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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2787

India: PM Singh says Pak-based terror groups planning new attacks

[caption id="attachment_4242" align="alignright" width="460" caption="The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security, in New Delhi on August 17, 2009. "]The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh at the inauguration of Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security, in New Delhi on August 17, 2009. [/caption]

By M Rama Rao, India Editor, Asian Tribune

New Delhi, 17 Aug ( As a district commander of Hizbul Mujahideen identified as Altaf Hussein was killed along in Larad area of Mahore tehsil in Reasi district and a senior Lashkar-e-Taiba militant was gunned down in Pulwama district, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gone public on Monday with the warning that terror groups in Pakistan are planning to carry out fresh attacks on India.

Though he did not make a direct reference to the latest gun battles which ended early Monday morning, he termed as ‘disturbing’ the surge in infiltration this year. The area of operation of terrorists today extended far beyond the confines of Jammu and Kashmir, and covers all parts of the country, Prime Minister Singh told a conference of chief ministers here.

‘Levels of infiltration’, he disclosed ‘have seen a surge this year. The infiltrators appear more battle-hardened, better equipped, and in possession of sophisticated communication equipment’ And cautioned the chief ministers ‘there is credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks (on India)’.

Some observers see in these remarks a nuanced shift in the stand of Prime Minister on dealing with Pakistan but there is a school which avers that Dr Singh is only readjusting his Pakistan policy to suit domestic needs without in any way diluting his policy of engagement with Pakistan.

Dr Singh also spoke about the threat posed by Left –wing extremism, known popularly as Naxalism. He conceded that Naxalism is a complex problem but said left wing extremism can only be met through new ideas and more resolute actions. ‘We need to be ahead of the curve if we are to succeed’. He asked the states to ‘re-establish’ the rule of law in areas dominated by Naxalites and to work for removing causes which lead to alienation of people and problems.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram who is hosting the Chief Ministers conference to discus internal security, hoped that the Centre and the states, acting together could overcome all challenges posed to internal security. We will talk, we will act, we will restore order and we will undertake developmental activities in naxal-hit areas, he said while on the issue of Naxalism.

Chidambaram also quietly slipped in a warning. “You (Chief Ministers) have the constitutional power and responsibility in respect of matters relating to 'public order' and 'police'. However, increasingly, jurists and the general public have emphasized the constitutional duty of the central government to protect every state against internal disturbance”.

P-341Text of the address of the Prime Minister:

“I am happy to be here with you today and warmly welcome all of you to this important Conference. The importance of this Conference cannot be over-emphasized. The many serious challenges to our internal security call for careful deliberation and sincere action. I hope this Conference will not only be a forum for exchange of ideas but will also result in building a broad-based consensus on what needs to be done in many crucial areas of our internal security.

We had last met in January this year. A number of steps were discussed in that meeting and I am happy that a substantial amount of work has been done in the subsequent period. I congratulate my Cabinet colleague Shri P. Chidambaram for single minded pursuit of the objectives that we had collectively agreed in generaI. I understand that four regional hubs of the National Security Guard have been established and operationalised at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad. Two Regional Centres of the NSG will shortly be established at Hyderabad and Kolkata. A National Investigative Agency has been established. I request the Chief Ministers to extend all possible cooperation to this Agency to make it a truly effective instrument in our fight against terrorism. Quick Response Teams and Special Intervention Units are being set up at the State level to enhance the speed of response to terrorist attacks. A major effort is being made to improve Intelligence gathering and dissemination both at the Central and State levels. A well-calibrated Coastal Security Scheme is being put in place. But we obviously need to do much more and we shall. The challenges posed by asymmetric warfare and terrorism as also the Left Wing Extremism can only be met through new ideas and more resolute actions and determination. We need to be ahead of the curve if we are to succeed as we must.

Coming to specific challenges, cross-border terrorism remains a most pervasive threat. We have put in place additional measures after the Mumbai terrorist attack in November last year. But there is need for continued vigilance. There is credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks. The area of operation of these terrorists today extends far beyond the confines of Jammu & Kashmir and covers all parts of our country.

In dealing with the terrorist challenge we need to be prepared for encountering more sophisticated technologies and enhanced capabilities. We also need to guard our sea frontier as vigilantly as our land border.

Left Wing extremism is another serious challenge. Later today the Home Minister will hold a separate meeting on this subject. But I would like to emphasize the growing intensity of the problem. There have been heavy casualties inflicted recently on security forces by Naxalite groups. There are also indications of yet more offensive action by these groups. The problem of Left Wing extremism is indeed a complex one. There is a need for a balanced and nuanced strategy to deal with it. On the one hand the State should discharge its responsibilities and obligations and re-establish the Rule of Law in areas dominated by the Naxalites. At the same time we should work towards removing the causes which lead to alienation of people and problems like Naxalism.

