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Growth to continue despite security threats: Experts

November 18, 2008 11:40 IST

There may be threats galore from insurgents and terror groups inside India and around in the region, but experts have expressed confidence in New Delhi's ability to tackle these and continue its march on a high-growth path.

Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick Worldwide, a US-based conflict management think-tank, said that India's hope lay in its large population of young people -- 70per cent of them under 35 years of age. Leslie, who is known to have mediated in conflicts in Columbia, Afghanistan and the Philippines, was speaking at the session on 'Challenges to National and Regional Security.'

The session discussed threats in India in the light of recent attacks in major commercial cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Mumbai and New Delhi, and the ongoing insurgency in Kashmir and parts of the north-east.

Leslie and William S Cohen, a former defence secretary of the United States (1997-2001), complimented India on having combated insurgency for so long. "We are in no position to advise India on how to tackle terrorism," both said in their respective speeches.

Shriprakash Jaiswal, minister of state for home, admitted that though the situation in the north-east, Jammu & Kashmir and even in some areas affected by Naxalite terror was under control, the level of violence continued to remain the same as before. He said the government was worried about the insurgents' new strategy of selecting commercial centres and crowded places to trigger bomb blasts.

Shekhar Dutt, deputy national security advisor, said India had shown great resilience in combating threats to its national security -- both from home grown left-wing insurgents to those backed by foreign powers.

He claimed that notwithstanding the blasts in some major cities in the last few months, the big rise in the number of air travellers and in freight and railway traffic were indicators that Indians are not cowed down by terrorists. He added rising levels of violence in Afghanistan and the chaos in the tribal areas of Pakistan posed a great risk to the region's security.

Leslie, however, advised the Indian government to use technologies like the Internet and the mobile phone to keep the youth informed and not allow them to join the ranks of disgruntled people, because eventually they could pose a risk to the country's security.

Ajai Choudhry, chairman and CEO of HCL Infosystems, said technology could be used effectively to prevent terrorist attacks, as was being done in the US and the UK after 9/11.
BS Reporter in New Delhi