VIEWPOINT : 26/11 – MAYHEM IN MUMBAI
The paradigm shift in the strategy adopted by Pakistan against India calls for a new and a higher level of synergy between the armed and the police forces in India.
Precisely six years ago, on November 26, 2008, a band of ten heavily armed Pakistani terrorists owing allegiance to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) sailed across the Arabian Sea and surreptitiously gained entry into Mumbai the commercial capital of India. They wreaked havoc on the city taking by complete surprise not only its people but also its security establishment. This operation appears to have been planned, supported and controlled remotely by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the premier intelligence agency of Pakistan.
Using two inflatable rubber boats, the terrorists disembarked at two locations in Colaba and commencing early part of the night, let loose a reign of terror at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), the prestigious hotels Taj and Oberoi Trident, the Leopold Café, Nariman House and even Cama Hospital. In the mayhem that lasted about 60 hours and engulfed multiple locations, the terrorists gunned down a total of 166 innocent souls which included 26 foreign nationals and injured over 400. Nine of the group of ten intruders were gunned down by security forces. Ajmal Kasab, who was taken alive, was ultimately sentenced to death and hanged four years later.
The primary lesson emerging from this sordid episode is that this is symbolic of the change in the nature of war that our western neighbour is capable of waging. Pakistan has, for some time, been undertaking such operations in various sensitive locations in the country. However, these have generally been regarded as a problem related to internal security. It is time now to appreciate the fact that the already thin line between external and internal threats to national security has been considerably blurred.
The paradigm shift in the strategy adopted by Pakistan against India calls for a new and a higher level of synergy between the armed and the police forces in India. This would call for the formulation of the concept of “joint operations” between the Indian armed Forces and the police forces both at the central and state levels. It will be necessary to draw up protocols for all forces, i.e. the military, paramilitary and police forces to come together and respond to an emergency in a collective and coordinated manner.
Given the fact that the three services under the Ministry of Defence encounter serious difficulties in their efforts to achieve total “jointness” in operations, this is certainly not going to be an easy task. Jointmanship between organisations controlled by two different ministries of the Government of India will be considerably more difficult. It is ironic that for some strange reason, the Infantry battalion of the Indian Army located in Mumbai was not requisitioned by the civil authority when the terrorists struck. Incidentally, all Infantry units of the Indian Army are put through a tenure in the Kashmir Valley and hence, are trained and experienced in antiterrorist operations. As such, the Infantry battalion available at hand in Mumbai would have been of immense help in subduing the terrorists.
However, before any move is initiated to achieve synergy between the police and the Indian armed forces, there is a need to put in place an efficient and effective operational coordination amongst the different agencies responsible for dealing with internal security threats.
The second important lesson that has emerged from this experience is that the security establishment of the nation needs to acquire the wherewithal and to develop the capability to prevent or foil such adventure by hostile elements and not limit its capability merely to be reactive. This calls for sealing of all possible entry points along both land and maritime borders. It is understood that there has been some progress in sealing the maritime boundary. A chain of 74 Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) receivers to provide seamless coverage of the entire coastline has been put in place apart from 46 coastal radars on the mainland and the island territories. There are plans to install additional coastal radars to provide gap-free coverage. To enhance awareness of activities in the maritime domain, a National Command Control Communication and Intelligence Network (NC3I) has recently been inaugurated by the Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar.
A major weakness that needs to be addressed is the lack of trust and coordination between the Central and State Governments especially if they are administered by different political parties. The recent conflict between the Central and State Governments over terrorist activities in Burdwan in West Bengal is a glaring example of the dichotomy. There is a crying need to have all levels of authority on the same frequency with regard to matters concerning internal security and not allow domestic politics to militate against national security interests—a malaise that appears to be a permanent affliction with the Indian political system.