I would like to make a mention of the situation prevailing in Jammu & Kashmir and some of the States in the North-East. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir has, during the past few years, seen substantial improvement. Figures of violence have been steadily declining and are today at an all-time low. But there are some disturbing trends on the horizon. Levels of infiltration which had come down very substantially have seen a surge this year, alongside an increase in attempts at infiltration. The infiltrators appear more battle-hardened, better equipped, and in possession of sophisticated communications.

There are also signs of a revival of over-ground militant activities. Attempts are being made to link isolated and unconnected incidents – such as those which occurred in Shopian, Sopore, Baramulla – to create an impression of a groundswell of anti-national feeling. All this shows that efforts to disturb the current status quo have not been given up. Fortunately, the annual Amarnath Yatra passed off without incident, a tribute to the secular character of the people of J&K.

In the North East there is an overall improvement but the situation in some states particularly in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland remains problematic and worrisome. Assam and Manipur account for a disproportionately large number of violent incidents reported from the North East, with the latter’s share being as high as 30%. In Assam, the Centre had sanctioned an amount of Rs. 750 crore for development of Bodo areas. But the utilization of these funds remains unsatisfactory. The resettlement and rehabilitation of those affected by the violence in the Bodo areas and North Cachar Hills is a matter of concern. Manipur is plagued by a large number of militant outfits. The Government of Manipur needs to put in place appropriate mechanisms for increased participation of people in developmental projects.

I would request the Chief Ministers of all the North Eastern States to pay particular attention to the implementation of infrastructure projects. There is also a need in the North East for more emphasis on pro-active State police forces rather than exclusive reliance on the Central Para Military Forces and Army. The resources for policing need to be enhanced substantially. Manipur has increased the number of sanctioned posts at the police station level but a large number of them remain unfilled. All the States in the North East would do well to ensure the representation of all groups and communities in their police forces and carry out recruitment to these forces in a transparent manner.

As far as the communal situation is concerned, we have reasons for satisfaction. In the past five years, no serious communal incidents have occurred. But some States like Maharashtra and Karnataka need to exercise greater vigil to maintain communal peace. Karnataka, in particular, has witnessed a number of communal incidents during this year. What is more worrisome is that the incidents were not limited to one or two districts. Like in other areas of internal security, we must all be on our guard against attempts by communal fanatics to accentuate communal tensions, disturb the peace and weaken the fabric of our inclusive society.

We are all aware that most issues pertaining to internal security require a coordinated response by the Centre and the States acting in concert. The importance of this can not be over-emphasized. A piece meal approach will simply not work given the nature of challenges we face. Not only do we need more information sharing, we also need synchronized action. Let me assure all the States that the Centre will not be found wanting in this regard.

We are committed to assist the States in all possible ways in dealing with the challenges of internal security. We will also do our utmost in facilitating inter-State coordination. I would urge States to take more initiative for coordinating action with other States.

I do recognize that States often face constraints of resources. But ultimately we must all bear the burden of our shared sense of responsibility. It must also be recognized that there are limits to what the Central Government can provide. I hope that the expectations of the States from the Centre would be guided by a consciousness of their own obligations as well as a sense of practical realism.

In conclusion, I look forward to the deliberations of this conference and I sincerely hope they will help to evolve a consensus about a concerted strategy and action programme for meeting the challenges to our internal security. I wish your deliberations all success and I thank you.”

P-341 Excerpts From Home Minister Chidambaram’s Speech:-

Let me briefly deal with the three challenges, and I begin with terrorism. It is a matter of satisfaction that eight months have passed since the last terrorist attack. However, I hasten to add that it does not mean that the threat of terror has vanished or receded. It is better intelligence and better preparedness that have helped us thwart potential terror attacks. We have cracked several terror modules and made several significant arrests, but the gravity of the threat is undiminished. We cannot afford to lower our guard, and we shall not.

The second challenge is insurgency or militancy. The security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has shown perceptible improvement. Militancy has declined, even while agitational politics is on the rise. The Central Government has offered every support to the new State Government to maintain law and order, focus on development, and find political solutions through dialogue. In the North East, insurgency remains a grave threat. In the last few months we have refined our policy stance: the law will be applied strictly; ceasefire agreements will be enforced in letter and spirit; and we will talk to any group only if that group abjures violence, lays down its arms and offers to surrender. I regret to say that I cannot report much progress in the North Eastern States. At times, we find that some State Governments have allowed themselves to bend before insurgent groups, making the fight against insurgency that much more difficult. I propose to hold discussions with the State Governments concerned and draw up State-specific strategies to deal with the insurgent groups in the three most affected States of Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.

