Setting our house in order

It has been over a month since the terrorist attack on Mumbai. The nation has slowly returned to normalcy, but it will take a long time for the families of the victims to recover from the shock of losing the loved ones. There have been so many hue and cries over who owns moral responsibility for the security lapse of this scale. In a sense of owning moral responsibility as well as to lessen the public anger towards it, the ruling coalition has let go of the Chief Minister of the state and the Central home minister. These actions while being only symbolic does not address the realities on the ground.

The attack on Mumbai consists of a series of events that can be grouped into two. Group one consists of all the activities from recruitment of manpower for the terrorist organizations, training, financial assistance and choosing targets to carry out the attack. By this time, it has become more or less clear that all these activities have been performed within the territory of our neighbor Pakistan. Activities in group two consist of accessing Indian Territory & all the mayhem that the terrorists unleashed upon Mumbai.

Too much of attention of Indian politicians and Indian media has been centered on the fact that our neighboring country is a flourishing ground for terrorists aimed at destabilizing our country. However, not enough attention has been given to fact that terrorists have actually sneaked into our country to carry out their ruthless crimes. For the terrorists to have entered our country and carried out these attacks, they should have first evaded our central intelligence agencies, secondly they have sailed in the Arabian Sea evading the scrutiny and interception by Indian Navy & Coast guards and finally they actually landed in Mumbai where they took the ill-equipped State Police by surprise. The fact that they have managed to get the better of all these security layers is a little disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that despite having found that a similar security shortcoming allowed the 1993 Mumbai blasts, our political class and security agencies have not learnt their lessons.

There is an old saying in Chinese which goes on something like this: ‘If you slap me once, it’s your fault; if you slap me twice, it’s my fault.’ Terrorists have slapped India multiple times in the past year alone. Yet, our political class in general and the government in particular are only pointing fingers at our neighbor but are in a perennial state of self denial about the short comings of our security agencies.

To take the example from the medical world, to prevent any disease attack on the body it is necessary to address immune system of the body. Our country’s immune system consists of the eco-system of all our security establishments. However strong the terrorists trained and backed up by our neighbors are and however hard they try, if our security agencies are functioning effectively and efficiently they will not be able to carry out cold blooded murders in our soil.
In addition to pressurizing Pakistan to take action on terrorists holed out in Pakistan, it is also necessary to strengthen our security establishments. First and foremost is the need to increase the coordination between the various central security agencies and state security agencies. Secondly, the government should increase the coordination between the security establishments of the states bordering Pakistan. This coordination could be activities like sharing intelligence information, joint training, sharing of best practices etc. Thirdly we need to provide the State Police with better equipment & training. While the center has hinted on creating a national level investigating agency, it should not forget and ignore the critical role that can be played by the state police in collecting ground level information.

As the persuasion of Pakistan to take action on terrorists holed out in its territory is going to be time consuming one, the Indian government should simultaneously address the current shortcomings of our security agencies. If we succeed in this second goal we can ensure in the security of our nation irrespective of whether we succeed in the first goal.


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