On July 27, three gunmen in military fatigues marched into a police station in Gurdaspur, an urban district in the Indian border state of Punjab. After an 11-hour gun battle, all three terrorists were killed—but so were nine civilians and police personnel. The state had not seen any significant terrorist violence since the 1980s, when a vicious ethno-religious insurgency between Sikhs and Hindus ended. According to the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, based on evidence collected from GPS devices taken from the scene, the terrorists had come from Pakistan.
Despite the successful containment of the attack—the terrorists had apparently hoped to create more mayhem in the state—the incident has once more laid bare India’s lack of a sufficient counterterrorism strategy. This is despite continued attacks from terrorists based in Pakistan, the most dramatic of which was the one at multiple sites in Mumbai in November 2008. India’s response to that strike, which was attributed to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was nothing short of shambolic; it took security forces close to 72 hours to suppress the gunmen, at a cost of over 150 lives.
After 2008, New Delhi created the National Investigation Agency (NIA), with nationwide jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute terrorist incidents. It also launched a number of urban hubs for its National Security Guards (NSG), an elite corps of police designed originally for counterterrorism tasks, such as augmenting local police forces when confronting a terrorist threat. In the creation of the NIA, in particular, New Delhi faced significant opposition from state-level politicians because they saw the move as a usurpation of their local authority. And, in turn, the execution of the initiatives has been halfhearted.
The NIA, according to reliable press reports, has a sanctioned strength of a scant 865 officers and a total annual budget of a mere $16 million. Worse still, since the NIA was created, in 2009, it has been able to fill only three-quarters of its positions, and it has regular shortages of essential equipment. In October 2014, when investigating a bomb
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