Six years after 26/11

Instead of trying to copy Israel’s example we should be concentrating on upgrading our preventive counter-terrorist methodology

Studying the recently released “Global Terrorism Index-2014” by the Sydney-based “Institute for Economics and Peace” (IEP) and Maryland University’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) should be a good start for assessing our internal security structure on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. The report has given us the dubious distinction of sixth place among the worst terrorist-affected countries. The top five are the insurgency-ravaged Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria. In terms of deaths we hold the seventh place after Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria and Somalia. IEP says that terrorism in India had increased in 2013 by 70 per cent from 2012. The report has also prominently placed India and Israel among the 23 countries affected by serious internal conflicts, which lead to terrorism.

We know that things are not all that bad in India. By no means can anybody say that we are on level with Syria or Somalia in managing internal security despite the recent police fiasco in Barwala (Hisar) against godman Rampal, which is a shame on any police system. But we should remember that such assessments are taken seriously by the international community, in particular by business risk evaluators to decide safe investment climate. For example, a Reuters report from Jerusalem (August 13) had said that investor sentiments towa-rds Israel were damaged by the Gaza war, the fourth in eight years. They were worried that clashes in Israel had become “more frequent and intense”. International investors were more worried about the continuous increase in Israel’s defence spending to sustain these conflicts. The 50-day Gaza war this year had cost her $3 billion to $4 billion.

Strangely, Indian security planners are always attracted to Israel’s methodology of offensive internal security management, forgetting that it has only resulted in increasing conflicts. We forget that there is no comparison between our problems. Israel is less than five per cent of India’s land mass and also less than five per cent of our population. History records that their offensive action had always triggered more violence against Jews within and outside Israel. Despite building a 400-km wall to bottle up Palestinian areas as protection from terror attacks, a large number of attacks take place regularly. During July-August 2014 their “Silent Intifada” had recorded 150 incidents. Harsh measures like demolition of suspected militants’ houses, which have been criticised by the United Nations as human rights violations, have had no effect on terrorism in Israel.

Soon after we submitted our report on the Mumbai 26/11 attack, the very first action of the Congress-led Maharashtra government was not to study our recommendations on systemic improvement in counter-terrorist methodology, but to send a delegation to Israel. Similarly, our home minister, Rajnath Singh, chose to visit Israel early this month to “bolster ties”. But his visit was ill-timed as they were busy battling the unrest in East Jerusalem. Palestinian anger arose because of provocative Jewish steps of building more illegal settlements and encroaching on Muslim religious sites. The unrest had spread to the West Bank and all Arab areas. Yehuda Glick, who wanted to restore the Jewish right to pray on the Temple Mount, was shot at on October 29. Palestinians always fear that Israel will one day demolish Al Aqsa and regain the Temple Mount. In retaliation Israeli security closed Al Aqsa mosque for the first time since 1967.

This set off several terrorist incidents on November 5, 10 and 18. The last was a mini 26/11-type attack when two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorists stormed and killed four rabbis and a police officer in the Kehilat B’nai synagogue in Jerusalem. In retaliation the Prime Minister ordered the demolition of their houses. During this period we also saw an ugly public spat between Yoram Cohen, their internal security chief (Shin Bet), and Gen. Benny Gantz, Chief of Staff, over the long Gaza war which indicated deep fissures in their security establishment.

Instead of trying to copy Israel’s example we should be concentrating on upgrading our preventive counter-terrorist methodology. We should improve our intelligence collection, processing, integrating and sharing. New Delhi should also pay close attention to the investigation of terrorist cases since a large number of cases investigated by the state police are ending in acquittal. We should improve our data collection on overseas wage earners who are easily lured into jihadi activities.

New Delhi should liaise with the local police over foreign militant activities on a cooperative, and not acrimonious, basis, as we saw in Burdwan recently. Finally, it is a shame that we have not thought of setting up a think tank to study global trends in international terrorism. If we want to emulate Israel we should have set up a body like the one in Herzliya long ago. Unfortunately, we still see no visible signs in this direction except verbal pyro-technics.

Our new defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, had said that his priority would be to shape our armed forces as a strong deterrent. However the “deterrence” theory is outdated when applied to non-state actors. Prof. Roger B. Myerson, 2007 Economics Nobel Prize winner, had explained this in his monograph Force and Restraint in Strategic Deterrence: A Game-Theorist’s Perspective (November 2007). He rejected the policy of “stimulating militarism by denying restraint”, as practised by President George W. Bush and Israel: “Our forceful acts without clear strategic limits can counter-productively increase unconquered adversaries’ militant commitment against us”. What deterrence could we possibly roll out against those who are prepared to die?

It follows that the “chest-thumping strategy” of the Modi government by building up coalitions inside and outside towards a “strong” response to our security problems has its own limitations. Any policy which will only aggravate our internal conflicts is bound to have serious repercussions on our security situation. The irrational speech on November 21 by one of the government’s ardent supporters at the “World Hindu Congress”, that we are seeing Hindu rule after 800 years, will only increase such internal conflicts.

The writer is a former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and member of the two-man 26/11-inquiry committee.

( Source : dc )
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