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India inadequately prepared to meet terror: PM

India inadequately prepared to meet terror: PM

Author: Bharti Jain
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: January 7, 2009
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/India_inadequately_prepared_to_meet_terror_PM/articleshow/3944627.cms

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday formally junked his Havana declaration that accorded 'terror victim' status to Pakistan. Mr Singh, who had purveyed the incredible argument that terror groups in Pakistan were acting autonomously, admitted that Pakistan's agencies were behind terror outrages in India.

"The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Toiba. On the basis of the investigations carried out, including the agencies of some foreign countries whose nationals were killed in the attack, there is enough evidence to show that, given the sophistication and military precision of the attack, it must have had the support of some official agencies in Pakistan," Mr Singh told a meeting of chief ministers here.

In a surprisingly candid admission of the nation's weak counter-terrorism set-up, Mr Singh also conceded that the defence mechanisms to thwart terror threats were "inadequate" and a "great deal more" needed to be done to strengthen intelligence, surveillance and police capabilities.

"Our defence mechanisms to thwart the numerous threats are inadequate. There may be criticism that the range of the instruments that we possess to deal with internal security threats are not sufficiently sophisticated. Clearly, there is need to review effectiveness of our set up for the collection of technical signalling and human intelligence. The training and equipment provided to our security forces also require a careful review," Mr Singh noted in his inaugural address to the chief ministers' conference on internal security here.

The prime minister also acknowledged that the 10 Mumbai attackers had managed to evade coastal surveillance, even though the need for greater vigilance along the coastline had been stressed at the last meeting of chief ministers in view of threats that sea route was being explored by jihadis as an alternative to land routes.

"The twelve months that have passed since then (last CMs' meet) have been a difficult period for us. The security situation has, if anything, become even more complex. Many predictions made a year ago have unfortunately turned out to be true. In some cases, the scale and magnitude of terrorist attacks appear to have been stepped up exponentially.

"I will admit that a great deal more can, and needs to, be done," the prime minister pointed out, mentioning collection of technical and human intelligence, surveillance equipment and training and equipment of the security forces as the areas that needed immediate review. "Both the Centre and the state governments must attend to this national task with speed, efficiency and utmost commitment," he insisted.

The prime minister, by owning up to the country's human and infrastructural inadequacies to take on the ultra-modern terror outfits, may have vindicated the Opposition's claims that the UPA government had lacked focus in the fight against terror, which made the country vulnerable to the string of terror strikes unleashed during its tenure, more so during the last 6 months.

The Opposition had been particularly critical of the UPA's move to do away with the special terror law Pota and, now, its hurried move to bring it back through a tougher version of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act. The tougher law, enacted days after the Mumbai terror attack, is being seen as a move too little and too late and initiated essentially to project UPA as being politically correct ahead of the polls in view of the huge public outrage generated after the 26/11 attacks.

This is evident from the prime minister's move to depart from his speeches to the chief ministers' conference over the last two years, which linked the terror attacks more to designs to foment communal trouble than to Pakistan-based players, and openly bring Pakistani agencies in the firing line for the recent terror acts.

Stating that the Pakistan-based terror masterminds were using alternative land routes through Nepal and Bangladesh in view of fencing along LoC in J&K and ongoing fencing of the Indo-Bangla border while also exploring the sea route, Mr Singh said that some interceptions had taken place in the sea, "though we failed to intercept the 10 Pakistani terrorists who came by sea from Karachi on November 26 (for the Mumbai attacks)."

Stressing on the need to address terrorism not only through military means but also through diplomatic offensive, Mr Singh said the nation must ensure that the concept of terrorism is delegitimised through better investigation and superior intelligence. "We must convince the world community that states that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics. We must engage vigorously in debates to press the point that 'soft' support for terrorism cannot any longer be endorsed," he insisted.

Naming protection of territorial integrity and maintenance of internal security as the two fundamental and underling aspects of the country's security calculus, the prime minister called for a strong sense of nationhood to withstand terror threats.

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