Big Picture, Uncategorized

Is Social Media Globalizing Terrorism?

Social media in the present times has emerged as something inevitable for everyone. In some way or the other, it is having an impact on people and their daily lives. According to a Report from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, United Kingdom, social media has been consciously failing to combat extremism and not doing enough to stop online radicalization. Many nations including India are facing this problem. Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are passing the buck on tackling terror and are hiding behind their supranational legal status despite knowing that their websites are being misused in this regard.

We have moved towards a world where the threat of terrorism does not confine itself to be coming up from the other side of the border only. These people are actually those citizens who can be easily brainwashed based on a certain ideology and are prompted to take certain terrorist acts. Individuals pick up this ideology and get radicalized within 1-2 months. Earlier it took 1-2 years to pick up persons, assess them, know their inclinations, train and evaluate them as per a certain ideology.

Role of Internet in Radicalization:

  1. Social media provides certain form of anonymity for propagation of ideologies. It also acts as a platform for early recruitment of youths in terrorist organizations.
  2. Technological information can be provided in a very rudimentary manner. For example: Getting information about making explosives at home can become very easy after watching a certain type of video. A common person has access to this information as well.
  3. Terrorist groups work as a dispersed network. If some websites are closed or shut down for their posts, they can easily access some other social media platform for propagating their ideas because social media platforms have instantaneous and worldwide reach.

For example: When Twitter removed tweets related to terrorism, IS moved to Diaspora. Diaspora is a social media platform that provides total anonymity and security and once something is posted, the website cannot take it away or remove it.

  1. These days the basic use of internet is done by terrorist groups for two purposes: propagation of ideas and communication. Communication is end to end encrypted now and there is no practical way for any intelligence agency to decrypt these communications in real time.
  2. Organizations prefer for decentralized planning of terrorist attacks and the reason lies in the fact that if the planning is done from one centre or in centralized manner, they can be easily targeted by those against them. It is easier to open a franchise operation for them because it gives the attacker a sense of belongingness and identity that they are working on terrorist organization’s behalf and serving its purpose.

For example: The recent attacks in France, Belgium and Germany were of this nature and it is very difficult to control every individual.

Indian Scenario and what needs to be done:

As far as India is concerned, there have been cases of youths from Maharashtra and Kerala who wanted to join IS. There was a case of a corporate executive in Bengaluru who had lakhs of followers for his ideas supporting IS ideology.

  1. Section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000 says that Intermediaries, like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter are not liable for third party information if they observe due diligence while discharging their duties. Further if the companies take action within 36 hours of complaint made to them for content, then one cannot move to court against them. There are other provisions in this Act but they are not applied in a stringent manner.
  2. If there is a complaint regarding any content, there is no institutional mechanism where a user can put forward his complaint. Institutions such as Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU) are there in UK to counter online extremism and India needs to have such mechanisms. Although there are some police patrolling pages on Facebook but are not very popular yet. Most of the people don’t know about it.
  3. An inclusive and transparent approach to community outreach is necessary. Citizens need to be aware of any suspicious person or activity and report it to the concerned authorities. Their involvement will also help to put a check on these activities up to some extent at least.
  4. There is a need for the Indian agencies countering terrorism to link up with international agencies likeEuropol or Interpol as they make considerable contributions in combating extremism and terrorism.

Other Issues:

  1. The servers are located outside India and therefore, they are beyond the control of the Government of India.
  2. Whenever social media is touched, the response from civil society is terrible. They don’t want to be restricted in any way unmindful of the actual problems.
  3. Attitude of US Government on putting restrictions on social media by India is taken as efforts to curb freedom of speech and expression. It is a medium of soft power for US
  4. Technically there are no algorithms, neural networks or artificial intelligence mechanism with which these social platforms can put a check on the bulk of posts being made every day.

Although no company wants to willfully promote terrorism but terrorism, radicalization and extremism are something that has taken a gigantic shape. It needs simultaneous efforts both nationally and internationally to eradicate this disease.

GS-3, Internal security, Uncategorized

National insecurity

Indian Express

Issue

  • Accountability needs to be set for lapses in the National Security.

Context

  • Something is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment,” Parliament’s Standing Committee on Home Affairs has reported regarding attack on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.
  • It said that something is seriously wrong with our counter-terror security establishment,
  • Its calls for more effective police action against cross-border trafficking, to “effectively seal the border” and for “better intelligence and operational coordination”

Moment of Truth

  • The truth is that the resources to do what the committee knows needs doing just do not exist.
  • Funds are not available even for fuel and maintenance needs for Punjab Police patrol vehicles.
  • BSF is desperately short of officer-rank personnel.
  • IB and R&AW are over a third short of staff allocations.
  • Throughout the security sector, training standards are being diluted, and specialist skills are in short supply.

