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Sunday, 30 November 2008

From Today's Papers - 30 Nov

Note : - I have not been able to include all the items today due to paucity of time. Will try and post a supplement in the evening.

From Lt Col (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Cheema

The terrorist attack has mercifully ended after more than 59 hrs joint efforts by police, Army and NSG commodes. The casualties have been very heavy. The end of operation may give a sense of relief but has left the nation in pains which will take long time to subside. Like many other times we will carry out the analysis of the happening, political parties will start a blame game with eyes on elections Government will announce their resolve to bring culprits to book and give assurance not to allow such happening in future. The dead will be promised a few lacs of money and so on. We will learn nothing and there will be yet another tragedy and we will go over the whole thing once again. The terrorist have been carrying out detailed planning and preparations. Our intelligence had no inkling of their activities. The hotels were happy with their business with continuous occupancy of their suits by the terrorists under fake identity for months together. The exact planning and execution of their plan may take some time to be revealed but it is reasonably certain that they had carried out detailed planning and preparation over a long period of time. And they took coastal route from Karachi to Porbandar and then to Mumbai. They carried with them huge quantity of arms and ammunition. Where was our Intelligence during all this time? And how about our coastal guards! And how about likes of Raj Thackeray who never tire themselves of Marathi pride! How come they did not agitate against non Marathas fighting and sacrificing their lives for, in his words Maratha cause! I hope they Know that the uniformed people who completed one of the most difficult and delicate operations at the risk of their lives did not belong to any particular region least of it Maratha

The operation by the terrorists at that level could not have been possible without involvement of foreign support. But blaming Pakistan will not help, The PM is not wrong in saying that both India and Pakistan are victim of terrorism. In any case dealing with terrorism is our national problem and we have to deal with it with or without out side help. Pakistan is there to stay and we have to make our country safe inspite of Pakistan being there.

The fact is that our intelligence agencies are a total let down and they need to be held accountable for their utter failure resulting in loss of many lives, property, and of course our face. Local security system of hotels can be said to be non existent. If some one has covered itself with glory it is uniformed person alone. A shoke sabha for dead has been scheduled in the evening. The sabha will be held attended by important political leaders and many people. And that is the last we will think of these brave persons. Once again there will be discussions about what these uniformed people should get by way of 6th CPC. Then again one of the babus will quote his expertise in pay formulation. He will consider coming by helicopter and fighting the terrorist a minor affair vis-à-vis management of town affairs and naturally a higher pay band for these babus.

So let the nation not pay a lip service to the sacrifices of the brave soldiers. We should not forget them by merely laying wreath on their dead bodies. We need to make the future of their families secure. We need to attend to the problems serving and retired soldiers. We should not continue to denigrade by lowering their status like successive Pay Commissions have done.They are not asking for doles, they need to be given what they rightly deserve Non performing intelligence agencies and babus should be made to accountable for their failures. The public should reject leaders who try to divide the nation on regional, religious language and other grounds. Let us convert this tragedy in to an opportunity to unite the country to make it safe and strong, hostility of our neighbors not withstanding..

Thousands Pay Tribute as Slain NSG Major
Cremated in Bangalore

As thousands chanted "Major Sandeep amar rahe", the body of National Security Guard (NSG) commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was killed in a firefight with terrorists inside the Taj hotel in Mumbai, was consigned to the flames here Saturday.

Only Sandeep's grieving parents and other family members and military personnel were allowed inside the electric crematorium at Hebbal, about 15 km from the city centre, where several thousand people, young and elderly, had gathered for the final farewell to the 31-year-old army officer.

Sandeep's parents, father K. Unnikrishnan and mother Dhanalakshmi, were given the military uniform of the slain officer, their only son who had spoken to them for the last time on Nov 26, a day before he led his team to clear Mumbai's iconic hotel of the terrorists.

K. Unnikrishnan, a retired Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) official, Dhanalakshmi and their relatives broke down as the army men sounded the last post and the body was moved into the furnace after religious rituals.

Hundreds of people had lined the nearly four-km route to the crematorium from Unnikrishnans' residence at Yelahanka, around 12 km from the city. The body was taken in an open army truck followed by hundreds of mourners.

