The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big Two to ring terror alert

New Delhi, Feb. 5: Terrorist activities in the country are no longer confined to Jammu and Kashmir, other states, too, need to be vigilant — this is the message that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani will deliver at the chief ministers’ conference to be held here on Saturday.

Chief ministers will be told that in the current situation, it is not enough for the Centre to realise the security threat to the nation, states should be equally aware.

“The meeting will take a comprehensive view of the internal security of the country. The threat perception has increased since last year, and it is necessary to get everyone aboard in this fight against terrorism. The political leaders will get a detailed assessment of the security situation. We will also get the views of various states on the issue and that of senior political leaders in the government…,” an official organising the conference said.

The attacks on Parliament, the Srinagar Assembly and the Akshardham temple in Gujarat and successive strikes on the Raghunath temple in Jammu, he added, have clearly exposed the nation’s vulnerability.

Besides addresses by the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister, there will also be an hour-long presentation on the overall internal security situation in the country. This will be done in a closed-door session by the chairman of the multi-agency task force set up by the Centre for better co-ordination of intelligence inputs of all state, central and paramilitary outfits. The task force is already in operation and despite initial teething problems, is now settling down.

“The constant drumming of the terrorist threat may sound repetitive, but we have to be at it to change the chalta hai mindset we have in India and it is better to keep everyone on their toes rather than be sorry later,” an official, who did not want to be identified, said.

Officials acknowledged that states are now much more attuned to the Centre’s perception on security.

The December 13 attack on Parliament has acted as a wake-up call for the government to ring in a change in the lackadaisical way of looking at security.

“Though at the Centre we are now much more aware of the threat, very often this does not trickle down to the states. In the last two years, the chief ministers’ conference has assumed greater significance, given us an opportunity to interact with the states because without the cooperation of state governments, our security cannot improve,” an official said.

“The need for overall improvement in security will be the main focus. We will go into ways of better co-ordination between the state and the Centre and the police force of various states. Infiltration of illegal immigrants in the eastern border states from Bangladesh is also high on the agenda. Guarding our borders and securing our coastline is also a vital aspect of security, especially at a time when terrorist groups have access to better weapons and high-tech equipment. Busting of underworld crime, the need to get people like Veerappan behind bars are some of the issues we will look into,” a senior home ministry official said.

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