Tag Archives | Mumbai

Plus ca change

The changing colours of ISI

In the latest issue of the Outlook magazine, there is a small piece (without the name of the author) about a dinner in Islamabad hosted by the ISI for a group of visiting Indian journalists.

With such a grim reputation, when your dinner host turns out to be a senior official of the ISI, as happened recently to the Indian media delegation that visited Pakistan, a faux pas or two was naturally par for the course. “Is it a think-tank?” asked one member of the Indian team innocently, after our host introduced himself as an ISI honcho. But once it was clear who was buying us dinner at the posh Islamabad restaurant, there was no stopping the barrage of questions.

“See, I have neither horns nor fangs,” the official smiled as way of assuring his Indian guests. But why was he there? Well, he informed the Indian media that he wanted to put across ISI’s point of view on the ongoing peace initiative. “We’ve realised that we cannot live in an environment of hostility with each other,” reasoned the official. For the rest of the dinner, he patiently answered questions on topics ranging from terrorism directed against India to the evolving situation in his country. Predictably, he didn’t take responsibility for much of the terrorist acts in India that originated from Pakistan, including 26/11. But he tried to convey that on the government’s attempt to have peace and normalise relations with India, the ISI was on the same page.[Outlook]

This should not surprise anyone, least of all this blogger, who had warned of this danger when these journalists were being taken on a guided tour of Pakistan (see this blogpost).

But what if this fear is unfounded? Or as Bharat Bhushan argues in his column in the same magazine, why is India refusing to respond to the change in Pakistan’s attitude. That is a very persuasive line to use, but how real is the change that we are witnessing. Can India afford to move merely on the words of someone like Mahmood Durrani, a regular participant in India-Pakistan Track-2 jamborees, who was sacked as the National Security Advisor by the current setup in Pakistan after Mumbai terror strikes in 2008?

Whether it be the relationship with US or the state of its economy or its perilous internal security situation or a lack of help from China, all observers, including those in India, can see that Pakistan is currently squeezed from all sides. This, counterintuitively, makes it even more difficult for India to trust Pakistan’s words: this peace-talk could be a posture to seek temporary relief till Pakistan army reverts to its perennial anti-India stance. The onus is thus upon Pakistan to prove its sincerity by taking suitable actions — closing terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai terror strike to justice, to begin with — so that India can reciprocate. Trust can’t be generated by words alone. It has to come from actions, and actions that can be verified (read Vikram Sood in the Mid-day to understand the point).

Many people will remember a similar crescendo of public opinion in India before the Shimla summit between Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the 1971 war. A large number of Indian commentators were then asking India, as victors of the war, to be large-hearted and trust Bhutto’s words. That large-heartedness towards a civilian ruler in Pakistan when its army was weak, many contended, would beget permanent peace between India and Pakistan. We all know how it actually played out. Mr Bhutto went on to ensure that Pakistan gets an Islamic nuclear bomb even if Pakistanis ate grass. India got terror strikes in Kashmir, Punjab and at myriad places across the country: it is under the shadow of the nuclear bomb that jehadis have hurt India and Indians. If we are so oblivious today to our own history from just four decades ago, we will pay a similar price that we have paid in the recent decades.

Getting back to the ISI, what do these nice gestures towards the Indian journalists by the ISI convey? The answer comes from this story in the Washington Post about ISI and the Osama bin Laden raid:

On Friday evening, over iced tea at a hotel cafe, two ISI officials offered a narrative that they say puts Pakistan in a better light. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

One noted that the ISI’s new head, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam, is taking a “proactive” approach to public relations to improve the international image of the much-maligned intelligence service.[WaPo]

This is it. The dinner table talk and the post-dinner gift of books at Islamabad are nothing but a part of the new ISI chief’s “proactive” approach to public relations to improve the international image of ISI.

