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Lessons of Jaipur

Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay was Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • May 28, 2008

    The Indian reaction to the terrorist attacks in Jaipur has so far been quite predictable. As usual the media has congratulated the citizens of Jaipur for ‘resilience’ and maintaining communal amity, while at the same time lambasting the security set-up in the state as well as in the centre including each and every security, intelligence and investigative agency and their working procedures, lack of coordination, absence of a central agency, etc. First of all, it has to be underscored that Jaipur was very important in the terror target book. The message being sent especially to tourists from abroad is that no Indian city is safe from terrorist attacks. Foreign ministries of some nations in their travel advisories have mentioned Jaipur in the aftermath of the attacks, though the tourist season is over. Secondly, though Indian agencies have successfully thwarted terrorist attacks, smashed terror modules and recovered explosives from terrorists, these achievements have gone unnoticed or have been covered with less enthusiasm by the media.

    In official parleys and in the circle of strategic and security experts, the establishment of a federal agency devoted to inter-state crimes and cross-border terrorism is being talked about. Given the nature of federalism in India, the establishment of a federal agency and its nature and mandate have to be at first agreed to by the states and then will come the necessary legislative enactments and ultimate operationalisation, which is a lengthy process. Moreover, it is also argued that as there is already a plethora of agencies, a federal agency would be a further burden on policymakers. The government is therefore being urged to ensure better coordination amongst agencies as well as structural revamping of the whole Indian security setup.

    Whenever the formation of a dedicated federal agency is talked about, the obvious parallel drawn is with the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FBI has two clearly drawn priorities: national security and criminal. Under its national security priorities, the FBI works on three broad areas, namely, Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Intelligence and Cyber Crime. Nonetheless, as far as a single agency working on terrorism is concerned, the FBI cannot be an ideal template because it works on various other issues as well. It is also not true that India has not established dedicated centres in this regard. In 2003-2004, the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) and the Joint Task Force on Intelligence (JTFI) came into being, though the reality is that those who were primarily responsible to build, operationalise and run these organisations are of the opinion that these two organisations are not performing optimally on various grounds. While their revitalisation and optimisation are imperative in the aftermath of Jaipur, the establishment of a federal agency may be deliberated upon. But before that, some international instances of the working of such agencies need to be taken into consideration.

    In 2003, Britain started its Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). With representation from all three British intelligence services, the Foreign and Home Offices as well as the Defence Intelligence Staff, which comes under Chief of Defence Intelligence, the main tasks of the JTAC are to assess the overall threat level in the United Kingdom and issue threat warnings pertaining to international terrorism. Similarly, in December 2004, the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (GTAZ) started its work in Germany. We must remember that in Germany the federal states (Länder) enjoy wide powers and that various law-enforcement, investigating and other agencies work under the federal and state governments. Bringing all these agencies to agreement and forming a dedicated counter-terrorism centre was definitely a daunting task. GTAZ, which at present has the staff strength of 190, has representatives from German foreign and domestic intelligence agencies, state police forces, military counter-intelligence and federal migration authorities. Most important among the eight tasks entrusted to GTAZ are threat assessment, daily briefing, information and resource sharing and Islamist terrorism.

    Some dissimilarities between the Indian and European conditions should be borne in mind while following these models. Firstly, the population strength in India is far grater than in these countries. Secondly, in the post-Madrid (3/11) and post-London (7/7) scenario, European governments have been predominantly focusing on terror networks related with Radical Islam as well as their international linkages and ideological fountainheads. Integration of the immigrant Muslim communities, especially the youth, is therefore of utmost importance for them. However in India, apart from the challenges of cross-border and home grown terrorism, the Indian security apparatus has to be ever vigilant about residual but internationally-linked terror cells and the revival of militancy in Punjab as well as activities of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Southern flank. And finally, despite resistance from national governments, a trend of Europeanization of national security services and investigative agencies to make the space of European Union (EU) more secure is visible.

    As far as a federal agency is concerned, the instance of the Federal Office for Criminal Investigations (BKA), which works under the German Federal Ministry of Interior, may be taken into consideration. Though the BKA is a fairly old organisation, it has, however, been continuously evolving to tackle the challenge of the changing nature of threat. The mandate of BKA in a federal structure is clear:

    “According to the German Constitution, for the most part police jurisdiction in Germany lies with the 16 German states. However, the diversity resulting from the principle of federalism should not lead to uncoordinated activity that creates obstacles for police work.”
    The main divisions of the BKA focus on international co-ordination, state security, organised crime and Information Technology. It also works through its liaison offices in different parts of the world.

    While deliberating upon the establishment of a federal agency these international experiences may be considered. However, in the Indian context, the proposed federal agency may face some problems initially. Law and order is in the concurrent list of the Indian constitution. States have a major role to play in maintaining law and order. They may raise objections against independent search, arrest, confiscation of evidence and investigations done by the proposed agency. They may also be apprehensive about an all-powerful federal agency interfering in their sphere. On the other hand, the federal agency may eventually need a federal prosecuting agency or designated courts to deal with terrorism. However, most important is that states have also to fill the vacant posts in state police, strengthen their field intelligence and establish close co-operation among the state and central agencies at the ground level. Free flow of information to the federal agency is of utmost importance for the survival and success of the organisation.

    Strengthening existing organisations like MAC and JTFI are also paramount. These two organisations should have participation from organisations dealing with financial intelligence, border management, cyber crime and customs authorities and may be built as state-of–the-art centres that would solely deal with terrorism. Experts appointed must think ahead of the terrorists and be innovative in their approach to solve the multi-faceted and extremely complicated terror scenario in India. In order to build a national terrorism database, not only Indian think tanks should be involved but assistance and expertise must be taken from the private sector as well. Only if we think along the lines of strengthening existing structures, merging organisations as per need, and establishing a federal agency, could the present challenge be effectively responded to. A national consensus must be built upon for which a national debate is the need of the hour.