On 11 Feb 17, the Hindu Huddle being conducted at ITC Gardenia, held a conclave on ‘Terror Proofing India’. The session was hosted by Suhasini Haider, Editor Hindu Group with eminent participants Hormis Tharakan, former Director R&AW; MK Narayan, former Governor & former NSA, Gulshan Rai, Special Secretary Cyber Security and Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, PVSM, AVSM, SM (retd).
Did the elite discussion generate some new ideas?
On 11 Feb 17, the Hindu Huddle being conducted at ITC Gardenia, held a conclave on 'Terror Proofing India'. The session was hosted by Suhasini Haider, Editor Hindu Group with eminent participants Hormis Tharakan, former Director R&AW; MK Narayan, former Governor & former NSA; Gulshan Rai, Special Secretary Cyber Security and Lt Gen Ramesh Halgali, PVSM, AVSM, SM (retd).
Shri Narayan described the recent arrest of an engineer in Hyderabad, who was planning a 'Lone Wolf Attack'. Apparently, the young man was recruited on Internet by anonymous handlers operating beyond India's borders. Training and logistics were provided without revealing the identity of the sponsors.MK Narayan cautioned that future terror threats in India, is likely to take this form of 'Enabled Attacks', without evidence to the actual perpetrators.
Shri Hormis Tharakan brought out that Terrorism was only one facet of the threats, faced by the country. He recommended a holistic approach, involving capacity-building (selection of manpower, technology, equipment and training), coordination at both apex & functional levels, supportive legislation, planning, community policing and community education.
Shri Gulshal Rai brought out that Internet operated beyond the borders of nations, emphasizing the need for more robust legal frameworks, for Internet Governance. He said that recent media reports suggesting that 3.2 Indian Credit & Debit cards had been compromised was factually incorrect; actually, only 12,000 cards had been infected and since rectified. He also cited a case of recent cyber theft from an Indian bank in which Rs 17.1 Crs. had been stolen but the sum was recovered, within five days. Contrary to perceptions, National Cyber security infrastructure had improved considerably.
General Halgali recommended a stronger national response to cross-border terrorism. He said that Pakistan perceives us to be soft towards terror provocations. He said had our responses to the J&K Assembly attack (2001), the Parliament attack (2001) and the Mumbai Attack (2008) been more robust, Pakistan may not have been so bold as to carry out the Pathankot, Uri, Udampur and other attacks. Ms. Suhasini Haider suggested that the 'Surgical Strikes (2016)' did not appear to have deterred Pakistan. Gen Halgali responded saying that the surgical strike was only one response and that we should have responded each time we were attacked, to raise cost to Pakistan and create deterrence. He also recommended that Indian Armed Forces should participate with other like-minded countries, in world trouble spots like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, as a responsible and emerging power.
Most of the speakers were candid in admitting that despite best intentions and national efforts, India still remained vulnerable to terror attacks. This should be of serious concern, because it indicates the absence of a viable national strategy, for dealing with terror threats, from which India repeatedly suffers.
India boasts the third largest armed forces in the world, after China and USA. However, potent platforms like the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, Su-30 MKI 4th Generation fighter aircraft and the T-90 tanks, serve little purpose in dealing with terror attacks. The weapons of conventional war are effective in contests between sovereign nations and are regulated by the laws of war (Vienna Conventions). Terrorism is at best a sub-conventional threat, waged by faceless individuals and organizations, intended to undermine the effectiveness of the state. Using the armed forces of a nation to deal with terrorism, is akin to using a hammer to swat a fly; invariably missing the target and causing a whole lot of collateral damage. The platforms for conventional war do not serve purpose, when misguided youth with clandestine support from across national borders, make attacks on unsuspecting people, even if they be the garrisons of unsuspecting soldiers. In the context of the theory of war, a sub-conventional attack should be met with a sub-conventional response, to avoid the Clausewitzian escalation matrix. The challenge of dealing with trans-border terrorism, is to respect the sovereignty nations, even when we suspect plausible deniability.
Terrorism is an offensive strategy and in the history of warfare, offensive strategies have seldom been defeated by defensive ones. The Maginot & Siegfried Lines in the 2nd World War and more recently the Bar Lev Line (1973) on the Suez Canal, were breached by offensive forces; questioning the considerable capital and resources spent in creating them. Nations may continue to invest considerable resources in homeland security but they will continue to remain vulnerable until they strike at the root of the problem.
Why haven't the nations of the world agreed to a common definition for terrorism? Why don't we have an international law on Terrorism? It was disappointing that none of the eminent speakers had a viable plan for terror-proofing India.