Enjoy the meal, relish the conversation and read the book but do not get carried away. Remember. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Comments { 1 }

On the third anniversary of Mumbai terror strikes

Lest we forget

10 coordinated shooting/ bombing attacks across Mumbai, 166 dead, 308 wounded…

So that you don’t forget the horrendous events of 26-28th November 2008 in Mumbai (as some of our decision-makers, commentators and analysts are trying very hard to), go ahead and watch this Channel-4 documentary film — Dispatches: Terror in Mumbai. It is available on YouTube (here).

While many will write to explain what happened before, during and after 26-11, none of them will be able to match the eloquence, pithiness and trenchancy of these words written in 1962. This is Thomas Schelling’s foreword to Roberta Wohlstetter’s superb book, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision. Read the relevant extract from that foreword at this old blogpost(here).

138 Indians lost their lives at the hands of Pakistani terrorists in Mumbai. Those are the 138 reasons not to forget 26-11.

Comments { 2 }

Well said Sir

Some essential readings on the first anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks.

Amidst the plethora of articles, blogposts, columns and news-items written in the print and the electronic media on the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, here is my selection of eminently read-worthy material from the lot.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express and Nitin Pai at The Acorn for the larger social commentary on terror attacks in Mumbai.

Praveen Swami at the BBC on the developments on the internal security front in the last one year.

Vir Sanghvi looks back at the role of the media during the attacks a year later at Medium Term.

B. Raman in the Hindustan Times appraises the progress made by the intelligence community in confronting the challenges posed since November last year.

And finally, here are the words that we cannot afford to forget at any time, anniversary or no anniversary; remember that they were penned in 1962 by Thomas Schelling.

Surprise, when it happens to a government, is likely to be a complicated diffuse bureaucratic thing. It includes neglect of responsibility, but also responsibility so poorly defined or so ambiguously delegated that action gets lost. It includes gaps in intelligence, but also intelligence that like a string of pearls too precious to wear, is too sensitive to give to those who need it. It includes the alarm that fails to work, but also the alarm that has gone off so often it has been disconnected. It includes the unalert watchman, but also the one who knows he will be chewed out by his superior if he gets higher authority out of bed. It also includes the contingencies that occur to no one, but also that everyone assumes somebody else is taking care of. It includes in addition, the inability of individual human beings to rise to the occasion until they are sure it is the occasion, which is usually too late. (Unlike movies, real life provides no musical background to tip us off to the climax.) Finally, as at Pearl Harbor, surprise may include some measure of genuine novelty introduced by the enemy, and possibly some sheer bad luck.

The results, at Pearl Harbor, were sudden, concentrated, and dramatic. The failure, however, was cumulative, widespread, and rather drearily familiar. This is why surprise, when it happens to a government, cannot be described just in terms of startled people. Whether at Pearl Harbor or at the Berlin Wall, surprise is everything involved in a government’s (or in an alliance’s) failure to anticipate effectively.

…The danger is not that we shall read the signals and indicators with too little skill; the danger is in a poverty of expectations, a routine of obsessions with a few dangers that may be familiar rather than likely.

Comments { 1 }

From Mumbai to Lahore

Similar style, same purpose.

No one knows what to make out of these attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore. There is no authoritative evidence to draw conclusions. No one has taken the credit for these attacks. So, here are a few simple observations.

It is not about cricket. It is about terrorism. All the romantics in India lamenting the loss of cricket in Pakistan can shut up. There are bigger issues — existential issues — in the fray here.

Pakistan is a failed state. Or a failing state catapulting towards the terminal stage. This has been known for some time now and an attack in Lahore, in the heart of Punjab — not NWFP or FATA — only underlines the gravity of the situation. Some estimates suggest that more than 100,000 men from Punjab have trained at various terrorist training camps. Some Pakistani observers have been rightly highlighting the increasing radicalisation of Pakistani society and an undercurrent of support for Taliban among the populace.

What was the purpose of these attacks? To spread terror. To show the world that the writ of the Pakistani state doesn’t run any longer. This means that the civilian government has failed abysmally and army should again takeover the Pakistani state under the doctrine of necessity. But that would hardly be palatable to Kerry and company, who want to strengthen the civilian rulers in Pakistan by throwing US dollars at them.

