Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lessons Not Learnt

Nothing much is visible in our counter-terror preparedness since Mumbai 26/11 barring the creation of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) and opening of National Security Guard (NSG) hubs in metropolitan cities. As we approach the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack, the news is that David Coleman Headley, the Pakistan-born American who is now in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) custody in the US for plotting terror attacks against India as part of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) game plan, visited India before and after the 26/11 attack. As Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday, Headley ‘‘visited India several times, once before and once after the 26/11 terror attack. We are investigating in the cities where he went and whom he met’’. Intelligence shared by the FBI following the interrogation of Headley has revealed that two of the most prestigious boarding schools in the country — Doon in Dehradun and Woodstock in Mussoorie — and the National Defence College in New Delhi were the supposed LeT targets. The government has now tightened procedures for granting visas to Pakistan-origin people in third countries, with the Union Home Ministry suggesting that security is ‘‘paramount’’ while giving visas to people of Pakistani origin and that lessons need to be learnt from the Headley affair. Very true, lessons need to be learnt. But when? Who is willing to learn any lessons? Has the UPA government learnt any lessons from the 26/11 attack? What are the changes on the ground that can make the citizens feel safer? Where is the much-ballyhooed system overhaul towards securing the sea front? Is there anything to suggest that the intelligence machinery has been re-fashioned? How are we going to deprive the terrorist of his scope to operate, which is the chief function of any effective intelligence apparatus? Is the government concerned over the damaging effects of the country’s police-population ratio that is far below the one stipulated by the UN? Is the policeman sophisticated enough to defeat the new-age super-terrorist? There are several such questions that confront us as we approach 26/11/09.

According to a report, Headley, a Pakistani national who acquired US citizenship after changing his name from Daood Gilani, travelled to India on business visas as many as nine times over the last three years and is suspected to have set up an extensive network, particularly in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, using the cover of a businessman, while the government believes that Daood Gilani deliberately acquired a Christian name and American passport to avoid detection in India. Many such Headleys might have already succeeded in setting up foolproof terror modules in the country, given the kind of support structure that our own jihadi outfits like the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and one of its variants, Indian Mujahideen, would provide. With Pakistan’s Taliban species, Tehrik-e-Taliban, assuming a monstrous form and poised to even take over that country’s nuclear arsenal, and in view of the heady jihad medley comprising the LeT as the most invaluable asset against India, our security-intelligence framework must undergo a complete mutation. Time has also come to set up a separate department of internal security on the lines of the US Homeland Security. Remember, we are facing an open war. THE SENTINEL

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