Threat of Global Terrorism and India

Strategic affairs expert, Maroof Raza, in conversation with The Leadership Review team.


Maroof Raza_Web Cover

Where would you locate the origins of global terrorism that ISIS is unleashing?

First is the fascination on the part of United States, its European allies and its friends in the Arab world, to somehow ensure a regime change in Syria which led to them supporting some rebel groups, the most prominent of which became ISIS. The second is the Shia-Sunni divide in the region and Western supported Sunni dominant regimes trying to counter the growing influence of Iran.  Soon after the American withdrawal, ISIS began to take roots in US prisons in Iraq to lead Sunni coalition against the Shia regime led by Maliki, who committed one faux pas after another.

What makes ISIS so dangerous?

ISIS has emerged as a much more ruthless and hard-line version of the antithesis that al-Queda followed. It is the first terrorist group which has a state of its own and also a Caliphate of its own, which was a desire of many right wingers in the Arab world since the 1920s. It also has a steady source of revenue by selling a lot of oil to countries like Turkey.

In fact, Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of ISIS. It enjoys large cache of weapons that some say is provided by the US. It is however, an established fact that they picked over caches of weapons when they took over cities like Mosul, where Iraqi forces put their tails between their legs and ran away.

In this situation where ISIS is gaining ground and has already waged a war on rest of the world,  do you see the world leadership prepared to tackling this menace?

For years there have been writings in  European publications saying that if you take on the menace of terrorism, it will eventually come to inflict pain on the rest of the civilised world. The problem is that in the Western countries, there is a great deal of denial. The problem won’t go away because you don’t confront it. Their leadership has to confront it in the larger interest of the free world. And the only way is by forming a coalition and putting boots on the ground like America did against Taliban and Saddam Husaain.

United States and the European Union have to make a decision whether they want to continue losing lives of innocent citizens or put the lives of their soldiers at risk.

How prepared are we in India to face an attack like 26/11 or what happened in Paris?

We are a bit better prepared than what we were in 26/11, obviously. New equipments have been bought. There is greater awareness that 26/11 type attacks can take place. So certain mock drills are carried out from time to time.

However, we are far from prepared to prevent a 26/11 type attack. Our society is just too crowded and chaotic. In a crowded or chaotic situation, terrorists can have a very easy and free run. If you go to any railway station in India, it’s a sitting duck, with the number of people going up and down. The indifferent cops standing in front of the metal detectors just can’t handle the volume of people. What stops a terrorist from getting on a train at a minor stop with a suitcase full of explosives, getting down at a major railway station while pretending to buy some tea and disappear before the station blows up?

How prepared do you find our police force?

We have a police leadership which is averse to training. One of the reasons why army is always able to deliver in any crisis situation in our country is because the army, from the bottom to the highest level, is very cohesive. The army is obsessed with training. The police officers may turn around and argue that army gets a lot of time to be trained. However, there is no reason why the police officers don’t stand up to their superiors and insist on making time for training. Or they can increase the number of quasi police men, like the home-guard. The army in J&K has been extensively mobilising the members of Territorial Army in India. There is a large ex-service man poll in the country and the police can easily use them.

Then you have a problem that the policemen on the ground, our first line of defence, are so poorly trained and equipped that they don’t have any confidence. You go to any big city, the Station House Officer (SHO) there doesn’t even get the money to buy stationery to write reports, let alone what happens in small towns! Policemen on ground are not getting funds, but officers are trying to impress the Chief Minister by deploying high-tech command centres. Punjab is a classic case in point. Once a capable force, today it does not have money to buy equipment and organise trainings. They can barely manage their staff salaries.

Why do you think successive governments are not bringing in police reforms? A lot of people have been talking about this.

There is a Supreme Court order too asking for police reforms, but I feel that the biggest obstacle for police reforms is police officers themselves.  These reforms include various issues that impact these officers and there is a great reluctance to change. They do not want things to change till they are in their chairs.

What should Indian leadership do to make us safer?

The first is to be able to conceptually prepare. Second is to pre-empt. Third is to prevent the attack. And finally, if an attack has taken place, take some proactive steps to stop it from repeating. Post 26/11 we are in a proactive  stage and we should be in that stage too. One of the objectives of the 26/11 attacks was to show to the foreign investors that India is no safer than Pakistan as an investment destination. I do not see the private sector stepping up to address the threat of a 26/11 type attack. While organisations have budgets for costly retreats, they do not want to spend on security. They just hire a retired colonel from the army to head their security and leave it at that. CEOs hardly talk to their security heads like they do to the heads of other functions. CEOs are also clueless regarding the importance of security measures and they don’t want to sanction funds for it.


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