Counter Terrorism Strategies in India

Freedom at the Helm: Strategic Framework for a Secure India

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Rebecca Sayres


The three-day attack on Mumbai sought to undermine the liberty of India. Indians now stand more united than ever in protecting our way of life. In an effort to strengthen methods currently used to combat terrorists, a counterterrorism strategy has been implemented. The Strategy calls for additional anti-terrorism methods, organizational changes, as well as partnerships between the central and state governments. Citizens need to be vigilant and willing to work with their local government. India however cannot go this alone. The international community must act as partners to hinder recurring acts of violence by Pakistan-based extremists. Cumulatively, measures outlined in this Strategy make for a stronger India.

Implementing a Strategy

The objective of implementing a national counterterrorism strategy is to protect India, Indian citizens and Indian interests abroad as well as at home. The Strategy will serve as a blueprint of guiding principles, priorities, and direction for law enforcement, as well as government agencies. Those who were avidly against The Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) should be reassured that measures outlined in the Strategy will not encroach on the fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The government seeks to work with its citizens in promoting awareness of the evolving challenges of modern day terrorism. Together we can work to abolish those radical individuals who seek to harm our way of life.

Pakistan-Based Islamic Extremist Groups

Pakistan-based extremist groups pose the greatest threat to India’s national security. Specifically, groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) can be linked to numerous recurring acts of violence against India. In a coordinated effort in 2001, the groups launched an attack on the Indian Parliament House in New Delhi. The well-orchestrated Mumbai attacks in 2008 were also LeT linked (Rath, p.63-69). Violent jihadi terrorism strategically aims to damage India economically and stir up religious hatred between Hindus and Muslims. Due to this overwhelming threat, India will base its Strategy around countering the threat of Pakistan-based extremist groups through improved organizational structures within government agencies, and partnerships throughout the international community.

Countering Threats

Thwarting terroristic activities is complex; it requires diligent information gathering on individuals, objectives, capabilities, and planning. Domestically, counterterrorism encompasses many state and federal agencies. In regards to intelligence gathering, the Indian military, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), as well as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) lead operations and analysis for detecting terrorist related activities under the central government (Gordon, p. 117-118). Police forces operate under the jurisdiction of state and Union territories to enforce laws, conduct criminal investigations, and respond to local threats (Gordon, p. 117-118).

As counterterrorism measures enhance, interagency collaboration will be amplified in a sustainable fashion across all jurisdictions. Intelligence agencies have been successful in identifying potential terrorist attacks (Mahadevan, p.98). What we learned from the attack on Mumbai is agencies need to be able to act swiftly in a jointly coordinated effort to deny terrorists the means of carrying out their activities (Staniland, p.1). For that reason, an independent fusion center has been established to analyze and integrate intelligence relevant to national security collected by the military, CBI, RAW, and IB. Pertinent information will then be disseminated to those who need it at local levels.

Agencies also have to be operationally sound. Police forces need capabilities to follow up on intelligence warnings. This requires proper manpower, weaponry, training, communications, and transportation facilities. These tools permit police forces to take preemptive measures while shortening response times (Staniland, p.1). In order to accommodate these needs, agencies will be appropriated additional funding to acquire the necessary assets for safeguarding national security.

Inclusive of this funding is the Border Security Force (BSF), responsible for guarding India’s land borders (Matthews, 2011). Volatile areas like Jammu and Kashmir require additional security protocols to prevent terrorists from slipping through Indian entry points. Battlefield surveillance radars, long-range reconnaissance and observations systems will be added to the agencies arsenal (Matthews, 2011). Terrorists, smugglers, and pirates regularly threatened Indian coastline and regional waters (Matthews, 2011); therefore more emphasis will be placed on securing this area and reducing vulnerabilities. Protection of our seas is a priority; BSF will be provided additional vessels and surveillance mechanisms required for the coastline.