Problem

Accountability can’t be demanded unless security forces are given functional autonomy, and credible resources to go with it.

Editorials, GS-2, Internal security, International Relations, Uncategorized

Negotiating with the Taliban

The recently concluded Doha Dialogue on ‘Peace and Security in Afghanistan’ presents a number of opportunities for the international community, as well as India, in dealing with the resurgent Taliban phenomenon.

  • This conference was significant because key leaders from the Taliban’s Qatar office, the only one of its kind set up by the dominant Taliban faction of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, were in full attendance at the meeting. The Taliban leaders have put forward a number of conditions for initiating a peace process in Afghanistan. However, the meeting was boycotted by the Afghan government.

Why the Doha process is significant at this juncture?

It comes at a time when the official Quadrilateral Coordination Group on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation, with participation from the governments of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and the U.S., has become a non-starter due to the non-participation of the Taliban.

  • The Taliban has also shown its willingness to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government.
  • It is also for the first time since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, they have started clarifying the contours of their vision for Afghanistan.

But, why should we make peace with a violent outfit holding highly objectionable religious and political views and what’s in it for Afghanistan?

  • With no less than 60,000 heavily armed men in their ranks, the Taliban are reportedly in control of around 30% of Afghanistan’s districts, with their reach and control steadily on the rise. Hence, not going ahead with the peace process is indeed a worse option, and could prove to be suicidal for Afghanistan and its people.
  • Even, the powerful NATO troops in 2011 could not stop the Taliban’s territorial gains. Now, the NATO has been withdrawn from Afghanistan. However, U.S. has decided to keep close to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan this year, and around 5,000 in 2017. But, this can hardly bring any changes.
  • The involvement of USA and widespread fraud during the 2014 presidential election in Afghanistan has dented the legitimacy of the Afghan government. Now, with decreasing American military support, very little political legitimacy, and sheer lack of military strength to run its writ over the country, the Afghan administration will find itself in more trouble in the years ahead. The more it delays direct talks with the Taliban, the weaker its negotiating position would become prompting the Taliban to seek even more concessions.
  • The Taliban leadership has repeatedly hinted at possible power-sharing arrangements with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during the recent Doha deliberations. Given its many weaknesses, Afghanistan would do well by engaging the Taliban in a dialogue process.
  • During the conference, the Taliban assured the dialogue participants, including Afghan women, parliamentarians and civil society activists, that they would respect women’s rights (to work, choose their spouse, etc.) and ensure modern education for all, including girls. In order to assess this as well as to nudge them to change even more, it is important to engage them.
  • The Taliban representatives have also pledged open support for the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project and guaranteed that they would ensure the security of the pipeline along with the Afghan government.

Issues that need to be addressed:

The most important issue is that the Taliban, who refer to themselves as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, are unwilling to submit themselves to the Afghan Constitution and accept the term “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” written in its preamble. Intent on creating an “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”, they propose to establish a state based on the Sharia law. They are non-committal on the question of democracy, partly due to their interpretation of Islam, and partly due to their fear whether the Afghan people would accept them if they fought an open and transparent election without the might of the gun.

  • Since it is difficult for the Afghan government and for the international community to accept this proposal, a power-sharing agreement may be proposed by the Taliban. This could be difficult for both the Afghan government and the international community to concede and could well be a deal-breaker.
  • But, the Afghan government should seize this opportunity and accept some of the Taliban’s preconditions for talks, such as allowing them to open a formal office on Afghan soil.

India’s fears and options:

It is a well known fact that India has had a frosty relationship with the Taliban due to a number of reasons. Hence, India’s cautious approach towards the Taliban is reasonable. However, it is right time for India to play a more proactive role in the Afghan reconciliation process. It is important to take note of the laudable attempts made by the Taliban representatives in Doha at allaying India’s fears by stating that they would not allow their territory to be used for terror activities, and that their foreign policy would not be dictated by anyone (an indirect reference to Pakistan).

  • India’s Afghan policy, ever since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, has been impressive and imaginative. However, it does fall short in meeting the country’s future objectives in Afghanistan in the context of the emerging political realities there.
  • India should therefore make use of the reconciliation process in Afghanistan to subtly engage all stakeholders there. The Doha process and the message from the Taliban leadership based in the Qatari capital should be taken seriously by India.
Editorials, GS-3, Internal security, Uncategorized

After Pathankot, what?

