India has taken a strong stance in its fight against terrorism, but its efforts have often been unsuccessful. After the Mumbai attacks of 2008, the Anti-Terrorist force was formed and new measures were adopted to strengthen the intelligence organisations. However, this has not led to a noticeable abatement in terrorist activity, and many attacks have occurred since then. The government of India has attempted to come with different strategies, laws and treaties to combat the issue of terrorism but there are formidable obstacles that make it difficult to win this fight. Here are 5 reasons India is struggling in the battle against terrorism.
1. Inadequate financial resources and manpower
The armed forces and anti-terrorism squads are still ill-equipped to handle terrorist attacks, mainly due to the chronic lack of financial resources and investments in crucial equipment like modern weaponry and ammunition. Meanwhile, there is also a critical shortage of manpower for the security forces in areas like Kolkata and Guwahati, where they are desperately needed. Government reports on the functioning of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) describe an organisation that is woefully underequipped to fulfil its function, with only 450 personnel available and lacking even in cars to move its agents around to conduct investigations.
2. Lack of coordination between the various intelligence agencies and the states
The many intelligence and the anti- terrorist agencies and security forces in India have little coordination between them in terms of sharing of information and operational capabilities. There has also been a sense of bureaucratic competition between the multiple agencies, who all have overlapping jurisdictions and must compete with each other for the limited funding available every year. This has resulted in an incoherent and uncoordinated anti-terror system where important information can get lost, leading to tragic consequences. The heavy politicking seen in this area severely hampers the decision making abilities of those in charge and the resulting delays are a severe impediment to the functioning of India’s anti-terror system.
3. Absence of an integrated legal framework
India does not have a consolidated law against terrorism. This has always been a controversial issue in the country, with and past attempts at anti-terror legislation have been repealed by future governments. The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, also known as TADA, was passed in 1985 and was active for 10 years before it was repealed in 1995. Tada was replaced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2002, only for it to be repealed in 2004. Both laws had been criticised for allowing authoritarian behaviour and human rights abuses that go against the spirit of India’s Constitution.
Currently, there is no dedicated national anti-terror legislation in place, with terrorist activities being charged under more generic laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or targeted laws in states, like the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The Army Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been used to suppress militancy in India, and has also been criticised for government overreach and enabling abuses by the military.
4. Superficial socio-economic development
1 of the major causes of home-grown terrorism in India is the disillusionment caused by the lack of socio-economic development in large parts of India. The country’s economic growth in recent years has been very lopsided and the benefits of this prosperity have been largely limited to high profile urban areas.
This has led angry rural citizens to take up arms against the Indian Government in protest of their exclusion from economic development. The most important such movement has been the nationwide Naxal insurgency, but this sentiment has also been used by separatist militants like the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). In order to prevent further such revolts, it is essential to ensure that rural and geographically remote areas are not left behind and that the residents of these places get access to essentials like healthcare, education and economic opportunity.
5. Weak bilateral relations with the neighbouring countries
India has often had troubled relations with its immediate neighbours, which has been a major obstacle to effectively combating terrorism. Extremist groups operating on the fringes of Indian territory have often found refuge in the neighbouring countries. This makes it difficult to root out the bases of operations and adds more points of dispute between India and the neighbour. The most prominent examples of this are groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that operate in India from a base in Pakistan, but this is also true in other areas. The LTTE leaders who conspired to assassinate former PM Rajiv Gandhi were based in Sri Lanka, and many insurgencies in the North-East, like ULFA, found refuge in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
In fact, the case of ULFA is a good example of how good bilateral relations can help root out terrorism. After battling with the Indian Government for decades, ULFA was finally forced to negotiate a surrender in 2011 after the Indian Government got the Bangladeshi Government to act against ULFA in its territory, helping India bring ULFA leaders to the negotiating table. Until India can replicate this success with other neighbours (especially Pakistan), the problem of cross-border terrorism is unlikely to go away.