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EU-India Counter-Terrorism Cooperation: Post-Lisbon Prospects

Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay was Associate Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • February 26, 2010

    The last EU-India annual summit of November 2009 in New Delhi attempted to revitalise the EU-India Counter-Terrorism cooperation. Prior to the summit the visit of the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, and his deliberations with Indian counterparts paved the way for reaffirmation of combating the challenge of international terrorism. As outcome of the summit the Joint Statement announced some specifics like strengthening the UN Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), enhancing negotiations between Europol and particular Indian agencies, EU’s support for India’s membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), etc. Quite understandably, specifics in the most sensitive area of cooperation like Counter-Terrorism are neither discussed in public fora nor are they easily available in public domain. However, given the unique nature of the EU and the enormous task on its hand to build a counter-terrorism capability pooling resources from 27 member countries and cooperating with strategic partners like India, media reports, recommendations and official statements available so far are used here to analyse the prospect of EU-India Counter-Terrorism cooperation. With the terrorist attack on February 13 in Pune as the setting, India’s existing counter-terrorism cooperation with others and its strategic partners may again be revisited.

    Against the backdrop of the July 7, 2005 suicide attacks in London, the Joint Action Plan (JAP), adopted at the Sixth EU-India Summit under the British presidency, agreed to promote cooperation between Europol and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well making contacts between Eurojust and India. The lack in this specific area was apparent from the review of the JAP at the Ninth Summit of 2009 in Marseilles under the French presidency, which observed: “In so far as cooperation between Europol and the CBI is concerned, it needs yet to be activated.” Confusion also prevails about the existence of an EU-India Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. The Annual Report (2005-2006) of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that, “Up to December, 2005, India has signed Agreements/Memorandum of Understanding for setting up Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism with 22 countries … and with two regional groupings - European Union and BIMSTEC.”1 However, as one of the recommendations of the EU-India Forum on Effective Multilateralism in October 2009 highlighted, “the India-EU Joint Working Group on counterterrorism needs to be established in order to facilitate the development of a common understanding of terrorism-related issues and appropriate response mechanisms.”2 The extraordinary nature of the EU as a whole and its weak competence in Counter-Terrorism in particular need not be reiterated as well as India’s pre-occupation with its troubled neighbourhood and the terrorist attacks which definitely have impeded a regular security dialogue between EU and India. Nevertheless the Lisbon Treaty, as a promising course ahead, has already led to some visible changes in EU’s external relations with the globe as well as with its strategic partners. India may take into considerations the changes in EU’s foreign and security architecture, which the Lisbon Treaty envisages to bring in.

    It is apparent from media reports that EU plans to streamline and merge its three existing Brussels-based intelligence gathering and analyses units, namely the Joint Situation Centre (SITCEN), EU’s Crisis Room and the Watching Capability, under the umbrella of the newly-formed European External Action Service (EEAS).3 Out of these three units, the SITCEN is the largest and engaged in monitoring and analyses of critical security issues. Institutional ties between the SITCEN and its Indian counterpart may be considered. In 2007 Europol has started a restricted portal ‘Check the Web’, primarily to monitor Radical Islamist propaganda in the Internet. It is also believed that the EU and the UN have already initiated programmes to locate and close down Islamist websites.4

    Undoubtedly all these European institutions and initiatives are still in their infancy and some are even at a conceptual level. Even if established, some units may face organisational challenges, lack of competence and resources and in some cases may remain leaderless for a considerable point of time. These EU offices would also be subject to the scrutiny of media and the European Parliament. Most importantly, the priority area of the Union would totally be different from that of India. For the EU it is the transatlantic partnership, Iran, WMD, etc. While for India, the troubled neighbourhood would remain the obvious focus. Still, since as strategic partners both India and EU have been facing the same threat of religious radicalism at home and from across the border, focused cooperation in this area of radicalisation and its outreach through Internet must be given serious thinking. The threat of religious radicalisation both in Europe and India is imminent and strategic. Therefore both India and the EU must devote more energy and resources to increase mutual awareness especially in the arena of Counter-Terrorism. A centralised European Intelligence Agency, with which India can deal with as it deals with any individual EU member countries or other nation states, is a matter of imagination at present. Even EU members are not considering establishing an agency at present. After 26/11 India has initiated a structural revamp of its security establishment and the EU would also experience similar structural changes in the near future. Both partners must observe these changes minutely and exchange experiences. Facing the grave threat of terrorism, India and EU can ill-afford to keep their Counter-Terrorism cooperation dormant. The two partners must use every available opportunity to foster such cooperation.

    • 1. Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Annual Report, 2005-06, pp. 32-33.
    • 2. Report on the India-EU forum on effective multilateralism, New Delhi, October 8-9, 2009 p. 5.
    • 3. “EU diplomats to benefit from new intelligence hub,”, February 22, 2010.
    • 4. “Microsoft tackles Jihadists,” Intelligence Online, February 25, 2010.