Article Link

The extended time taken by the security forces to neutralize the recent attack on the airbase in Pathankot has led to a clamour for the need to have the ability to respond more swiftly. The whole incident has also raised several questions about how to respond to such attacks. Most people are of the view that the local police should have reacted faster. However, given the present state of policing in India, one can easily conclude that our police forces are not in a position to handle such attacks.

The three greatest problems confronting the country today are:

  1. The challenge of international terrorism.
  2. The spread of Maoist influence over vast areas of Central India.
  3. The cancer of corruption.

If we are to tackle these problems effectively, there is no getting away from having a professional police force, well trained and equipped, highly motivated, and committed to upholding the law of the land and the constitution of the country. However, this would require a total revamp of police forces in the states.

Present state of police forces in the country:

The bulk of the recruits in the police come from the rural areas and from the economically weaker sections of society. Physical tests at the entry levels are deliberately designed in a manner that does not weed out too many hopeful candidates. And also for the same reason, the training curricula, as well, cannot be too stringent.

  • Even on the job, a daily grind with 14-hour duty schedules, irregular food timings, consumption of unhealthy street food, has made them less active.
  • And the police forces at the state level are primarily required to maintain law and order, manage traffic, and prevent and investigate crime.
  • Hence, for the police, who are used to wielding a lathi and investigating crime, it becomes difficult to take up sophisticated arms and combat well-trained terrorists. It is also difficult to arm this civilian force with automatic weapons to respond to a terrorist attack without any prior training.

Reforms needed:

Such a change in the work profile would require a paradigm change in the way police officials are recruited and trained.

  • So the first thing that policymakers have to decide is the kind of police they want, depending on the kind of tasks they expect the police to perform. This should be followed up by necessary improvements in the training facilities available for the police and they should be provided with suitable ammunition.
  • Another important requirement for a force to be battleworthy is regular firing practice.
  • The police would also have to modernise their work culture and daily processes. Policemen, particularly in metropolitan cities, could be equipped with short batons and communication devices so that they can respond quicker. Specialised units are essential to deal with terror attacks.
  • Several strategic assets are spread across the country. Hence, we have to look at the way physical protection measures are taken at strategic installations. For instance, we often find incomplete or poorly built boundary walls and inadequate lighting, with hardly any back-up. This would have financial implications for policymakers as these units would have to be suitably housed, trained, equipped and kept motivated.
  • The recommendations of committees, set up to review the security of various assets, and the reports of the Intelligence Bureau should be seriously taken up. While manpower is essential to provide security, investments must also be made in technology to secure assets.
  • The political class too is not anywhere near to loosening its control on the police. Steps have to be taken to prepare our policing and investigative agencies for any kind of crimes and attacks.
  • There is a need to recruit more officers with specialisation in forensic sciences and also in different fields like cyber crime, financial accounting and auditing and psychology.
  • Once officers are recruited they need to go through police regimen, with stress on their field of expertise. In this regard, physical exercise must be made mandatory for overall physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Intelligence gathering is an art. Intelligence records need to be digitised and made available to authorised personnel when required. Also, Intelligence analysts need to be trained and engaged.
  • There is a need to utilise the services of every officer in the organisation with clear division of work and responsibility. There is also an urgent need to separate law and order from the investigation and detection of crime.
  • Finally, concerns about the integrity are some of the most important issues facing the profession of policing. Cases of police misconduct can seriously harm years of work to establish trust and confidence between the police and members of the community they endeavour to serve. We need to have some oversight over the police working, as is in vogue in South Africa, Northern Ireland and much of the UK.

Supreme Court on Police reforms:

The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement in September, 2006, ordered the setting up of three institutions at the state level:

  1. State security commission with a view to insulating the police from extraneous influences.
  2. Police establishment board to give it functional autonomy.
  3. Police complaints authority to ensure its accountability.

Other recommendations by the apex court:

  • The apex court also ordered that the Director General of Police shall be selected by the state government from amongst the three senior-most officers of the department empanelled for promotion to that rank by the Union Public Service Commission, and that he shall have a prescribed minimum tenure of two years. Police officers on operational duties in the field would also have a minimum tenure of two years.
  • The court also ordered the separation of investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
  • The Union government was also asked to set up a National Security Commission for the selection and placement of heads of Central Police Organisations, upgrading the effectiveness of these forces and improving the service conditions of its personnel.

The aforesaid orders were to be implemented by March 31, 2007 and the court also appointed the Thomas Committee to monitor the implementation of its directions in various states. Several States have passed executive orders purportedly in compliance of the Court’s directions, but actually they have diluted or even subverted the directions with a view to continuing the supremacy of the political executive in the enforcement of law and order. Seventeen states have passed Acts, but not in keeping with the letter and spirit of judicial directions.