Were these an extension of Mumbai terror attacks, not only in style, but also in purpose? The swamp attacks by 10-12 well-armed gunmen spraying bullets and making an exit in Lahore (remember the Mumbai terrorists had also thought about escaping back to Pakistan) did evoke the images of 26-11. By all accounts, the purpose of the Mumbai terror attacks was to get Pakistan army away from fighting the Taliban by invoking military tensions on the Indo-Pak front. Is it not for a similar reason that these terrorists at Lahore very conveniently left on site some 84mm Rocket Launchers, pistols and RPGs — all of them standard Indian army issue weapons?

The intention clearly was to wreak more havoc at Lahore, a la Mumbai, and put India in the dock. Hamid Gul was on Pak media, within minutes of these attacks, blaming them on India. Luckily, this laughable theory of an Indian hand or Indian revenge for  Mumbai has found little takers in the Pakistani establishment or the mainstream media. Ostensibly, the purpose was the same — to ratchet Indo-Pak tension and provide Pakistan army with a plausible excuse to walk away from fighting the jehadis in NWFP, FATA or Pak-Afghan border, without openly defying the Americans.

So, who could have planned this or benefited from it? There is no watertight proof to nail this theory but reasonable estimates would point the finger at some middle-to-senior level figures in the Pakistan army-ISI establishment. They, along with the retired military & ISI officers-turned-independent jehadi trainers (the ones referred to in Ahmed Rashid’s last book: Descent into Chaos), ought to have staged this act at Lahore, on the lines of Mumbai terror attacks. A few folks in the security establishment must be looking at hedging their strategic bets by protecting al Qaeda and Taliban, while the majority there may have genuine religious-ideological affiliations in protecting the umbilical relationship between the army and the jehadis.

Whatever be the reasons, India must ensure that the world community does not buy the argument of  “all of us are victims of terror” in South Asia. Pakistani state and its military-ISI combo have been the creators of this jehadi terror machine and even eight years after 9-11, they still continue to provide covert and tacit support to the jehadis. When the West chose to use the mujahideens against Soviet communists, it was a tactical ploy. Pakistan army and ISI raised jehadi terror to a strategic level with creation of Taliban and myriad Kashmiri insurgent groups. It has since metamorphosed into a strong religious-ideological connection between the two, where the monster is now beyond the control of the creators.

Let the Holbrookes and Petreauses get one thing amply clear in their reviews now. Pakistani state, including the Pakistan army and the ISI, can not be a part of the solution. They are, in fact, the intractable problem that needs to be solved. Period.

P.S. — Sujan Dutta in The Telegraph comes around to the view that India might have to put military boots on the ground in Afghanistan to tackle the AfPak problem.

Comments { 2 }

Framing the problem correctly

Neither India-Pakistan military conflict nor merely justice for Mumbai terror attacks, the real problem that needs to be solved is Pakistan.

Pakistan has tried its best [and partially succeeded] to portray the Mumbai terror attacks in the framework of a conventional military conflict between two nuclear-weapons armed nations — India and Pakistan. Beijing, as the historical ally of Islamabad, has been parroting out the Pakistani line.

The visit of the Indian Home Minister to the US with a Proofs Dossier and the recent statements from the Indian government have focused solely on bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks to justice. While Pakistan’s insistence on framing the problem in India-Pakistan military conflict terms is understandable, misdiagnosis by the Indians — politicians, media and strategic experts — is either amazingly naive or shockingly inept.

Any long-lasting solution can only spring from identifying the right problem. It does not need huge insight and great wisdom to frame the problem in correct terms. How is terror — born, bred and supported from Pakistan, through complicity between certain state actors and their non-state actor cousins — targeting and bleeding the Indian mainland continually? In focusing on the seemingly immediate aims of avenging Mumbai terror attacks, let us not forget the real problem that deserves India’s undivided attention — Pakistan.