Earlier, at the residence, students in school uniform, young and elderly men and women in hundreds waited for hours to file past the body draped in white. Most of the mourners bowed in respect while many gave a military salute to the slain officer.

"Major Sandeep amar rahe", "Bharat Mata ki Jai" slogans rent the air at the residence as well as along the route to the crematorium.

Chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, several of his ministers, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary and Lok Sabha member H.N. Ananth Kumar were among those who laid wreaths on the body.

The slain officer's mother Dhanalakshmi was inconsolable. She was reluctant to let go of the body. On her insistence, she was allowed to sit next to the body for a few minutes just before it was taken on the last journey.

She swooned as the Karnataka police band sounded the bugle after a police gun salute, marking the beginning of the march from their residence to the crematorium.

She was given medical aid as relatives consoled her.

The body of Major Unnikrishnan was brought to Bangalore late Friday night from Mumbai and kept at his Yelahanka residence for people to pay their last respects.

Sandeep led his men into Taj Thursday. During the gunbattle he was separated from his men but continued taking on the terrorists, according to NSG Director General J.K. Dutt.

To prevent his colleagues from getting caught in the crossfire, Sandeep told them to keep away. He was grievously injured and died Friday.

His parents hail from Kerala but Sandeep was born and brought up in Bangalore.

"I lost my son in Mumbai Friday but we are proud that he has served the country well," the father told reporters Friday night.

Unnikrishnan said Sandeep had called them on Nov 26 to inform that he would be coming home early next month as his friend was getting married on Dec 17.

The March 17, 1977, born Sandeep had his schooling from Frank Anthony Public School in Bangalore. After passing out of the National Defence Academy, he was commissioned in the 7th Battalion of Bihar Regiment in 1999. He was deputed to NSG in January 2007.

A friend of Sandeep, Major Deepu, said: "He was a very enthusiastic person. He has been in Jammu and Kashmir, so he was trained in combat and anti-terrorism operations."

Ridiculous reaction from Islamabad

After the mammoth attacks on Mumbai, Pakistan has commented that India is making the issue political. It feels that India is trying to avail mileage out of this issue by suspecting the role of Pakistan behind the attacks..

CJ: B.Pavan Kumar , 11 hours ago Views:180 Comments:3

JUST WHEN we are trying to recover from the shock of the attacks on Mumbai, it was even more shocking to hear the statement issued by the foreign minister of Pakistan. He claims that India is playing politics with the issue!

Yes, you heard it right; he feels that India is trying to avail mileage out of this issue by suspecting the role of Pakistan behind the attacks.

Yes, it would have been great if we were able to do so. We would have attacked Islamabad right after our Parliament was attacked. Despite clear evidences in respect to the role of Pakistan in numerous terrorist activities, we have remained patient. But it is high time we acted after Pakistan made such an allegation on the nation which has never tried to disturb it inspite of facing threats from the forces orginating from the land. Is this what it means by free trade?

India is a strong player in the world economy today and I don’t think there is any urgent requirement for us to set up trade contacts with Pakistan. It was on compassionate grounds.

I think the honourable Minster is in the process of defending himself.

These set of statements must serve as wake up call for New Delhi. It must realise that the soft and peaceful way of resolving the problem has finally reached a dead end. One who would not appreciate the war and violence but we are left with no other way. If we still continue the same attitude, we may have to witness many more such attacks.

And finally Islamabad must realise this to be the final call for peace and friendship. It must also consider its own position today. Hit by economic crisis, it has witnessed attacks on its own lands by the similar groups’ .So; there is no way for Islamabad to remain safe. It must realise that tolerance is far different from inefficiency. I f it finds our tolerance to be our helpless state then god can help them. But for now, Islamabad must understand that the calmer it remains the more safe it is for Pakistan. The statements of this sort would distort our attitude towards Islamabad.

Pakistan Offers India Full Support,
is Not on Defensive

Pakistan Saturday said it would remain “fully engaged with the Indian leadership” to jointly fight terrorism even as it denied any link with the terror attack in Mumbai and cautioned New Delhi against mud-slinging.

“It's easy to get into mud-slinging and blame. We have to rise to the occasion, understand and join in efforts to fight this menace,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters here after a cabinet meeting to discuss the mayhem in Mumbai.

