Event ReportsPublished on Nov 28, 2009
Proceedings of the weekly interaction in the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation
'One year after 26/11'
After the ‘Kanishka bombing’, the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993, and the Mumbai train blasts of 11 July 2006, 26/11 was a case of ‘mass casualty terrorism’ in India, Mr B Raman, an international expert on jehadi terrorism said, addressing a Weekly Interaction of the Chennai Chapter of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF-C). The retired Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, was initiating a discussion on “One Year After 26/11”, at the Interaction held on 28 November 2009. Mr R Swaminathan, retired Special Secretary and Director-General (Security), Government of India, chaired and moderated the session.
Mr Raman recalled that the human toll in the 26/11 incidents was 166. Of them, 18 were policemen and 80 elite personalities. It was also the first instance in the country outside the State of Jammu and Kashmir in which the terrorists targeted foreigners. Of the 25 foreigners who were killed in the 26/11 incidents, most were citizens of NATO member-countries, which had contributed troops to the US-led war in Afghanistan. Recalling other incidents of mass casualty terrorism in the country, the speaker said that the presence of a large number of elite among the victims and intended victims, and also the choice elitist targets like five-star hotels made 26/11 a media event. The presence of foreigners brought the international media to the city, where however the simultaneous attack on the Chatrapati Shivaji Railway Station did not receive as much media coverage as the star hotels.
The speaker said that the Government of India failed to capitalise on the situation, for brining international pressure on Pakistan. Despite the presence of foreigners among the terror victims, New Delhi did previous little when British Foreign Secretary David Milliband drew a linkage between 26/11 and the ‘Kashmir issue’. It also allowed Pakistan to turn the tables on India, and relieve itself of the diplomatic pressure that was mounting.
As other lessons from 26/11, Mr Raman referred to the scaling down of security at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which had been scaled up on specific intelligence inputs. No effort seems to have been made to study by whom, how, when and at what level of the hierarchy the scaling-down ordered, if only for the security agencies to learn relevant lessons for the future. As he pointed out, most terrorist incidents targeting India are planned outside the country, and executed after a considerable lapse of time. This however applied to ISI-sponsored terrorism, and not jehadi terrorism. In this context, he referred to the unwillingness of the Maharashtra Government to publicise the Pradhan-Balachandran Committee Report on the circumstances that facilitated the 26/11 incidents, despite one of the panel members indicating that there was nothing too sensitive in it. Thus, the lessons for the future would remain unlearnt, he felt.
Mr Raman also referred to the absence of authority, exercise of existing authority, and the irreverence shown to periodic exercises and drills aimed at improving the efficiency of the agencies involved in counter-terrorism measures. He mentioned the non-availability of dedicated aircraft for the National Security Guards (NSG) to reach Mumbai from Delhi, the delay further accentuated by the delay in getting the aircraft pilots. “We have not learnt our lessons from the ‘Kathmandu hijack incident’, where too the agencies involved did not employ even known counter-measures,” he said, welcoming some of the measures that the Government has initiated since 26/11
Mr. Raman criticised the Government’s response, and that of the agencies involved, particularly in prevention of terrorist acts as different from termination of such acts. Arguing that a coordinated attack like the 26/11 could not have occurred without the connivance of local collaborators, he recalled how the investigators have put the latter’s number at only two. There were such other presumptions and assumptions, unsupported by facts on the ground.  He said that the civil society in the country was inactive, and attributed it as among the cause for India continuing to be surprised every time there is a major terror-strike. Other countries are also similarly surprised, but they learn from their mistakes, fill up the gaps – so that there is no repeat in their case.
< align='justify'> The following points and were made during the discussions that followed Mr Raman’s speech:
•  The Government is afraid of a detailed inquiry as it would have exposed the
    existing shortfalls, which are now systematically pushed under the carpet.

•  India can emulate the post-9/11 US experience with the Department of Homeland
    Security, to coordinate the functioning of various agencies involved in internal

•  The State and its authorities function under the premise that the “Government
    knows all”. This is a wrong and defunct argument.

•  Counter-terrorism is not given due importance and is not taken seriously in the

•  There is no mechanism in the Government for utilising the expertise and
    experience of veteran officials in counter-terrorism measures.

•  There is a tendency to accept whatever the white man proposes, despite the fact
    that similar proposals might have emanated internally long before. The creation
    of a National Investigating Agency (NIA), based on the American experience
    and advice, is a case in point.

•  None has taken responsibility for the failure of the State to prevent 26/11. Nor
    has any responsibility been fixed at any level, other than a few resignations by
    political players, some of whom are already back in the job which they had left
    less than a year back.

•  There was total failure in terms of hierarchy, coordination and preparation. This is
    not mention the shortfall in resources and proper authority.

•  The police have a specific task and role.  They do not have the training, weapons
    or mental equipment for the task. Even then the Mumbai police was found
    wanting in ensuring perimeter security and the like.

•  The handling of the 26/11 terror-strikes by the media and of the media by the
    Government left much to be desired. While the presence of foreign media meant
    that Government agencies in India could not have stopped the live-telecast of
    the counter-terrorism operations beyond a point, no effort was made to either
    regulate them, or their Indian counterparts, or stall their telecast, in providing
    the crucial leads to the handlers of the terrorists, based across the border.
    It could have been done by any official at any level, in his own way, but none
    took the initiative or the responsibility.

•  Even in the post-26/11 environment, the police in various States and cities in the
    country have a great reluctance in taking the help of private security agencies,
    whose men may also have crucial information to provide on the movement of
    suspicious-looking elements and the like.

•  For the rest of the world to take India seriously on its demands on counter-
    terrorism front, we need to take ourselves seriously. That has not happened
    even after 26/11.

Reported by Sripathi Narayanan, M.Phil Candidate, Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras

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