Insights into Editorial: Ten years after the Mumbai attack
Ten years ago, Pakistan carried out one of the most heinous of terror attacks perpetrated anywhere in the world.
The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, named after the date in 2008 when the attack took place, is in some respects comparable to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. Comparisons with the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005 are.
From an Indian standpoint, 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, was perhaps for the first time that an operation of this nature involved Rapid Action Force personnel, Marine Commandos (MARCOS), the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Mumbai Police.
Major Terror Attacks in India:
India, and Mumbai city, are no strangers to terror.
In 1993, over 250 people were killed in Mumbai in a series of coordinated bomb explosions attributed to Dawood Ibrahim, reportedly as reprisal for the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
In July 2006, bomb explosions in a number of suburban trains in Mumbai killed over 200 people and injured several more.
The most audacious terror attack till the 26/11 Mumbai terror incident was the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 by the Pakistan-based terror outfits, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Several of the terror attacks in the 21st century, however, reflect a paradigmatic change in the tactics of asymmetric warfare, and the practice of violence.
Today’s attacks carried out in different corners of the world by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and similar terror outfits, are very different from those witnessed in the previous century.
The tactics employed may vary, but the objective is common, viz. achieving mass casualties and widespread destruction.
Streamlined Indian security after 26/11 attacks:
In the wake of the terror attack, several steps were initiated to streamline the security set-up.
- Coastal security was given high priority, and it is with the Navy/Coast Guard/marine police.
- A specialised agency to deal with terrorist offences, the National Investigation Agency, was set up and has been functioning from January 2009.
- The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been constituted to create an appropriate database of security related information.
- Four new operational hubs for the NSG have been created to ensure rapid response to terror attacks.
- The Multi Agency Centre, which functions under the Intelligence Bureau, was further strengthened and its activities expanded.
- The Navy constituted a Joint Operations Centre to keep vigil over India’s extended coastline.
- Financial Intelligence Unit-IND (FIU-IND) is the central national agency responsible for receiving, processing, analysing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions.
- A special Combating Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Cell has been created in the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2011, to coordinate with the Central Intelligence/Enforcement Agencies and the State Law Enforcement Agencies for an integrated approach to tackle the problem of terror funding.
Notwithstanding increased vigil and streamlining of the counter-terrorism apparatus, the ground reality is that newer methodologies, newer concepts more daringly executed, and more deeply laid plans of terrorist groups have made the world a less safe place.
New Forms of Terrorist Attacks and Activities:
The actual number of terror attacks may have declined in recent years, but this does not mean that the situation is better than what existed a decade ago.
Terrorism remains a major threat, and with modern refinements, new terrorist methodologies and terrorism mutating into a global franchise, the threat potential has become greater.
- One new variant is the concept of ‘enabled terror’ or ‘remote controlled terror’, that is violence conceived and guided by a controller thousands of miles away.
- Today the ‘lone wolf’ is, more often than not, part of a remote-controlled initiative, with a controller choosing the target, the nature of the attack and even the weaponry to be used.
- Internet-enabled terrorism and resort to remote plotting is thus the new threat.
- Operating behind a wall of anonymity, random terror is likely to become the new terror imperative.
Terrorists are motivated by different goals and objectives. Depending on the objectives of the group/groups, the nature of terrorism also differs.
Way Forward: Are we stronger now?
Dealing with the menace of terrorism would require a comprehensive strategy with involvement of different stakeholders, the Government, political parties, security agencies, civil society and media.
There is a need for National Counter Terrorism Centre. A centrally co-ordained Terrorism Watch Centre, which could also operate as a think tank with sufficient inputs from academic and private experts.
The previous Government conceived National Counter Terrorism Centre to centrally focus on myriad developments in terrorism.
A strategy for fighting terror in India has to be evolved in the overall context of a national security strategy. To tackle the menace of terrorism, a multi-pronged approach is needed.
Socio-economic development is a priority so that vulnerable sections of society do not fall prey to the propaganda of terrorists promising them wealth and equity.
There are no ready-made answers to this new threat. Vigilance is important, but remaining ahead of the curve is even more vital.