The truck bomb attack in Nice, France, on July 14, killing more than 80 people and injuring many more, should be roundly condemned. Radical fundamentalists have been frequently targeting France ever since the attack on the office of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in early 2015. In another attack last November, more than 130 people died. During the last 20 years or so, European nations have seen more than 8,000 terrorist attacks in one form or another.
These attacks have exposed not only the chinks in the security system and intelligence networks but dented the confidence of European countries in controlling terrorism. War-torn Syria and the chaotic scene around refugee camps near the Hungarian border have created a quagmire in entire Europe. The rising tide of immigration and human smuggling across the borders in Europe have posed logistical and security challenges to Germany and the UK, and severely jolted the strategy of French President Francois Hollande, who wanted to come down hard on Islamic militants in Europe. Asylum-seekers have been arrested and charged with illegal immigration. Some had to be detained for not having enough to pay for deportation. Most of these illegal immigrants have been found to have a number of passports and move freely in European countries. It is high time European countries developed a sophisticated mechanism to handle the problem of migration.
In a globalised world, the matrices of power turn on the highly visible, inegalitarian structure of the international economy and relations between different parts of the world are becoming obvious. At another level, the post-cold war international political-economic order is still a victim of the power game that was thrust on the world by the Big Powers of the day. The power network woven by the US and its allies in the entire West Asian region has provoked the ire of the opposition forces in almost every state where the US has had an interest-based relationship. Thus, as societies globalise and the curtains of opacity are raised through increased interaction, people in the underdeveloped countries are holding the Big Powers responsible for their inferior socio-economic positions.
The security apparatus and police need to diversify their activities by bringing together technical and professional expertise based on many decades of experience. In this regard, the most crucial thing is to develop the capability of anticipating security needs. This is possible by conducting specialised courses for monitoring security situations. Creating general awareness and organising public support against terrorist acts could be of immense use. Adequately protecting public places such as airports and Metro stations are important.
The need of the hour is to cooperate and coordinate in the fight to finish terrorism. The states affected by terrorism should settle disputes and be willing to resolve long-festering problems. The efforts of states to maintain security in the face of terrorist threats should go hand in hand with increased devolution of power to the people and greater democratisation of the system of power and administration. This threat can be encountered by developing a mechanism bolstered by a multi-dimensional and multi-layered approach based on checks and balances. Unless we develop a high-level intelligence network to anticipate any such threats, building combating strategies would only remain a chimera. First of all, we must know about the people involved in terrorist activities and their motives. Sufficient data about the area in which the event is unfolding could be of immense use. But the government alone cannot do much to stop it. Individuals and groups can make a significant contribution towards improving the general security environment. On the other hand, there is a need for sophisticated security procedures such as airport screening. The international security apparatus and Interpol need to diversify their activities to stay ahead the race. However, all efforts will come to naught unless prompt and effective amendments are introduced in the criminal justice system and there is political will to implement suggestions given by different panels on our security apparatus.
Sudhir Hindwan is Chandigarh-based professor of political science and an expert on strategic strategies
The views expressed are personal