Even Gordon Brown can see it clearly far away in London. He says that the world must solve ‘Pakistan problem’.

Comments { 5 }

Bal Thackeray should shut up

There are better ways of garnering public attention than asking for a public hanging of Kasab outside CST.

OffStumped believes that the political rot in Maharashtra is much worse than any other state in the country, including Uttar Pradesh. The Congress-NCP duo of Deshmukh and RR Patil were symptomatic of the rotten political culture with their callous actions and insensitive remarks after the Mumbai terror attacks. AR Antulay joined them in the hall of shame with his conspiracy theories about the killing of Hemant Karkare.

Not that the two Senas are any better. Raj Thackeray might have taped his mouth temporarily after the public rebuff during the Mumbai terror attacks but his uncle, Bal Thackeray continues with his senile rhetoric.

In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna, which is edited by Sena chief Bal Thackeray, the party said since the entire world had watched the carnage by the terrorists in Mumbai, there was no need for an inquiry, examining evidence or giving Kasab an opportunity to defend himself.

Demanding that Kasab be hanged publicly in front of the CST, where he and his accomplice killed innocent people, the editorial said, “The punishment will not be adequate even if he is hanged a hundred times.”

This is a throwback to the era of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, when such public hangings were common place. Fortunately, India is not ruled by the Taliban. Amir Kasab deserves exemplary prosecution and an exemplary defence. And once he is found guilty after an exemplary judicial process, he deserves exemplary punishment not vigilante justice of a tribal society.

Bal Thackeray is known to have indulged in such tirades and philippics even earlier. His rants would best be ignored at most times as rambling rhetoric of a senile man. However, in light of the sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, there will be a slight difference this time around. This will elicit an interesting reaction from the jingoistic Pakistani media — of India harbouring a “Hindu Taliban”. In effect, portrayal of a moral equivalence between India and Pakistan. And the politically correct apologists in the international media will lap it up.

Not that it makes a fig of a difference on ground to anything. But Mr. Bal Thackeray should still better shut up. There are far better ways of seeking public attention than empty rhetoric and gimcrack innuendos that provides unnecessary fodder to media gristmills. India can certainly do without this nonsense from Mr. Thackeray.

Update — Lex [in an off-blog conversation] explains that public hanging is not permitted in India any longer. It has been held to be unconstitutional; violative of the right to life under Art. 21 by the SC in 1985 - AG v. Lachma Devi AIR 1986 SC 467.

Comments { 10 }

Former army chief endorses media coverage

…which is antithetical to the views held by the serving Navy Chief.

That paragon of restrained TV journalism — sobriety and dignity personified — Rajat Sharma and his channel, India TV, which exemplifies all that ails the Indian electronic media today have defended the media coverage of the Mumbai terror attacks. Nothing unusual about it, as all channel heads have been recently scurrying to justify their coverage of the terror attacks, except that this one is based on the endorsement by an unnamed former Indian army chief.

Last Saturday, I invited a former army chief to address the entire staff of India TV. I wanted my colleagues to understand, from a decorated war hero, whether news channels went overboard in their coverage of Mumbai terror. I wanted him to tell our producers, reporters and camerapersons what precautions they should have taken while showing “live” action. My most important objective was to understand if news channels, in any way, endangered the lives of our commandos.

To my surprise, the former army chief was emphatic: “News channels did nothing wrong. Your coverage didn’t do any harm whatsoever to the commandos! I’ve handled action as a major, then as a full colonel, and finally as an army commander in anti-terrorist operations, and there’s nothing I could make out from the news channel about the strategy of our commandos.”

The former Chief’s name was not divulged by Rajat Sharma, on the General’s own request. That will leave others to make their educated guesses about the gentleman.

I’m not even giving the name of the former army chief, as he wanted the briefing to be off-the-record. Later, I asked him why he wanted all this to be away from the public eye — “Because we are at war. This is not the time for a blame game. You don’t start finding faults with the system when war is on.”