Qureshi, who cut short his four-day visit to India and abruptly left for Islamabad Saturday morning, cautioned India against “finger-pointing or coming to any hasty conclusions” which, he stressed, “will play into the hands of the common enemy - the terrorist”.

“No evidence has been provided... The government of Pakistan and all institutions of Pakistan are unanimous that Pakistan is not involved in this ghastly affair,” he asserted.

“We are not the defensive,” he underlined.

India has not blamed the government of Pakistan for the 60-hour Mumbai terror attack that claimed over 180 lives, but suspects the hand of groups based in that country.

Qureshi pledged full moral and material support to India while underlining the commitment of the "people of Pakistan and its institutions" to combating terrorism.

Amid widespread concerns about a likely chill in bilateral relations after India blamed elements in Pakistan for the terror in Mumbai, Qureshi underscored that his country will remain “fully engaged with the political leadership and establishment of India” and keep the peace process going.

“We attach the highest importance to friendly and good neighboring relations with India. Good and friendly relations are essential to peace and security,” he said.

Recalling his talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi Wednesday, Qureshi said the two discussed a gamut of issues ranging from trade and culture to visas and combating terrorism.

He also recalled that the mayhem started in Mumbai minutes after his talks with Mukherjee and the moment he knew about it he was in contact with the Indian leadership and media over the terror attacks.

Qureshi had Friday condemned the "barbaric, inhuman attack" and offered cooperation "at every level" with New Delhi. He also warned against "playing politics" with the terror attacks and said the two countries need "to turn the tide of confrontation to cooperation".

He had, however, acknowledged that there could be "rogue elements" in Pakistan who would be working to create a wedge between the two neighbours. "We cannot rule out anything."

Mukherjee rang up Qureshi Friday evening in the middle of a press interaction in New Delhi and impressed upon him the need for Pakistan to take immediate action over the terrorist strike in Mumbai. He also reminded Islamabad to honour its pledge to not to allow its territory to be used for terror attacks against India.

Maharashtra to Support Slain Policemen's Kin,
Build Force Like NSG

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, while announcing a compensation amount of Rs.2.5 million for the families of the security officials who died fighting the terrorists who attacked Mumbai, Saturday said the state will build a force like the National Security Guard (NSG).

"The past few days have been very difficult but we want to reiterate that we are not scared of the terrorists. The families of the security officials who lost their lives while fighting the terrorists will be given a compensation amount of Rs.2.5 million," Deshmukh said at a press conference here.

"At least one member of the family of each police personnel killed will be given a government job. The families will also be allowed to permanently stay in government houses.

"The families of the martyred policemen will also receive salaries as per their current pay scales. This will continue till the time the official would have retired if alive," he added.

The chief minister said 350 NSG commandos were involved in the 59-hour operation against the terrorists who attacked 10 prominent places in Mumbai Wednesday night.

"A force on the lines of the NSG will be set up in Maharashtra," Deshmukh said. "We will get permission to set up such a force from the centre."

“We have also postponed the winter assembly session, which was to begin in Nagpur Monday. It will now begin Dec 11," he added.

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil, who was also present at the press conference, told reporters that preliminary investigations had revealed that "the terrorists wanted to kill more than 5,000 people in the attack".

"There were 10 terrorists in all. Nine were killed, while one has been captured alive. They had been continuously getting instructions from abroad via satellite phones," Patil said.

When asked which country they were getting support from, the minister said: "You all know which country."

"The terrorists came from the sea route Wednesday morning. They landed near Sassoon Docks in Colaba. From there, they took a taxi in which all their arms and ammunitions were loaded," Patil said.

"Police have recovered two live bombs, each weighing eight kilograms from the dead terrorists. GPS equipment and sophisticated satellite phones were also recovered from them," he added.

The chief minister said in all 162 people, including 18 foreigners, were killed and 239 were injured in the terror drama. He added that 150 bodies had been sent for post mortem and 121 had already been handed over to their families.

'Smoking Gun' to Harm Pakistan-India Ties,
Fear US Experts

US anti-terrorism experts have warned that "a smoking gun" in the Mumbai terror attacks could not only derail Pakistan-India talks but also jeopardize Islamabad’s ties with Washington.

Christine Fair, a South Asia affairs analyst for US think-tank RAND Corporation, said the attacks had raised several questions: Was Pakistan involved? What type of Pakistani involvement was there? Did anyone in the government know?

