Monday , Dec 01, 2008 at 0545 hrs
Our coastal areas are coming under increased threat from terrorist groups, which have decided to use the sea route to infiltrate into India. They also plan to induct arms and ammunition through the sea routes” — that is Shivraj Patil addressing the directors general and inspectors general of police in November 2006. “We understand they (the terrorists) have been collecting information regarding location of various refineries on or near the Indian coastline... Some Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives are also being trained specifically for sabotage of oil installations. There are plans to occupy some uninhabited islands off the country’s coastline to use them as bases for launching operations on the Indian coast...”
That was the ever-alert home minister in November 2006. The minister of defence has been no less alert. On March 9 2007, he was asked in the Lok Sabha, whether “the intelligence agencies have warned about the possibility of terrorists trying to infiltrate through the sea route or trying to target our offshore installations?” He answered, “Yes, sir. There are reports about terrorists of various tanzeems being imparted training and likelihood of their infiltration through sea routes...” He was asked whether “maritime terrorism, gun-running, drug-trafficking and piracy are major threats that India is facing from the sea borders of the country?” His answer? “Yes, sir.”
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On May 9 2007, the home minister was asked in the Rajya Sabha, whether “it is a fact that there are strong apprehensions of terrorist threats to the country through the sea route?” “As per available reports,” he answered, “Pak based terrorist groups, particularly LeT, have been exploring possibilities of induction of manpower and terrorist hardware through the sea route...” On December 8, 2007, the National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan, was educating the world at the 4th Regional Security Summit organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the Manama Dialogue. “According to our intelligence reports,” he confided to the assembled sheikhs and experts, “there are now certain new schools that are now being established on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which now specialise in the training of an international brigade of terrorists to fight in many climes. According to our information, recruits from 14 to 15 countries have been identified as amongst the trainees there... Training has become extremely rigorous — it is almost frightening in nature... Studies are being carried out about important targets, with regard to vulnerability, accessibility, poor security, absence of proper counter-terrorism measures, etc. The sea route, in particular, is becoming the chosen route for carrying out many attacks, even on land. References to this are to be found replete in current terrorist literature.” “Given India’s experience in dealing with terrorism,” he added, “I would like to therefore sound a note of warning, that there is no scope for complacency...”
On March 11, 2008, A.K. Antony addressed the “International Maritime Search and Rescue Conference,” in Delhi. He warned the delegates of “dangers of terror attacks from the sea in the region.” In the course of his address, Antony admitted that the Coast Guard faces shortage of manpower as well as hardware. But “necessary steps are being taken to strengthen the search and rescue infrastructure of the Indian Coast Guard...” On November 13, 2008, just a fortnight before the assaults at Mumbai, Manmohan Singh warned the BIMSTEC summit, “Terrorism and threats from the sea continue to challenge the authority of the state...”
By now it was time for Shivraj Patil to address yet another meeting of the DGs and IGs of Police. Thus on November 22, 2008, that is literally on the eve of the attacks in Mumbai, he told the police chiefs, “To control terrorism in the hinterland, we have to see that infiltration of terrorists from other countries does not take place through the sea routes and through the borders between India and friendly countries. The coastlines also have to be guarded through Navy, Coast Guard and coastal police. The states’ special branches and the CID should identify the persons forming part of the sleeper cells and lodging in cities and towns and studying in educational institutions and working in industries and professions...”
And four days later, the terrorists, using the exact same sea route, do the exact same thing that these worthies have been warning others about. Are they consultants to government or ones running the government? Is their job to issue warnings to others or to see that the warnings are acted upon? Warning given, the job is done. But that is the fate of warnings in this system. After all, that very sea route was used to smuggle explosives for the blasts across Bombay in 1993. Were those blasts not warning enough?
Seven years later —in 2000 — the warning and lesson were made explicit yet again. Four task forces were set up in the wake of the Kargil war. The one on border management warned, “The long coastline with its inadequate policing makes it easy to land arms and explosives at isolated spots on the coast.” It recalled that this is exactly how explosives were smuggled into Maharashtra in 1993. “The situation, if anything, has worsened over the years with the activities of the ISI becoming more widespread along the coast particularly by extension into the coast of Kerala... Such coastal areas must be particularly kept under surveillance.”
There is space here to cite just one example. The task force pointed out that the ISI had started using the Lakshadweep archipelago as a major staging point for smuggling arms and personnel into India. The agency used smugglers and their networks — like Dawood Ibrahim and his tentacles — and their routes for doing so. These dons and their networks were given shelter and support in return for helping the agency with its operations against India.
Now, Lakhsdweep has 36 islands. Ten of these are inhabited. Talking of one of these islands — Suheli — the task force pointed out that, sea vessels of smugglers apart, “there have been instances of twin rotor helicopters (of the kind used by militaries) landing at Suheli Island and spotting of unidentified helicopters flying over the waters around the islands...” And what were we doing? “Intelligence gathering in the islands,” the task force recorded, “is carried out by one inspector, one sub inspector, one head constable and three constables working in the special branch at Kavaratti” — just one of the 36 islands. “Intelligence gathering in all other islands is carried out by one head constable/constable who reports to the OIC (the officer in charge) of the police station who in turn passes it on to the inspector (special branch) at Kavaratti.” Please read that again: 36 islands; one inspector, one sub inspector, one head constable and three constables on the main island; and one head constable/constable for all the remaining 35 islands...
