Stressing that cross-border terrorism remains a most pervasive threat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said “there is credible information of ongoing plans of terrorist groups in Pakistan to carry out fresh attacks.”
Inaugurating the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security, Dr. Singh cautioned: “The area of operation of these terrorists today extends far beyond the confines of Jammu and Kashmir and covers all parts of our country.”
He told the Chief Ministers that in dealing with the terrorist challenge, “we need to be prepared for encountering more sophisticated technologies and enhanced capabilities.” He emphasised the need for guarding the sea frontier as vigilantly as the land border.
In a candid talk with the Chief Ministers and top Central and State government officials who play a crucial role in keeping the internal security apparatus robust and responsive, Dr. Singh said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir had, during the past few years, seen substantial improvement but warned of an increased level of infiltration from across the border.
Though violence was at an all-time low in Jammu and Kashmir, there were “some disturbing trends on the horizon.” He said levels of infiltration which had come down very substantially saw a surge this year, alongside an increase in attempts at infiltration. The infiltrators appeared “more battle-hardened, better equipped, and in possession of sophisticated communications.”
Dwelling on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister said there were signs of a revival of over-ground militant activities. Referring to incidents in Shopian, Sopore and Baramulla, he said such isolated incidents were sought to be linked 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 Jammu and Kashmir.”
Expressing concern over the growing intensity of Left wing extremism, he admitted that the problem was 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.”
Referring to the northeast, he said the situation remained problematic and worrisome in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. He pointed out that Assam and Manipur accounted for a disproportionately large number of violent incidents reported from the northeast. Manipur was plagued by a large number of militant outfits. “In Assam, the Centre had sanctioned Rs. 750 crore for development of Bodo areas. But the utilisation of these funds remains unsatisfactory.” Dr. Singh asked the Chief Ministers of the northeastern States to attend to the implementation of infrastructure projects and make their police forces pro-active, rather than rely exclusively on the Central paramilitary forces and the Army.
On the communal situation, Dr. Singh named Maharashtra and Karnataka as the two States that needed to exercise greater vigil to maintain communal peace. Karnataka, in particular, had 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,” he pointed out. While calling for a coordinated response by the Centre and the States to deal with most issues pertaining to internal security, he said a piecemeal approach would simply not work, given the nature of challenges the country faced. “Not only do we need more information sharing, we also need synchronised action. Let me assure all the States that the Centre will not be found wanting in this regard.”
Home Minister P. Chidambaram identified three major challenges to internal security: terrorism, insurgency in the northeast and naxalism. Pointing out that the threat of terror had neither vanished nor receded, he said better intelligence and preparedness had helped 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,” Mr. Chidambaram told the conference.