India to establish federal agency to fight terrorism

Published 17 December 2008

Stung by the last in a series of deadly terrorist attacks, the Indian government will set up a new agency dedicated to combating terrorism; critics charge the budget and manpower of the new agency will likely be insufficient to the task

Following a series of deadly terrorist attacks, the Indian government has decided to create a federal agency to combat terrorism. This is part of a national security overhaul following last month’s attack on Mumbai. The Indian authorities are also planning to strengthen coastal borders, improve training for anti-terrorism officers, and strengthen the country’s intelligence agencies.

Bloomberg’s Bibhudatta Pradhan writes that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under pressure over security failings that allowed militants armed with guns and grenades to attack thirteen sites in India’s financial hub and hold off security forces for almost three days. The Indian government introduced a bill in parliament the other day seeking to set up a National Investigation Agency to probe and prosecute “offenses affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity” of the country. The government also tabled the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment bill aimed at speedy investigation, prosecution, and trial of cases related to terrorism.

The government will introduce another bill related to the Central Industrial Security Forces Act that covers the activities of a paramilitary force guarding state-owned installations, including airports.

Critics fault the new move as insufficient to the task. Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management, a New Delhi-based think-tank, said the new agency will lack the manpower and funding needed to combat terrorism. He said it would not resemble the U.S. DHS or FBI. The government needs to focus on strengthening the police, he said. India has about 143 policemen for every 100,000 people. The establishment of the new agency and changes in the laws are “purely symbolic” and do not “have the capacity to contain terrorism,” Sahni said.