Sinking counter-terror reforms

Early this week, when the abandoned 1,000-tonne oil tanker Pavit washed up on Mumbai's famous Juhu Beach, India's post-26/11 maritime counter-terrorism preparedness stood exposed: over Rs.600 crore worth of new ships, equipment, and staff, it is clear, have done nothing to make the country's coastline safer. That a massive ship could drift undetected through Indian waters for over 100 hours before ploughing into a crowded beach in a major city speaks ill of the preparedness of the Indian Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Maharashtra Police's marine forces. The Pavit could, after all, have been carrying terrorists, contraband or, even worse, toxic chemicals that could have claimed the lives of thousands. In the wake of investigative reports in this newspaper, Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony has promised a full investigation into the fiasco. It can only be hoped that this, unlike past investigations, will fix responsibility and produce results. A succession of terrorist attacks that have taken place since 26/11 remain unsolved, casting a question mark over the investigative and intelligence capabilities of the country's police forces. A thoroughgoing investigation is needed to reassess the ambitious security modernisation programme hurriedly put in place after 26/11.

From successive annual reports of the Ministry of Home Affairs, it does not seem that there are any metrics to gauge the on-ground effectiveness of the investments it is making. The MHA painstakingly records progress in the realisation of physical security infrastructure — for example, the purchase of equipment and construction of police station. But it does not seem to study whether the resources are serving the purposes for which they are meant. Maharashtra, for example, purchased state-of-the art weapons and set up training facilities with central government funds; but it has never once had to carry out urban terrorism emergency-response drills in which their effectiveness would be tested. This means that the test of success or failure is the expeditious spending of funds — not whether the funds are being put to good use. Part of the blame, of course, lies with the States, which seem only too happy to spend money on security infrastructure without pausing to assess results. New Delhi, however, must share the blame. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has been applauded for breathing life into a moribund security establishment since he took office in the wake of 26/11. The Pavit affair has made it clear that the programmes his Ministry put in place are just not good enough. India's badly exposed counter-terrorism effort needs to be injected with introspection and seriousness of purpose, not just big bucks.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 9:08:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/sinking-counterterror-reforms/article2328352.ece

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