Baalnoi Academy

SINCE 1997






Terrorism and Role of External State and Non-State Actors In Creating Challenges to Internal Security


  • There is no universally accepted definition for terrorism.
  • Many legal systems and government agencies use different definitions of terrorism.
  • Terrorism is the planned, organized and systematic use of violence as a means of coercion for political, religious or ideological purposes. It has become a global phenomenon posing major threat to international peace, security and stability.
  • The menace of terrorism whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or state forces is a crime against humanity which has wounded societies all over the world.
  • The terrorist has not only threatened the ideals of democracy and freedom but also caused a serious challenge to the existence, progress and development of mankind.
  • International terrorism poses an increasingly dangerous and difficult threat to world.
  • Today’s terrorists seek to inflict mass casualties, and they are attempting to do so across globe. They are less dependent on state sponsorship and are, instead, forming loose, transnational affiliations based on religious or ideological affinity and a common hatred. This makes terrorist attacks more difficult to detect and prevent.
  • India is the seventh-largest and second-most populous country in the world. Its population is divided into more than 2,000 ethnic groups, speaking more than 22 different languages and practising nine recognised religions. Thus, it is widespread with divisions and the conflict naturally follows. It is among the top ten most affected by terrorism.
  • Not only is it facing religious extremism, but it also is mired by poverty, urban-rural divide, tribal feuds, and ethnic nationalism – all leading to the problem of terrorism within the nation.
  • India has been facing challenges on the front of internal security since independence from various state and non-state actors.
  • External State actors refer to those entities which have formal backing of a sovereign state for carrying out any intended action.
  • Non state actors on the other hand, have a considerable power of influencing international events but they do not have formal state backing.
  • Examples of state actors are the army, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies etc. whereas non state

actors would be NGOs, civil society organizations, extremist outfits, multinational companies etc.

Types of Terrorism in India

  • Ethno-Nationalist Terrorism
  • This type of terrorism is motivated by ethno-nationalist and separatist goals.
  • It gained global prominence during the post-Second World War era until religious terrorism gained the centre stage.
  • Ethnic terrorism is defined as deliberate violence by a subnational ethnic group to advance its cause.
  • Such terrorism gives high emphasis to either for the creation of a separate state or on the elevation of the status of one ethnic group over others.
  • Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and insurgent groups in North East India and the movement to create Khalistan are some examples of this type of terrorism.

Religious Terrorism

  • Currently, most of the terrorist activities are motivated by religious ideas.
  • The practitioners of this type of terrorism consider the act of violence as either divine duty or a sacramental act.
  • It often embraces and justifies extreme acts of violence, making it far more destructive in nature.
  • This form of terror focuses on religious imperatives, a presumed duty for a specific religious group, against one or more religious groups.
  • Mumbai 26/11 terror attack in 2008 from an Islamic group in Pakistan is an example of religious terrorism in India.
  • Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda are some of the other examples of this type of terrorism.

Ideology Oriented Terrorism

  • This type of terrorism use ideology to support violence and acts of terror.
  • It is further classified into two groups:
  • Left-wing terrorism involves the violence against the ruling elite mostly by the peasant class to promote leftist ideologies. These ideologies are mostly based on ideas of thinkers like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, etc. The leftist ideologies believe that all existing social relations and state structures in the capitalist society are exploitative and a revolutionary change through violence is essential. The examples of this type of terrorism include the Maoist groups in India and Nepal, Red Brigades in Italy, etc.
  • Right-wing groups often aim to maintain the status quo or return to some past situation which they feel they should conserve. Sometimes they even endorse ethnic/racist/religious character too. They may also force the government to acquire territory or to intervene to protect the rights of an “oppressed” minority in the neighbouring country. Violence against migrants also comes under this category. The examples for this type include Nazism, Fascism, white supremacy movement in the US known as Ku Klux Klan (KKK), etc.

