The right way for India to respond to the terrorist attack

We call for a well-considered, national response to the war that has been thrust on India

The most important national response at this time is to support and strengthen the government and the state’s security apparatus to enable it to finish the job. Pragmatic Euphony recommends:

Support the Indian state in the immediate near future irrespective of your political or social beliefs, prevent breeding of cynicism against the inefficacy or imeptiitude of the state, avoid calls for increased securitisation of the state, disabuse the Indian electronic media of its notion of unbridled “freedom without responsibility” and hold the political parties accountable for a vision and worthwhile action plan for internal security when it comes to choosing the next government. [PE]

Offstumped reinforces the message and calls upon citizens to support police efforts to apprehend the escaped terrorists by greater civic vigilance civic “to verify the identity and antecedents of those around them and make sure no one has gotten away or found shelter in a safe haven in the dark alleys of Mumbai.”

There are reasonable grounds to believe that the attack was planned, supported or executed by international terrorists. There are also reasonable grounds to believe that it could not have been carried out successfully without local participation, support or connivance. Getting to the bottom of this is a question of fact, not opinion, diplomacy or geopolitics. This does not mean that the Indian government must wait until everything is proven in court—it can and it must act once it has enough information to convince itself of the identity of the attackers and the design behind the attacks.

Yet, that does not call for a knee-jerk response. And certainly not a repeat of Operation Parakram—when India mobilised its armed forces for a war against Pakistan. The geopolitical context is different today. In fact, getting India to raise military pressure on Pakistan suits the interests of two quarters. Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi establishment would see this as a way to get the (anyway reluctant) Pakistani Army off their backs along the Durand Line. The Pakistani military establishment would also like the “risk of a India-Pakistan military confrontation” to change the way the United States frames the problem in the subcontinent.

On the contrary, an Indian strategic response ought to focus on Afghanistan, and its border with Pakistan. That theatre is a key front in the global war on terror—and India’s own.

And finally, as Offstumped, Retributions and Swaraj have started doing, it is necessary to call out the motivated, mistaken or plainly wrong commentaries that have started pouring out into the domestic and international media.

33 thoughts on “The right way for India to respond to the terrorist attack”

  1. I agree that things like Operation Parakram shouldn’t be tried. It was wise then and would be wise now. Entire thing should be covert. We should start taking out top tier of these organization. We can’t do it with Hell Fire missiles but we can with people on the ground.

    Remember the promises made by NSA and his establishment after Kabul Embassy bombing – talk of blow back to ISI. One won’t hear about successes or even it has been rolled out yet. But that blow back needs to be taken to whole new level in the Land of Pure and in also Bangladesh. We forget – just because the media wasn’t there – the same thing happened in Assam a few weeks ago.

  2. Hello Nitin,

    Implementing Parakram would have at least finished off the problem. Indian leadership then went on to make a 360 degree turn and recognize pakistan as – an equal victim of terror – in 2005. These were the two greatest blunders of Indian leadership. The islamists have capitalized on it and there has been a major expansion in scale, lethality and frequency of such attacks since 2005 onwards.

    The terrorist came in boats, with precision arms and large ammunitions. This kind of audacious operation cannot be implemented without assistance and a high degree of planning. Islamic jihadi groups like al-qaeda and lashkar alone cannot have the logistics to implement this.

    This – Renogiating oneself to a dead end – by Indians would have far more lethal consequences in the coming future. These islamic groups are likely to be given orders to target kills above 10,000+. The weapons used are likely to be poison gas, dirty bombs, or biological devices.

    What we are seeing is nothing compared to what is going to come. Unless off-course Indian leadership takes decisions that can turn this war into a completely unprecedented directions. It is a question of will and time is running out.

  3. @Chandra:

    I agree.

    In fact, if we accept what Praveen Swami says in his book ´India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad´ to be broadly true, Indian covert retaliation to Khalistan inside Pakistan did have the desired effect on Pakistani policy. So did, apparently, Operation Brasstacks – of which Parakram was a poor imitation.

    Probably a similar but more nuanced policy today could be an effective option.

    I only hope this attack will prove to be our 9/11 in terms of forging a consensus policy on how to deal with terrorism.

  4. @ Pankaj:

    Implementing Parakram would have at least finished off the problem.

