Indian intelligence, it has emerged, had passed on as many as three alerts to Sri Lanka on possible terror attacks on churches and other targets in the island nation. The death toll in the Sri Lanka attacks—359 people at last count—could have been minimized, if not prevented, had authorities acted on the inputs in good time. Although not all alerts are actionable, there has been a clear failure of intelligence that must be acknowledged.
The international dimension of the Sri Lanka attacks also suggests a pressing need for better global cooperation on counter-terrorism, enabled perhaps by new channels for input sharing.
A lot of people wondered why Sri Lanka was targeted. The Sri Lankan authorities are reportedly looking into the likelihood that these attacks were a “response" by a terrorist outfit—Islamic State being the main suspect—to the massacre at two mosques in New Zealand last month. While the precise motivations aren’t certain, what is clear is that nobody is safe from such violent acts. Terrorism is a cross-border phenomenon and organizations propagating agendas of hatred are building networks across the world to raise funds, source arms and recruit people.
All this necessitates coordinated global action.
Of importance in this context is India’s proposal at the United Nations of a Convention on Countering International Terrorism. It aims to create a legal framework that would supplement existing conventions on tackling terrorism. It also proposes a set of measures to choke terror funding, destroy terrorist networks and the like, with the exchange of information critical to the effort.
That proposal was made in the mid-1990s but is yet to receive an approval due to differences of opinion on what defines "state terrorism", impunity granted to military forces and the convention’s impact on the sovereignty of independent nations.
The Sri Lanka attacks should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to resolve those differences and work out a joint plan to stop terrorism on a global scale.