On October 14, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval addressed the inaugural session of the National Conference of Chiefs of Anti-Terror Squads/Special Task Force organised by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Complimenting the NIA for organising this conference, the NSA laid out several key insights into the Modi Government’s multi-pronged counter-terrorism strategy.
We are publishing the summary of the speech, which, apart from giving insights into India’s security frameworks, may also offer you an answer if at all you are wondering how India has ensured that Mumbai attack -like terrorist strike does not happen again.
To put it in a gist, the NSA talked about co-ordinated intelligence gathering, role of local police in foiling the attacks of terrorists, pre-emptive measures to curb terrorism etc., Before you read them in detail, you need to have a glance on some of the recent headlines that indicate that the security framework that the NSA has talked about is being implemented as well.
Action Plan to Counter terrorism
Outlining the strategy that anti-terror teams must adopt, the NSA said that terrorism must be fought not only by eliminating terrorist but also by taking away their weapons, cutting their financing and degrading their capabilities.
He also stressed on the need to come out with specific guidelines with an action plan to fight terrorism and how to bring about greater convergence between states and between states and centre in fight against terrorism.
He asked the officials at the conference to use this as an opportunity to come out with specific proposals and timelines to implement the same.
Real Motives and Targets of Terrorism
NSA said that the real victims of terrorist are not just the people who die but also the people who are witness to this incident and get terrorised. For example, he said a mother who lost her son in terrorist attack is not only the one affected but even a mother sitting 500 kms away may get terrorised, thinking if the same may happen to her son too.
Thus, the real motive of the terrorists is to create fear and panic in minds of citizens and force the government to change its policies to suit the their agenda.
3-Pronged approach to fighting terrorism
NSA said that Terrorism does not end with encounter of terrorist and added it has to be fought in three-fold way-
- First is to Identify who is a terrorist, what are his plans, his sources of funding, weapons etc. which is in field of preventive intelligence
- Second is to neutralize terrorist activities, their sanctuaries and sources of funding which is in field of physical action
- Third and most important step is successful prosecution and conviction of the terrorist and terrorist organisation in a court of law using the evidence collected during the first and second steps
The NSA added that while preventive intelligence pre-empts terrorist attacks and physical attacks prevent current attacks, only prosecution and conviction of terrorist in a court of law finishes off terrorism in the long run. He also stressed on the need to ensure these three steps work in tandem rather than in silos.
Importance of evidence collection and data sharing
NSA Doval said that intelligence collected from the beginning is also evidence and it must be preserved properly so that it can be used as evidentiary value during prosecution. He added that many evidences can be collected even during physical action and that this must also be collected preserved properly. local police must also be trained better to handle evidence.
He spoke about the need for states investigating terror cases to network with each other and build a bank of “quotable and sustainable” evidence that could be presented to global agencies like the FATF and added that operationalisation of NATGRID could further enhance data sharing.
Challenges faced during prosecution of terrorist in the court of law
He said: The approach of judiciary to treat terror crimes at par with ordinary crimes was one of the major challenges faced during prosecution of terrorist cases. It was very difficult to get eye-witness to depose in terrorist cases as it will be difficult for any ordinary citizen to come to a court of law and depose against a dreaded Jaish or Lashkar-e-Taiba’s terrorist.
He complimented the NIA for withstanding these challenges.
Role of State Governments in counter-terrorism
Calling the state agencies as first responders, NSA Doval said states are at the front-line in fighting terrorism and that they are not just investigators of terrorism but active soldiers against terrorism.
He Lauded the role of both STF’s and ATS’s in states collecting intelligence as well as undertaking physical action and said task is not confined to a probe but in totally combating terrorism. He added that investigators’ aim is much beyond their FIR or charge sheet.
Role of NIA in combating terrorism
NSA Doval lauded the NIA for prosecuting terror cases successfully in accordance with provisions of law. He said the NIA’s investigation into money laundering in Kashmir has made the biggest impact on cracking down terrorism in the J&K.
He said additional legal powers have recently been given to NIA to prosecute terror cases more robustly by the government of India and asked the participants to discuss any additional measures that are needed too.
Role of media in countering terrorism
Quoting former British PM Margret Thatcher, NSA opined that “if a terrorist takes action and the media is quiet about it, terrorism will end.”
He added that to deter media from speculate which may lead to rumour mongering and further spread terror, they should be taken into confidence and that media is very supportive whenever they are informed of the facts. He said perception management will help society to prepare and guard against terrorism.
India’s Response to Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism
NSA Doval said maximum pressure has been applied on Pakistan through the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and congratulated all agencies within Govt of India which worked to achieve this. He further said: everyone knows Pakistan supports and finances terror and that only NIA and ATF, STF across states can collect evidence to prove this. we are not targeting one country but targeting terrorism and asked them not to destroy evidence but use them like how India did against Pakistan.
He said: there is a difference in the form of terrorism India deals with compared to other countries because it deals with state sponsored terrorism. If a criminal has the support of a state, it becomes a great challenge to counter it and that some of the states have mastered this and, in our case, Pakistan has made it as an instrument of its state policy. Pakistan not only recruits, provide training, weapons, intelligence, etc. but also give them resources and technology.
NSA Doval said that wars are increasingly becoming cost ineffective ways of achieving political and strategic objectives and added that even higher capabilities in terms of tech or money could not guarantee victory quoting the examples of USSR in Afghanistan and USA in Vietnam. He added that terrorism has become low cost sustainable option which bleeds enemy more than war and over a prolonged period of time. Thus, challenges emanating from terrorism are only going to increase in future and hence we must be guarded against it.