The former Chief’s views are in complete contrast to the views of the serving Naval Chief, who asserted that the media acted as “a disabling force” during the Mumbai terror attacks and compromised security of the operations. The truth might lie somewhere in between the two extreme positions.

There is no doubt that the media needs to be regulated by the government during a crisis. But the indiscretions of the media can not be used as an excuse by politicians, bureaucrats or generals to cover up their deficiencies.

After the electronic media unanimously rejected the advisory issued by the government, the I&B ministry has today held a meeting with News Broadcasters Association and Indian Broadcasters Federation to reach a mutually acceptable solution for the future. [Update -- There was no agreement on framing an "emergency protocol during the meeting.] It would be too much to expect the media to do some introspection and self-regulation, when the mad rush for TRPs and ad revenues starts during an emergency. The Indian electronic media has been, time and again, found wanting in self-judgement and stringent editorial control.

In this environment, it will be challenging for the government to ensure that the media behaves responsibly, without any curbs on its freedom and vibrancy. The recent outbursts against the media by various government functionaries haven’t helped the government’s cause either. In a free market, where the viewer is the king, perhaps it is for the average viewer to ensure that credible voices are commercialy sustained and hyperventilating ones are rendered unviable. The endorsement by a former service chief and invective epithets hurled by a serving chief should do little to influence the viewer’s opinion about the role of these media houses during the Mumbai terror attacks.

Comments { 16 }

Terrorists better than Navy seals — Kilcullen’s thesis

“This was a lot like a special forces raid,” said David J. Kilcullen, departing special advisor for counterinsurgency to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a  principal architects of the surge strategy in Iraq. “A [Navy] SEAL team would have had trouble mounting this mission.”

Kilcullen, however, later told Security Management that he wasn’t sure ISI had the capability to train the terrorists. It’s instead possible that elements within the Pakistani military, possibly retired, trained the terrorist commandos. He also wouldn’t rule out that whomever trained the Mumbai terrorists may have received military training from the United States. The U.S. government has given enormous sums of money and training to Pakistan’s military, such as its Special Services Group, to fight jihadist insurgents and terrorists inside the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“It’s just too early to say, but it is a possibility,” said Kilcullen.

During the panel discussion, Kilcullen said the attacks had all the hallmarks of a commando raid. The terrorists were armed with good technology, such as GPS and cell phones. They entered Mumbai from its most vulnerable gateway: the sea, after launching from a Pakistani ship they pirated. The initial attacks against hospitals, the train station, and other locations were diversions, a ruse to draw first responders away from the terrorists’ real target: the Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotels and the Mumbai Jewish center. The terrorists in at least one hotel had knowledge of its security, says Kilcullen, suggesting detailed reconnaissance and other co-conspirators. Inside the hotels, terrorists booby-trapped bodies with grenades and kept moving during the hotel hostage situation to make themselves harder to kill.[SM]

David Kilcullen is one of the most respected names among counterinsurgency experts today, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Australian army with a doctorate in political anthropology. You can check out a very interesting biography of Kilcullen here and also watch the video of Kilcullen on An hour with Charlie Rose.

Kilcullen has not unearthed something earth-shattering here but his views are significant. While Kilcullen might have spoken at the panel in his personal capacity, his thoughts are likely to be reflected in the thinking of the US state department and General Petraeaus. With this, the insidious theory of Kashmir-solves-Afghanistan is likely to be consigned to the place where it really belongs — the trash can.

It is the Pakistani army and ISI and their umbilical relationship with jehadis that drives terrorism in South Asia. A solution to this global problem of jehadi terrorism has to involve defanging the Pakistani army and the ISI. The incoming administration in the US would have realised it by now. After January 20 next year, it would be time for Obama administration to acknowledge and act on this fact.

Comments { 4 }

Navy chief and his opprobrious outrage against the media

“I would have chopped your heads off”, Navy Chief tells two journalists. His insinuations and slander are reflective of the prevailing culture in the defence services. It is the failure of his political masters that has led to this bellicose and petulant behaviour.

