Friday, December 5, 2008

Terror threat: perspective

(click on header for full text from Newsweek)


How does the government react to terrorist attacks?

"India lacks a coherent strategic response to terrorism; there is no doctrine, and most of our responses are kneejerk,"

retired Major General Sheru Thapliyal

How have India's counterterrorism agencies performed?

"there's general agreement that the old institutions can't cope with the new pressures."

Wilson John, a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, writes in the Terrorism Monitor the problem is an intelligence structure which has yet to emerge from its "debilitating colonial legacy and a complementary stranglehold of bureaucracy." John argues the state police and intelligence units are mostly structured as agencies to protect law and order and spy on rivals rather than act as investigative and intelligence units. He says there is reluctance, and even refusal, to share information among the intelligence and security agencies.
Others counter that the intelligence agencies are performing well, but politicians too often shy away from making tough security decisions for fear of angering their constituents.

Does India have antiterrorism legislation similar to the U.S. Patriot Act?

Not anymore. In 2002 India passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), expanding the government's powers in combating terrorism. Some measures, such as the ability to keep terror suspects in custody without bringing them to trial, met with objections, and the law was repealed in 2004 after allegations that officials were abusing their powers. However, after the recent spate of bombings, some Indian politicians are calling for the law to be restored.
Some Indian states such as Karnataka and Maharashtra have other laws, Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) and the Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Act, that are used to try suspected terrorists. The MCOCA was also extended to Delhi in 2002. Some lawyers have alleged that MCOCA is even more draconian than POTA and has often been misused by the investigative agencies. Other states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are also seeking similar anti-terror laws.

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