Terror in our backyard
By Vijay Sanghvi
Every time there is a terror attack like the terror attack at the Pathankot airport the entire nation wakes up. Many have let their emotions flood their reason to write the incident to reject all overtures for normalisation of relations with Pakistan. It happens after every tragedy that strikes at the pride of Indians that forces them to mourn their martyrs killed in terror attacks. Indians, politicians and ordinary men bemoan the failures of the Indian security networks to anticipate and defeat them. It keeps wringing our conscience till the next incident occurs and the same drill repeated.
However rare is the occasion when the Indian rules have attempted to identify weakness in the security set up. Similar weakness was discerned even in the Bombay attack in November 2008 that had taken a heavy toll of not only human life but also of the Indian pride. The lack of cohesion in the multiple agencies involved in the national security task due to the absence of a single central command had emerged as a single most significant cause for the Indians surprise. Little has been done as therapeutic solutions applications.
On transfer of power to Indian hands in August 1947, the system evolved by the British rulers was adopted by the Indian leaders without a change. The British experts devised the defence mechanism for India when it was not surrounded by five hostile nations. British never had hostile powers adjacent to its borders as sea stood between them. India had to face hostile forces as its next door neighbours. The framework of defence mechanism and the national security was found to be inadequate. Indian rulers found a solution in multiplying agencies for various tasks connected with the security system with interweaving them in a cohesive network with a central command.
The main complaint about the failure of the immediate Indian response for thwarting the terror attack and thus keep losses to a minimum was the delay in response to the warnings issued by the Indian intelligence. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to intervene in the blame game between two bodies and issue a certificate that there was no delay in response. Once again, missing cohesion among various agencies as no central command coordinating actions came to forefronts as the cause of delayed effects. Indian politicians had not comprehended intricacies of the national securities. No National Security office functioned till the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee introduced the concept. It tended to depend primarily on the bureaucratic red tapes rather than a defence mechanism.
India has suffered several debacles with beginning from 1947 in Kashmir, the 1962 debacle in the Himalayas, the two conflicts in1965 conflicts with Pakistan and eventually the 1971 problems with the massive refugee influx from Eastern Pakistan that ended in creating one more hostile nation on its eastern borders. However, the attempted intrusion in the Kargil heights in 1999 was successfully thwarted by=but cost was heavy in human toll as Indians had to fight uneven with enemy perched on certain heights. The Vajpayee government understood the need for a review of the entire national security system to analyse the existing system with all its lacunae and corrective needs. A group of ministers, the home, the defence, the finance and the external affairs, were asked to review the entire system with the then home minister Lal Krishna Advani heading the group.
The Vajpayee government understood the need for review of the entire national security system to analyse the existing system with all its lacunae and corrective needs. A group of ministers, the home, the defence, the finance and the external affairs, were asked to review the entire system with the then home minister Lal Krishna Advani heading the group.
In its report in February 2001, the group lamented that despite several debacles, no corrective steps were introduced in the system adopted five decades earlier as a legacy of the British Raj. “The inherited system was neither adequate nor any longer suitable to meet India’s security needs.” It recommended sweeping changes with the Chief of the Defence Staff as a single advisory agency and turning the Services’ headquarters as an integral part of defence ministry with the defence ministry allowed setting up its military intelligence as the defence needs were different than the general intelligence inputs. However, the regulatory approach succeeded in shelving the report to collect dust. Even after 15 years of the final report by a group of influential ministers, the old inherited system continues.
The terror attack on Mumbai in November 2008 had exposed several gaps in the intelligence collection and decimation of inputs to various agencies for the coordinated action. The terror group did manipulate the Sea Coastal Guards to centre in Mumbai through sea route with their armaments and inflicted the deeper wounds not only concerning human toll but also to the Indian pride. The then home minister P Chidambaram mooted creation of the National Grid for the collection of intelligence input for 11 agencies operating o the national security task grid. The database from 21 sources was intended to be fed to the national grid. Chidambaram persuaded the cabinet to grant of Rs. 1003 crore for setting up the Natgrid. However, the new agency had to wait for two years for the Environment Ministry make the proposal for its building. The bureaucrats’ lethargic attitude is evident in two years delay in clearing project of national importance.
India imports huge quantum of arms and ammunitions each year to meet its defence needs. The defence forces may intensify their needs based on various tasks that they have to undertake but the bureaucracy is the sole decisive factor where corruption takes its toll. Aimless purchases are justified on groups of the price and availability. The ill-equipped was the army when it faced the Kargil intrusion. It ran out of ammunitions needed for its pride possession Bofors Guns. Home production could not be undertaken as the political storm resulted in the cancellation of the deal that would have transferred the technology for production of ammunition in India. After running from door to door, India could get supplies from South Africa but at the price demanded. Many in defence forces wonder whether it would have adequate supplies of ammunitions for the Bofors guns Politicians are so eager to expose their opponents that they miss the consequences of their campaign.
The Cromwell experience had so terrified the Britons that they never could allow the idea to germinate where all authority could be vested in a single hand. Hence, in every institute they devised, they decentralised power even in armed forces. That model of defence services was evolved in India.