A confidential United Nations report has punched huge holes in India’s anti-terrorism preparedness, after its first ever scrutiny of everything from national laws to border checkposts to judiciary to banks to policework and passports. <b1>
The draft report of the Counter Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council, seen by
, is a stinging indictment of how the country’s counter-terrorism structures are in disarray. The report was given to the Indian government in July.
Terrorism in India, according to some estimates, has claimed 70,000 lives over the years.
Delegates found that the country’s laws on terrorist financing did not fully comply with UN Resolution 1373 adopted after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US. The resolution lays down the benchmark for counter-terrorism laws worldwide and is binding on all member states.
“Most terrorist financing in India occurs through informal channels, including hawala, the use of fake Indian currency notes, and drug-trafficking,” the report said.
“It is a cause of concern that Indian law enforcement structures lack a national counter-terrorism database which would enable them to remain informed, on a real time basis, of terrorist-related events that occur from the country,” the report said. <b2>
The delegation also found “major gaps between the work of the prosecution agencies at the Union and at the State level”.
Terrorism is traditionally under the purview of the states, with back up from New Delhi but only after the state's consent.
The report said India does not criminalise the smuggling of persons and free access to Nepalese and Bhutanese citizens might be used by terrorists to infiltrate the country; existing information on stolen or lost passports, and from checkpost databases, has not been shared with Interpol; and that India lacked legislation to enable “special investigative techniques”—the use of electronic or other forms of surveillance and undercover operations.
It also said that Indian states did not have specialised units to analyse threats. There was no witness protection programme either. It recommended that India should consider allowing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to handle more counter-terrorism cases.
“Many of the problems faced by India’s current counter-terrorism regime could be tackled if India were to adopt comprehensive counter-terrorism legislation,” the report said.
Some of India’s counter-terrorism legislation dates back to independence, and the primary terrorism-related law—the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act—was passed in 1967 with successive amendments. Two anti-terrorism laws, known as TADA and POTA by their acronyms, have been scrapped. <b3>
Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, India set up a Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in March 2006. The FIU sifts through hundreds of thousands of cash transaction reports and receives details of suspicious transaction. But the unit was not fully staffed, and lacked adequate support from other domestic law enforcement agencies, the report said.
Donor agencies also came under the committee's scanner.
“There are currently no comprehensive strategies in place to prevent terrorist organizations from posing as legitimate charities or to prevent the diversion of funds…to support the activities of terrorist s,” it said.
In a country where terrorism is often blamed on foreigners, geography and securing the borders is the biggest challenge. India has 15,100 kilometres of land border and a coastline of 7,500 kilometres, including numerous islands.
Yet, “only 33 of total 76 border checkpoints are computerised,” the report said.
The Reserve Bank of India has developed measures to protect the financial system from being used to fund terrorism, including bringing authorised money changers under a regulatory mechanism. “However, RBI guidelines do not extend to institutions beyond the scope of its mandate, and these institutions are sometimes subject to lower regulatory standards,” the report said.
And when cases do go to court, “counter-terrorism cases are not usually dealt with by judges who specialise in this field,” the United Nations said.
More than 30 million cases are estimated to be pending before Indian courts, with 10.5 judges per million compared with 107 per million in the US.