The third challenge is Left wing extremism or naxalism. On more than one occasion, the Prime Minister had rightly cautioned the nation that Left wing extremism posed the “single biggest internal security challenge” to India. In the last few months, the CPI (Maoist) has stepped up its attacks on the Indian State and on the Indian people. I would like to draw your attention to a document put out by the CPI (Maoist) on June 12, 2009 which is titled “Post-Election Situation – Our Tasks”. Anyone reading that document would have no illusion about the nature and gravity of the threat. Let me make our policy stance clear: We believe in the two-pronged approach of development and police action. However, the naxalites are anti-development and have targeted the very instruments of development – school buildings, roads, telephone towers etc. They know that development will wean the masses, especially the poor tribals, away from the grip of the naxalites. Hence, these deliberate attacks on developmental activities. Our response therefore will be police action to wrest control of territory that is now dominated by the naxalities, restoration of civil administration and undertaking developmental activities – in that order. Meanwhile, we will encourage State Governments to talk to the naxalites – both individuals and local units – on condition that they give up their misconceived “armed liberation struggle”. Let our message to the naxalities be this: we will talk; we will act; we will restore order; and we will undertake developmental activities. I am happy to report that all the naxal affected States have resolved to confront and overcome the challenge of the CPI (Maoist), and later this evening I shall hold a separate meeting with the Governor and Chief Ministers of those States.

When I look back on the last seven months, I find that our collective record has been a mixed one. Our best achievements have been in the reiteration of our determination to fight terror; in the sharing of intelligence; in the unanimous support for new laws and new instruments; and in acknowledging that police reforms have been neglected for too long. On the other hand, there are still critical deficiencies in budget allocations for the police, recruitment, training, procurement of equipment, introduction of technology, and personnel management.

I may now turn to the tasks ahead, especially the task of removing the deficiencies that I highlighted just now. While preparing for this conference, we had circulated a questionnaire to the State Governments requesting them to indicate the present status under a number of heads and on a number of issues. I regret to point out that the response from the States is far from satisfactory, and I am sure Chief Ministers would have reached more or less the same conclusion. I therefore wish to list the more important concerns so that the Heads of Delegation may, during their interventions, address the conference on these issues.

· The situation of vacant posts in the police is quite alarming. As on January 1, 2008, 230,567 posts were vacant against the total sanctioned strength of the States’ police forces, both civil and armed. It is possible that the situation has improved since. State Governments may wish to highlight the progress made in this regard.

· With the setting up of the Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) and S-MACs, intelligence sharing has improved, but there is scope for improvement in intelligence gathering. At the last conference, we had circulated a scheme for strengthening the State Special Branch (SSB). Some decisions have been taken at a meeting with representatives of State Governments on July 2, 2009. State Governments may wish to address issues like creation of a separate cadre for intelligence; filling the vacancies in the SSB; revision of special branch manual; appointment of a dedicated intelligence officer in each police station; and reactivating the beat constable system.

· While NSG hubs have been set up in four cities and Special Forces units have been located in two cities, there is a need for State Governments to raise and deploy their own special intervention units (SIUs) and quick reaction teams (QRTs) in as many cities as possible. It is also necessary to put in place a clear command structure in the case of a terrorist threat or terrorist attack. State Governments may wish to address the conference on the steps taken in this behalf.

· We had commended to the States the idea of raising a State Industrial Security Force on the pattern of the Central Industrial Security Force. There are multiple benefits in raising such a force, and I would request State Governments to respond to the suggestion.

· There is a new focus on coastal security and border management. However, we are concerned about the slow pace of construction of coastal police stations, outposts and check posts as well as border outposts (BoPs) along the land border; constitution of State Maritime Boards, registration of vessels, issue of ID cards to fishermen, and utilisation of interceptor speed boats. State Governments may wish to share their thoughts on how the pace of implementation can be quickened and the gaps in security plugged.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we – the State Governments and the Central Government – share an onerous responsibility. Nothing is more important to ensure the welfare of the people than the assurance of security. And none can contribute more to this sense of security than State Governments. You have the constitutional power and responsibility in respect of matters relating to ‘public order’ and ‘police’. However, increasingly, jurists and the general public have emphasized the constitutional duty of the Central Government to ‘protect every State against internal disturbance’. Hence the need for the Central Government and the State Governments to work together in a spirit of partnership. I sincerely hope that we can do so and not only declare at this conference our common resolve but also demonstrate that we can agree on a common approach to overcome the challenges to internal security.

-Asian Tribune-

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