    Not sure how. Remember that it seemed quite unlikely – given the long-drawn out process of mobilization and consequent international attention – that the war would last long. Or at least long enough to achieve any meaningful military objectives from the Indian perspective. Also Pakistan successfully bluffed us into believing that we will be nuked.

    Probably a more effective response could have been less talking (¨aar -par ki ladai¨) and more doing (eg. covert retaliation), which I am sorry to say did not/could not happen.

    Islamic jihadi groups like al-qaeda and lashkar alone cannot have the logistics to implement this.

    Not sure how you came to that conclusion – they could have had local support. Could you explain?

    This – Renogiating oneself to a dead end – by Indians would have far more lethal consequences in the coming future.

    Although I couldn´t agree more, there is also the issue of response time. If Mumbai had crack NSG-type commados on standby locally things would have been quite different. The earlier such forces can intervene, the more difficult it becomes for terrorists to get entrenched, establish control rooms, etc. They even had the time to talk to the media, for God´s sake!

    Of course all this is not to deny the importance of securing the coastline and improving HUMINT capabilities, including a more vigilant public.

  5. As much we would want to trust the government in learning from this experience, its going to be misplaced trust, as usual. What should the citizens be doing is the question. Without a broad thrust from us, voters and citizens, the government may not end up doing much.

  6. […]In the wake of the impudent run of terror attacks across South Mumbai, I believe there are certain eye openers in the context of the unity of the country when an attack of such proportion takes place.[…]

  7. photonman,

    IT IS NO POINT HAVING A WEAPON IF DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE IT.

    so, there was no harm in going on with parakram. but the harm has been caused by doing everything, and then pulling back. the pulling back proved to everyone that we only know how to talk, but do not have the balls to do what we say. in the international arena, this carries a lot of value. why do u think, nations think twice before supporting any operation against USA or israel. it is because the threat of retaliation is real. remember brutal killing of 14 or was it 19 BSF jawans by bangladesh rifles. we kept calling for stern action.

    i think, Parakram was the biggest mistake we ever did to our nations worth. as such pakistan decision makers are convinced that we only talk and do not act, we have further reinforced this belief.

    photonman, why do u want commandos stationed for everything. 10-15 men with weapons have travelled in mumbai over 10-15 kilometers without being checked. they were in the open firing indiscriminately. why did the police did not even fire at them. do u mean all those encounters are fake?

    one thing about the Indian (the real indian). in that crowd, even if two to three ppl had jumped the terrorists, he would have been had. but we prefer to be butchered than die fighting. after that all of us will stand in front of the camera and cry without shame.

    and nitin, like the PM it is very easy to call for action. that is what we indians are again good at. calling ppl to act. no one is willing to act.

    do not get taken by reports of pak army looking for confrontation. it is just that they are very sure, we would not risk such an adventure for such minor events. they try to test the level of our threshold by raising the level a little every time. let’s hope our threshold level keeps increasing.

    nitin, when u call for action, analyse what action is feasible. u will realise, we can do nothing. i know i am breaking the mould of ‘we will / should take strong action” but it is the stark reality of our successive governments, which have used the intelligence agencies for political gains.

    the situation of india is very hopeless, unless we can change our form of government. we are just not suited for parliamentary democracy. it is successful only in britain, which is small, has very few divisions on the basis of region. we should have a slightly strong executive, say a fully functional president, who is not dependent on the majority of the house to survive.

  8. An excellent article in WSJ detailing the glaring weaknesses within the Indian system which makes us simply incapable of handling this threat.

    One paragrpah which I found most interesting is the one below:

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  9. This was tha paragraph which I found interesting:

    Nonetheless, the reflexive Indian response to most every act of terrorism is to apportion blame rather than to seek a solution that will prevent, or at least minimize, its recurrence. Even Indonesia — a still-poor Muslim-majority nation where sympathy for militants runs deeper than it does in India — has done an infinitely better job of recognizing that the protection of citizens’ lives is any government’s first responsibility. A superbly trained federal antiterrorism force called Detachment 88 has ensured that country has not suffered a terrorist attack in more than three years.