State-sponsored terrorism

  • Also known as warfare by proxy, State-sponsored terrorism is as old as the history of military conflict.
  • It has gained prominence in international politics between the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Currently, some countries have embraced terrorism as a deliberate instrument of
    foreign policy.
  • One distinction that separates this type of terrorism from others is that it is
    undertaken to achieve the defined foreign policy objectives rather than grabbing media attention or targeting a specific audience.
  • India has been facing this problem since independence due to Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism.


  • This form of terror focuses on creating illegal narcotics traffic zones. 
  • Drug violence in northwest India is an example of narco-terrorism in India.
  • The term was first used by the former President of Peru in 1983 to describe the campaigns by drug traffickers using terrorist methods like bombing, assassination, and kidnapping against the anti-narcotics police in Columbia and Peru.
  • Though this term was initially used to describe the drug trafficking-related terrorism in South America, it has now come to be associated with terrorist groups and activities around the world and more so in the Central and South-East Asia.
  • However, it can also be used to describe as a means of terrorism or at any rate as a means of funding terrorism.
  • It combines two illegal activities – drug trafficking and terrorist activities.
  • It is mainly motivated by economic reasons as it helps them fund other terrorist activities.
  • The major terrorist groups involved in this activity include Al Qaeda, PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) in Turkey, Hizballah in Lebanon, Islamic terrorist groups in India, etc.

Left-Wing Terrorism

  • This form of terror focuses on economic ideology, where all the existing socio-political structures are seen to be economically exploitative in character and a revolutionary change through violent meansis essential. 
  • Maoist violencein Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are examples of left-wing terrorism in India.

Terrorist Groups In India

  • Islamist Extremist Groups
  • Most of the attacks by these groups are concentrated in and around Kashmir.
  • While India claims the entire Kashmir as its sovereign territory, it only controls two-third of the region, with Pakistan acting as a de facto governor to nearly 1/3 of the territory and several other areas are under China’s control.
  • The principal groups operating in this area include LeT, JeM, Al Badr and Hizbul Mujahideen. These groups coordinate under the United Jihad Council.

Radical Sikh Groups

  • There was always a tension between the Hindus and the Sikhs and their relations was at an all-time low following Operation Blue Star – the military operation to remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his followers from the buildings of the Harmandir Sahib complex in Amritsar, Puniab.
  • The assassination of the former PM Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards worsened the situation.
  • Many innocent Sikhs were persecuted in response, leading to popular support of the Khalistan movement that seeks to create a separate nation called Khalistan in Punjab region to serve as a homeland for the Sikhs.
  • These radical groups are still operating abroad in countries like Canada. 

Radical Hindu Groups

  • Popularly known as the “Saffron Terror”, these violent acts are motivated by Hindu nationalist ideologies.
  • The extent of the Hindu terror in India is highly debated at the domestic level.
  • Riots or attacks targeting other religious groups are often characterised by a nationalist undertone and not all participants are necessarily Hindu nationalists.
  • Complexities like these and the issues surrounding the nature of the minority victims/targets may lead to underreporting of the Hindu terror attacks.

Tribal And National Separatist Groups

  • These groups are motivated by non-religious ideologies and are often known for “communal violence”.
  • India, for a very long time, has been the host for inter-tribal and ethnic conflicts.
  • These incidents are mainly due to ethnic hatred, tribal competition and sectarian aspirations that supersede any existing religious or ideological differences.
  • These incidents are concentrated in the North East India that is politically, economically and geographically isolated from the rest of the country.

Left-Wing Terror Groups

  • The largest among this group, the Naxalites, have been waging war against the government since the 1960s.
  • They have established a Mao inspired insurgency in the eastern part of India known as “Red Corridor”.
  • Currently, they are estimated to have more than 40,000 individuals and are holding significant swaths of the mineral-rich territory.
  • They also have popular support in the poverty-stricken rural villages.

