10 September 2003

Asia Times | Terrorism and the battle of wits

Have the intelligence and security agencies and the political leadership of the victim states learnt the right lessons during the first two years of the war against terrorism?To a limited extent, yes; to a large extent, no. The importance of an effective and performing intelligence setup has been recognized, but not much has been done to make it so. The even greater importance of an effective physical security setup, which will deny repeated successes to the terrorists, has also been recognized, but the followup has been poor. The political leadership in many countries, including India, continues to think that it can deal with jihadi terrorism through rhetoric and bravado alone.

Four major terrorist successes with car bombs in Baghdad (3) and Najaf within a few weeks show how poor physical security is there despite the concentration of US troops and their ruthless methods of operations. How merrily the jihadi terrorists have been penetrating into one security establishment after another in J&K by just wearing army or police uniforms does not reflect well on India's physical security. In one instance at Akhnoor, they managed to kill a brigadier in his den, and almost succeeded in killing two lieutenants-general.

If rhetoric and bravado alone can crush terrorism, there should have been no terrorism in India by now. No government in India has indulged in more rhetoric and bravado than the present one, but no government has paid as little attention to improving the nuts and bolts of counter-terrorism management as the present one. Intelligence and security agencies cannot be effective in dealing with terrorism unless there is a political consensus on the necessary nuts and bolts of the job. Such a consensus is all the more necessary since the country has been ruled by a coalition since 1996, and since different parties are in power at New Delhi and the victim-states, but no effort has been made either by the ruling coalition or the opposition to work towards such a consensus. As a result, counter-terrorism has been largely politicized.

I take his point about rhetoric and bravado. As far as I know, no-one in the Indian leadership has bellowed 'Bring 'em on'.

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