Conclusion:

The police are the first responders in the event of any terrorist attack or Maoist violence, and they are also the backbone of our intelligence, investigation and anti-corruption agencies. Thus, looked at from any angle – the security of the common man, the survival of democracy, maintaining the trajectory of economic progress or dealing with the major threats confronting the country – we have to have a reformed, restructured and revitalised police force. Recent incidents call for a cutting-edge approach to policing. This also necessitates an overhaul of managerial thinking in the police as well as training methods.

Editorials, GS-3, Internal security, Uncategorized

Save Security from the Establishment

Article Link

Even with prior intelligence information India was not able to prevent terror attacks on Pathankot airbase recently. Same was the case with 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Those who were supposed to act on the terror alerts, those who were supposed to guard the seas and those who were supposed to protect Mumbai, all carried on with their professional lives. No one was held accountable. In all of its contemporary history, India has only been going around in a loop in its inability to tackle armed non-state actors. However, all these attacks are characterized by three critical missteps:

  1. Ignored intelligence inputs.
  2. Inconsistent security response.
  3. Heavy casualties.

Background:

Terrorism has been the biggest threat faced by India on almost all major counts — the number of soldiers killed, duration of engagement with armed movements or the spread of the menace. However, terrorism hasn’t had a commensurate impact on reshaping India’s security posture and tactics, as well as political strategies and this is why India has one of the poorest track records in tackling insurgencies.

  • The country’s armed forces have been unsuccessful in ending many of the decades old armed conflicts in the country, be it Naga insurgency or other northern movements or Kashmir militancy.
  • Neighbouring countries such as Pakistan and China too have role in fomenting these movements. But it is a futile blame game considering the limited diplomatic options available to rein in those countries. Besides, practical statecraft will acknowledge that the use of non-state actors for tactical and strategic aims across the border is commonplace.

What is needed to tackle such activities then?

  1. Even-handed approach:

At the core of the state response should be a well-delineated national security doctrine and security strategy, which has to be placed firmly on constitutional values, especially equality before law.

  • Addressing grievances of various groups and dealing with all wrongdoers with the same force of law is critical in this fight against terrorism. However, successive governments have failed that test.
  1. End misuse of state organs:

The Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency are often used as tools of the government of the day. Successive governments have not considered it necessary to write out any fresh instructive manuals for Indian democracy.

  • Political misuse of state organs and the complete lack of transparency in their operations have resulted in Indian intelligence agencies emerging as obscure centres obfuscating facts or exaggerating things, mostly to impress political masters or for other vested interests. This must end, if the Indian state is serious about fighting terrorism.
  1. Accountability:

The lack of accountability has meant that field operations of intelligence agencies are mostly cottage industries run on fake sources or exaggerated claims. Underlying all of it is the significant financial benefits.

  • The final result is that even when genuine intelligence alerts are available, they are not acted upon with seriousness. Most intelligence alerts of Indian agencies actually read like fantasy stories from unbridled minds.
  • There have been several discussions about improving the accountability of intelligence agencies and other federal organisations responsible for the security of the country. Many experts are apprehensive of an adverse effect of parliamentarians being given oversight of intelligence agencies.
  • However, the fact is that there is no better accountability system possible. The diversity of Indian politics will ensure there is robust oversight, and that the mechanism is not held hostage by a few vested interests in Parliament.
  1. A documented security doctrine:

As many experts recommend, it is time for India to have a documented national security doctrine, like the Constitution, so that successive governments do not forget the fact that they are mere custodians of an idea called India, and not revolutionaries mandated with recreating the nation-state.

  1. Standard response protocols:

The doctrine should be accompanied by a security strategy that should spell out the state response to various kinds of security challenges. If it is a terrorist strike, then the decision-makers must know the responses expected of them, and not try to improvise based on their limited awareness. Command and control for such operations should also be spelt out in the document.

  1. Federal commission:

India must also constitute a very credible, and permanent, federal commission of accountability on security matters. This is important not just to bring in accountability to the security establishment, but also to ensure that the many insurgencies and terrorist challenges do not result in the intelligence and security apparatus getting a free hand to misuse their powers.

  • Such a commission can also be a watchdog in places like Kashmir and the Northeast, where repeated allegations of human rights violations are haunting political efforts to find peace, and feeding terrorism.

Conclusion:

India, and its security forces, can’t any more trust the wisdom of a few wise men to tackle terror threats, secure our assets and safeguard national interests. It is time to finally accept the reality and move forward on a broad sweep of reforms in the security establishment. The first step is to write down what the rulers of the day should do when a terror threat occurs.