Commentary: We could have done better
Mail Today December 1
THE MUMBAI mayhem is likely to get security services of the world back to their drawing boards. A commando raid by highly motivated and trained radicals at soft targets like hotels, just to kill people and not take them hostage, is as new and alarming a development as was the use of passenger airlines to bring down a sky-scraper on 9/11.
The arrival of the team by sea is another disturbing innovation. The Shin Bet officer who has criticised the National Security Guard and the Marine Commandos for going into action without gathering adequate intelligence is barking up the wrong tree. In a hostage situation, all the victims are in one or two locations, which may be wired with explosives and guarded by terrorists ordered to kill should there be any sign of a rescue attempt. In such circumstances, it is important to gather intelligence about the location of the hostages and their captors and the explosives.
But in Mumbai, there is no indication that the gunmen wanted to take hostages. The terrorist rampage had a plain end in view — international publicity by killing foreigners and humiliating India. Their plan was to storm the two hotels, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Nariman House, shooting whoever came in their way, and then battle with security forces with the world looking on in a Thanksgiving Day weekend.
After the initial mayhem, the focus of the terrorists was to prolong the battle with the security forces. They moved between floors and sections of the hotels that they seemed to know very well.
In these circumstances it was important to neutralise the killers as soon as possible, as well as provide a means for those trapped in their rooms to escape. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons enumerated below, this was not done.
It is inevitable that in hindsight, there will be many flaws emerging in the conduct of the police and commandos. The first fact we need to digest is that this was a one-of-a-kind event. No previous operation or event could have prepared the police or commandos to deal with this better. Mind you, there are no questions about their bravery, which was evident to everyone.
Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare and his colleagues died because they did not assess their adversary adequately. You cannot take on commandos armed with assault rifles — with a killing range of 400 metres — with pistols that are only good at about 20 metres. Neither in training nor equipment was the Mumbai or the Railway Police at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in any position to take on the terrorists.
The National Security Guard arrived at the site of action only by 7 am. Reportedly, they had to wait three hours for an aircraft in New Delhi, despite the fact that they are supposed to have an aircraft on standby all the time. They spent another hour waiting at the Mumbai airport for buses to take them to the sites of action. Because of the delay, the Marine Commandos were sent in. But neither agency had maps or any idea of the layout of the hotels they were dealing with.
Had Mumbai had a dedicated Special Weapons and Tactics team, trained and equipped to the level of the NSG, they could have gone into action within an hour or two.
Commentary: Pakistan, Why, Why, Why ?
Mail Today November 30, 2008
Reading the accounts of those who went through the trauma of the Mumbai siege and watching the funerals of those who died combating the terrorists, the question most Indians are asking themselves is, why? Why does Pakistan send these well-trained killing machines so far away from their home and hearth to wreak havoc in our metropolises regardless of the consequences?
Don’t they realise everyone knows they have done so. Pakistan has become a pariah nation in addition to being a failing state. If Islamabad’s somersaults are any indication, Pakistan remains determined to take the low road to perdition. Nothing, not international opprobrium and loathing, nor India’s pleading for creating a peaceful and prosperous South Asia seems to make any difference.
As long as the issue is Kashmir it is at least comprehensible. Pakistan claims Jammu & Kashmir on the erroneous belief that it was meant to be part of their country and is supporting a guerrilla war there. But surely there is some law of proportionality even in revenge. So, why Mumbai?
The answer lies in the tortuous history of what strategic affairs expert K. Subrahmanyam says in his essay on Page 14 of today’s edition is a “clash of civilisations” created by Partition in 1947 when the composite civilisation that is India was set off against a self-consciously Muslim Pakistan.
Somehow this new nation felt compelled to rationalise its own, somewhat improbable, birth by hating India. These were feelings not so much of the ordinary people but of those who believed they were the guardians of the new
state, which soon meant the Pakistan army.
India has always been Pakistan’s obsession. The attitude of the Pakistan army is best brought out by Ayub Khan’s order of the day to the Pakistani forces going into battle with India in 1965 where he declared “Hindu morale” would not be able to take more than a couple of hard blows. The stereotype Lala or Bania India has more or less vanished from polite discourse in Pakistan, but not in the army and other macho institutions like the ISI, which still believe Pakistan and Muslims are somehow superior to India.
This self-image took a beating in 1971, but the Pakistan army was itself to blame for Bangladesh’s secession. The sense of injustice deepened when in the 1990s, as India’s economy began to surge, Pakistan’s declined. The perverted response was to use terrorists to target India’s economic powerhouses. In the 1993 blasts, the Stock Exchange, Jhaveri Bazar and Air India building in Mumbai were targeted.
Many thought the possession of nuclear weapons would help Pakistan overcome what is clearly an inferiority complex, but that has not happened. Instead, the army has felt emboldened and fine-tuned a policy of what it calls “sub-conventional” war against India. That this war involves blowing up innocent men, women and children and rampaging through vibrant and human cities like Mumbai does not seem to have any effect on those who see themselves as the ultimate guardians of Pakistan. The jihadi virus is eating Pakistan from within and yet it seeks external adventures in Afghanistan and India. Pakistan, it was said, had an army with a country; soon there could be no country or army left.
Commentary: Why the Pakistan link is not a surprise for New Delhi
Mail Today November 29, 2008
The suggestion that the terrorists have come from Pakistan came first from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself on Thursday.
Later, confirmation came from intercepts made by the Army on Thursday. On Friday, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee added his weight to the charges. We now have a captured terrorist to add to this evidence.
But why should there be any surprise at this knowledge? Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate has been deeply involved in terrorist activities in India since the mid-1980s. Once the US turned the heat on them, they fine-tuned a system through which they could deny their involvement in such activities. But the charge-sheet of the 1993 Mumbai blasts will tell you in great detail how Pakistani officials persuaded the underworld to send recruits to Islamabad via Dubai, trained and equipped them and sent them back to carry out what was till 9/11 the worst act of urban terrorism in history.
General Pervez Musharraf followed the two-faced policy of denying involvement, even while backing the ISI. He was running a complicated operation in which he sought to keep Pakistani options open in Afghanistan by backing the Taliban, even while claiming to fight America’s war on terror. Things changed when the general himself felt the swish of the executioner’s sword in the form of two abortive blasts in Islamabad. At once, one set of militants were outlawed, though another set remained kosher.
The former were groups like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the latter was the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which, many Indian intelligence officers believe, was actually created by the ISI to fight India. He followed his Afghan tactic of talking peace on one hand and preserving his options for future use. Terrorist infiltration was reduced but the infrastructure to support terrorism was kept in working order.
American pressure in Afghanistan and India’s diplomatic success with the US has acted like a nutcracker on the ISI. The disrepute the Army is in has affected the ISI as well and it is currently under greater pressure from the US and the energised civilian government. Announcements on the ISI coming under the Interior Ministry, and the declaration that its political wing had been abolished, is a manifestation of this.
The ISI has been compelled to duck and weave between the various things thrown to it. But while the Army can sit back and allow the civilians to come apart, the ISI has to maintain its tempo of operations or find itself not just defeated, but made irrelevant.
After 9/11 and the onset of the US war on terror, there has been a great churning in South Asia. Old groups and loyalties have come apart and new power centres have taken their place. This has given rise to a bunch of even more tough, ruthless and committed jihadis. But our biggest problem is that we still have no way of assessing just how the most dangerous element in this mixture — the ISI — is behaving. If the Kabul bombing and the Mumbai action are to be taken into account, it would appear that the cornered ISI is lashing out in all directions.