How can we tackle terrorism? A quick look at the European scenario:

counter-terrorism laws: European laws make it easy to arrest terrorism suspects. European anti-terrorism laws “are more expedient and give broader capability to reach people who merely advocate violence or solidarity with terrorists”.Anti-terrorism legal codes in the UK and Europe cover a range of offences. In the UK, for instance, it is illegal to merely possess a terrorist training manual — even one that is available for download on the Web. Secondly, because civil liberties are less formalised, British and European authorities are much more likely pre-emptively to arrest and interrogate a suspect, or make use of ‘protective orders’ with far less evidentiary rigour.

National Leadership:Europe has shown that victory over terrorism is possible, even if does not come easily. Europeans have used brilliant strategies, mostly of a political nature, to defeat terrorism. Two of them concern the state, where the national leadership must:Understand and accept the political and public relations challenge involved in battling terrorists. Unlike in India, where the ruling party and opposition do not talk to but instead “talk at” each other.Appreciate the vital role of intelligence, invest in it, and use it effectively.Isolate terrorists from the non-terrorist civilian population. Unlike the preposterous, outlandish, bizarre and uncivilised practice followed in India, where innocent civilians are frisked and questioned.Control and isolate the territories where terrorists live and fight.

European Union Strategy:In December 2005, the European Union adopted a strategy to counter radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. Three key elements are addressed in this strategy:Facilitating factors providing for recruitment;Motivational factors leading individuals to become radicalised;Structural factors creating a socio-economic environment in which the radical message becomes appealingConsistently, the EU response to the recently foiled airline plot did not contain the previously recurring void calls for strengthening police co-operation and tougher legislation.On the contrary, it placed further emphasis on efforts to counter radicalisation and to enhance protective security co-operation. Continuous research and education of the police and security community on the application of home-made explosives is part of the European counter-terrorism strategy.

Counter-Terrorism Checklist:While all the aspects cannot be covered, here are a few key features of the common EU strategy

— Bilateral and multilateral co-operation: EU member-states have a wide range of efficient, bilateral and sometimes multilateral police co-operation structures

— Denying use of the Web: The Internet is a hostile environment for terrorists and those who seek to radicalise young people. A new legal framework is needed which ensures that illegal material such as manuals or instructions for homemade explosives or bombs are removed from the Internet, and that Web sites that incite others to commit terrorist actions are blocked.

— European Common Arrest Warrant: Common laws in laying down minimum sentences for terrorist crimes and laws enabling cross-border communication intercepts and monitoring of bank accounts.

— Bio-terrorism: The EU has extremely high levels of preparedness in this respect and its emergency planning and co-ordination in response to an act of “catastrophic” terrorism involving chemical, biological and radiological attack, is excellent.

Risk-based Assessments:In Europe, individual nations conduct risk-based assessments of critical national infrastructure — those assets and activities which, if damaged or destroyed, would affect a country’s ability to continue normal life. Each country also has a crisis management structure that would regularly rehearse tackling contingencies. These national actions are always backed by a set of enabling capabilities including intelligence information, a strong policy of public communication, and robust relationships, not only between nations of EU, but also with international partners.The EU also has established a Crisis Management Centre in Brussels that acts as the central institution for the exchange and co-ordination of information. This centre is supported by secure communications between the crisis management structures of member-states.

Technology:In Europe, technology plays an important part in each nation’s counter-terrorist efforts. There are a wide range of technologies in use. Among technologies that considerably bolster security measures are:

Scanners or other methods of detecting weapons or hazardous substances, at airports and other travel hubs, for example by better scanning of people and luggage for weapons.

“Smart containers” for transport by sea and large vehicles.

Area surveillance and perimeter/border protection. This includes surveillance of public spaces to detect unusual behaviour, and of remote, unattended borders.

Personal identification, including biometrics.

Fast detection and identification of chemical, biological and radiological substances.

For networked data systems, technologies have been developed to cope with and recover from attacks, since it is rarely possible to prevent all attacks. The most important solutions are intrusion tolerance and survivability, backup tools and monitoring tools.

India’s Strategy:In India, as a result of the present-day intensive political attention on counter-terrorism, a strong tendency exists to take tactical and operational decisions in counter-terrorism cases at a higher level politically. At that level, however, most of the time, political rationality claims a larger role, and other interests start interfering with decisions that should be made based upon professional and judicial considerations. As a result, innocent Indian citizens suffer.What India urgently needs is a nationwide professional counter-terrorism strategy that covers scenarios in advance by clearly defining the aims, boundaries, roles and responsibilities of the those involved in counter-terrorism.Reflection on the counter-terrorism strategy, however, is a continuous process. Several lessons can be learned from Europe by India that could help mitigate current and future threats. – The author is former Europe Director, CII, and lives in Cologne, Germany.