coordination among security forces and
intelligence agencies but also considerable investments in these agencies
to expand their areas of operation and mandate. An effective preventive
strategy will necessarily call for a greater cooperation with security
agencies and governments across the world.
This means a more robust working relationship between diplomacy and
security agencies at the decision-making as well as operational level.
In other words, there is a need for policemen to increasingly understand
the nuances of diplomacy and diplomats to realise the security imperatives.
A successful preventive strategy also calls for a greater engagement
between the government or the security forces with the civil society.
Such an engagement not only acts as a force multiplier for security
and intelligence agencies but also enable the government to effectively
implement programmes like de-radicalisation, civil-police interface or
to defuse communal, sectarian and other identity tensions.
The UK ’s Prevent strategy, launched in 2007, seeks to stop people
becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It is the preventative
strand of the government’s CONTEST strategy. The Prevent strategy
includes responding to the ideological challenge of terrorism and
the threat from those who promote it; preventing people from being
drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate
advice and support; and working with sectors and institutions where
there are risks of radicalisation that need to be addressed.
Effective investigation and prosecution: Investigation and
prosecution of terrorist incidents and terrorists are often the key
to help prevent future terrorist activities and attacks.
An effective, credible investigation can often lead to terrorist
hideouts, networks, support bases, financial networks and other
crucial information which can help prevent future attacks. Not
only does such successfully executed investigations boost the morale
and capability of the investigating agencies but also instill a sense
of confidence in the general public.
It also does defuse fears and doubts about unfair targeting of certain
select groups or communities. A successful investigation, backed by
credible forensic evidence, leads to an effective prosecution of terrorism
cases which establishes the credibility and strength of the state as well
as create a sense of security among the people. Poor investigations often
lead to prosecution failures with detrimental consequences for the CT
officials as well as the country as a whole.
India and counter terrorism: India ’s vulnerability to terrorism
to a large measure is attributable to its geography – its borders are not
secure. An open border with Nepal, a porous border with Bangladesh as well
as the long Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir which allows for infiltration,
contribute to the unhindered movement of terrorists from across the borders.
India’s coastal security also needs to be beefed up, as the Mumbai terrorist attack
has demonstrated. Homegrown terrorist groups, abetted and aided by external help,
have also established a foothold. Socio economic and political motivations have
also been contributing factors to violent activities.
Homeland Security in India is a very complex issue and the Government will have
to put in place measures that address all these threats. Whatever the measures
are decided upon, they would need to be implemented on a ‘NOW’ basis. Delays
would mean harm and casualties.
The author is President & CEO of New Venture, Reliance Industries
Ltd., and Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation.