India will remain vulnerable to terror attacks

Published: December 1, 2008 - 09:29 Updated: January 6, 2009 - 14:47

Sanjay Kapoor Hardnews

It has been more than two days since the black cat commandoes of India’s National Security Guard (NSG) after great effort smoked out the recalcitrant terrorists from the sprawling Taj Mahal Hotel of Mumbai. but still there is little clarity about the identity of the perpetrators and also their diabolical agenda. Expectedly, India’s security establishment hinted at the involvement of Lashkar-e-tayyaba (LET) in these attack, a fact that has been aggressively denied by one of their Pakistan based functionary. Such denials, do not really count for anything, but LET’s operations have been marked by individual valor, but it never reached the scale and breadth of the Mumbai operation. The Mumbai attack had military planning written all over it. The ease with which they went around their murderous task made it amply clear that these people had either done a reconnaissance of Taj and its neighborhood or had trained in a simulated environment. Hardnews was told by one of the Indian commandoes who had fought LET in the valley were categorical that the Mumbai militants were professional soldiers due to the ease with which they carried their personal arms and how they used the terrain- in this case the long hallways, rooms, alcoves of Taj Mahal Hotel- to defend their positions. The Mumbai militants adopted a strategy to shock and awe urban centers the kind that was adopted by Chechens in Russia. Chechen commandoes used to take over small towns in Russia and demoralize the townsmen by their violence and brutality. Russia had to put down the Chechen militancy with a heavy hand. Russian terror experts have claimed that the Mumbai happenings had a Chechen impress. The manner in which they entered Mumbai had enterprise and gall of Seal commandoes. Using Gemini boats or inflatable rafts, these militants managed to find their way to the rocky coastline behind Gate of India. Highly placed intelligence sources told Hardnews that they were looking into the possibility of these militants being dropped by commercial ship in Indian waters. What is truly remarkable is the fact that the Indian Intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) claiming advance information of such an attack. Couple of years ago, Home Minister Shivraj Patil- who resigned today afternoon- had mentioned the possibility of militants attacking from India’s long unguarded coastline. RAW sources, who are feeding news channels and friendly hacks to save their backs, claim to have informed the Prime Minister’s Office the movement of these militants to Mumbai and about their nefarious plans, but quite clearly nothing was done about it. A senior IB source told Hardnews that Naval headquarters were given six warnings about the possibility of the attack, but they did not chase up these leads. Did the IB chase up the Navy to find out what they had done with these warnings? The IB source said, “ we have no provision to follow up on such matters. It is just a post office kind of operation”. Intriguingly, the heightened security at Taj Mahal Hotel was scaled down just a few days before the attack. Visitors to Taj a month ago had experienced greater scrutiny of their luggage. Even Tata chief, Ratan Tata, whose company owns Taj Mahal, acknowledged the intel on the possibility of an attack, but claimed that they were not equipped to handle an attack of this kind. One wonders why Tatas who criticized the government for not having a crisis infrastructure did not try to create one himself. It would be illuminating to find out what the control room of Taj Mahal hotel which houses all the CCTV screens has on the terrorists and whether they came in before the attacks. The failure of security agencies not to follow up on intelligence is a story that we Indians have heard many times after paying an exorbitant price. The intelligence report on assassins chasing Rajiv Gandhi was available with security agencies for quite some time, but for bizarre reason nothing was done to provide him greater protection. Intelligence sources claim that these ground reports were actionable, but people at the top failed to stir. Ironically, the present National Security Advisor, M K Narayanan, was then the Intelligence Bureau Chief. This time around the Home Minister Shivraj Patil has been forced to take responsibility for the happenings in Mumbai, but poor guy did not have much to do with what wrong in the western metropolis. First of all, law and order is under the control of the state government and centre cannot do very much about it except send out warnings. Secondly, home ministry has nothing to do with intelligence. So if there is a clamor to improve quality of actionable intelligence then the blame for this should squarely rest at the doorsteps of the National Security Advisor, Narayanan, a police officer of 1955 batch who retired from active service in 1991. Narayanan has been heading the security establishment in different capacity for many years and has been appointing his favorites to run the IB and RAW. If these agencies are doing a shoddy job then everyone should know who is to blame. In this government, Narayanan sits in the PMO and is probably as powerful as the PM himself. Be that as it may, the real reason behind the mess that we are staring at is rampant corruption. It would have been eminently possible for the militants to give a small bribe to custom or coast guard officials to sneak in. Urban centers are becoming a putrefying waste primarily due to the ruling elites disregard for the rule of law. Police, invariably, is used by them as an instrument of oppression against the poor and the marginalized, who increasingly have little stake in the well being of the country. India cannot fight terror of the kind witnessed in Mumbai till majority of people becoming active participants and beneficiaries in the country’s growth story.