Friday, December 5, 2008

26/11: Mumbai attacks: Intelligence or political failure

In the first place I salute all those martyrs who died fighting for the country. My heartful condolences to all those who have been killed or injured in the attacks.

The attacks on Mumbai are unique and most dastardly. This is because just a group of 10 terrorists held the entire city at ransom. Such a scale and intensity was never seen before. All top hotels, an open railway station, a cafe etc were all attacked killing Indians and multinationals. Of course, this article doesn't concentrate on the attack per se, but tries to analyze if it is easy to prevent such attacks. The article tries to see at 2 aspects - Intelligence failure and politcal failure.

Intelligence failure:

India's external intelligence agency RAW had told 4 times to Govt of India and Maharashtra but the Special Protection group (SPG) left barely minutes before terrorist attack. The SPG however had no clue about the attack on Oberoi. Do you call this intelligence failure? No, it is intelligence co-ordination failure. Our RAW is good enough to get inputs, but despute protocol no one cares when RAW gives its information. Forget that. RAW gets paid so less and the stress they have calls for reforms. What's the point of setting up such agencies if their utlization is not up to the mark? We have too many intelligence agencies - CBI, CID, each state police(intelligence), IB, Directorate of Army, Navy and Air force intelligence. Yet there is no co-ordination amongst them. Read this article I posted earlier regarding intelligence reforms that were seriosulsy implemented post Kargil war. At least at that time government was serious and took stern steps.

Let's look at what happened. Indian boat Kuber (officially registered with Indian govt) went to shores beyond Gujarat. The Pakistani ISI/terrorists knew about the boat. They killed the fishermen and others and disguised themselves as Indian fishermen. They had the GPS with built in maps of how to reach Mumbai. They also got fake documents and ID cards that made Coast Guard trust them. The coast Gurard trusted them because the boat was a registered boat and they further checked all documents which were genuine. Where is this failure coming from - It is a systemic failure and only the political establishment can solve this. Recently, Karnataka Govt has issued mandatory orders for smar cards (supposedly not tamperable) to all fishermen in the coastal region. Do you think this will help? May be to a great extent, but not completely. How does a political system check the fact that more than 50% of the boats are unregistered. Who should patrol or supervise...Politicians or Navy, Coastal Guard or Marine Commandoes - definitely the onus is on the latter set.

In our country, there is no way we can identify a person uniquely like SSN in USA. Anybody can fake Driving License, PAN cards, Ration cards - no check on this. All this is not the responsibility of the govt. It is the resposnsibility of all citizens as well. Recently the govt ordered cell phone operators to do a thorough checking on who buys SIM cards and become subscribers. The cell phone operators have this complaint as to the fact that they trust the documents produced which could be any of the above mentioned and thereby give them numbers. So, is this now a systemic failure? It is a failure both at the politica level and at the citizen level. Go to several franchisee stores. Pay them a little bribe and they give you cell phone connection. Is this political failure? Definitely not. People themselves are to be blamed for all these as they don't practise honesty in several cases.

Political failure:

Undoubtedly, politicians are responsible for most failures. As a best case example the govt in the early 1990's introduced an act that was to prevent illegal infiltration from Bangaldesh to the NE Indian states. But the Congress just to get votes from these illegal immigrants continued to execute this act despite High Court and Supreme Court orders. If people can simply come into the country, they can do a whole lot of destructive activities without any check. We did seal the Western borders and thereby Kashmir is safe today. We must seal our Eastern borders. We now have enough evidences to show that Bangaldeshi immigrants were trained by Pakistani's ISI and LeT to carry out such attacks. The organization SIMI works in close co-ordination with such immigrants. All these are funded by Pakistani ISI and organizations like LeT.

In 2004 the govt had set up National technical Reserach Organization (NTRO) which would act as a super intelligence agency - a single window. But this is not yet functional. Why? There is ego clashes amongst various intelligence agencies. The political leadership has not been serious about implementing these changes on a fast track. Let's look at the track record of the present Govt. It is so bad and this year alone 48 attacks have taken place in major cities. Our very own PM has been insisting on setting up Federal Investigative Agency (FIA). Why this has not been implemented? Why we don't have a tough law (forget POTA, but something at least for terror activities)? The present govt just to have vote banks from Muslims doesn't want to punish those who did the PArliament attack, don't want to take action against SIMI. They don't want to pass state laws by different states despite Maharashtra having one such. All this because of Congress and BJP clashes. Rajasthan, MP, Gujarat, Karnataka all want those bills to be passed by the Center. The Central govt is least bothered. These laws are not POTA but resemble Maharashtra's MCOCA law. Of course, it is another argument that having such laws itself is going to help or not. That however, doesn't mean don't have the law. The govt's logic is simply irrational.

We don't have trained Marine Police. They are ill-equipped. The number of boats, resources are so low. Despite the govt's approval they have not yet received. All caught in red tape bureaucracy. Who must supervise this? It is definitely the political establishment. Coastal police stations are setup but neither equipment nor training has been given. Police reforms not being done is the root cause of everything. Some places there is equipment but either are dysfunctional or have poor design. For example, a poor CCTV camera failed to get a camera footage of a shootout in Delhi IGI airport. Whom to blame for this? When honest, brave officers like Hemant Karakre, Ashok Kamthe all had defective bullet proof jackets, whom do you blame for this?

Despite having credible inputs, political establishments have not been serious in implementing security changes. There is a total lapse in implementing them. Even today, go to Delhi's roads where bomb blasts took place. You will not find one policeman with any equipments or simple revolvers while terrorists carry AK-47, bombs and modern revolvers. Is this police failure? Yes, and also a political failure..

As yet another example, when NSG was asked to come there was a delay of 10 hours because the request had to be first sent to Central Govt by the state govt. Why all these crap rules when there is danger? NSG must be given enough powers to reach locations without waiting for any authority. How can u delay such elite commando forces in terms of heightened crisis like this?

Lets' not forget. Whenever there has been a blast or incident of this kind for a week or so patrolling is increased, everything is kept under vigil. But how far can you sustain this vigilance? It has to go down with time. It is natural. When the vigil is strong, nothing happens and everything that has happened is when vigilance is at its lowest point.

Here's another interesting statistics taken from IBNLive which clearly demonstrates a political failure:

After the 1993 serial blasts, Indian Navy hired fishing trawlers to patrol the coast and the state government was supposed to take over in a couple of years but that never happened.

There are 27 departments to take care of maritime security, but hardly any co-ordination between them.

The facts get even more damning. Colonel (retired) Mahendra Pratap Choudhary, who trained the first lot of National Security Guard commandos in the country, was roped in to put up a team of Mumbai Police commandos in 1993 but the unit was disbanded in 2001

A Quick Response Team was formed after the 2003 Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar blasts, but that too is dysfunctional.

After the serial bomb blasts in Mumbai local trains on July 11, 2006, a separate investigation committee to follow the money trail of terror was initiated. This also fell through.


Both political failure and intelligence co-ordination failure has led to the present situation and unless there is co-ordination amongst intelligence agencies and the corresponding political will to take the recommendations seriously we won't be able to prevent such attacks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A very well framed data but a better conclusion..

It is not political nor intelligence co-ordination failure but a failure to "LEARN FROM MISTAKES" and feel "UNITED" when something like this happens.

" Should we really blame PAKISTAN or BANGLADESH or any organisation for this act"?