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A force to tackle terror attacks

Print edition : Apr 11, 2003 T+T-

INDIA is raising a specialised force to combat nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) attacks by terrorists, which will undergo intensive training in Israel, the United States and Britain.

Official sources said the 4,000-strong force, picked from the Central Industrial Security Force, will be part of the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) that now operates under the Union Home Ministry. "With terrorists increasingly resorting to modern warfare techniques and technology, the government has finally decided to constitute a commando team dedicated to countering attacks by weapons of mass destruction (WMD)," security sources said. The new force has reportedly been allocated a start-up budget of around Rs. 1,500 crores for equipment and training, media reports claimed.

At present the 10,000 strong anti-terrorist and anti-hijacking National Security Guard (NSG) is India's only commando outfit for rapid deployment.

But, over the past year, the NSG has been plagued by equipment shortages and an overall lack of effectiveness. Its personnel have also been deployed for extended tenures on VIP security duties, blunting their already questionable `commando' edge.

The DMA was placed under the Home Ministry's control to co-ordinate relief efforts after the disastrous January 2001 Gujarat earthquake in Gujarat. But under Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani the Authority's role has been greatly expanded to include a wide range of internal security matters. Senior Intelligence Bureau officers have also reportedly been seconded to the Authority.

Official sources and recent media reports indicated that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, had `in principle ' cleared the anti-NBC terrorist squad, but suggested some changes in the overall structure of the disaster management group.

India's close strategic and military ally, Israel, is expected to provide counter-terrorist training to the new force, while specialist courses dealing with nuclear warfare and its management will take place in the U.S. Instructions to handle natural calamities like earthquakes, which will also be a part of the special force's mandate albeit in a managerial role, would be in Britain.

After the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, India has forged strong strategic and military links with Israel and the U.S., clinching extensive defence deals with both. It has also established joint working groups with Tel Aviv and Washington on terrorism and intelligence sharing, especially on Islamic terrorism in the region, which meet frequently.

Israel is also arming and training four new Indian Army Special Forces battalions in "irregular warfare" to combat Kashmir's insurgency. These commandos will be armed with Israeli assault and sniper rifles and a range of anti-terrorist equipment such as night vision and laser devices and other targeting equipment.

Official sources said the anti-NBC terrorist units would be located at strategic places across India, from where they would be able to move swiftly to deal with an emergency. These locations are yet to be finalised, but media reports indicated that Delhi and Srinagar could be two such sites. According to security officials both places are `vulnerable' to a WMD attack.