The media is up in arms against the Navy chief. During the traditional Navy day conference, the Navy chief vented out his anger on the media for their role during the Mumbai anti-terrorist operations. His bigger grouse was that there were so many reports about the defence ministry and the defence minister pulling him up. While those reports may or may not have been true, it is a near-certainty that he would have been reproached by the defence minister after the shambolic press brief.

When Indian Express ran stories that were not to the liking of the defence services, Shekhar Gupta was being portrayed as anti-national and anti-services. While this blogger holds no brief for Shekhar Gupta or the Indian Express, a couple of things that Arun Singh said about Shekhar Gupta would have put Shekhar’s journalistic credentials on defence matters in a better perspective.

I remember you from your days as a defence correspondent. I remember how keenly interested you were in the subject at that time and how you’ve continued being interested in it since then.

Now, the icons of the Indian mainstream media — from Prannoy Roy to Vir Sanghvi — are arrayed against the Navy Chief. They berate the Naval Chief for his indiscreet and injudicious behaviour. However, that is to miss the larger point altogether.

It is not to debate whether the Naval Chief, with his delirious utterances, is in the same league as the Kerala Chief Minister or not. It is about the lesson from the Aesop’s fable on the thief and his mother that this blogger had recounted earlier. The blame squarely falls on a defunct and pusillanimous defence minister, who could not keep the belligerent tendencies of the service chiefs in check, when they first erupted over the pay commission issue. It is now, when heads are rolling and the media scrutiny is much stronger, that the defence minister will try and indulge in damage control. It is already too late for that action now, Mr. Antony.

When the tango of the defence services with the media started late last year and gained momentum earlier this year, this blogger had warned the services of the dangers of courting the media or banking upon it to fight their battles. The truth in those lines has come to haunt the services today. Media is a tool; it can not be the strategy. The usual petty political approach of discrediting the messenger to obfuscate the message is unlikely to work in the modern era.

The behaviour and the approach of the top brass of the defence services during the Mumbai terror attacks was indeed despicable. The Navy refused to send the MarCos in without a written request from the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra [the report has now been denied by the Navy]. It seemed that for the Navy brass, bureaucratic procedures took precedence over saving the lives of their countrymen. They then refused to take on the terrorists inside the building citing that they were neither equipped nor trained for these operations. Despite being poorly equipped and poorly trained than MarCos but perhaps, less bureaucratic, the Mumbai policemen who caught the terrorist alive had a greater sense of purpose and duty. To top it all, the MarCos were then paraded in front of the media and the Western Naval commander was merrily briefing certain sections of the electronic media with pictures of captured equipment. The counter-terrorist operations were still far from over, but the race in the defence services, for claiming the credit from other agencies was already on.

The army, along with the Rapid Action Force, was responsible for laying the outer cordon. On the first night, the army went to town bragging to the media about the operation being led and controlled by the GOC, M&G area. Then the Southern army commander (who is also the Vice Chief designate) visited the site of operations next day and held a press briefing, where he tried to depict the NSG-SAG operation as an army commando operation. While the SAG teams are fully manned by army personnel on deputation, they are not Special Forces units of the army. It took an intervention from Delhi to prevent these publicity-hungry military brass from continuing with their publicity overdrive. As Sankarshan Thakur notes

On the second night of the operations, for instance, the army declared the Taj complex “cleared” of terrorists that was to prove a false and expensive claim.

A senior army officer requested to be interviewed on the progress of operations by a leading English news channel. The army seemed cut up with the media about the credit NSG commandos were getting. Several television news channel editors and producers were inundated with text messages requesting that the army be given its due credit — the NSG is made up of “boys” seconded from the army after all!

The President of India and the Supreme Commander of the armed forces cut short her overseas trip and returned early. But the Army Chief didn’t consider it prudent to return early from South Africa. So much for a national emergency. It was déjà vu as the then army chief had also chosen not to cut short his visit to Europe during the Kargil incursions.