Dawn newspaper Saturday quoted Fair as warning that “if there is a smoking gun,” it would have serious repercussions for US-Pakistan and Pakistan-India relations.

“The attacks will increase pressure on the incoming Obama administration to be tough on Pakistan,” she warned.

Bruce Riedel, a former South Asia analyst for the CIA and the US National Security Council who now advises President-elect Barack Obama, agreed.

“This is a new, horrific milestone in the global jihad,” he told The Washington Post.

“No indigenous Indian group has this level of capability. The goal is to damage the symbol of India’s economic renaissance, undermine investor confidence and provoke an India-Pakistan crisis.”

Terrorists who Indian officials say came from Pakistan by the sea entered Mumbai Wednesday night and struck at 10 centers, eventually taking control of the Taj hotel, Oberoi-Trident hotel and a Jewish centre. The mayhem has claimed 152 lives and left over 300 injured before Indian commandos killed all the terrorists.

Fair, however, believed that the attacks were apparently carried out by indigenous Indian militants with some outside support.

“This isn’t India’s 9/11. This is India’s Oklahoma City,” said Fair, referring to an April 1995 domestic attack in the US that left 168 people dead.

“It is almost unimaginable that this could have been done entirely by outside militants without Indian involvement; implications are very dangerous,” she told Dawn.

“There are a lot of “very, very angry Muslims in India. The economic disparities are startling,” she said. “This is a major domestic political challenge for India”.

“You have Islamist militants in India and you have a militarized Hindu right; these are small numbers but they feed on each other, without one the other will be difficult to exist,” she said.

Gary Ackerman, a pro-India Democratic Congressman from New York, worried about the Mumbai attacks’ implications for the US.

“The implication for us is that there are bad guys still out there, and we’re going to have to learn how to deal with them, because our friends are getting sucked into this big-time,” said Congressman Ackerman, who chairs the House subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

One highly placed US intelligence official, who has been briefed on the attacks, told CNN that the head of the operation was a Bangladeshi and that the militants were Indians, Kashmiris and Bangladeshis.

US Intelligence Points to Lashkar-e-Taiba
for Mumbai Attacks: NYT

By Arun Kumar

There is mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the New York Times reported Saturday citing American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

However, the unnamed "American officials cautioned that they had reached no hard conclusions about who was responsible for the operation, nor on how it had been planned and carried out," the influential daily said.

"Nevertheless, they said that evidence gathered over the past two days has pointed to a role for Lashkar-e-Taiba, or possibly another Pakistani group focused on Kashmir, Jaish-e-Muhammad," it said.

The Times said cited American officials insisted on anonymity in describing their current thinking and declined to discuss the intelligence information that they said pointed to Kashmiri militants.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is thought by American intelligence agencies to have received some training and logistical support in the past from Pakistan's powerful spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the daily said.

But American officials said Friday that there was no evidence that the Pakistani government had any role in the Mumbai attacks, the Times said.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has, for the most part, not targeted Westerners in past attacks, as some reports said the attackers in Mumbai did. But one counter-terrorism official cited by Times said that the group "has not pursued an exclusively Kashmiri agenda" and that the group might certainly go after Westerners to advance a broader goals.

The daily cited the official as saying that there was also strong evidence that Lashkar-e-Taiba had a "maritime capability" and would definitely have been capable of mounting the sophisticated operation in Mumbai, which intelligence officials say they believe began when the attackers arrived in the city in small boats.

American and Indian officials are pursuing the possibility that the attackers arrived off the coast of Mumbai in a larger merchant ship, and then boarded the smaller boats before they launched the attack.

Even as a Kashmiri connection to the attacks began to emerge Friday, American officials cited by the Times said there were puzzled by some developments of the past two days.

For instance, they said they still know next to nothing about a group called the Deccan Mujahedeen that has reportedly taken responsibility for the attacks.

Terrorism experts have said there is no evidence that the group was involved in past strikes, and speculated that the name was made up by another militant group to mask responsibility for the attacks, the US daily said.

A State Department report issued this year called Lashkar-e-Taiba "one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmiri-focused militant groups."

