The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

26/11 and India’s response

It’s politics as usual in New Delhi, and no one seems to care

A year has gone by after the carnage in Mumbai that left over 190 people dead and hundreds injured.  In the immediate aftermath of 26/11, articles were written about the gaping holes in India’s internal security preparedness.

Recommendations put forth to the Indian government are all in public domain —  a tougher anti-terrorism law, a separate ministry for internal security, police reform, increasing NSG headcount and footprint, and enhancing India’s covert ops capabilityThe Filter Coffee also presented recommendations in the wake of the 26/11 attacks.

Of the recommendations made, Manmohan Singh’s government chose to make the establishment of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) central to its response to the holes in India’s internal security preparedness.  To be sure, the establishment of the NIA was an important move, because it addressed Centre-State jurisdiction issues that hitherto plagued the CBI.

However, the NIA’s mandate notwithstanding, nothing in public domain indicates any significant activity in the NIA, until 11 months and two weeks after November 26, 2008, when the NIA belatedly sprung into action, based on inputs from the FBI on David Headley and Tahawwur Rana.

In addition, by virtue of design, the NIA mostly addresses post-incident investigation and forensics.  Manmohan Singh’s government articulated little by way of detective and preventive enhancements to India’s internal security preparedness.

The bigger picture that needs to be examined on the first anniversary of 26/11 isn’t necessarily about specific structural and organizational changes, but about the government’s willingness (confidence?) to make public aberrations in its response to the terror attacks and how these can be addressed.

In the year following the World Trade Center attacks in the US, the Bush Administration constituted the 9/11 Commission to examine aspects of US’s response to the attacks as they unfolded, and make recommendations on how the US should proceed, going forward.  The US Department of Homeland Security was born out of these recommendations.

India deserved its 26/11 commission with a limitless mandate to examine our response to the attacks in Mumbai. Key aspects of the events of 26/11 require independent review.

These include incident-specific issues relating to governance and leadership such as  (a) How long it took to notify key stakeholders, such as the Prime Minister, NSA, intelligence services and ministers of Home Affairs and Defense, (b) The time it took for the relevant stakeholders to coordinate and assess the situation, (c) How long it took to authorize deployment of anti-terror units to the scene, and (d) Crisis management — who was coordinating what aspect of India’s responses.

The second aspect of the commission’s review should have entailed structural and organizational changes and enhancements, including those previously discussed.  Sadly, this government does not have the gumption to constitute such a comprehensive review of its responses to the 26/11 attacks.  This isn’t an assailment of the the UPA administration, it is an indictment of India’s petty political environment.

There are critical aspects of the attack that require further analysis — aspects that India is still uncovering, including the roles of Headley and Rana — and questions that no one seems to be able to answer, such as how a bunch of semi-literate people alien to Mumbai, were able to negotiate their way through the city’s conspicuous and inconspicuous landmarks, without local assistance.

This cannot be accomplished by adhocism or through token responses, such as establishing the NIA and deploying the NSG in some cities. One would have thought that the time was ripe for such a bold response, faced as the UPA is, with an ineffectual, embattled Opposition. Sadly, barring a few cosmetic rearrangements, not much has changed in India, and no one, least of all Mumbaikars seem to care.

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Filed under: 26/11, commandos, India, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Mumbai, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, National Security Advisor, National Security Guard, NIA, Politics, POTA, south mumbai, Terrorism, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

N.S.A. – Narayanan Should Abdicate

It’s somewhat unfair to pick on just one ungainly grain from a compost heap of failure that has been the United Progressive Alliance’s reign so far.  But when you’ve been the National Security Advisor (NSA) of a country that has seen an unprecedented number of urban civilian casualties and has witnessed its relations with several other countries sour, you should start to ask yourself if it isn’t about time you stepped off the pedestal.   When Brijesh Mishra was NSA, we saw an India that was beginning to embrace its growing influence in the world.  India seemed at once, confident and comfortable about its place in global affairs.  Five years of UPA rule has seen India recoil like a fetus on the international stage.  The Congress’ return to power in 2004 brought back with it a baggage of personal insecurities that people like Nehru perpetuated on the national front.  KC Singh, former secretary, Ministry of External Affairs makes the case for Narayanan’s ouster:

Narayanan now had control of all the intelligence agencies, as well as the defence and external affairs tracks into the prime minister’s office. In addition, he was the prime minister’s special representative for border talks with China and parleys with counterparts abroad. In particular, that included the American NSA, Stephen Hadley, a route into the White House and thus the India-US nuclear deal. Essentially, Narayanan focused on the two issues of greatest interest to the prime minister: Indo-Pak relations and the nuclear agreement with the US.

Today, two months after the 26/11 Mumbai atrocity, we have limited options to first punish Pakistan and then deter it from fomenting terrorism. Whose job was it to develop these coercive options, debate them with the concerned ministries and departments, and then get them adopted into our doctrines and responses? All we hear is a monotonous lament for the demise of the Musharraf presidency. The Obama administration has started singing a different tune in Afghanistan, giving consideration to an Iraq-type cutting of deals with tribal groups on the fringes of the Taliban. India’s relations with Iran continue to be saddled with US-demanded ‘actions’ against that country. Do we have a fallback strategy if the Obama administration’s approach starts diverging from India towards Pakistan?

Filed under: India, National Security Advisor, Politics, Terrorism, Uncategorized, World