The biggest stumbling block to terror investigations, it was agreed, remained foreign-based, encrypted messaging services like Whatsapp and Facebook

NEW DELHI: A key security strategies meeting on Friday saw the intelligence and law enforcement agencies raising concern over lack of cooperation from foreign internet service providers such as Whatsapp and Facebook in terror investigations.

According to sources, counter-terror strategy was the focus of deliberations on the second and final day of the annual national security strategies conference of all states, Union territories and Central police organisations, organised by the Intelligence Bureau at its headquarters here. Rather than going into specifics of each counter-terror module, the discussion centred around defining strategies to combat terror and make successful investigations and prosecutions in terror cases.

The biggest stumbling block to terror investigations, it was agreed, remained foreign-based, encrypted messaging services like Whatsapp and Facebook that often sat on requests of the Indian intelligence and law enforcement agencies for sharing messages exchanged between suspected terrorists and stored on their servers, in a readable format. “This often tends to delay and even derail anti-terror investigations, as encryption makes the content secure against viewing by a third party,” said an officer who attended the conference. “Since their servers are located abroad, they conform to privacy laws and security policies of their respective countries,” the officer added.

A power-point presentation was also made on Friday on Left-wing extremism in the country, followed by a panel discussion. While it was acknowledged that violence levels in LWE theatres had witnessed a significant decline, the panel of officers followed it up with a sobering discussion that stressed on remaining on full alert until the Maoist leadership was brought to its knees.

An officer from UP spoke about emerging threats on the counter-terror landscape, especially in eastern parts of India. It be recalled that radicalisation drives by Bangladesh-based outfits like Jamaat ul Mujahideen Bangladesh in madrasas of West Bengal and Assam have emerged as a major security concern, with the direct role of JMB-affiliated operatives having emerged in an attempt to bomb Bodh Gaya complex on January 19 this year.

During the deliberations on Thursday, which centred on Kashmir, a panel discussion chaired by home minister Rajnath Singh had discussed the option of opening talks with the Hurriyat. While some officers supported the idea, an official on Friday told TOI that it was really for the Hurriyat to respond positively. “Hurriyat hardliner Syed Geelani insists that talks should be held at the level of the Prime Minister. It may however not be a good idea to give Hurriyat this elevated status. Second, the capability of the Hurriyat to control violence in J&K is itself in doubt. Thirdly, it has to be seen if Geelani agrees not to insist on ‘azaadi’, which is clearly outside the ambit of the Indian Constitution,” said a senior officer of the security establishment.