Mumbai terror attacks expose India's chronic systemic security weakness
by K Gajendra Singh on 15 Jan 2009 0 Comment

"Terrorism is a tactic, a technique, a weapon that fanatics, dictators and warriors have resorted to through history. If, as Clausewitz wrote, war is the continuation of politics by other means, terrorism is the continuation of war by other means." 
- Patrick J. Buchanan

The 60-hour brutal rape of Mumbai, India's commercial and cultural metropolis, telecast around the world, carried out by Pakistan-based Muslim terrorists (financed and trained at inception in 1980s by the West, Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries, and allowed to fester), with New Delhi almost immobilized, exposed its dysfunctional security infrastructure and inability to hit back at Islamabad.


Since then, Indian leaders’ fulminations against Islamabad and West's blowing hot and cold with little likely effect on its long-term ally Pakistan, highlights the Indian State's abject failure to provide its citizens even basic security. Business houses like Tatas are going in for their own private security. So what is the state for? Yes, India's generally corrupt political elite is well protected by the National Security Guard commandos since the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament.

If another rampage takes place, would the outcome be any different? There have been so many terror attacks in the last few years; in 2008 alone terrorists struck at many places Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Jaipur. Each time the same rhetoric is repeated and the Central Government accuses opposition-ruled state governments of failure; the states in return blame Delhi.

Collapse of Agencies and Institutions

Whatever happened to various agencies and institutions established to ferret out advance information of terror plots, if possible pre-empt them, and counter even unexpected attacks through crisis management structures? Some of the structures are:

A] The powerful office of the National Security Adviser with its Crisis Management Centre; 

B] Research and Analysis Wing, India's external espionage agency, with its operatives all over the world including in Islamabad; 

C] Intelligence Bureau, with its branches spread all over India with its charter to sniff into terror plots, smoke out enemy sleeper cells and neutralize them 

D] India's naval and air force and the national coastal guard; all under the Ministry of Defense; 

E] Port Authority of India with the Mumbai Port Trust, very much under jurisdiction of New Delhi; and of course 

F] State police intelligence organizations. 
Apart from these there might be some known and unknown outfits.

Whatever Happened?

To cater for such contingencies, a Crisis Management Group (CMG) at New Delhi has been constituted, which must assemble immediately a crisis begins and remain in session until the crisis is resolved. Chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, CMG is composed of the heads of all Intelligence services, Service Chiefs and concerned heads of ministries and agencies needed to deal with the crisis. Its charter is to organize coordinated, prompt, well-informed and efficient response to the developing crisis by utilizing inputs from various agencies and handle the crisis in a holistic manner.

Whenever necessary, CMG takes directions from political authorities (cabinet and Prime Minister) via hotline or personal meetings. Similarly, a local level CMG must also be set up immediately to coordinate action on-the-spot with all available resources, under the overall guidance of the CMG at Delhi. In hostage, hijacking aircrafts or buildings takeover situations, it is mandatory that CMG constitute a team to negotiate with the hostage-takers.

From media reports and official announcements, it is not clear whether CMG went into action and if so, with what results. By the sequence of events that followed, it is obvious there was no single unified command centre in charge of the crisis anywhere. Governments of India and Maharashtra appeared to have been simply overwhelmed by the events and failed to grasp and appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Decision-making appeared ad hoc and confused.

From reports now in the public domain, the crisis became known around 9.30 pm on 26 November 2008. The request for NSG came at 11 pm from the state government. Had the CMG been in session and acted immediately, NSG should have been alerted much earlier, without waiting for the state's request. If the aircraft meant for them was not available, the CMG should have commandeered planes available on the tarmac and rushed the NSG; even idle VIP jets could have been pressed into service.

The Navy's role has also come in for criticism, especially its western command. The 2005 fire on the Bombay High oil platform brought out its lack of preparedness to face crisis situations and total absence of crisis management apparatus in Maharashtra. Maharashtra and Gujarat coastlines have many key strategic installations of high military and economic significance. Are they sitting ducks?

The failure of intelligence processing and coordination arises from the somewhat flawed structure of the NSA, based on the US model, which has a presidential regime. NSA's position was formalized by "office orders," overriding the Rules of Business notified under the Constitution of India. This has disturbed lines of command and diffused responsibility. (Indians in any case are poor team players and good at passing the buck later on.) Intelligence Chiefs thus report to two bosses, an organizational disaster. The MoS rank of the bureaucrat NSA and his placement in PMO further devalues the authority of the Home Ministry and the systems under the Cabinet Secretary as head of the civil service to resolve turf fights and funnel distilled inputs to the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, NSA, a policeman with little exposure to foreign affairs, has not remained focused on his prime function of sensitizing his constituents to the methods of working as a group to tackle terror and making available real time intelligence to the agencies concerned. He has allowed himself to be distracted by looking after the ruling coalition's security, the high profile Nuclear Deal, and even routine politicking. The latter is a serious breach of conduct rules. In any case, national intelligence became the casualty.

