Almost another year, almost another terrorist threat. The Indian government has issued one of its most serious terrorist alerts since the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Such alerts are today issued with such regularity, merging with equally frequent security warnings by embassies, that the public barely pays attention. However, New Delhi has reason to believe that it has information of far greater credibility and accuracy than previous threats and has taken the appropriate response.
That Mumbai is once again in the crosshairs provides an opportunity to ask what India has accomplished in the two plus years since 26/11 when it comes to reforming and improving the country’s counter-terrorism capabilities. This includes both the ability to pre-empt such atrocities in the way of intelligence capacities and the bullets-and-battalions ability to tackle terrorists once an attack has begun. So far, the Indian authorities can only be said to deserve half-marks. This is not to say there hasn’t been progress, especially on the tangible side.
The Special Protection Guard is unlikely to need a city transit bus to reach their destinations as last time. The overlapping jurisdictions that bedeviled coastal security seemed to have been sorted out. The Multi-Agency Centre, designed to impose a similar order on the country’s numerous intelligence, military and police agencies is functioning, but still awaits being upgraded to the planned National Counterterrorism Centre. And the proposal for a National Intelligence Grid, ‘Natgrid’, which would combine the dozen plus security databases of the country has been fleshed out but still awaits final clearance.
What continues to be barren desert is the reforming, training and hopefully professionalisation of the police at the local and state levels. Given India’s federal structure, this rank and file is especially important in nipping terrorist activity in the earliest stages. This is an area where political will and administrative action have been negligible in most states. Maharashtra, for example, has done the bare minimum when it comes to revamping its counter-terrorism capability. Counter-terrorism in India is a much improved story since Mumbai. It is true to say no amount of reform and preparation can give a country foolproof security. The problem remains that the government has still left so many obvious chinks in the national armour that if there is another terrorist strike, it cannot credibly claim that it has done the best it could.