Role of External State And Non-State Actors In Creating Challenges To Internal Security

State actors

  • ‘State actor’ is used in the context where one government supports an actor in the performance of an act or acts of terrorism against the other often deemed as a state sponsor.
  • Increasing activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Nepalchanged the nature of the border completely. It has ties with the Taliban and other radical groups. These groups have been involved with the radicalization of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Haqqani Network and the Taliban have repeatedly been used by Pakistan as instruments to help it achieve its foreign policy objectives in India and Afghanistan.
  • China’s People’s Liberation Army continues to deploy construction equipment for road works. It uses spider excavators to build roads in the border area.
  • China is setting up villages in uninhabited tri-junction stretches between India, Bhutan and China, which are intended to support Chinese military facilities.
  • China not following resolution mechanism of maritime disputes in reference to the South China Seawhere China is flexing its military muscle despite an international tribunal verdict (UNCLOS) going against it.

Non-state actors

  • Pakistan has been a major exporter of terrorism to India. Non-state actors like terrorist groups for instance Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are a continuous threat.
  • Non state actor -sponsored terrorism, often motivated by fundamentalist ideologies, backed by secretive but efficient financial networks, use of IT, clandestine access to chemical-biological and nuclear materials, and illicit drug trafficking, has emerged as a major threat to international stability.
  • These groups aim to not only create instability in states like J&K;they also have a larger aim of destabilising the country. This is done through sporadic terrorist strikes, which spreads terror and panic. This could also adversely affect the ability of the Indian state to pursue economic modernisation.
  • Growing vulnerability of the coastline and also of the airspace, for example, Mumbai and Purulia incidents.
  • Insurgency, illegal migration from Bangladesh and smuggling activitiesreflect the porosity (concern highlighted in Kargil Review Committee) of our borders.
  • The deep-rooted nexus between drug mafias, arms dealers, and money launderers for financing terrorism.
  • The north-eastern states have been facing many challengessuch as:
  • Organized Crime, the UWSA is the largest of the organized criminal groups in the region and operates freely along the China and Thailand borders.
  • Ethnic Gangs.
  • Insurgent Groups which can encourage trans-border terrorism and separatist tendencies.
  • Opium poppy cultivation in Burma’s Shan state.
  • Illegal immigrants having livelihood interest.
  • Refugee crisis like 40,000 Rohingya live in India.
  • Insurgent groups active in the Northeast, namely ULFA-I, NDFB-S, UNLF hide in Myanmar; together these could be a serious threat to internal security.

Role of External State Actors in Causing Challenge To Internal Security

  • All the states in the north-eastern region are different from each other because of their ethnic diversity which comprises over 160 scheduled tribes and 400 other tribal or sub tribal communities and groups with predominantly a rural economy.
  • Deadlock over peace-talks and cease-fire agreements with various warring tribes, nexus between many insurgent groups and organized crime syndicates, China’s linkages to some anti-India insurgent groups, demand scrapping the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act are some other key reasons for the survival of armed insurgency in the north-eastern region.
  • Countries surrounding India have been active in exploiting the volatile situation presented by the turmoil in the northeast. Not only countries such as China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, but also smaller powers such as Bhutan and Nepal have been involved in the region.
  • Through political backing, economic assistance, logistic support, military training or arms supplies these countries have varyingly contributed to the ongoing violence in this region. The state may carry out a limited war against Indian state and this might have ramifications for our internal security too.
  • They might support the various insurgent groups, Naxalites, or separatist groups through funding, training or logistics.
  • There have been instances where state actors have been responsible for carrying out cyber warfare through hacking and other espionage.

Role of Non State Actors in Creating Problems For India

  • Insurgency
  • North-East suffers from violent movements based upon ethnic identities leading to clashes. China is alleged to support such acts for instance. United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) members of Assam were given shelter by China.
  • Terrorism
  • Pakistan has been a major exporter of terrorism to India. Non-state actors like terrorist groups for instance Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are a continuous threat.
  • Non state actor -sponsored terrorism, often motivated by fundamentalist ideologies, backed by secretive but efficient financial networks, use of IT, clandestine access to chemical-biological and nuclear materials, and illicit drug trafficking, has emerged as a major threat to international stability.
  • These groups aim to not only create instability in states like J&K; they also have a larger aim of destabilising the country. This is done through sporadic terrorist strikes, which spreads terror and panic. This could also adversely affect the ability of the Indian state to pursue economic modernisation.