What has happened since, what is the position today, I ask the person who has held the highest posts in intelligence. Exactly what it was then, he says, with one difference. With the upgradation of all posts, the inspector (special branch) at Kavaratti is now designated not as officer in charge, but as joint assistant director or deputy central intelligence officer depending on his cadre. As for the other recommendations — patrolling, setting up sensors, and a host of others things are as they were.
And we are surprised!
I can multiply such examples by the score at no notice at all. Recalling just one thing will be sufficient. When, during a debate on national security in the Rajya Sabha, I began citing such passages from the report of this task force, shouts went up from the Congress, “But this is a secret report... How has he got it?... How is he citing it?...” Shivraj Patil remained his composed self, eventually chiding me with the sagacity which even terrorists have by now come to associate with him.
Things to do. First, act on recommendations that are made by committees you set up. Second, that will not happen unless we send a better type into legislatures and, thence, to governments. When we select leaders who treat the police as their private army; when we select leaders for whom investigating agencies are instruments to fix rivals or let off allies, don’t expect the police and agencies to suddenly turn around and forestall terrorists.
Third, remember that little can be achieved unless every aspect of governance, is brought up to par. You can’t have a first-rate commando force and a third rate magistracy. You can’t have defence and intelligence personnel who will nab terrorists and courts that will let them off, or, better still, enable them to live off the treasury as state guests for years. And that excellence must reach down to that “head constable/constable” level. When K.P.S. Gill reconquered Punjab for the country, he did so by strengthening and invigorating the local thana.
Fourth, that is only one part of the explanation. A weakened and confused society explains as much — and the responsibility lies as much with those who have dissipated national resolve, who have made nationalism a dirty word. That set includes the media as much as politicians. Sixty-seventy thousand killed by terrorism and we are still debating whether we should have a federal investigating agency. Sixty-seventy thousand killed by terrorists and we are still debating whether we should have a special law to bring them to book.
Of course, we must have the agency. Of course, we must have the sternest law in the world. But having the law is not enough. We must enforce it. One side of the picture is that, to pander to its vote bank among Muslims, the government has been withholding sanction to the law passed by the Gujarat assembly — even though that law is the exact replica of the law that its own party’s government has passed in adjacent Maharashtra. The other side is that, as the Maharashtra government does not use the law it has, those who will give shelter and support to terrorists give them with abandon — you just have to think of the quantum of weapons that the terrorists brought in; the detailed local knowledge they had — of the spot at which to land their boats, of the location of the building in which Jews and Israelis were staying, of the insides of the hotels, to see that they could not have executed their plans without the most extensive local help, help given over months.
And enforcing the law means carrying out sentences that the law provides. The parliament of India is attacked, guards are killed; one of the killers is tried and convicted, the sentence is confirmed by the Supreme Court, and, eight years after the assault, his “papers are still being processed,” indeed there are signature campaigns against executing the sentence. Given these circumstances, the best thing for a terrorist to succeed in his mission, and then get caught. He will get the best lawyers to defend him. He will get judges who are ever so solicitous about his rights, ever so finicky about procedures. And, of course, he will get activists to shoot off press statements on his behalf. Lawyers better, judges more solicitous, activists more articulate and better networked than any in his own country.
But for any of this to happen, the society has to be clear in its mind. This is, it has for 20 years been, war. It can be won only by overwhelming the adversary — not by running after the terrorist, as K.P.S. Gill says, but by out-running him, indeed by over-running him. Not an eye for an eye. For an eye, both eyes. Not a tooth for a tooth. For a tooth, the whole jaw. Human rights? Yes, we will respect the human rights of the terrorists and their sponsors and their local supporters to the extent that they respect the human rights of our people.
Finally, have a clear realisation of the condition of the society and state of Pakistan. Unless you come across evidence that the nature of the state and society of Pakistan has changed, it is idiotic to put faith in the profession of this ruler or that. Remember Musharraf’s “Main naya dil leyke aayaa hun”? Taliban and Al Qaeda are not the cause of the state of Pakistan. They are the result of the Talibanisation of Pakistani society and state.
Where do you think, and by whom do you think are the teachers instructed to ensure that students from class 1 onwards “recognise the importance of jihad”; to ensure that they “must be aware of the blessings of jihad”; to ensure that they “create yearning for jihad in his heart”; to ensure that they develop “love and aspiration for jihad, tabligh, shahadat, sacrifice, ghazi, shaheed”? Where do you think, and by whom are teachers instructed to ensure that students from kindergarten onwards learn to “make speeches on jihad and shahadat”, and are “judged on their spirit while making speeches on jihad”? Do you think these are instructions issued by the Islamic fundamentalists to maulvis in madrasas? They are instructions given by the government of Pakistan through official circulars to principals and teachers in government schools of Pakistan.
You didn’t know that? Exactly. That is a large part of the problem. You will find reams of these and other facts in the 2002 report edited by Pakistani academics, A.H. Nayyar and Ahmed Salim, and published by the Sustainable Development Institute, Islamabad, ‘The Subtle Subversion: The state of curricula and textbooks in Pakistan, Urdu, English, Social Studies and Civics’. Get on to the Internet, download and read the report from www.sdpi.org. Here is a part of the problem that you can solve by yourself.
As for the rest of the problem,as we can no longer rely on Shivraj Patil, we are compelled to continue to rely on the one who has been for the government as a whole, what Shivraj Patil has been for the home ministry — that is, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh.
The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP