Sh. Joginder Singh ji
(Former Director - C.B.I.)
The latest terror attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 200 and injured 390 people is again a reminder (if reminders were really required) that India tops the list of terror targets. It is so because India is an easy target.
The intelligence agencies are understaffed and are struggling due to lack of resources. That there is a personnel crunch can be gauged from the fact that after the September blasts in New Delhi, the Union government sanctioned more than 5,000 personnel for the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and more than 7,000 for the Delhi Police.
Moreover, there is hardly any coordination among the various agencies — RAW, IB, Joint-Intelligence Council, Defence Intelligence Agency, Military Intelligence, intelligence units of the Air Force and Navy and the CID — for intelligence gathering. The sad truth that there was an intelligence failure has been admitted by Union home minister P. Chidambaram himself, who said, "I agree that there has been a failure on the part of the security forces... Undoubtedly, there had been lapses. I will be less than truthful, if I say there were no lapses."
To top this, even the state governments do not take intelligence inputs seriously as often they are ambiguous, unclear and imprecise. The states located far away from Kashmir and the Pakistan border, often feel they do not face the same degree of threat.
Thanks to modern technology and communications gadgets like satellite phones, GPS and wireless Internet, the terrorists are stronger and more lethal today. Therefore, the onus of finding out where the next terrorist attack will come from naturally lies with the intelligence agencies. They have so far been getting away with painting anything and everything as the next target.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has repeated for the umpteenth time that his government is serious about bringing to book the people who attack us without provocation or justification. On his way to France sometime ago, he told reporters that his government will fight terror "resolutely". He also said that his government would strengthen intelligence gathering, investigation and prosecution processes. But unfortunately, the ground reality is the exact opposite.
It is not that the government did not know about the likelihood of attacks. The defence minister had informed Parliament more than once that the terrorists might use the sea routes to attack Mumbai and other places. However, the Naval Chief says that the Navy did not have the intelligence or information.
It is true that in a country this vast, the task of gathering intelligence is difficult. The intelligence agencies depend too much on human intelligence. A mix of physical intelligence and technologically-collected intelligence, including use of satellites to monitor the movements on border areas and the sea routes, is the ideal combination. During my visit to the US more than a decade ago, I was told by the CIA, that they had a satellite circling earth every 90 minutes and they had a wealth of images. They could even read car numbers and identify people.
The RAW did a good job in intercepting the conversation between General Musharraf, the then Pakistani Army Chief, and his deputy during the Kargil war. The same alertness was missing this time among the intelligence agencies. The intelligence agencies will argue that it is not always possible to get the correct intelligence. But then, what are the intelligence agencies for then?
Whatever may be the cause of the intelligence failure, it does not matter to the common man. The shortcomings of the intelligence agencies can be overcome if the forces at the ground level are well-equipped and trained to meet the challenges.
The biggest deterrent for terrorists is to be caught and killed. Unfortunately, in India, even when a genuine terrorist is killed in an actual encounter, as it happened in Delhi, votebank compulsions brand them as fake. This naturally demoralises the security forces.
Even when the terrorists are caught, there are appeals after appeals to get them off the hook. We do not even have an anti-terrorism law in force. The laws, as they exist today, are useless. They discourage people from giving evidence in trials which can go on for years. There are 2.92 crore cases pending in India, of which over 2.54 crore cases are still pending in subordinate courts while 37.43 lakh cases are in various high courts. As many as 45,887 cases are pending in the Supreme Court alone.
The fight against terrorism has to be a total package as intelligence by itself is not sufficient. The intelligence agencies have to pull up their socks. Meanwhile, the Centre too needs to take a proactive role in ensuring full preparedness of the state police. The leaders must remember that the time is always right to do what is right.
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