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The Taj hotel Mumbai under seige| Photo: Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

The Longest Sixty Hours of The Mumbai Mayhem

Political leadership

The political leadership both at the state and Central level was awfully inapt.

We all may recall how in the US, the Mayor of New York voluntarily seized leadership that motivated and coordinated relief operations after the 9/11 terrorists’ attacks on the twin towers.

But our local political leaders remained in the background.

Nothing could be more bizarre than Maharashtra CM Deshmukh with his actor son visiting the Taj Mahal Hotel with film producer Ram Gopal Verma day after the attack with large police contingent for their protection seemingly looking for a film on Mumbai terrorist attacks to be made with his son in the lead role.

In an another instant Kerala CM was not allowed to visit family of the late Major Unnikrishnan of the NSG who sacrificed his life fighting terrorist in Taj Mahal Hotel. The Kerala CM’s remarks that had Unnikrishnan not been a Major of the Indian Army and died in action, not a dog would have visited his house were rather unfortunate and uncalled for. The traumatized family needed healing touch that was unfortunately missing.

In another such instance ATF chief Karkare’s widow refused the financial aid from Gujarat’s CM Narendra Modi, as he a few days before the Mumbai action had demanded narco test of this gallant top cop investigating Malegaon incident.

It is also desired that the VIPs and big wigs should not visit such operational sites with large paraphernalia as their visits distract operations.

National Response

Rightly every man and woman in our country gets highly agitated over such terrorist acts and disasters and seeks governmental protection and aid.

Unlike the US and Israel, our national response lacks punch due to non involvement of the common man on the streets which is evident in the US or Israel where every able bodied person  undergoes compulsory military training.

Its time, we as a nation involve our youth in compulsory military training.

It will not only provide abundance trained manpower in matters military but also channelize their energies towards national defence and nation building. It was indeed sad to see that while country was under attack, marriages with pomp and show and vulgar display of wealth were being solemnized at many places including Mumbai. Austerity during grave national crises should be the natural norm and response as a nation.

Establishment of Control Room

I saw the war on terrorism in Mumbai being fought on the TV but I really wonder if there was any Centralized Control Room established with proper maps, communication set up and facilities for periodical media briefings.

The VIPs rather visiting the operational sites where they hinder and distract operations need to visit only the Centralized Control Room for briefings.

It appears this was not done.

 Homeland Security

We have vast porous coast land and land borders.

Therefore, we need independent dedicated homeland security apparatus both at national and state level to coordinate country’s security.

This cannot be left on Border Security Force, Coast Guard and similar other Para Military Forces (PMFs) working independently under the home ministry. We should learn from the US model where homeland security is core function of the federal government and after 9 /11 no major act of terrorism has occurred. Similarly Israel is surrounded by hostile Muslim states but efficacy of its homeland security is role model for rest of the world to imbibe.

The US president Barack Obama unveiled appointments of  General James Jones, the  former NATO commander as  National Security Advisor and retained cold war veteran Robert Gates as his Secretary Defence thus laying great emphasis on homeland security.

Maritime Security

While maritime security would be part of the homeland security, intelligence collection and safety and security of our exclusive economic zone would need special attention of the Coast Guard duly supported by the Indian Navy and coastal area police force.

Our Coast guard and Navy’s blue water capability also needs to be augmented so that Somalia like pirates do not hijack our merchant vessels at will for ransom. We must register and computerize data of all fishermen, their boats and trawlers and ensure no illegal poaching or fishing is done in our waters.

Services of local fishermen must be utilized for maritime intelligence.

Had credible action been taken on the fore warning of carriage of suspicious goods in a boat given by the local fishermen by the Coast Guard and the local police, our pro-active response would have prevented terrorists’ attacks on Mumbai.

Federal Intelligence Agency

Time and again our reactive response has been due to intelligence failure but we have failed to learn from the past. We do understand its importance but each intelligence agency does not want to give up its autonomy and works independently.

The users seldom get real time actionable hard intelligence as field units gathering intelligence forward it to their masters in Delhi. And by the time it is passed on, it becomes stale, old and non productive. Also inputs given are delightfully vague and used to save one’s own back incase of crisis. Mostly the sources of information are the same for different intelligence agencies.

These raw inputs need credibility that needs to be ensured by other means. Therefore, our resources in human and technical intelligence need to be augmented and upgraded.

We should also utilize our space capability to gather intelligence from this dimension as well.

We need to develop satellite surveillance and sharing of intelligence with other friendly countries to mutual advantages.  In the instant anti- terrorist operations, though some political heads have rolled down, bosses of the intelligence agencies are enjoying immunity. The National security apparatus needs to be streamlined and overhauled and made accountable.

It is often criticized that armed forces lack intelligence gathering mechanism. Though armed forces are the major users of the intelligence, in our set up, during peace times, primarily our armed forces depend on Research and Analysis Wing for the external intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau for the internal and peripheral countries intelligence.

The armed forces own intelligence organizations are only capable of localised combat intelligence when contact with enemy is made during hostilities. Therefore, it is inappropriate to criticize them for intelligence failure.

There is a need to coordinate sharing of intelligence inputs generated by anti- narcotics, customs, revenue, finance and economic departments of centre and states, space, atomic energy, industry, states police, all Para Military Forces, various NGOs and other agencies / organizations of the country.

National Security Guard & Special Forces Response

The NSG is located at Manesar; good one hour drive from Indira Gandhi Airport at Delhi during non-peak hours.

The IAF aircraft earmarked for their lift to Mumbai was located at Chandigarh that took time to refuel and come to Delhi wasting valuable time.

Our Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) should lay down procedures and drills for such crisis management.It would have been worthwhile to do emergent requisitioning of suitable aircraft from private airlines /Air India for quicker transportation of the NSG commandos for swifter response.

It is desirable that the Special Forces like Para commandos and subunits of the NSG are located at nodal cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati and Chennai for quicker response to cover vast country of ours.

Where ever they are located, they must be close to an airport, railway station and communication centre for quick real time response.

In grave emergency all national resources both in public and private domains should be mustered for quickest optimized response. It is mandatory to place helicopters with landing and refueling facilities for their quickest response from their bases and airports to their operational sites.

Our armed forces do not have basic equipment such as stun grenades, smoke grenades and rubberized bullets. Use of these in built up areas paralyses target ensuring his capture.

A captured terrorist would not only be effective source of intelligence but credible evidence to support our claim against Pakistani support to such dastardly acts. Needless to say, our troops also need good communication and global positioning systems.

The NSG was raised in 1984 for anti-hijacking and anti-terrorist operations with two wings- Special Action Group (SAG) comprising of crack army personnel on deputation and Special Rangers Group (SAG) from Para Military Forces (PMF).

It is a matter of grave concern that more than half the resources of the SAG are being wasted in protecting politicians like Deve Gowda, Amar Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan, Sajjan Kumar, RL Bhatia, Sharad Yadav, Murli Manohar Joshi and so on.

While some of them may have genuine threats, on others this highly trained resource is being misused more as status symbols.

Its time NSG is placed under command of a three star Army General. It was pity seeing NSG DG, a police officer during Mumbai attacks moving about and giving press statements when he had perhaps no role in planning a military operation launched by the military element of the Armed forces.

At best SPG could be rightly under an appropriate rank police officer.

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