Seven years after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, how safe is India today? On #IndiaHangOut, Govindraj Ethiraj discusses the improvements India has made in tackling such terror threats with a panel of experts.
The panel included Captain Raghu Raman, Distinguished Fellow, ORF and the President of Risk Security & New Ventures, RIL and Sameer Patil, Fellow, National Security, Ethnic Conflict & Terrorism Studies of Gateway House.
Are We Safer Today?
According to Captain Ram, we 'can consider ourselves safer - provided that the narrative of the battle remains the same as that on 26/11.' The responses may be quicker and attackers may follow a common structure, but all depends on the place.
Similarities Between Paris And The 26/11 Attacks
The difference, said Captain Ram, was the way in which the attacks had been carried out. In Mumbai, on 26th November, 2008, the gunmen had been instructed by professional handlers - in essence, 'directing dumb weapons' like remotely piloted missiles. Paris on the other hand was akin to a self-guided 'fire and forget' missile, and was thus much easier to execute.
India's Operational Response Post-26/11
Sameer Patil, who has worked with the National Security Agency said the above could be categorized into two - structural, where agencies like the National Investigative Agency were instituted, and lesser known public measures - for example, the setting up of the multi-agency centre. He also cited work done in Nepal and Bangladesh to clear anti-India terror elements.
However, according to him, 'much more needs to be done.' These steps have not really proved to be effective, and he supported his statement with examples of Jihadi Biswas and murky dealings with regard to the coast guard.
The Use Of The Internet
Captain Ram believed that it was a 'paradigm shift' which was 'nothing new'. He said that the battlefield has become 'civilian'. He also put across the point that terrorism can no longer be considered a local problem.
How Secure Can An Indian Citizen Feel?
In reply to the question put forward by the host about the way anti-terrorism agencies function, Mr Patil said that multi-agency centre brings together all terrorism-related problems to one table - something that was missing during 26/11. A network has been set up to ensure faster spread of information on a 24/7 basis. Intelligence also closely monitors suspicious incidences with regard to finance.
Federal - State Coordination
With regard to the same, Mr Patil said that the federal agencies with their respective subsidiaries in each state ensure that 'dissemination happens at the state level also', and these are linked to state law enforcement.
However according to him, cooperation sometimes 'happens only on paper'. He somberly added that 'another Mumbai attack' may in fact 'propel 'political machinery'.
What Are The Effective Steps That Need To Be Taken?
Mr Patil's opinion was that the counter-terrorism measures needed to be taken in steps of three: a comprehensive definition of terrorism, terrorist financing and cyber security.
Captain Ram called terrorism a 'perpetual problem' and said that there was a need to evolve a new doctrine for tackling the issue.
What Is India's Attitude?
For Captain Ram, the best response to terrorism is to not respond, and India's admittedly slow and measured responses in the past might in fact be good strategy in retrospect. However, he stated that 'resoluteness was missing' in the country.
Are We Safer Today?
Both guests replied in the affirmative, although Captain Ram said that 'zero incident is an unrealistic aim', and Mr Patil was of the opinion that 'security agencies need to be successful 100%, terrorists need to be successful only once.'
Watch the video for the complete panel discussion.