Domestic Policy

In the past, Indian officials have faced challenges reaching political consensus in countering terror. For the greater good of India, political leadership will place partisan matters aside in a joint effort to formulate timely policies to counter terrorism. In 2004, the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was repealed (Prevention of Terrorism Repeal Act, 2004). To indemnify, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was amended to further include crimes associated with terrorism (The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Ordinance, 2004). In an effort to improve on legislation that was perceived as infringing on Indian liberties, national security was exposed to vulnerabilities. India now operates under new legislation that is aggressive on susceptibilities while safeguarding against misuse.

Under UAPA confessions made before a police officer were not admissible as evidence (Toughing the Law, 2009). Now, committees have been put into place to asses each case individually and the admissibility of the confession in court. This ensures confessions are made within the parameters of Indian law, while allowing the government to utilize key evidence in cases relevant to terrorism. Additionally and similar to POTA (Toughing the Law, 2009), new law has established special courts for terror related cases. Cases involving terrorist activities, including fund raising and recruitment will be fast-tracked. Failing to expedite these cases constitutes a threat to the security and stability of the state.

Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures. There is a distinct difference between ordinary crime and terrorism. UAPA does not differentiate standards for bail between the common criminal and terrorists (Singh, p. 402). Therefore, bail provisions specific to activities related to terrorism have been passed into law. Bail is now set in a way which is proportional to the charges. The onus lies with the judge not to grant this privilege unless there is confidence that the accused is not guilty of terrorist related offenses.

Toughening these laws ensure terrorists do not walk away free after being caught in the act. They will not however, deter an individual from committing atrocities. Terrorism has to be dealt with in the context of its growing threat to India. This starts with better governance. Elected officials at all levels must share the same objectives on terrorism. Partnerships between the central government, states, as well as Union territories are essential (Athana, p.15-16). Likewise, a partnership between the government and its people is imperative. This requires mutual trust and respect. Citizens cannot hesitate on reporting suspected terrorist activities to appropriate officials or law enforcement. Through these partnerships, we stand united in fighting violent extremist.

International Cooperation

India has one of the world’s highest levels of terrorist violence. In 2012, the Global Terrorism Index ranked India 4th among countries most affected by terrorism (Global Terror Index, 2012). Numerous attacks can be directly attributed to Pakistan-based extremists. The international community is well aware of the forces surrounding the tumultuous relationship between Pakistan and India. UN resolution 39 established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) attempting to mediate on-going conflicts (General Assembly, 1948). As the UN has condoned Pakistan to continue to blatantly support and harbor terrorist activities, the resolution has lost relevance.

Terrorism is not isolated to India, it is a global quandary. The international community is more interdependent than ever in countering these types of threats. The UN, along with allied nations must place additional pressure on Pakistan to further oblige its commitment on fighting terrorism. Rapprochement is unfeasible without the support of the international community. Pakistan must send the message that it will not export transnational terrorism by refusing to act aggressively against those who seek to commit heinous crimes against India. Furthermore, Pakistan must cooperate with the Indian government in extraditing those associated with crimes carried out on Indian soil. Bilateral peace discussions cannot resume until this occurs.

The United States and India have held an amiable relationship. Following the 9/11 attack, India offered the U.S. unlimited support including the use of specific air bases (Fair, p. 76-77). Further, we have collaborated on counterterrorism endeavors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation worked diligently with Indian security services after Mumbai (Staniland, p. 3). India recognizes that the United States is deeply engaged with Pakistan in regards to aid and operations surrounding Afghanistan (Asthana, p.17). This empowers the U.S. to impose unrelenting pressure on Pakistan regarding transnational terrorism (Asthana, p.17). Additionally, the U.S. should continue assistance to Indian security forces. India could greatly benefit from increased anti-terrorism courses for police and domestic intelligence forces.


The 11/26 attack on Mumbai reaffirmed that transnational violence carried out by Pakistani extremist groups remains a leading threat to India’s national security. In addition, numerous terrorist attacks in recent years have been linked to the on-going conflicts in Jammu and Kashmir (Gordon, p.111). India is not immune from the dangers that both domestic and foreign terrorists pose. It is foreseeable that terrorists will continue to target Indian interests globally. The Strategy outlined will serve as a guide to counter those threats. As a society, we must continue to live our lives without forfeiting the liberties radical extremists seek to demolish. Terrorism cannot intimidate or bend the will of the people.


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