The report said that the group drew funding in part from Pakistani expatriate communities in the Middle East, despite the freezing of its assets by the United States and Pakistan in 2002, after the attack on the Indian p arliament.

The report said that the actual size of the group was unknown, but estimated its strength at "several thousand" members.

ISI Chief's Aide to Visit India: Report
By Muhammad Najeeb

Pakistan will send a senior official and not the chief of its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency to India, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's spokesman has said here.

On Friday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had urged his Pakistani counterpart Gilani to send ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha to New Delhi to exchange information on the Mumbai terror attacks that have claimed 148 lives and injured 327.

Gilani Friday surprised many in the country by announcing that the ISI chief would be sent to India. The decision to send Pasha was announced by the prime minister's office after Gilani held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and discussed the matter with the heads of the security establishment.

However, in a statement late Friday, the spokesman for the prime minister said that instead of the ISI chief, a senior official of the spy agency would visit India.

The statement came hours after Pakistan military spokesman said that no final decision had been taken on the ISI chief visiting India.

"Let me clear that no final decision has been taken about the (ISI chief's) visit to India," Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told GEO television in a late night programme.

There was no mention, however, about when the ISI official is likely to arrive in New Delhi.

A statement from Pakistan's foreign office said the country stands united with India in the war on terror and would extend its full cooperation to curb this menace. However, it added that India should respect Pakistan's efforts at combating terrorism and should avoid playing a blame game.

While India has said the terrorists have links in Pakistan, Islamabad has refuted the charge. In support of its contention, India has said that the only terrorist to be captured in Mumbai was a Pakistani.

In his address to the nation Thursday, Manmohan Singh blamed "elements outside the country" for the bloodshed in Mumbai, warning that India will not tolerate the use of territories of its neighbors for such attacks.

NSG a bit too stretched for resources?

Sudhi Ranjan Sen

Sunday, November 30, 2008 1:13 AM (New Delhi)

The National Security Guard (NSG) is the most elite commando force in the country. It has definitely been a lifesaver in the tragedy, but is the force a bit stretched for resources?

A major and a hawaldar of the NSG died fighting terrorists. The operations lasted nearly 72 hours. But could the commandos have reached the venue faster?

Perhaps they could have, if an immediate airlift was available after their help was sought.

Orders to deploy the NSG came around 1 am on Thursday morning but the commandos landed in Mumbai only after 5 am.

A plan to have a dedicated aircraft for NSG's use has not been implemented. The plane that took the commandoes to Mumbai came from Chandigarh. From the Mumbai airport, it took another hour to reach the spot where they came on buses. However, the Home Ministry says the delay is normal.

"There was no time delay, but it takes time to travel to the airport, load and unload equipment, and from the airport to move to south Mumbai," said Mahendra Kumawat, Special Secretary (Internal Security), Home Ministry.

This is not the first time the NSG started late. About a decade ago, when the Delhi bound Indian Airlines plane was hijacked, the commandos took off only when the hijacked plane had left Indian skies.

As a matter of fact, transport is not the only problem. The NSG was raised as an anti-hijack and anti-terrorist force, but over the years, guarding our politicians has become one of its primary responsibilities.

Windows of opportunity
The armed forces’ role needs a close look
by Brijesh D. Jayal

Why has there been a systematic and progressive decline in the standing of the armed forces over the last six decades? Why are we the only democracy where civilian control of the armed forces has come to mean bureaucratic control? And why was it thought fit not to give a state funeral to a Field Marshal, who won us a war? One could go on. None of these and associated issues will mean much to the ordinary citizen, but to those in uniform it’s a matter of honour.

That there was a religious backlash within the Army after Operation Bluestar is a historical fact. What is not so well appreciated is how the services in general and the army in particular took discrete yet extraordinary steps to heal the wounded psyche within their ranks. Wounded psyche that was not of their own making in the first place. Not many may know that having learnt a deep lesson, the army set up an Institute of National Integration to preach commonality of religions, spirit of tolerance as well as rich cultural heritage thus propagating national integration.

That the army had healed its internal wounds is borne out by its performance during the Kargil conflict and the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. To a grateful nation this should have been tribute enough to its self- correcting capabilities. But the ongoing over-reaction to the episode of an Army Lieutenant Colonel’s alleged involvement in terror activities appears to have tainted the entire institution of the armed forces with one black brush.