It is easy for the common man and the media to mistake the bravery of the ordinary soldier as the validation of the institutionalised defence services and its top leadership. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Pratap Bhanu Mehta rightly observes

Amidst this breakdown and carnage there have been so many tales of personal heroism and sacrifice. But in a sense those stories heighten our despair, not diminish it. For recourse to a language of personal sacrifice is at one level a sign of the failure of systems. Our collective weaknesses push people to their deaths, and then we see in their sacrifice our triumph.

This is true of the services as well, where celebrations of the death of the ordinary trooper camouflage the numerous ills plaguing these hoary institutions. The top brass of the services are as venal, self-centred and publicity-hungry as any petty political leader in this country. The democratic credentials of this country since independence and the holy cow image of the defence services have allowed the military brass to virtually get away scot-free with their numerous indiscretions. This has emboldened them to pursue such aggressive behaviour, earlier against the civil services and now even against the media.

However now, besides the media, the judiciary and tools like the RTI with the common man have put the defence services under greater public scrutiny. This greater probity is an anathema to the feudal culture that still prevails in the colonial vestige called the Indian defence services. One hopes that the Mumbai blasts and the Naval Chief’s subsequent outburst will turn out to be a real watershed in raising some substantive questions about the culture, ethos and top leadership of the Indian defence services.

The buck, however, doesn’t stop there. More important and pertinent questions should be raised about the lackadaisical manner in  which the political executive has diluted the concept of civilan control of the military. Insidious tendencies of the services top brass should have been nipped in the bud much earlier. Wishing away the incipient problems of civil-military relations by ignoring these warning signs will return to haunt the Indian state in the future. By then, it might be too late for corrective action.

Comments { 69 }

Policemen who caught the terrorist alive

The story of Mumbai policemen who caught Ajmal Amir Kasab alive needs to be ciruculated and the valour of these policemen celebrated and commended.

While the senior officers of Mumbai police and the commandos of NSG get the well-deserved accolades for their role during the anti-terrorist operations in Mumbai, little has been written about the junior operatives of the Mumbai police who caught alive one terrorist at Girgaum Chaupatty. Indian Express recounts the tale of the brave men of Mumbai police who captured the dreaded terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab during that encounter.

Senior Police Inspector Nagappa Mali from the DB Marg police station said, “On that night, I was about to go home when I got to know that some terrorists were headed towards my jurisdiction. I immediately formed two teams, one of which was posted at Girgaum Chowpatty and the other at the Tribhovandas Zhaveri Lane. When the Skoda neared the barricades that we had erected at Girgaum, the two men sitting inside turned their head lights to full beam, squirted water on their wind-shields and turned on the wipers in an attempt to hide their faces.

However, as we had information about the colour and make of the car, we signalled them to stop and demanded that they emerge from the car with their hands raised. Kasab who was sitting in the passenger seat came out with his hands raised but then immediately started firing from his AK-47 which he had hidden between his knees.”When the firing started, ASI Tukaram Umble got hit even as the rest of the team pounced on Kasab and subdued him. In the meantime, Inspector Vinod Sawant who had gone to the driver’s side saw that the driver, Ismail, was also firing with his weapon and Sawant and his associate immediately opened fire on him, said Mali. Ismail was declared dead later and Kasab, who initially pretended to be dead, was taken to the hospital.

In the media hype over the political fallouts of the Mumbai terror attacks, this story will pale into insignificance. However, this is the kind of story that needs to be circulated over and over again to inspire other policemen and to restore the faith of the common man in the state in general, and the local police in particular.

Let us remember that the local police is the first and the most important round of defence that the Indian state has, among the plethora of agencies dealing with national security, against the terrorists. If the police are heavily criticised when they fail in their duty, then they deserve to be commended and celebrated when they go beyond the call of their duty.

Finally, Ratan Tata, always the sagacious voice, puts the current emotional state of the nation rather succinctly.

We’re indignant, but we’re not scared. If there’s a view that this has pulled us down, I think it will unite the country that much more.

Comments { 12 }