Incompetence of India's security apparatus
The incompetence of India's security
apparatus has been incontrovertibly demonstrated.
Governmental responses to the Mumbai
carnage show little sign of coming to terms with the enormity of the
issue. The prime minister has chosen to emphasise amendments to the
prevailing laws on terrorism — currently a set of toothless provisions
inserted in 2005 into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967—
and the mirage of a Federal Investigation Agency that is intended to
make all terrorism in the country miraculously vanish.
Neither of these initiatives, however,
has any potential whatsoever to contain the rampage of terrorism across
a country that remains pitifully under-policed, with a paper thin intelligence
cover concentrated in a few urban centres and strategic locations.
There has also been a reiteration of
assurances that ‘maritime security’ will be beefed up, with more power
and resources to the coast guard and coastal police stations, and better
coordination between these forces, and with the navy.
Then, of course, there is a question
of response to the very obvious role of Pakistan — and this is a palpable
dead end. Even preliminary investigations have thrown up overwhelming
evidence that every string of control in the multiple terrorist strikes
in Mumbai leads back to Pakistan and to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT)
— an organisation that, under its new identity as the Jamaat-ud-Dawa
continues to enjoy direct state support in Pakistan.
In a rare outburst, Prime Minister Singh
warned unnamed "neighbours" that "the use of their territory
for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would
be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them."
His government is now reportedly "under
pressure" to act against Pakistan, and a range of hare-brained
responses are doing the rounds in official circles, including massive
troop mobilisation along the border, mimicking the purposeless massing
of troops under Operation Parakram, launched on December 16, 2001, after
the terrorist attack on India’s Parliament.
If this worthless and counter-productive
exercise is the model to be replicated in the present case, it would
be no less than tragic. If, on the other hand, it is not, then there
is little capacity — at this juncture — to design effective alternatives,
in the foreseeable future, to impose any "cost" on Pakistan,
and such capacities can only be constructed, gradually and systematically,
over time, and with a clear strategy in mind — and there is little evidence
of the latter at this juncture.
The overwhelming focus of the Indian
response to Pakistan’s role appears to be concentrated on diplomatic
efforts to bring international pressure to bear on Pakistan. This has
been an apparently successful initiative, particularly with US secretary
of state Condoleezza Rice set to arrive at Delhi on December 3, on a
visit that many expect (or, more likely, hope) will produce more than
just a very strong ‘message’ to Islamabad.
While all this will certainly make the
powers that be in Pakistan squirm a bit, there is little reason to believe
that the dynamic that has protected them in past and even greater transgressions,
both in the region and well beyond, will not, once again, reassert itself.
In the meanwhile, the attack in Mumbai
has done what may well be irreparable damage to the "shining"
image of the "emerging global power". The utter incapacity
and incompetence of India’s security apparatus has been incontrovertibly
demonstrated in what may be an audacious attack by as few as 10 terrorists.
Any terrorist operation can only be contained, in terms of its potential,
in the first few minutes.
Which means that the "first responders"—
invariably the local police — have to be equipped, trained and capable
of, if not neutralising, then, at least, containing the terrorists.
If the first batches of police personnel had arrived in sufficient strength
at each of the locations of terrorist attack in Mumbai, with appropriate
weaponry, communications, transport and other technological force multipliers
they probably would have been able to minimise the loss of life, material
damage, and the operational time.
(Published in Economic Times, New Delhi,
December 2, 2008)