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The first meeting of the India Today Board of Experts on Security and Terror finds the Government's response sorely wanting and anti-terror strategy yet to take off.
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Mohan Menon
Retired IPS officer who also served in RAW
Murad Baig
Author of a book on Indian heritage
Dr Arup Kumar Sen Gupta
Writes that the media has a big role in bringing about the change.
Captain Dinyar Karai
Writes on the counter terrorism strategy that India needs.
Terrorism and Security
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No people have seen terror like Indians have. Over 18,000 citizens died in attacks in the last decade.
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No short cuts to end terrorism
Murad Ali Baig

The Mumbai terror attack has shaken India to the core. All the earlier hit and run or suicide bombings, including the twin towers at New York, were over in minutes or hours unlike this one that was a commando-type penetration attack with new developments occurring every few minutes.

Every Indian was therefore glued to their TVs for 59 hours followed by many hours of analysis and recriminations. Thus, the sense of outrage grew with every passing minute virtually as if the nation was witnessing itself being gang raped hour after agonizing hour. It was, therefore, no surprise that there was such a huge feeling of outrage against the lapses of the intelligence, the custodians of law, as well as all the politicians and officials who were supposed to manage them.

Having seen the havoc a handful of terrorists could do, everyone is volubly insisting that something must be done to prevent such things happening again with strident demands for better intelligence, better weapons, better communications, better security screening, more security personnel, better coordination and more of everything. But there are no easy answers.

The terrorist attack has dramatically shown that all the old systems are hopelessly obsolete and will fail if again put to test. We do need better trained, equipped and managed defenders but simply increasing the numbers is not the answer, because if the entire force of 1.3 million active soldiers of the Indian army were deployed just in Maharashtra there would be only 4.2 soldiers per square kilometer to protect the 3,08,000 sq km of the state. Therefore, increasing the numbers of army, police or other security personnel cannot ensure protection to every city, coast, port, airport, station, ship, oil depot, bank, hotel, cinema, market and defense or other installation.

It is very easy to condemn intelligence failures especially as the numerous security agencies are often on different trajectories with different masters. They are, however. quite easy to fool with the huge volume of false, mischievous and deliberately deceptive messages they have to try to digest every day. It may be easy the track back some of the clues after the event but before an incident it is very difficult to determine what is true or false. More can be done but cosmetic restructuring of the home ministry and its many agencies will not help.

Media has clearly shown how inadequate the weapons and equipment of the defenders were. The few bulky World War II 303's that could fire about 10 rounds a minute were hopelessly outclassed by the AK47s that fire 600 rounds. Even worse, we do not even know if the ammunition was fresh or sufficient or whether the cops had any regular training. They lacked lightweight flack jackets and carried bulky and obsolete communications equipment. With small 'hands-free' systems the helmets would not have had to be removed. Technologies are changing so fast and the government's procurement processes are so slow that terrorists, smugglers and poachers will almost always be better equipped than the defenders.

A thorough scrutiny at entrances of airports, stations, ports, hotels, cinemas, etc, can help but every car would need a check of over an hour including the ripping up of the upholstery to absolutely ensure that there were no explosives under or inside the seats or in the other nooks and crannies of every vehicle. Determined and intelligent attackers would be able penetrate almost any defense but the task can be made very much more difficult.

Drastic situations need drastic measures. Several long postponed reforms need to be implemented, especially identity cards for every Indian national to identify the millions of Bangladeshis, Nepalis and Pakistanis who can so easily penetrate India's porous borders. Checking on SIM cards, mobile and internet traffic is being done but nothing is being done to check the huge number of stolen cars and motorcycles frequently used by terrorists or criminals especially as terrorists usually use the criminal underbelly of every society.

The long delayed system for connecting all the many regional transport authorities to a central computer to monitor the issuance of driving licenses and the registration of vehicles throughout the country needs to be urgently implemented as well as the theft proof digitalised number plates over which the states have also been dragging their feet.

Surprise is vital to success both in attack and defense. So, attackers should be given as few sitting targets as possible. The movements of VIP's should be unpredictable as also the security systems at the immovable establishments. Surprise inspections and mock attack simulations and war games will keep the defenders on their toes. The lethargic public should also be involved to make them much more vigilant to sources of danger. And if these are televised it will make the wider public much more alert. If the special security for most VIPs, that are mostly expensive status symbols, were withdrawn they would demand better security systems for every citizen.

Modern surveillance systems are very useful at all sensitive places but apart from many more we need many dummy CCTV cameras so that terrorists and criminals do not know where they will be watched. Negligence or delay should attract strong immediate punishment. Today there are millions of digital cameras and camera phones everywhere and if the public could earn a bounty on every crime or suspicious activity they spot the public would happily become a part of the security system and there would be a huge and inexpensive addition to criminal surveillance.

Attackers are also confident of slow government reaction. The elite NSG is located near the capital and needs many hours to get to any trouble spot but even the local police in any town are incredibly lethargic. Regular war games will help wake them up. Like Turkey, faced with Kurdish terrorism, we can have roving squads of armed two-man motorcycle teams who can reach any trouble spot in minutes. All these will not eliminate terrorists or criminals but they will make life much more difficult and make them less willing to be terrorist recruits.

Murad Baig is the author of a book on Indian heritage



The India Today Group presents a white paper, 'War on Terror: The Agenda for Action' to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
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India Reacts
The prime purpose of the terrorists is to shatter the peace and unity of the country. The only way to defeat them is by defeating their mindless purpose-- stand with determined resilience with the people of the country irrespective of communal, linguistic and regional barriersn.
Swarnima Bhattacharya ,

Much has been spoken by the leaders, but no concrete work has been done so far. The ministry should not be headed by any politician but by some retired police or preferably some military official.
Shailendra Vikrant , Chandigarh