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India – EU counter terrorism cooperation: potentialities and challenges

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  • May 12, 2016

    Terrorism in the 21st century requires collective political will of all nations to combat the scourge of terror. The spectre of terror is to be tackled through specialized organizations beyond nations. Nations have to find common ground and share the responsibility and authority in addressing various dimensions, causes of terror and condemn its forms and manifestations. In this regard, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi address to Indian Diaspora in Belgium on March 30, 2016 is notable wherein the clarion call was made for urgent need to collectively decide upon the definition of terrorism at international level and find ways to address the severity of the issue. He further went to state: “Terrorism is a not a challenge to one country or one region. Terrorism is challenging humanity so the need of the hour is that anybody who believes in humanity, all powers, have to come together to fight terror.”

    The EU apart from its presence as a key economic player across the globe is revisiting the traditional and non-traditional conceptions of security in its attempt to define its position as a strategic actor in the frontiers of security.

    The potentialities and challenges on India –EU counter terrorism cooperation needs to be examined given the growing areas of convergences in cyber security, counter piracy nuclear proliferation and growing vulnerabilities of State towards terror The competence of EU in counter terrorism is relatively at an advanced stage with counter terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove at the helm of affairs. It has become the platform for co-ordination of the counter terrorism activities of 28 nations, although in a limited capacity. The challenges faced are numerous in terms of individual national interests of member states and countries outside EU still preferring bilateral cooperation.

    In 2003, Europe bought out a security strategy entitled ‘A Secure Europe in a better world’ 1 that identified five key threats – Terrorism, Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Regional conflicts, State failure, Organised crime. In 2008, this security strategy was revised and further identified two threats namely climate change and cyber security. The European Security Strategy assessed its security environment and felt the need to foster partnerships with ten of its strategic partners including India. The EU apart from its presence as a key economic player across the globe is revisiting the traditional and non-traditional conceptions of security in its attempt to define its position as a strategic actor in the frontiers of security.

    Further, with Paris attacks (November 2015) followed by Brussels (March 2016), there have been plethora of internal measures taken on a war footing to meet the challenges of European security. The EU Interior and Justice Ministersat its meeting on 20th November 2015 agreed to implement immediately necessary systematic and coordinated checks at borders, including for EU citizens 2. The system check would be done against police databases. The EU is strictly monitoring travel and money transfers and also seeks to store and assess flight data in the future3. Given the migrant crisis that Europe is presently facing, immigration xenophobism and its backlashes are raising its ugly head. In this regard, EU can tap into India’s migration problem management4.

    …the declaration is significant in regard to the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to address terrorism.

    Given the aftermath of London (2004) and Madrid (2005) terror attacks andMumbai 26/11 terror attacks (2008), it was apt and the need of the hour for India and EUbring out a Joint Declaration on International Terrorism, Brussels on December 10, 2010 reaffirmed their “commitments to enhance counter terrorism cooperation, as contained in the 2005 EU India Joint Action Plan, as well as in the 2009 EU-India Summit Declaration”5. India and EU “attached great importance to counter terrorism cooperation in the framework of United Nations and shared a commitment to universal ratification and full implementation of all UN Counter Terrorism conventions”. It was decided to have high level meetings on counter terrorism within security dialogue.

    The Sixth EU-India Security Dialogue was held in Brussels on October 25, 2012. An EU India practitioner’s workshop on Counter terrorism was also held in Hague 11-12 December 2012. Similarly, there were meetings and consultations on issues of cyber security, nuclear proliferation and disarmament and counter piracy by Indian and European Union counterparts. In sum, counter terror cooperation for its evolution and depth depends on three factors namely presence of EU as an actor in counter terrorism at world politics, expectations and perception of India from international cooperation and opportunities offered by EU to India in combating counter terrorism.

    In the India-EU Joint Declaration on the Fight against terrorism signed by the concerned parties on March 30, 2016, it is noteworthy for three reasons. First, India and EU called for ‘perpetrators of attacks in Paris, Brussels, Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Mumbai terror attacks to be brought to justice. Leaders called for decisive and united actions to be taken against ISIL (Da’esh), Lashkar-e-Tayibba, Jaish-eiMohammad, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network and other internationally active terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and its affiliates’6.

    …Indian experts could learn about inter-state cooperation and cyber security from the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator through existing dialogues.

    Secondly, the declaration is significant in regard to the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to address terrorism. It was ‘resolved to step up cooperation to prevent and counter violent extremism and radicalisation, disrupt recruitment, terrorist movements and the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists’.Thirdly, ‘the leaders expressed concern at the increased incidence of radicalisation of youth and the use of the internet to this end. They emphasised the need to develop bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of information and communication technology, including IT service providers to minimise the use of cyber space for by terrorist groups and to counter extremist narratives online’. An India-EU dialogue (2015) was initiated to discuss cyber-security, cyber-crime, Internet governance, standards and regulation, capacity building and research and development issues from an international policy perspective.

    India and EU have also exchanged list of banned organizations and have earlier working on smoothening the process of extradition by due coordination with the respective intelligence agencies (CBI-Europol Cooperation, 2008).The latest updated list released by the EU in March 2015 already includes Babbar Khalsa, Hizbul Mujahideen, the International Sikh Youth Federation, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Khalistan Zindabad Force7. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has a list of 38 banned terrorist organisations8. The inclusion of more entities targeting India on the EU’s own list would send a strong signal of cooperation. In the meantime, Indian experts could learn about inter-state cooperation and cyber security from the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator through existing dialogues.

    Thus there lies the key opportunity for India and EU to also work on deadlocked Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN. India and EU anti-terror strategies can be a model for South Asia.The challenges however are also imminent with the complex architecture of EU at institutional level and lack of evolving systems on both sides for the accurate assessment of threats. The convergences of interests for India and EU with regard to sharing, exchanging information and experiences of varied forms and nature on counter terrorism can do a world of difference in pushing the momentum for actualizing strategic partnership for both sides.

    The article was originally published in the Indian Defence Review

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