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India’s Internal Security Challenges are Significant

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Writer: Dr. Vivek Lall

As India’s counter-terror effort is yet far removed from the global sophistication levels, it has been estimated that by 2020, a significant 6 per cent of the global procurement in homeland security (HLS) will be from India. That is huge. Technology has to and will, play an increasing role in the entire gamut of security components – counter-terrorism, border security, immigration, entry and exit point monitoring.

In India, the central government and state governments have primarily been involved in providing security whereas the private sector’s role has been minimal. Keeping in mind the huge financial and infrastructure requirements, there is a large potential for corporates to play a role in the internal security sector. They can develop critical technologies for the country’s unique challenges, supply sophisticated equipment and ensure timely implementation of a variety of security solutions.

 

While India’s internal security concerns may seem similar to those of other nations, India’s geography – 7,000 km of coast and 15,000 km land border – large population, social and political exigencies, dated security and scrutiny technological tools pose peculiar challenges.

A federal system with multi and regional party system also throws open the challenge of centre and state co-ordination. Given the constraints, successive governments face a formidable task in identifying and containing security threats.

India has for long been a victim of terrorist activity.

The genesis of many terrorist movements has been internal, with motivations ranging from Marxism to ethnicity. The Ministry of Home Affairs has banned 35 organisations around the country under The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Over the last few decades, the rise of terrorist groups in our neighbouring countries has increasingly become a source of threat to our internal security.

Terrorists across the globe have stepped up the use of IEDs, the sophistication of which continues to baffle investigation authorities. Ammonium nitrate, a chemical which is primarily used in fertilisers, is also used as a main component in powerful IEDs for attacks, including in the Mumbai attacks. The need to secure the supply-chain of ammonium nitrate is urgent, requiring concerted efforts on the part of government, organisations and people

India is being repeatedly subjected to terror and cyber attacks and hostile groups have also established front organisations in cities.


Terrorism in 2012 has assumed different dimensions and is significantly different from its form a decade back. Terrorists are faceless, sometimes using sophisticated weapons and technologies which are supposed to be the domain of security forces. The metamorphosis of a petty criminal into a terrorist using sophisticated technology and weapons – as seen in 26/11 terror attack convict Kasab’s case – is an indicator of their formidable training capacity.

These new dimensions of the threats India faces require very agile security governance. Our state responses are gearing up to match the speed with which things are changing.

Post Kargil, several measures were put in place to enhance border security. The events of 26/11 Mumbai attack in 2008 forced the security agencies to look deeper into what is needed to secure the nation from internal and external threats. Three years later, the security situation in Indian cities has evolved but remains challenging. We will need fast deployment of manpower and technologies not just to secure cities but also to ensure that India’s growth rate continues at over 8 per cent per annum.

Many terrorist incidents in the last few years all over the world point to the ever increasing possibility of use of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) materials by non state actors.

Although the setting up of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will provide the institutional and coordination mechanism at the national, state, district and local levels for disaster response and mitigation, India’s preparedness for such an attack remains at a nascent stage.

There are no accounting procedures in place to account for ammonium nitrate produced in the country. Domestic purchasers must validate legitimate use and suppliers must retain records and report theft or loss of ammonium nitrate to authorities.

Terrorists are adept at choosing new and different styles of terror attacks as illustrated by the use of a magnetic bomb employed to target an Israel embassy car in a high security area in New Delhi, injuring four people. The National Security Guard (NSG) Chief has admitted that sticky bombs have become a more serious matter of concern for the security forces than IEDs. These easy–to–use devices are fast becoming a preferred choice for many terror groups in other countries as well.

The cyber domain – the fourth security dimension after air, land and sea – offers its own unique set of challenges.

According to an answer given in the Parliament by the government, 117 websites were hacked between January and June in 2011. In 2010, according to reports from Canada and US, several Ministry of Defence websites and that of India’s leading think tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) were also hacked.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT–In) carried out an analysis on the web server logs of the hacked websites and suggested specific steps and countermeasures to patch the existing vulnerabilities and strengthen the security of these websites.

As suggested by these statistics, government websites getting hacked is becoming quite a regular occurrence indicating the fact that the infrastructure which powers important websites was very fragile. On the other hand, cyber threat actors are much more sophisticated and organised than they are given credit for.

In many cases apparently, hacking is part of the games played by spying and sabotage agencies from other countries.

India needs to move from reactive to preventive strategy which would entail significant IT and management effort. Technology has to and will, play an increasing role in the entire gamut of security components – counter-terrorism, border security, immigration, entry and exit point monitoring. More than 40 countries have already adopted biometrics while 12 to 13 countries require biometrics for granting visa.

India has disparate technologies and procedures that do not necessarily interoperate optimally. That is a big weakness. There are also plenty of cases reportedly indicating that foreigners from neighbouring countries are easily able to get some kind of identity cards which instantly and illegally, turn them into Indian citizens.

The MHA’s NATGRID initiative, the formation of an intelligence database designed to consolidate and make searchable data gathered by existing security and law enforcement agencies, will prove to be a vital link in India’s intelligence infrastructure. In fact the robustness of the databases to be integrated would need to be shored up.

The CCTNS initiative of the MHA, to facilitate storage, transfer and sharing of data and information between police stations, their state headquarters and the Central Police Organisations will see large benefits accruing as its usage goes up. But data inputs have to be verified in two to three layers before acceptance is accorded. It has to be kept in mind that whatever system is accepted, rightly or wrongly, will be there for a long time.

It may be noted that in India, the central government and state governments have primarily been involved in providing security whereas the private sector’s role has been minimal. To assist the resources at the government’s disposal though, the proactive involvement of private citizens and organisations in mitigating such threats is finding ever increasing support.

Keeping in mind the huge financial and infrastructure requirements, there is a large potential for corporates to play a role in the internal security sector. They can develop critical technologies for the country’s unique challenges, supply sophisticated equipment and ensure timely implementation of a variety of security solutions.

Ultimately, in the arena of internal security, the race will be won by who makes effective use of the latest technology the terrorist or the government.


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