  • Left wing extremism affects states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Drug Trafficking

  • Inter and Intra state trafficking takes place, through golden crescent and golden triangle routes.
  • Drugs from Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) have affected Punjab and Golden Triangle (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand) has affected North Eastern states.

Human Trafficking

  • Children and women trafficking takes place via Bangladesh and Nepal.


  • Propagandas are run and funded by enemy country and other non-state actors (NGOs and CSOs) to destabilize India by damaging the socio-religious fabric and ensure riots.

Counterfeit Currency

  • It corrodes economy from inside, by facilitating black money and money laundering activities as well as funding terrorism, which itself creates a demand for fake currency, thereby creating a positive feedback loop. This is the issue arising especially from Pakistan.

Cyber Security

  • Recent cyber-attacks by Legion, ATM skimming are examples. Pakistani hackers often hack government websites.
  • They can also incite people for regionalism thus demanding their separate state which further increases secessionist tendency.

Key Challenges Faced by India

Intelligence and coordination

  • India has the following weaknesses when it comes to intelligence:
  • Limited to no intelligence
  • The available intelligence is general, vague or not actionable.
  • Lack of effective communication between intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies.
  • These weaknesses are not only seen in India but also in other nations like the USA. The Indian government has made a huge improvement in the state’s intelligence gathering mechanism and has enhanced coordination among the different security agencies. Thus, it has resulted in the reduction of terror attacks.
  • India’s security mechanism has been reinforced with the establishment of Multi-
    Agency Coordination Centres (MACCs) and Subsidiary Multi-Agency Coordination
    Centres (SMACCs).
  • Yet, India currently suffers from insufficient inter-agency coordination, which in turn, leads to a lack of effective intelligence monitoring and security response.

Social Media

  • Currently, those involved in terrorist activities are making use of social media platforms to recruit and spread ideology among a wider audience.
  • They are even giving manuals on how to make explosives to the public.
  • Communication has also become easier for these individuals.
  • The radicalisation of youth in India’s vulnerable areas has also become easier
    due to social media.
  • Indian government must counter this through effective counter-narratives and build an environment that ensures inclusive growth of the marginalised.

Maritime And Coastal Security In India

  • Maritime security is of economic significance to India.
  • India’s ports handle 70% of external trades in terms of values, making it vulnerable to terrorism.
  • 26/11 and 1993 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai exposed the vulnerability of India’s maritime security.
  • Currently, the Indian Navy is in charge of ensuring the security of the areas beyond 12 nautical miles, while the Coast Guards is responsible for the security of areas between 5 and 12 nautical miles and the maritime police are in charge of the security between the baseline and five nautical miles.Sea is porous, thus is highly difficult to monitor constantly.


  • There is an increase in cashless transactions within India in recent times.
  • Due to the improvement in IT, most of the infrastructural and industrial capacities have become technology-driven.
  • Most of the citizens’ personal information is digitized, leading to higher dependence on technology.
  • This makes India highly vulnerable to cyber terrorism.
  • Currently, India does not have sufficient manpower, expertise, and technologies to deal with this emerging threat.
  • The current threats in this context include interference in the election, propaganda, fake news, digital disruption of energy assets and transportation systems.
  • This is an enormous challenge that requires structural and organisational reform with a large financial investment.

Measures Taken By The Indian Government To Counter-Terrorism

India’s Counter-Terrorism Laws

  • Unlawful Activities (Prevention Amendment Act, 2019: was passed in the parliament this year and it repeals the UAPA, 1967. The amended Act gives the power to the centre to declare
    individuals/organisations as terrorists if it commits/participates, prepares, promotes, or involves in terrorism.
  • Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958: allows the use of any kinds of force that is necessary against a person who is “acting to disrupt the law and order”. This is applicable only if the warning is given by the security personnel.
  • The Other Acts: to deal with terrorism includes the:
  • Prevention of Corruption Act
  • Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA)
  • NIA (Amendment) Act, 2019

India’s Counter-Terrorism Agencies

  • The counter-terrorism activities are mostly undertaken by the intelligence agencies, military, paramilitary and police forces.
  • Army participates in the counter-terrorism operations only as a last resort.
  • Paramilitary forces are given specialised training in counter-terrorism. These forces include BSF, CRPF, NSG, etc.
  • India’s intelligence agencies monitor the terrorist activities and give a warning about the imminent attacks to prevent it from taking place. These agencies include Intelligence Bureau (IB), Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), etc.