The investigating agencies are indulging in selective leaks and media trials have pronounced the Lieutenant Colonel guilty long before any charge sheets have been filed. These are happenings in banana republics and not worthy of a nation aspiring great power status. This shows our governance and justice system in poor light and undermines the morale of our fighting forces.

Militaries are secular not out of any ideological consideration, but out of an innate sense of professionalism. While individuals may be deeply religious, if one is facing death in the line of duty daily, what counts is flag, country and regiment or unit of the fighting men. Those who have either donned military uniforms or respect the profession of arms will understand this ethos. The rest will find it incomprehensible.

The progressive decline of the parity of the armed forces as a consequence of successive pay commissions is well known. The Service Chiefs’ request to include a member from the services in the Sixth Pay Commission was turned down. The services did not get a fair deal and the Chiefs made a representation. While appointing a Committee of Secretaries, the government again declined a service representative. When the services voiced concern on these findings, there were veiled threats in the media about disciplining the services.

Even as this bizarre episode was unfolding the media, a distinguished former Ambassador, in an article titled “Services contempt of civil authority is not casual” ventured to suggest that the armed forces were envious of the privileges and power of their Pakistani counterparts and that such envy though natural was dangerous. The ambassador went on to say “The storm that has arisen today clearly has its roots in a general, if widespread, contempt of the forces for their civilian masters and counterparts.”

These observations smack of lack of understanding of the ethos and loyalty of our armed forces. The psychosis while aimed at the political class is not lost on the armed forces as this has ensured that for the last six decades civilian control of the armed forces, so vital for a healthy democracy, has been transformed to control by the bureaucracy. A model that no other democracy follows! The political leadership is kept so insulated from the armed forces that it does not see a valuable and priceless institution for what it is — a national asset that keeps our secular, democratic republic intact!

What escapes those critical of the armed forces in this unsavory episode of administrative highhandedness is that to military commanders at any level, safety and welfare of those they command come next only to flag and country. Had they been found wanting at this juncture, they would have been perceived as having sacrificed the interests of their men and women at the altar of their own futures.

A few months ago, UK Army Chief General Dannatt, to the embarrassment of his government, went public lamenting that his soldiers were paid less than traffic wardens. Peeved, the government overlooked him for the higher post of Chief of Defence Staff but could not deny the forces their due. In military eyes, this was a true Commander willing to pay a personal price for upholding the interests of those he led.

The recent revelations have got the media into frenzy and it is difficult to fathom whether this concern runs any deeper than for their commercial interests! What else can explain the expediency with which a suspected individual, an NDA throw-out, was proclaimed as being from IAF? Is there a subtle attempt to undermine the morale of our fighting forces?

These unfortunate questions must result in introspection. In his treatise, The Art of War, Sun Tzu advises: “Therefore, to gain a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy’s army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.”

In today’s information age, there are potent tools for such subjugation called information and psychological warfare. While the armed forces understand these phenomena and arm themselves to handle such types of warfare, they do so with external threats in mind. Alas, they now find themselves being targeted from within and they are unable to respond. Is it possible that there are vested interests stoking these fires? Let us not forget that some of our adversaries have declared their intentions to accord high priority to cyber warfare and other information warfare tools towards furthering their warfare capabilities and are making huge investments.

This is a defining moment as our last bastion of security stands dented, fortunately not punctured. Many eagerly wish to fish in these troubled waters. The nation cannot afford to sit idle while the institution of our armed forces continues down a slippery slope.

Such moments of crises are also windows of opportunity. Let the nation respond by setting up a Blue Ribbon Commission to look at all aspects of our armed forces and indeed their role and place within the Indian Republic. Like the Army advertisement seeking volunteers, it is the turn of the nation to ask itself ‘Do we have it in us?’n

The writer is a retired Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force

India to bolster NSG strength

Press Trust of India / Bali November 29, 2008, 16:26 IST

In the wake of deadly terror strikes in Mumbai, Government will bolster the strength of the country's National Security Guard and enact legislation to strengthen existing anti-terror laws, a senior aide to President Pratibha Patil said today.

"A Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting would be held on Tuesday, which will take up the issue of deployment of NSG in places like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, where there is a need for beefing up security," Christy Fernandez, Secretary to the President, told reporters accompanying Patil here.

