Terrorism is today the most potent threat to India’s national security. Though afflicted by serious attacks of terrorism for close to three decades, most gruesomely played out perhaps in the attacks in Mumbai beginning November 26, 2008, India has struggled to put in place a comprehensive counter-terrorism policy that has the support of all countries.
India placed a Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism (CCIT) in the United Nations in 1996, for adoption by the international community, but that continues to remain on the table (and has NOT been adopted yet) because there is no consensus among all countries about the definition of terrorism. The Arab states and Palestine in particular have not agreed on a definition of terrorism.
The CCIT basically outlines the substance of India's counter-terrorism policy. The CCIT, when concluded, is intended to provide the international community with a legal framework that can supplement the existing Conventions to comprehensively deal with terrorism.
India acknowledges the concerns of the member states in regard to outstanding issues, namely the importance of the need not to affect the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; the need to capture concerns relating to “state terrorism”; resolution of matters concerning potential impunity of military forces; and the need to delineate activities to be covered by the scope of the convention and those covered by humanitarian instruments.
At the same time, India is also of the view that such issues have to be sorted out at the earliest and that the CCIT cannot be held hostage to definitions while terrorists continue to take innocent lives.
The Indian government proposed, after 26/11, the establishment of a National Counter Terrorism Centre, modelled along the lines of the American NCTC and Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre. According to the Union Home Ministry, the NCTC will derive its powers from the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. It is to be a part of the Intelligence Bureau and will be headed by a Director who will report to the Director, IB and the Home Secretary. The NCTC will execute counter-terror operations and collect, collate and disseminate data on terrorism besides maintaining a data base on terrorists and their associates including their families. The NCTC has been empowered to analyse intelligence shared by agencies like the Intelligence Bureau and select what it deems suitable. It has also been granted powers to conduct searches and arrests in any part of India and will formulate responses to terror threats.
However, it is not functional yet because there is no consensus on how it will function, as state governments feel it impinges on their autonomy to deal with law and order issues.
There are 13 major UN instruments relating to specific terrorist activities which remain fundamental tools in the global fight against terrorism. India is party to all the 13 major legal instruments.
India has fulfilled its obligations under the relevant counter terrorism resolutions of the United Nations, namely Resolutions 1267, 1373 and 1540 of the UN Security Council.
New Delhi has filed five National Reports with the Counter Terrorism Committee, giving a comprehensive picture of steps taken by India to counter terrorism.
India welcomed the adoption in 2006 of the UN Global Counter Terrorism Strategy that recognizes the need to express solidarity with innocent victims of this scourge and specifically addresses victims of terrorism. The primary responsibility for implementing the strategy rests on member states and India hoped that the Strategy would provide the impetus to unite all countries in the fight against terrorism through practical measures that facilitate cooperation by way of extradition, prosecution, information exchange, and capacity building.
To ratify these global instruments to combat terrorism, India has a series of laws in place. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act incorporates provisions that deal with all aspects of terrorism including incitement. The Act also criminalizes raising of funds for terrorist activities, holding of proceeds of terrorism, harbouring of terrorists, unauthorized possession of any bomb, dynamite or hazardous explosive substance or other lethal weapon or substance capable of mass destruction or biological or chemical substance of warfare.
The necessary legal, regulatory and administrative framework for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism is also in place. The specific legislations to prevent financing of terrorism include: (a) Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, (b) Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 2003; and (c) Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2003 of 1967 as amended in 2004. A Financial Intelligence Unit-India is already in operation and is the nodal agency responsible for receiving, processing, analyzing and disseminating information relating to suspect financial transactions to intelligence and enforcement agencies.
India has not only adhered to the existing regulatory framework governing controls over weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery but has proceeded to strengthen these obligations by enacting an overarching and integrated legislation prohibiting unlawful activities in relation to weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems (The Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery System (Prohibition of Unlawful Activities) Act, in 2005).
Laws such as The Explosive Substances Act, 1908; The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985; The Environment Protection Act, 1986; The Atomic Energy Act, 1962; The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992; The Customs Act, 1962 form the legal basis of India’s system of export Controls. Various agencies of the Government are empowered to enforce the provisions of these laws.
India is party to the International Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Customs Matters (Johannesburg Convention), aimed at enhancing cooperation among Customs Administration of various countries to ensure supply chain security; and the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (the Kyoto Convention) and has in place legislation and procedures to cover these Standards.
India is party to the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism. It provides for extradition of persons accused of terrorist activities within the SAARC member countries. To facilitate extradition in the absence of a bilateral agreement, the Indian Extradition Act, 1962 has provisions for treating an international convention as an extradition treaty to which India and a foreign State concerned are parties in respect of the offences dealt under that convention. In addition India has entered into bilateral extradition agreements with several countries.
It has Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties with 33 countries and 5 more treaties are under negotiation. To ensure a greater sense of security within the South Asian region, at the 15th SAARC summit a Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters was adopted which allows Member States to provide each other the greatest measure of mutual assistance in criminal matters.
India has been working with its international partners and regional organizations to prevent and combat international terrorism. It has constituted Joint Working Groups with 26 nations and regional organizations like the EU and BIMSTEC to coordinate and cooperate in counter-terrorism efforts.
Most recently, India and Saudi Arabia have constituted a Security Dialogue which provides a framework for the multi-faceted nature of bilateral security cooperation.