International Collaborations

  • India has been vociferous against terrorism, especially state-sponsored terrorism.
  • India has signed various deals and agreements with several like-minded countries for sharing intelligence, preventing organised crimes, removing support to the terrorist organisations and isolating those countries that are sponsoring terrorism.
  • However, despite these proactive endeavours, India is not able to materialise these collaborations and cooperation and has to deal with terrorism on its own most of the time.                                        

Way Forward

  • Collaboration between the government, media and the public is a need of the hour. This will ensure quick and efficient sharing of information about suspicious activities to the law enforcement agencies while also ensuring inclusive growth among the people. Media and government can also ensure the de-radicalization of the youth in vulnerable
  • Local police forces must be well trained and well equipped with necessary gears so that they can respond to the terrorist attacks until the Special Forces reach the site.
  • Enabling timely transportation of the security forces during the terror attacks to ensure an effective and quick response. This is of significant challenge to India due to the heavy congestion and haphazard layouts of the infrastructures. Improved urban planning, coordination, and connectivity are vital to address this issue.
  • Institutionalising swift decision-making is necessary to address security issues. Efficient counterterrorism strategies must be formulated in an integrated and multidimensional manner for these decisions to be successful. These decisions must be quick and proactive with no delays.
  • While over 50% of the known terror attacks between 1972 and 2017 was committed by Left-Wing terrorist groups, in terms of casualties, Islamic terror equally deadly.
  • Three key vulnerable areas in India are:

Jammu and Kashmir

The Eastern “Red Corridor”

North East India

  • These areas are dominated by the Islamist, Left-Wing, and Tribal/separatist groups.
  • As long as Pakistan continues to sponsor terrorism in Kashmir and nearby areas and refuse to cede its claim to the territory, it is unlikely that the crisis will calm in the near future. India has little choice but to maintain some façade of control and security.
  • The types of violence found in the North East are common among the underdeveloped areas undergoing modernisation. The continued investment in infrastructure and social development in
    the region should be adequate to quell such incidents in the long-term. Harsh police crackdown may only increase the tribal mistrust of the authorities, making developmental activities far more difficult. The area, which has the most terror incidents and has a high potential for short-term improvement, is the Red Corridor.
  • The Naxalites and other Maoist groups can be controlled if efforts are made in
    reconciliation and negotiation. This process may be painful, involving ceding some reasonable political representation to the aggressors, but the end of violence and regained access to vital mineral resources would make well worth the government’s while.
  • There are also some benefits to waiting. Increased funding for the economic development of the isolated rural areas that support the Naxalites can ensure popular support for the government instead of the separatist groups.


  • Both state and non-state factors from outside have created problems in our internal security framework. Hence while it is imperative to guard our borders and strengthen our diplomacy, on the other hand, we need to check the various non state actors who come in hidden forms. There is a need for a national internal security doctrineto deal with various challenges.
  • Since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, there has been a considerable improvement in India’s counterterrorism endeavours. The complex challenges pertaining to terrorism continue to threaten India and its limitations in addressing it are making the situation bleaker.
  • The manifestation of terrorism continues to change rapidly and is increasingly becoming technology-centric. Therefore, the government must take the necessary steps to adapt to the change and address the growing challenges while countering terrorism.

Overall, while the Indian government has taken several measures to address the issue of funding and support for state, non-state actors and terrorist organizations, it remains a challenging and an ongoing problem.  It requires the continued cooperation of international partners, as well as sustained efforts by the Indian government and civil society, to counter the threat posed by these groups.