He said the move behind wider-deployment of NSG, which is currently based in New Delhi only, was to reduce the time taken for their induction in emergent situations.

"These will be the main focus in the meeting of the CCS," Fernandez said.

He said the President, who is currently on a two-nation tour and had arrived in Indonesia, was keeping in constant touch with authorities back home to monitor the situation.

Fernandez said the CCS meeting might also consider other legislative measures to strengthen the existing terror-related laws to make them more stringent and effective.

India should take up Pak offer to fight terror: Khorakiwala

Press Trust of India / Mumbai November 29, 2008, 13:08 IST

India should take up Pakistan's offer to help in curbing terrorism without any prejudice and work towards a terror-free South Asia, Fakruddin T Khorakiwala, Founder, Wockhardt Group, said today.

"This is the first time in 60 years that Pakistan has come out openly and expressed willing to work with India in curbing terrorism. India should not miss this opportunity," Khorakiwala, President of voluntary group Citizen's council for a Better Tomorrow, said.

India should take proactive steps in association with Pakistan in fighting the menace, he said.

"We should not be playing with past sentiments and keep dividing the people of India and Pakistan. We now have a new generation of people who want better Indo-Pak ties," said Khorakiwala, who is also Chairman of department store chain Akbarallys.

"We should be forming a United Federation of South Asia as culturally we all are one."

The former Mumbai Sheriff said "the leaders should rise above politics and not allow Balkanisation of India."

Paying tribute to security personnel who laid down their lives fighting terror, Khorakiwala said "We should have a unified security agency which should work without political interference."

The death of the Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare was a big blow to the investigations being carried out by the state agency, he said.

Mumbai experience to be part of NSG training

New Delhi, November 29

The NSG, which played a pivotal role in the anti-terror operations in Mumbai, has decided to include the siege experience in its new training schedule for its elite Black Cat commandos.

The NSG is purely a deputation force with personnel and officials drawn from the Army and various paramilitary forces like the CRPF, ITBP, CISF, BSF and SSB.

“The Mumbai siege has been a learning experience for us. We will include this feature in our future commando trainings,” a senior NSG official said.

All men on deputation will have to undergo the new training module. “It was for the first time that we operated in crowded and densely populated areas. Nariman House in south Mumbai was closeted in a mesh of bylanes and achieving operational success without the loss of innocent lives was a challenge,” the official said.

The Taj and Oberoi (Trident) were large hotels with spacious rooms, kitchens, ball rooms, restaurants and ante-rooms which can provide ample hiding space to terrorists and help them create hurdles for the crack commandos, the official said.

The commandos, who have an upper age limit of 38 years, undergo a rigorous pre-induction course while coming on deputation from other forces and is cleared by only 50-55 per cent candidates.

Till now, new recruits are being trained in Police Commando Instructors Course (PCIC), VIP security, VIP driving, bomb disposal, post blast study and Left-wing extremism courses.

To sharpen the anti-terror and anti-hijack skills of the crack commandos, the NSG recruits are trained in simulated conditions. They are also made to develop physical and mental agility in order to imbibe combat skills. Mobile and static security, access control, observation techniques and ground control are some of the other modules included.

The snipers are trained in precision firing which include sharp shooting and reflex training, defensive and evasive driving skills and awareness of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) and booby traps.

Techniques of “room intervention” (breaking open rooms), “slither down” (descending from heli-borne commandos on roof top with the help of ropes) and “top to bottom” (entering an establishment from the roof and gradually moving down) and “observe and fire” (watch the enemy and shoot) were used by the Black Cats in their operations in Mumbai. — PTI

Editorial: Cooperation without blame-game\11\30\story_30-11-2008_pg3_1

After the Mumbai terrorist attack, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari severely condemned the incident as terrorism and, in the face of some early speculation on Pakistan’s involvement, offered India “cooperation” in the investigation of the whole affair without indulging in the familiar blame-game the two countries have succumbed to in the past. On Friday, a Foreign Office statement in Islamabad explained Pakistan’s stance more clearly:

“Pakistan is ready to deepen its engagement with India, including on combating terrorism but it is important to avoid blame-game and knee-jerk reactions. Terrorism is a global problem that needs to be combated in all its forms and manifestations through serious, sustained and pragmatic steps”. The statement came after the prime minister and the president had telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and offered Pakistan’s assistance in probing the attacks.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi, then in India, also issued a statement saying, “We are confident that the government of India will respond positively to Pakistan’s offer to cooperate in the investigation of the Mumbai attacks. It is in the interest of Pakistan and India to enhance multi-track cooperation on anti-terrorism”. There was an indirect reference in this statement to the Pakistan-India mechanisms of cooperation for combating terrorism, including a Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism (JATM). The subject also forms one of the baskets in the Indo-Pak composite dialogue on normalisation of relations.

