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India after Pathankot: India after Pathankot

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cst-airforceIndia witnessed a massive terrorist attack on one of its premier airbase at Pathankot. In more than 72houroperation, six terrorists were killed and in this process seven precious lives of Indian forces (five DSC and 1 IAF commando, and one a Lt Col of the National Security Guard lost. Initially, the government claimed for neutralizing the terrorists on the very first day, but the operation lasted for more than three days. The Pathankot Air Force Station, lies25 km from the border with Pakistan, where a MIG21 Bison squadron and MI35 attack helicopters are based, is spread over 1,900 acres. Over 1,500 families live inside the campus which also has a school, a hospital and a market. The attack revealed the startling lack of preventive safeguards of multibillion worth air base. The outer walls of the air force station were so poorly guarded and managed that even a few people could easily infiltrate without much problems and their presence was only noticed when they decided to commence the attack and opened fire. Moreover, India and Pakistan, after the brief visit of PM Modi, was about to restart the foreign secretary level talks. As per the trends of terrorist attack, one can always expect an attack to derail the talks. After the attack, the talks are postponed and terrorist’s design to dislodge the dialogue succeeded. This has simply meant that we have failed to install preventive measures and not yet able to overcome the habits of ‘sleeping syndrome’.

The attack exposed a number of weaknesses of Indian intelligence and security system. Firstly, there was inadequate level of communication between civil police authority and the central intelligence agencies. Secondly, the security arrangement of the airbase itself looked superfluous and dismally low. Thirdly, the handling of state police was pathetically beyond explanation. Fourthly, nothing was learnt after the Gurdaspur attack. Fifthly, the security lapses could be seen on border in the case of terrorist infiltration and growing activities of drug peddlers. Sixthly, India has yet to a roadmap ensure 100 per cent security proof border.  Seventhly, even amongst the agencies within armed forces that were handling the scene within the Pathankot airbase, lacked a healthy coordination due to different standard operating procedures adapted by each of them also there seemed to be the absence of a single point of control. The government, however, claimed there was no major security lapse and ‘some casualties are obvious when there is an operation of this scale’. But several defence experts, however, felt that the operation could have been handled in a better way as there was advance intelligence about infiltration by terrorists and that the IAF base could be a potential target. It is generally believed that coordination between various security agencies “could have been better” to minimize causalities of the security forces. Terrorist attacks take place, lives and properties undergo severe loss, leaders visit the affected places and the family members of the dead, condemnations are issued, condolences are held, some tours are planned, some assurances are given, declarations are made for a few lakhs of money doles to the members of the bereaved families, all political parties are asked to shun differences and join hands in eradicating the menace of terrorism, meeting of DGPs and Chief Secretaries and party leaders are called. Thus, all the rituals are completed and with the passage of time all goes into background and continue as such till the next terrorist attack occurs. Again the same ritualistic process of condemnations, visits, meetings, etc. starts and the ‘cycle’ goes on and on. Nothing concrete is done, only so-so steps are taken but to no effect. In Indian context, if such state of affairs is allowed to go on unchecked, it may lead to communal, sect oral and secessionist elements to flourish. Political leaders those in power as well as those aspiring to grab the power are very cautious in their approach of checking of such activities. They have their eyes always on the vote banks while dealing with such matters; they politicize the terrorist activities to their end and try to make some political cap ital even from the heart rendering terrorist episodes. Instead of going to the root cause and trying to find proper remedy, the blame game is in the are na the states blame the centre where opposition political parties are in power and vice versa. Steps taken or suggested are done with an eye to suit their own selfish ends. In this process the security of the country goes to dogs. Why talk only of the political parties and their leaders, even the media electronic as well as the print does not appear eager to come up with concrete suggestions to combat terrorism and are only interested in exploiting the situation for their personal gains. All appear to shed crocodile tears on the massive loss and owes to the general masses, and speak of utter negligence and failures of the state and central administration and the government and the intelligence agencies, but no clear and concrete suggestion are put forward, as if they are so commercialized that their eyes are only on their TRP and advertisements. They shed crocodile tears along so many pages, they display so many episodes and discussions on TV screen against terrorist activities, but nothing positive emanates out of them. This will not do my friends! Of course this will not do. The country will be in turmoil, and mind it, if we do not mend our ways and continue as such, it will be our end and our future progeny will never forgive us for our heinous failings. The state power is all-powerful and it can crush and annihilate any sort of militancy terrorist planners and operators within its boundaries and those infiltrating across its borders. Its failure to contain and crush terrorist killings of the innocent civilians, tells upon the intentions of the state power and it exposes its ill will, its weaknesses, and incompetence. Since state of affairs demands and commands a total overhauling of persons holding the reigns of state power.

