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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 capability

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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4 Responses to 26/11 and India’s response

  1. thetrajectory November 26, 2009 at 8:26 am #

    Pakistan has handed India an anniversary gift for 26/11 in the form of Lakhvi & company’s verdict; the people of India are still hoping to receive forgotten anniversary gifts. March 13th 1993, December 13th 2001, July 11th 2006, November 26th 2008…how many more strikes do we need before even a single mastermind of these terrorist attacks is punished by the Government of India?

  2. thefiltercoffee November 26, 2009 at 9:31 am #

    @thetrajectory: Indeed. Personally, I would like India to focus on things in its immediate control. Insofar as bringing the perpetrators to book, India has no leverage against Pakistan and Pakistan sees no benefit to obliging India wrt terror.

    Structural and organizational reform is the key along with an elevated security consciousness in India.

    Chidambaram was on NDTV yesterday, he is right – our federal & state law enforcement have suffered from years of neglect. There are no quick fixes. But I appreciate his “honest toil” approach.

  3. Rohan Joshi (@filter_c) November 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    My blogpost written on the 1st anniversary of 26/11 on what India was missing. Still relevant, unfortunately. http://t.co/X2fRGJGq

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  1. Global Voices Online » India Remembers Horiffying Mumbai Terror Attacks - November 26, 2009

    […] recommendations made in the immediate aftermath of 26/11 not much progress has happened, writes Filter Coffee. He writes: “Sadly, barring a few cosmetic rearrangements, not much has changed in India, and […]

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