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Sports: Soft Terror Targets

Post-Bangalore, more than the IPL tournament, which ends on April 25, the Commonwealth Games due later this year should be a matter of great concern.

Sports: Soft Terror Targets
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

There are threats to the current and  forthcoming international  sports events in India from the following:

  • Indigenous terrorists acting on their own
  • Indigenous terrorists acting at the instance of Pakistan
  • Pakistani terrorists

International sports events make  attractive soft targets because of the large crowds, the participation of famous foreign sports personalities and foreign media coverage of the events. In the calculation of the terrorists, a successful attack at an international sports event will not only bring large publicity to their cause, but would also damage the credibility of the Indian government and its security agencies.

The undetected planting of explosive devices outside the Bangalore cricket stadium before an India Premier League cricket match on April 17, 2010, shows continuing deficiencies in our intelligence and physical security set-up despite the revamping of our counter-terrorism machinery  post-26/11. Even if there has been an  improvement in the counter-terrorism machinery of the government of India, a  similar improvement has not been there at the state level. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security has the total responsibility for  security against terrorists anywhere in US territory. In India, the Ministry of Home Affairs of the government of India has to share the responsibility with the states. This often weakens security particularly if different parties are in power in New Delhi and the states.

More than the IPL tournament, which ends on April 25, the Commonwealth  Games due later this year should be a matter of great concern. Next to the Beijing Olympics of August 2008, it is going to involve the largest gathering of sportsmen and other sports personalities in Asia. If the terrorists want to attack it, they would have started their preparations by now by setting up sleeper cells and  by finding out ways of infiltrating the stadia and games villages.

Pakistan and the Pakistani terrorist organisations would have a strong motive for attempting to disrupt the Commonwealth Games  in order to create a poor image of the Indian organising capability as compared to the manner in which Beijing successfully handled the security of the Olympics. A full-fledged security set-up dedicated to the security of the Games should have been in position by now. One does not get the impression that this is so.

The decision to change the venue of the semi-finals of the IPL from Bangalore to Mumbai was inevitable, but was it done by the IPL managing committee after consulting the authorities of the governments of India and Maharashtra? Do they have the required manpower and technical resources to handle two semi-finals and one final? The security drill should not be left purely in the hands of the state. The government of India should play the leadership role in coordination and follow-up action.

The government of India has been playing the leadership role in respect of the security arrangements for the  Commonwealth Games, but one has the impression that this is not so in respect of the IPL matches. The security consultants to the IPL and the State Police seem to be handling the security with the role of the government of India reduced to the minimum necessary. The government of India should play a more active role after what happened at Bangalore.

In a statement made in the Lok Sabha after 26/11, Shri P.Chidambaram, the home minister, said that one of the reasons for the terrorists' success in Mumbai was because the responsibility for follow-up action was diffused. From what happened at Bangalore, one gets the impression that it continues to be diffused. We have not learnt the lessons of 26/11.


B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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