Niti Aayog questions Australian institute’s terror ranking of India

A report compiled by Niti Aayog has questioned the methodology adopted by an Australian based institute to rank India as the seventh worst terrorism affected country ahead of conflict-ridden countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Palestine and Lebanon.

Also read | 'Violence cost India’s economy $342 bn in 2014'

The report also questions the opaque funding of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Emailed queries by the government think tank, seeking list of its donors, remained unanswered.

India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth in the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019. The countries ahead of it are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.

In March, the Cabinet Secretariat asked Niti Aayog to track 32 such global indices to see how they could help drive reforms and growth.

Impact on investments

An official said the positioning in the global indices impacted investments and other opportunities.

“The purpose was to see which of the indices can be used to drive reforms or which of these would require some amount of engagement with the publishing agency to make the indices more relevant,” a Niti Aayog official said.

Also read | Data: Terrorism in 2018: More countries affected, but fewer deaths

GTI scores are directly used in the Global Peace Index, the Global Slavery Report published by the Walk Free Foundation, and indirectly used in computing country scores in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness and Global Competitiveness Indices and compilation of Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In 2017, India wrote to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) challenging its ranking in a global slavery report compiled by Australia’s Walk Free Foundation.

Based on GTD

The GTI report issued by the IEP is based primarily on the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland, besides other sources.

Also read | India ranks 141 of 162 countries in peace index, even lower than Sri Lanka

The preliminary report prepared by the government think tank said the GTD was based solely on “unclassified media articles, with more than 100 structured variables such as each attack’s location, tactics and weapons, perpetrators, casualties and consequences etc.”

It added that the Australian government’s Charities and Not-for-profits Commission did not reveal any data about the IEP’s funding sources.

“Emailed queries sent to the IEP requesting a list of its donors have also remained unanswered. The IEP’s 2019 annual report shows that the organisation has only 12 full-time staff, 12 full-time equivalent staff and 6 volunteers. It is indeed surprising that an organization is able to annually collect, meaningfully analyse and disseminate data about 163 countries in the Global Terrorism and Peace Indices and provide country wise national peace reports with just 24 staff members and 6 volunteers,” the report said.

“While the GTD claims to analyse more than two million open source media reports published each day, it lacks any mechanism to engage with Governments or to further classify and verify such open source media reports through Government databases in any of the 163 countries it covers. The large diversity in definitions of terrorism amongst countries, and the lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorism, including in the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism pending in the UN General Assembly since 2014, leads to a great deal of ambiguity in calculating and understanding GTI reports,” the report said.

Also read | What makes India less peaceful than 142 other countries

The report said that IEP’s economic impact of terrorism model does not account for costs for countering violent extremism and long-term economic impacts on business activity, production and investment. “Indeed, the GTI 2019 report itself states that a great majority of property damage values from terrorist incidents are coded in the GTD as ‘unknown,’ resulting in 1 out 4 parameters scoring nil for most countries. Similarly, the definition of mass shootings used in the GTI is limited to ‘indiscriminate rampages in public places resulting in four or more victims killed by the attacker,’ leaving out lone wolf attacks which may have lesser fatalities and more injuries, and attacks foiled by security and intelligence agencies,” the report said.

The report concluded that the absence of a robust data collection and analysis methodology, and any engagement with Governments facing the scourge of terrorism, means that the Global Terrorism Index has low direct value for policymakers and cannot be used as an aid to understand and alleviate challenges to countries from domestic and cross border terrorism.


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