On the anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, it is not surprising that the first thoughts that come to mind relate to the safety and security of the country. The obvious question to be posed here is: Are we safer today than we were five years ago? Sadly, the answer will be no.
There are two ways that you assure
security — through deterrence or defence. The former implies the ability
to inflict so much pain on the perpetrator that he desists from
attacking you. The latter, on the other hand, means creating structures
and systems which will ensure that the perpetrator is not able to launch
an attack on you.
On both counts we remain wanting. Far from
being able to punish the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its ISI masters, we
witnessed the expansion of the footprint of the outfit across the polity
of Pakistan via its front organisation, the Jamaat-ud-dawa (JuD).
Confronted with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the deep state of
Pakistan has encouraged the pro-establishment radicals like the JuD/LeT
to create a Difa-e-Pakistan Council, which groups some 40 religious and
radical political outfits under its umbrella. Anyway, after the hue and
cry following the Mumbai attack, the LeT has remained low-key and the
ISI has worked on the alternate strategy of encouraging the Indian
Mujahideen to do its dirty work. The advantage here is that all its foot
soldiers are Indians, while its leadership, also comprising of Indian
Muslims, resides in Pakistan.
India is unable to deter
Pakistan as such because it is a nuclear weapons state. The simple truth
is that in 2001 and in 2008, India was, in fact, deterred from
undertaking military retaliation against Islamabad because of nuclear
weapons. Somehow, we have not been able to find the space for combat
between the use of conventional and nuclear weapons in a manner that can
Anyway, since 1991, New Delhi has a policy
of not undertaking tit-for-tat terror strikes against Pakistan.
Islamabad will periodically hint darkly at Indian involvement in strikes
on its soil. It says that India is supporting Baloch nationalists and
even the Pakistani Taliban. But India is doing nothing of the sort.
Most likely, it is funding some of the separatist organisations in
Pakistan. But this is a far cry from actually planning, training, arming
and launching strikes against civilian targets in the other country.
Indeed, Indian policy since the mid-1990s and through the course of
several governments, United Front, Congress or BJP, has been to engage
Islamabad in a dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues.
What about shoring up defences at home ? Here, too, the record is mixed.
As a result of the Mumbai fiasco, which also involved a failure of
intelligence, the government finally gave a green light to the Multi
Agency Centre (MAC), a clearing house of intelligence relating to
terrorism run by the Intelligence Bureau (IB). But whether the MAC
actually delivers the goods is something we don’t really know.
Several measures have been taken to strengthen coastal security such
as putting up special radars and creating a new coastal command under
States have also set up the maritime wings of their
police forces, though not many are really functional. The biggest
problem with regard to preventing a boat-load of terrorists slipping
through is the lack of an effective transponder system through which the
authorities are able to keep track of India’s vast fishing fleet.
The biggest weakness remains the state-level police forces and
intelligence systems. The politicisation of the police makes it
difficult to create a professional force which will think more about
doing its duty, rather than making money through various dubious
activities. The IB and R&AW will be only as effective as the ground
intelligence we are able to capture, and here, sadly, little or nothing
has been done to make sure that there is an effective intelligence
network that goes down to the thana level.
At the heart of
the challenges is the inability of the Union government and the State
governments to work together in a common cause. Even though the police
is headed by all-Indian Indian Police Service officers, we often find
that once they are in the state, they fight tenaciously for the their
turf which, in any case, is decided on by even more short-sighted
politicians. For an effective counter-terrorist organisation, we need a
There was a time when the Union government
believed that you could resolve the problem by throwing money at it —
radar stations, interceptor boats, new organisations, weapons and
But today, we are in an era when money is
short. Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said as much at the
combined commanders conference in New Delhi.
He called on
them to seriously look at the various recommendations made by task
forces appointed by the government to enhance our national security
capability. In particular, he called on them to take up the challenge of
“establishing the right structures for higher defence management and
the appropriate civil-military balance in decision-making that our
complex security environment demands.”
instead of saying what politicians usually say, that the government will
not skimp in spending for the country’s security requirements, Dr Singh
delivered a blunt message that “we will have to exercise prudence in
our defence acquisition plans and cut our coat according to our cloth …
While we must take into account the capabilities of our adversaries, we
have to plan our long term acquisition on the assumption of limited
Mid Day November 26, 2013