Overview: In 2020, terrorism affected the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), in northeastern India, and Maoist-affected parts of central India. Major terrorist groups that have been active in India include Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, ISIS, al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent, and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. The Indian government made significant efforts to detect, disrupt, and degrade the operations of terrorist organizations within its borders. CT and security cooperation with the United States expanded in 2020. During September the United States and India held the 17th meeting of the Counterterrorism Joint Working Group and Third U.S.-India Designations Dialogue. In December, India proposed holding another Quad counterterrorism tabletop exercise alongside the United States, Australia, and Japan.
Indian forces arrested several members of al-Qa’ida ally Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind in J&K. Although insurgent groups operate in India’s northeastern states, levels of terrorist violence there are low and decreasing. The many organizations involved in the Sikh separatist (Khalistan) movement have not engaged in significant recent activities within India’s borders.
2020 Terrorist Incidents
- On May 2, armed men who had infiltrated across the Line of Control from the Pakistan-administered side of Kashmir took civilian hostages in a nearby village. Two army officers and three police personnel were killed in a gunfight in the resulting hostage rescue operation. Laskhar-e-Tayyiba and its offshoot, the Resistance Front, claimed that the hostage takers were members of the group.
- On July 8, terrorists killed a local politician along with his father and brother at their home in J&K. The Resistance Front took responsibility for the killing.
- On March 21, Maoists killed 17 members of Chhattisgarh’s District Reserve Guards and counterterrorism Special Task Force officials in an ambush in Sukma.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: There have been no changes in terrorism-related legislation since 2019.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is the lead agency for handling terrorism cases. State-level law enforcement agencies play a significant role in detecting, deterring, and preventing terrorism. Most states have created antiterrorism squads and “anti-Maoist” units for prevention, detection, and first response, with varying capabilities.
The National Security Guard (NSG) is the sole federal authority responsible for national counterterrorism response. With five regional hubs operational across India, the NSG has improved its response time and reduced past dependence on other agencies for logistics. Challenges include budget constraints and dependence on temporary details and volunteers from the armed forces.
Indian security agencies are effective in disrupting terror threats, although gaps remain in interagency intelligence and information sharing. The Indian Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) collaborates with the United States on exchanging terrorist screening information. In the absence of a National Counter Terrorism Center, the MAC conducts real-time collation and sharing of intelligence among federal and state security agencies. Several Indian states have established state-level MACs to disseminate terrorism information to law enforcement. Indian security forces demonstrate limited capacity to patrol and secure extensive maritime and land borders. India is implementing UNSCR 2396 to improve detection and deterrence of terrorist travel by using watchlists, implementing biographic and biometric screening at ports of entry, and expanding information sharing.
India collaborates with the United States on implementing UNSCR 2309 and is enforcing compliance with the dual-screen X-ray mandate for cargo screening at airport locations. There were 66 known Indian-origin fighters affiliated with ISIS, as of November. No FTFs were repatriated to India during 2020.
Indian counterterrorism forces, at the federal and state levels, actively detected and disrupted transnational and regional terrorist groups. The NIA arrested 10 alleged al-Qa’ida-affiliated operatives from Kerala and West Bengal on September 19 and 26. Through the end of September, the NIA had investigated 34 terrorism cases it indicated were related to ISIS and arrested 160 persons. The Kolkata Police counterterrorism Special Task Force on May 29 arrested Abdul Karim, the second-in-command of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh, on suspicion of involvement in a 2013 bombing in Bodh Gaya.
India responds to U.S. requests for information related to terrorism investigations in a timely manner and makes efforts to mitigate threats in response to U.S. information. Over the past two years, collaborative efforts have disrupted terrorist travel and alerted U.S. authorities to possible threats in the United States and against U.S. interests.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: India is a member of FATF, APG, and the Eurasian Group on Combating Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (EAG). India’s Financial Intelligence Unit is a member of the Egmont Group. In 2020 there were no major changes in legislation on countering terrorism financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Ministry of Home Affairs is the lead agency for CVE and maintains a counterterrorism and counter-radicalization division. There is no national CVE policy. State governments have the lead on CVE strategy. Consequently, efforts are uneven and led by local police departments, which often have limited interactions with community organizations and civil society. Five states (Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh) have reportedly formulated CVE strategies.
CVE programs continued to target demographics considered to be at the highest risk of vulnerability for terrorist recruitment by groups such as al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent and ISIS.
Officials remain concerned about internet use for terrorist recruitment and radicalization to violence, as well as for fomenting interreligious tensions. In 2020 there were multiple reports in the media and from the NIA of suspected cases of online terrorist radicalization, particularly in southern Indian states. Mumbai is India’s only member of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: India is active in leadership roles in the following regional and international fora in 2020, where it has promoted multilateral CT cooperation:
- The Global Counterterrorism Forum (the GCTF)
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum
- The UN Counterterrorism Centre Advisory Board
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization
India has agreed to share intelligence on terrorism with Sri Lanka and Maldives. India’s long-standing defense relationship with Russia extends to counterterrorism issues.