While the question of punishing the perpetrators of the criminal attack and the state behind them is a different matter, there appears to be an almost total failure of the structures inside and outside India to sniff, pre-empt and counter such attacks. India's intelligence agencies have not served national interests well, say in regard to 'Operation Blue Star ' or advice on sending Indian troops to Sri Lanka. I overheard a RAW Chief in the late 1980s boasting that he could make LTTE's Prabhakaran do what he wished! There are reports of misuse of funds, defection of senior operatives, and other misdeeds. A counter intelligence chief of IB was dismissed when he took a US honey trap a free honey pot. Some supervision by members of Parliament is necessary, but basically police and security services in India are used as they were by rulers in feudal times, for partisan or personal ends.

This systemic collapse cannot be summed up without a word on accountability. The intelligence czar supposed to smell plots and conspiracies and the CMG headed by the Cabinet Secretary are both under the Prime Minister. While a lacklustre Home Minister in Delhi and Maharashtra's shaky Chief Minister and Home Minister were made to resign, the political elite continued playing its grinding Byzantine games on their replacements. It was business as usual. A politician who had to resign under the shadow of a massive corruption scandal came back to the Maharashtra cabinet. As yet no accountability has been fixed on bureaucrats and no heads have rolled.

National Investigation Agency

No thorough enquiry into the systemic failures of institutions and agencies has been announced, as was done by USA after 9/11 by a bipartisan National Commission and an enquiry by the Intelligence and Security Committee of the British Parliament into the London explosions of July 2005. Many analysts accused them of whitewash; but at least the deficiencies were looked into.

The report of the committee which enquired into the debacle of 1962 was never released and debated in Parliament or in public. The Kargil Review Committee Report was released and acted upon, but never discussed in Parliament. India remains arrested in its syndrome of secrecy.

Reportedly Mumbai's Crime Branch is looking into the 26 November debacle. There are too many complex questions to be looked into which are beyond the competence of the Crime Branch. Were there only a dozen commando-style terrorists as finally declared or more? Numbers suggested varied up to two dozen, excluding local sleeper support. There were reports that some were of Pakistani descent - but British citizens - including in a statement by Maharashtra's Home Minister and in the UK media. British Premier George Brown's sudden arrival in Delhi raised many suspicions.

While blaming Pakistan for the Mumbai rampage, Salman Rushdie said Britain has been far too complacent about the rise of extremism. "Both (Margaret) Thatcher and (Tony) Blair made the same mistake, which was the so-called Londonistan policy where you allow these (Islamist) groups to set up shop here in the belief that if you do that they won't attack this country and that you can monitor them." "This country became the safe haven for every extremist group in the world. It was idiocy - idiocy," Rushdie concluded.

British government-controlled BBC was the most biased Western channel that gave 98% time to cheer leaders of the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. It still refers to Mumbai terrorists as 'gunmen.' BBC had also telecast gloating and champagne-sipping Khalistan supporters after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. US media with five corporate entities controlling 90% of media is equally bad. The truth is that UK since its colonial days and US since the last six decades have used Islamic extremists, Jihadists, and plain terrorists to divide and rule nations in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere and to promote their policies.

With all eyes on the forthcoming elections, nobody wants a post-mortem of 26/11. It was not even on the agenda of the conference of Chief Ministers held in Delhi to discuss security problems facing India in the wake of 26/11.

Yes, a National Investigation Agency has been promptly established. Many, especially from opposition-ruled states, decry that it has staggeringly sweeping powers, overriding the constitutional provision that jurisdiction over law and order belongs to the state government. Leftists ruling in Bengal and Kerala accuse the Centre of using the NIA for UPA's so called strategic alliance with Washington. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), they claim, has been trying for the past two decades to open outposts in India to cope better with the immediate peril of 'Islamic terror' and impending peril of US losing its global hegemony to China.

Crisis Management of Terror Situations

In 1987-89, while establishing the Ministry of External Affairs’ institute for training diplomats and upgrading their mid-career skills, after reading how crisis situations created by terrorists are managed, I designed a week-long training module, which was inaugurated by then Minister of State for Home, P. Chidambaram, now the new Home Minister. The module was to sensitize diplomats, officers from police, intelligence, military, civil aviation, NSG and other services on the subject. When I checked in 1999 at the time of the hijacking of an Indian airlines plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar, the module had been discontinued.

In 1987-89, except for the north-east, India basically faced terrorist violence and attacks from Sikh Khalistan groups operating from Pakistan under patronage from Gen Zia-ul-Haq and UK, Canada and USA (in exchange for Pakistan support in Afghanistan against USSR troops). Before 11 September 2001 stunned them, they lectured India on freedom of speech, association and human rights. Now USA and UK have abridged freedoms in their countries.

In spite of ample proof of the commando-terrorists being of Pakistani origin, trained in Pakistan and their venturing out from Karachi port, Islamabad has blithely told US and UK that in case of any threat from India, it will abandon support to the so-called US war on terror. The latter is an euphemism for Western brutal efforts to control Afghanistan since the last three decades, on account of its strategic leverage against Russia, Iran and China, and to use it as a corridor to transfer energy from Central Asian Republics, the Caspian basin, and elsewhere. Islamabad has reminded the world that it has nuclear bombs; not a word of condemnation on nuclear blackmail has come from western leaders or corporate media.