The need of the hour is to give a serious rethinking to our internal security system. The existing security system has proved itself a total failure this is an established fact and none can dispute it, not even the existing system itself. So, fresh planning and organizing steps are needed without any fur the delay. Of course, there is a talk of creating a central agency to tackle terrorist activities, but its fate is well known to all and sundry in the prevailing trend and the approach of political parties. The political parties will have to change their ways of thinking and keep national security on the top priority. The political parties should stop making crib of terrorist occurrences and should cooperate with each other and with the government central as well as state. Political parties’ approach towards terrorism should be fully covered in their party manifestos. There could be numerous suggestions. But if we don’t implement them then nothing works. At this juncture, India needs only two things: (a) clear-cut demarcation of functions so that accountability could be attained and (b) better coordination amongst the various agencies so that effective channelization could take place. In fact, an undiluted accountability and application of the principle of straight forward reward and punishment is the only way out.

In order to avoid, a clumsy mix of con fused command chains, India needs a specialized Ministry for Internal Security.   This new ministry should be carved out of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The Ministry of Internal Security should have four separate wings: (1) Central Intelligence Wing; (2) Internal Terrorist Crime Control Wing; (3)Investigation and Trial Wing; and (4) Performance Assessment wing. (1) Central Intelligence Wing: This wing should be so organized that all possible spots and points be covered under it. Strict watch in every nook and corner of the country spots and points which ever be suspected or indulged in terrorist activities, regardless of their party is the need of community allegiance. It should keep close watch and vigil and report information of concern to concerned head of the area crime control wing, immediately for taking lightening action for nabbing the concerned person and bring them to book. The main point to keep strict vigilance, among other things, should include: (a) tenants; (b) hotels; (c) people coming to India from foreign countries all their movements should be monitored; (d) all the terrorist organization and those prone to terrorism should be under constant vigilance and along with the sources of their funding and bank transactions. If they get money from any foreign or domestic source, the declared purpose of such aid and its actual use should be kept under watch. In this context, National Investigating Agency (NIA), created after Mumbai blast, could be redesigned as the principal central intelligence wing. It should be revamped and more defined power and resources should be made at their disposal. NIA should be placed under the Ministry of Internal Security. At present, NIA is poorly equipped and suffering from constraints of resources. The agency has been regarded as India’s answer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counter terrorism wing, although, despite a population four times that of the United States, it has about 0.5 percent of the funding of its American counterpart. It is to be mentioned that India has several intelligence and investigation agencies. The Intelligence Bureau is the domestic unit and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is an external spy agency. The military runs its own intelligence wing and so do paramilitary organisations like the Border Security Force. But the main problem lies with the sharing of information and poor coordination between these agencies. Therefore, NIA should also be given access to both external and internal sources of intelligence. The will end the overlapping relations over intelligence sharing and dependence of NIA on other agencies. Moreover, the aim should be to achieve a central collation of intelligence from where the fast transaction of too and fro of intelligence can take place and simultaneously the agency gathering intelligence first hand shall be in capacity to take action without much of hindrances from top. (2) Internal Crime Control wing: This wing should also collect information relating to terrorist activities at the spots and points mentioned above for Intelligence Wing. This should have its own police and related personnel should take prompt action on information and bring it before the investigation and trial wing. Indian Customs Department should create a branch to check the incoming and outgoing foreigners and nationals from antiterrorist angles and report to central internal crime control wing if it finds something suspicious. (3) Central Investigation and Trial Wing: This wing will have its own court for speedy trials of the suspected terror activists and their collaborates, helps, shelter givers. It should undertake investigations, collect evidence, witnesses, materials related to terrorists and their activities. Trials should be on summary basis. Mini mum punishment should be seven years of rigorous imprisonment. For crimes of serious matter, life imprisonment or death punishment. If any provision for appeal, if any, is considered necessary, only one appeal be permit ted before the Supreme Court of India. For the speedy disposal of such appeals, the Supreme Court should create separate branch of courts of appeal in sufficient numbers. Punishments so pronounced should be kept out of the purview of mercy consideration. The execution of punishment/order should be monitored by the Supreme Court of India. (4) Performance Assessment Wing: This wing should keep constant watch on performance of the other three wings and suggest corrective steps to the controlling authority which should be empowered to take actions and correct the wanting points. All India Security Service: The generalist background of the IAS and IPS needs to be reformed and therefore, there’s a need for a specialized cadre for national security management. For effective and positive results an All India Internal Security Service should be created. The Union Public Service Commission should be entrusted with the power of conducting competitive examinations on the pattern of other central services, for the selection of suitable candidates. The selected candidates should be trained to suit to their internal security jobs.

