Millennium Post

A hard lesson

Today's world is built upon the wars of yesterday. What we learnt from years of conflict and bloodshed between nations aided us in redeeming a peaceful world with governments largely running nations at the behest of people. When nations could not fight one another, proxy wars were waged. Dictatorships arose and wars continued. Anarchy was fuelled. With the UN, the era of conflict should have ceased but it did not. Somewhere between dictators and cold wars or proxy wars, terrorism arose. With their separate ideologies, terrorism, sparsely located, came into the limelight with 9/11. The biggest terror attack that America had seen was also the acknowledgement of the presence of terrorists amidst a peaceful society. Countless terrorist organisations exist today and their interests produce a similar trend of upheaval in the face of what we address as peace. Terrorism, in spirit, has no name, no religion, no country. It is rather an idea. The intentional use of indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses to achieve a religious or political end. Counterterrorism initiatives surfaced to deal with this imminent threat and intelligence organisations were reinvigorated to safeguard national borders in the wake of terrorism. With their sporadic appearances and largely fixed ambitions, terrorists have struck several places over the world in recent times. War got a new definition as nations stepped up to counter terrorism with every means. The peace in our times was utterly disturbed with proactive efforts from vested interests to spread turmoil. With two incidents of terrorism having massacred many lives in 2019, terrorism has not abated and is unlikely to be. After causing sizeable trouble, the Islamic State's war in Syria reached an unfavourable outcome with their punishing loss. Terrorist instances across Europe shook nations – Paris, for instance. Now, it has touched the shores of South Asia. Easter bombings in Sri Lanka shocked the world. Termed as South Asia's biggest terror attack, the incident sent shivers down the spine. Terrorism had struck, and struck massively, with the death of more than 250 people (as per official records) and several hundred wounded. While Sri Lanka had been warned of such an attack by Indian intelligence, lackadaisical approach by Sri Lankan authorities with claims of lack of intel coordination coming from President Sirisena himself point out a severe gap – mismanagement on the security front. Had Sri Lanka's security apparatus initiated preemptive measures, the bombings could have been prevented or at least the damage could have been less. Neither of those happened, evidently. While Sri Lanka had to initiate emergency measures, narrowing down on perpetrators, the Islamic State claimed responsibility of the attacks which did make some sense owing to the pattern of such coordinated attacks with huge firepower and personnel training to conduct such a daunting task. Days have passed but the havoc that these attacks caused remains fresh in native's mind. The proximity of the Easter attacks must tremendously concern India. While already dealing with terror outfits – JeM attack in Pulwama – India must acknowledge a fact that terrorism has invaded South Asia and India is most-likely on the radar.

Yes, we did predict the Sri Lankan bombings and that must restore some faith in our intelligence apparatus. Also, our retaliation strike at Balakot portrays us as a strong nation with heightened focus given on national security – a major poll plank by ruling BJP in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. But intrinsically, our intelligence apparatus seems a bit clustered and uncoordinated per se. A multiplicity of agencies with divided jurisdiction restricts our capacity to anticipate and act on any such terror activity. A coordinated system to aptly route data from these intel agencies and act on it – much like US's Homeland Security – seems a far cry based on the current status. Instead, we have the Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), National Investigation Agency (NIA), all responsible for pursuing terrorism-related intel, suspect, and investigation but having uncoordinated activity and, at times, conflicting jurisdictions. A network between the three would be highly beneficial for the country. Multi-agency Centre (MAC) was created to coordinate overall intelligence sharing following the Kargil intrusion but even that is not synched with other intelligence agencies. The NatGrid, a national computerised information sharing network is still not completely operational. So how do we share gross intelligence, how do we refine it on a Pan-India level and how do we act expeditiously considering that such acts can result in devastating outcomes in a blink of an eye. Our intel agencies must be coordinated and our preemptive responses should be facilitated based on coordinated intelligence. The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) more or less has failed to make a significant mark with its underutilisation being a major concern. RAW has been efficient in serving the purpose of gathering intel and DIA could jointly work with RAW to expand its vigilance and area of operations. Maybe the NSA can facilitate a joint intel forum to formalise a network wherein measures can be drawn to act accordingly should there be a terrorist attack or any related adversity. We do have 26/11 to motivate ourselves that we are not safe even when our borders seem so and Sri Lanka incident only compounds apprehensions.

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