Incredible India

Regarding Mafia don Dawood Ibrahim’s providing local support for 26/11, Raja Murthy wrote on Dec. 9 in Asia Times, "The catch is that India's most infamous mafia boss has stories that powerbrokers on both sides of the border might not want the world to hear. Therein lays a reason why Ibrahim apparently continues to live lavishly, alternating between Karachi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, according to various reports including from the Pakistan media."
Added Ramtanu Maitra in Economic Intelligence Review,  "Be that as it may, it is nonetheless true that there is hardly anyone with "power and authority" in Mumbai, and that includes Shiv Sena leaders and mainstream politicians including chief ministers and other political luminaries, law-and-order bigwigs, and almost the entire group of tax-evading Mumbai movie moguls, who is not on the take from this drug-pushing, murderous creature, now under the wings and threats of the Pakistani Inter-Services Security (ISI), British MI6, and the CIA."

The affluence seen in India by investment of US fictional funds which existed only on computer screens is fast eroding. To the discernible eye, the coming decline and fall of US financial hegemony was evident since mid-2006, but Indian ministers and corporate media till seven-eight months ago kept pointing to the Casino-style rise of the Sensex and hence India's economic progress!

By the end of 2009, economic growth might dwindle to 5%. India’s islands of information technology and call center prosperity are like the factories established by foreign companies from in the 16th-18th centuries! India cannot even assure uninterrupted electric power to citizens of its capital city, Delhi. It requires scientific temper; hence regular maintenance and checks and no leakage. This failure of character affects every sector of Indian institutions; hence systemic failures.

US economic model has remained an ideal for India's corporate and even political elite, with many key decision-makers being pensioners of Washington-dominated and financed institutions like IMF and World Bank. Like US scamster Madoff's Ponzi scheme, India has unveiled its own Ponzi czar in Ramalinga Raju of Satyam. He admitted that Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion), or 94 percent of total cash on Satyam's books, is non-existent! The relationship between government, regulators and private sector in India is even more incestuous than in USA, with insider trading and other malpractices.

fter the halving of Sensex in eight months and 26/11, now one now talks of Chinindia, the two emerging powers of Asia, and the India-Pakistan hyphen is back, with President elect Barrack Obama planning to appoint an envoy to resolve the J&K problem so that US and NATO can control Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Washington’s objective was to create a puppet regime; President Hamid Karzai is protected by US mercenaries. No foreigner or a puppet ruler has succeeded in Afghanistan. Besides, the raison d'etre of a buffer state between Russian and the British Empire disappeared after the collapse of the two empires. India should prepare for the likely break up of Afghanistan and its ramification on the unity of Pakistan.

Rulers in Pakistan, starting with Ayub Khan and outside powers, have exploited the geo-political matrix of South Asia. The British divided Hindustan to create a weak aligned Pakistan to protect its oil wells in the Middle East from possible Russian ingress, and passed on the torch to the new western overlords, USA.

Even China exploits this same geo-political equation. The leaders of Pakistan, mostly the military brass, for short-term gains have allowed their policies to be shaped by UK, USA, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others. This has delivered Pakistan literally into the hands of the Frankenstein monster of terrorism, with its Kalashnikov culture and billions dollars worth of narcotics trade and addiction. It survives on infusions of money from outside. Tens of billions of dollars were poured by US and others during 1980s and 10 billion dollars since 11/9 when US coerced Islamabad to join the so-called war on terror, but most aid has enriched the establishment dominated by the Pakistan army and ISI. The other major source of wealth remains the opium grown in Afghanistan, from which also the Pakistan establishment takes a major share. So chaos suits the ISI and others. But if Taliban takes over Pakistan, where would the so-called liberal beer drinking intelligentsia and middle classes of Pakistan go?


The history of Western colonization up to the Second World War, followed by neo-colonization before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and since then under the garb of free trade and globalization, demonstrate a policy of divide and rule to dominate and exploit the nations of Asia, Latin America and Africa, augmented by control of weapons of mass destruction, including nuking two Japanese cities.

Another important lever has been control of weapons of mass disinformation to brainwash colonized natives and their descendents and even their own peoples. Just look at the spins, half-truths and blatant lies and propaganda in western media regarding its naked aggression on Iraq against the UN Charter. False propaganda and lies continue from Winston Churchill down to Tony Blair and US leaders led by Vice President Dick Cheney.

To counter nationalist and socialist movements and regimes which opposed colonization and exploitation, Europe, especially Britain and then USA, encouraged extreme Muslim and other religious elements to maintain their rule. This policy continues.

India, instead of mortgaging its future with a declining and falling power, should make up with Russia, which it has ignored, Iran which it has acted against, and even China.

K. Gajendra Singh, IFS (retd.) served as Indian ambassador to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Romania and Senegal, and is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies


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