The entire Indian Union should be divided into various Security Zones and Sub Zones and should be headed by an officer of this Service (Internal Security Service SS). The offices and field area should be manned from the local grassroots population as regular civil servants. This step will create awareness amongst local people. These zones and subzones will have their own police, no deputation, to them, should be made from state police personnel. The All India Internal Security Bureau should be kept under the separately created Ministry of Internal Security (MIS). Besides organizational changes, there is a need to bring a paradigm shift in Indian diplomacy. India should have a two pronged strategy under which they should continue to talk to the civilian government across the border and also hit back hard at the LoC whenever there is conclusive evidence of Pakistani role in terror attacks in the country. As per the trend analysis, the terrorist attacks have always tried to dislodge the diplomatic talks. This de sign should not be made successful. At the same time, the entire porous borders should be guarded. India expects to have installation of sensors on the border, which has been pending since 201112, purchase of modern equipment to monitor our porous borders, combat terrorism and insurgency, and improve policing is due for long. This could have two direct implications: firstly, it will stop infiltration of terror ists and secondly the narcotics and drugs supply could be checked and stopped. The drug supply proves to be a major source of terrorist funding.

It has been seen in many cases that the state police have failed to act in the case of breach of internal security. This has adversely affected the functioning of the central agencies in preventing the terrorist attacks. In this case, India needs a separate internal security check posts (ISCPs) in the bordering states. These ISCPs could be trained to take the full facilities of the informal channels of intelligence. The officers and the forces should be directly appointed by the Ministry of Internal Security (MIS). The intelligence gathering from local police, who are typically poorly trained and ill-equipped, could no longer be a constraint for investigating agencies like NIA. It is to be mentioned that the porous international border such as that Malda shares with Bangladesh, the district has become a hotbed for cattle, contraband and human traffickers. The BSF has repeatedly apprehended smugglers and miscreants, and the police had prepared a list of such people based on which action could have been taken. These lapses must be averted through the help of ISCPs.

The impact of terrorist attack could be infinite. It shatters the governance. It eats the confidence of the people. It dents the reputation of the nation. It adversely affects the flow of FDI. The lapses are bound to occur but should not be repeated. The lessons are to be learnt but not the same one. It is truly said that a national infested with problems of internal security cannot become a big nation. And for the peaceful survival of 1.3 billion people without being a big nation is not possible. Therefore, the growth and prosperity of a nation is directly linked with the issue of internal security