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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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India Today panel of experts on 'War on Terror' answer surfers' question.
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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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Relative responses to terrorism, the Indian dilemma
M. D. Menon

Are absolute responses to terrorism feasible within a democratic frame of things?

The American security establishment post 9/11 tried desperately to seek answers to this complex question and assiduously worked towards creating a mechanism which eventually was designated 'Homeland Security'. All concerned in this vital endeavour admitted after engineering this multi-faceted device that it was at best a relative but relevant response to international or domestic terror machinations, a mechanism articulated, sensitised and layered, and through essential freedoms ingrained in the American constitution wherein law and order can be deemed as a union or central responsibility.

This relative structured response notably has so far succeeded in preventing any major strike on US soil post 9/11. Homeland Security is now set to become one of President George W Bush's greatest legacies to his people in a two term presidency not entirely bereft of controversies engendered in other vital areas such as his foreign and defence policies. The unraveling of these set of policies led to sequential terror responses elsewhere in the world subsequent to the military occupation of Iraq and the sustained attempt to control Afghanistan through the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In contrast, the ISI-led and Dawood Ibrahim-inspired March 12, 1993 series of terrorist attacks in India's financial hub, Mumbai, created little impetus in India in general and New Delhi in particular to look for either absolute or relative options to deal with the scourge called terror, which manifested in this particular version as Anti-Indian People Terrorism essentially to destabilize the Indian state and distort its financial contours.

And while the Indian state was decisively ingressed in more ways than one, the political sub-plots and machinations in New Delhi centered on mere advisories to Maharashtra on how to cope in future with terror strikes.

As law and order was a state responsibility, consequently little by way of cognitive material planning for future or through creation of instruments to deal effectively with international terrorism was contemplated or actioned. Three larger-than-life negatives at that juncture (March 1993) distinctly identified by experts within and outside the authoritative frame came to fore in the shape of ineffectual institutional and intelligence co-ordination, the vulnerability of India's west coast in confronting ISI's low intensity war methodologies and abysmal lack of communication and combat equipment at the state police level for dealing with organised terrorism.

That history has repeated itself as a tragedy of colossal dimension in the latest strike in Mumbai on November 26 by the nearly same configuration of terrorists, through the same to same west coast waters and first responses articulated by the same equipment-wise-undernourished-Mumbai Police should hopefully send shivers through the spines of the constituents and occupants of the power frame, again from the same political class.

Need we now converge given the irrelevance of absolute options as experienced by US, on a post 9/11 methodology of a definitively calibrated set of institutional responses with long term validity however relative they be or succumb to knee jerk reactions in an absolute (read: isolated) domain of procuring aircraft for NSG's mobility or creating more NSG placement centres in the states is the moot issue at stake that should and would engage the new Home Minister P Chidambaram, a duly acknowledged political entity reckoned for his dynamic capacity to grasp the basic issues at stake and react with corresponding vigour commensurate with the challenge levels ingrained in transforming a given analysis mode at the appropriate point of time to action mode for result orientation in the most critical internal security frame of India.

Hopefully, his set of mandated priorities would encompass the creation of a visible National Counter Terrorism Centre in New Delhi and corresponding State Counter Terrorism Centres, to begin with in the coastal states, all interwoven within the same communication frame and protected frequency protocol to ensure that intelligence failures are averted and in turn become a bad historical memory never to be even referred to as we tread a new path of coordination synergy.

New options would be expeditiously worked out creating such optimal synergy between the centre and the states on the one hand and between all fire-power votaries in the Indian republican domain: the army, navy, air force, NSG, CPOs and indeed the state police configurations. The firepower and equipment calculus as of today has over the years reflected wide cleavages as between the state police forces on the one hand and the Central defence forces on the other, a critical gap that has virtually disabled the Indian police from becoming an effective first intervenor as evidenced recently in Mumbai. A major lesson that rings loud and clear from the Mumbai internal security shock is that in the coming years as terrorism manifests in its more advanced avatars, Internal Security need be deemed as paramount a priority as external border security.

Accordingly, the defence budget and internal security expenditure statement need both be given equal status and presented at the appropriate representative forum considering the fact that exclusive external border security cannot ensure foolproof conditions of national security while vigorous internal security maintenance decisively complements external border security.

And most importantly, terrorism from outside has invariably targeted and sought to distort India's internal security, but has fortunately affected not our external security parameters. Both variants of security together and in tandem constitute the synergy called national security. None of the variants is bigger than the other!

M.D. Menon is a retired IPS officer also who served in the RAW


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