Thereafter, upon receiving a request from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Gilani agreed to send Director General ISI to India. Soon, the rank was changed from DG to “representative of the ISI”. The army spokesman, speaking on the first version, had expressed surprise that the ISI chief was being sent for consultation and pointed to lack of precedent in this regard. The media also thought that Pakistan was exposing its intelligence agency to a session of “levelling of charges” by the Indians. This was said in the light of the remarks made by many in India that the attack had come from Pakistan. Prime Minister Singh had also implied that the territory of “neighbourhood” states could have been used.

Prime Minister Gilani first reacted to objections by saying that he did not think Pakistan had anything to hide. In fact Pakistan wished an upgradation of JATM when the foreign minister’s statement in India said, “Pakistan had proposed closer intelligence cooperation and meetings between the intelligence chiefs of the two countries”. The JATM was set up after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met in September 2006, on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Havana. The second JATM meeting in October 2007 had gone into the terrorism on Samjhauta Express. The third meeting was scheduled for 2008 at the additional secretary level. It is clear that a mechanism of cooperation does exist at a low level and doesn’t yet involve the intelligence agencies.

Has the time come for the two countries to move to a higher level of consultation on terrorism? Given the nature of the threat to both states there is no doubt that it has. Objections on the Pakistani side to Mr Gilani’s offer of sending the DG ISI were justified, though. The JATM is too “preliminary” at the present time to become the framework for it. There are also complications. In the early meetings of JATM, Pakistan’s request to leave Jammu & Kashmir out of the ambit of consultation was not accepted by India. Mutual suspicion weighs heavy on all efforts to advance at the rapid pace towards the goal of cooperation demanded by the Mumbai attacks in particular and the terrorism threat in general.

In the final analysis, both countries will have to move to a regular framework of intelligence cooperation. The incidence of terrorism on both sides is now quite apparent and it is no longer enough to say that “we too are victims of terrorism”. The gesture by Mr Gilani should be appreciated by the Indian side and no effort to politicise the down-gradation of consultation from the ISI chief to “representative” should be made to make it look like a proof of guilt. Two, the rhetoric of objection to Mr Gilani’s gesture should not be allowed to grow to a crescendo in Pakistan. The sooner the two countries clear the decks for meetings between the intelligence chiefs through a proper framework the better. *

Second Editorial: Exit National Security Council

The National Security Council (NSC), constituted during former president Pervez Musharraf’s regime has been dissolved by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. Like Article 58-2(b), the NSC was supposed to stave off martial law. General Musharraf wanted it in the Constitution but could not get the clerical alliance MMA to agree to it in the 17th Amendment. So NSC, in which the generals would meet and consult with the civilian government regularly, was set up with an act of parliament with a simple PMLQ majority. The Prime Minister already had his defence committee of the cabinet (DCC) where he could consult with the army chief if he wanted.

The PPP government has got rid of the NSC in deference to the views of the PMLN and in consonance with the general feeling among the political parties. The general who first scared everybody off was army chief General Aslam Beg who began throwing his weight around in the PM’s defence committee. An NSC would have become an arena of a full-dress top brass display. Just before General Zia forced the National Assembly in 1985 to accept the infamous 8th Amendment, he dropped the idea of setting up a Council of Defence and National Security Council (CDNS) within the ambit of the Amendment. He probably thought Article 58-2(b) was enough to give him the kind of stranglehold on the civilian government he wanted. The Musharraf experiment has demonstrated that military takeovers are simply unpractical these days. Military thinking is so divorced from reality that NSC can only be an impediment in evolving better policies of national survival. This has become more than apparent from the statements being issued by the retired generals on all kinds of subjects relating to Pakistan’s security.

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