Overview: In 2019, India suffered terrorist attacks in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northeastern Indian states, and parts of central India. The Government of India continued to apply sustained pressure to detect, disrupt, and degrade terrorist activities within its borders. Prime Minister Modi and other senior Indian leaders made numerous statements to condemn domestic terrorist attacks and bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism, in cooperation with the United States and other like-minded countries.
The United States and India increased CT cooperation in 2019. In March, the United States and India held the annual Counterterrorism Joint Working Group in Washington, D.C., meeting concurrently with the second U.S.-India Designations Dialogue. Both countries announced their intent to prevent terrorists from obtaining access to weapons of mass destruction and underscored their respective commitments to the implementation of UNSCR 2396. In December, the United States hosted the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, in which the ministers called for concerted action against all terrorist networks, including AQ, ISIS/Daesh, LeT, JeM, HQN, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, and TTP.
2019 Terrorist Incidents:
- On February 14, a suicide bomber from the terror group JeM, using a VBIED, killed 40 Indian soldiers from the Central Reserve Police Force in Pulwama, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
- On April 9, in southern Chhattisgarh, Maoist terrorists triggered an IED, killing a Bharatiya Janata Party Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly member and four others.
- On May 1, Maoist terrorists used landmines to kill 15 members of Maharashtra state’s counter-insurgency commando unit.
- On October 29, suspected terrorists killed five migrant laborers, all from the eastern state of West Bengal, in the southern portion of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The 1967 Unlawful Activities Prevention Act was amended in August 2019 to allow for the designation of individuals as terrorists. The Indian Parliament passed amendments to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act of 2008 to give NIA the ability to investigate terrorism cases overseas. The newly amended NIA Act can further improve bilateral law enforcement cooperation. The efficacy and impact of the newly amended laws will likely be tested in ongoing terrorism cases in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as cases involving what India characterizes as “left-wing extremists,” and cases involving insurgencies in Northeast India.
India’s state governments continue to be responsible for law and order. India’s state-level law enforcement agencies play a significant role in detecting, deterring, and preventing acts of terrorism. These state agencies have varying degrees of capability. State antiterrorism squads were created after 2008 for rapid first response.
At the central government level, NIA is the lead law enforcement investigative agency. The National Security Guard (NSG) retains the mandate for nationwide response as the sole federal contingency force. However, despite rigorous training, NSG’s rapid response capability is challenged relative to India’s geography and the NSG’s independent logistics capacity. In addition, the NSG may not testify in judicial proceedings.
Indian security agencies are effective in disrupting terror threats despite some gaps in intelligence and information sharing. In 2016, India and the United States signed an arrangement to exchange terrorism screening information, and India continues to work on implementation. Larger Indian states have established their own state-level Multi Agency Centers and provided near-real-time information on terrorism to Indian law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. government engaged with the Indian government to improve border security and information-sharing capabilities. India is in the process of improving its ability to detect and deter terrorist travel by using watchlists, implementing biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry, and expanding information sharing. Owing to resource constraints, Indian security forces have a limited capacity to conduct maritime security, although India’s ability to patrol its land border improved because of better coordination between border security forces and Indian law enforcement agencies. Bilateral capacity building is ongoing with Indian government personnel. Outreach training programs are ensuring Indian border security officials are collecting and using API and PNR to help identify malafide travelers.
Indian CT forces, at the federal and state levels, were active in detecting and disrupting transnational and regional terrorist groups, such as ISIS, its local affiliate ISIS-Bangladesh, and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Between February and June 2019, Indian security forces detained nine suspected JMB and ISIS-Bangladesh terrorists from sites across India. The arrested individuals were allegedly planning attacks, ranging from jailbreaks to freeing imprisoned JMB and ISIS-Bangladesh members to attacking Indian security forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Following the April 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the NIA conducted searches in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to investigate a suspected ISIS cell. One person was arrested in Palakkad, Kerala, on April 29 and admitted he was planning a suicide attack in Kerala.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: India is a member of the FATF and of two FATF-style regional bodies: the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG) and APG. India’s FIU is a member of the Egmont Group. There were no significant updates in 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: In 2019, four Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Telangana) formulated CVE strategies. Indian programs continued to target disaffected sectors of Indian society that were at the highest risk of vulnerability for terrorist radicalization and recruitment. Indian government officials remain concerned about the use of the internet for terrorist purposes – including social media and messaging apps such as WhatsApp – as well as for fomenting inter-religious tension. India’s law enforcement officers discussed emerging threats and steps to prevent online terrorist recruitment and radicalization with representatives from global social media companies on a regular basis. Indian officials reported online terrorist radicalization in conflict-free zones, particularly in southern Indian states, throughout the year. India’s approach focused heavily on content removal and even shutting down internet access in certain regions. Mumbai remains the only Indian participant in the SCN.
International and Regional Cooperation: India is a founding member of the GCTF and participated in the GCTF, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and other UN fora on counterterrorism in 2019. India continued to use multilateral fora and bilateral visits to highlight terrorism concerns and impacts. India also continued to lead efforts to condemn terrorism and urge tangible steps against the threat in meetings of ASEAN. In November, India hosted the first Counterterrorism Table-top Exercise in the Quad country format (the United States, Australia, India, and Japan). U.S. Special Forces continued an annual exercise in Washington State alongside Indian Special Forces, which focused on CT operations in an urban environment, and also conducted a Joint Combined Exercise Training with the NSG in Hyderabad.