  10. Politicians will inexcusably come up with the “Mumbaikars are resilient and life will go on” story very soon. But will life go on? The easy manner in which these terrorists have taken control of prime locations in the city makes one very uneasy about what the future holds for Mumbaikars and residents of other large metros.
    There is no simple solution to prevent tragedies in future – the best thing they can do now is to set the foundation for a comprehensive anti-terror establishment – much better intelligence, permanent anti-terror cells in every large city, a clear way of engaging citizens, comprehensive training from countries that have gotten it right – Israel, for one – an anti-terror academy that rolls out hundreds and thousands of personnel
    It is time for India to realize that it cannot let terrorists stall India’s progress. And India has gotten its act together in the past – the way India dealt with terror in Punjab in the 80s shows India is not really a very soft state – yes, there were mistakes made along the way but the work got done. This is about scaling up that effort to a nationwide effort.
    One thing is sure – the events of Nov 2008 will not be forgotten or forgiven anytime soon.

  11. @Yash:

    IT IS NO POINT HAVING A WEAPON IF DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE IT.

    so, there was no harm in going on with parakram.

    Couldn´t agree more with your first point. But the point is – were the strike corps a suitable weapon to retaliate against unconventional warfare? I don´t think so. Therefore, Operation Parakram was a mistake as a response to the Parliament attack.

    photonman, why do u want commandos stationed for everything.

    I didn´t mean ¨everything¨. All I said was that instead of being stationed at a few locations, they should be perhaps be close to every major city/strategic installation. This greatly reduces response times.

    one thing about the Indian (the real indian). in that crowd, even if two to three ppl had jumped the terrorists,

    Good point, but I think the difficulty lies with human psyche and how it responds to unexpected terror. That is precisely why shootouts, whether in hijackings, schools or railway stations ´work´ from the terrorists´ point of view.

  12. My blood boils with rage….why is our govt so inept, so callous and unsympathetic. Sharing information with the intelligence chief of ISI is a slap in the face…when will they come to their senses….

  13. I saw Raj Thakre and Modi appear together making a speech at Nariman point. And yes, I support Raj Thakre, and I happen to be a North Indian from UP. I’m a Hindi-speaker born and bred. But I can see that our North Indians are the leading plague carriers of pro-Islamist sympathies. We’ll never shake off this legacy of Moghul shadow-rule by the Kangress front-men unless we stop thinking like the descendants of Moghul slaves and footsoldiers.

  14. Guys,

    You guys are awesome – you write well (all of you)
    But quit having pseudonyms like retributions and offstumped and anything else and get serious with real names…not too far from now, y’all will be the National Review of India…

    Tks

  15. I’m watching Unnikrishnan’s funeral on TV, and see Raj Thakre there. Good. I don’t care how much Thakre riles our craven backstabbing leftists, I support him just as I support Modi. As a North Indian from Uttar Pradesh and an atheist, I see the future salvation of India with politicians like Modi and Thakre. I’m sick and tired of the lying communal left always getting the last word. These people have enough backbone to stand against them.

  16. >> ’m watching Unnikrishnan’s funeral on TV, and see Raj Thakre there. Good. I don’t care how much

    The media is making a huge mistake by showing the families of these heroes on TV. NDTV is zooming in on the faces of some of the family members.

    Rule no 1 : Never expose the families of commandos.

    Rule no 2 : Allow the family members to grieve in peace first, before moving in your OB vans. Do not cover the part where the family members and friends grieve in private.

    I am also guilty because I watch this crap and add to their viewership.

    Do these media outfits have no security guidelines ?

    Sorry, I am really worked up over this.

  17. Hello Photonman,

    The element of local support is crucial to carry out the attack. There might have been already waiting taxis, fully prepared to ferry all these fellows when they landed at colaba.

    But to travel thousand of nautical miles into Indian waters requires a kind of support which terror groups dont have. That is why this attack must be seen as one implemented by the pakistani state.

  18. This is clearly an attack on India’s economy that enables India to increase its conventional superiority over Islamic Pakistan. The denial from the Pakistani government about its involvement does not matter because today the Pakistani government is only next to the Somali government, it has no hold over the army and the ISI or the terrorist organizations in its soil. Even though it is clear that there should be a reform of our system, we need to take urgent action to show the perpetrators of this act that the Indian nation will definitely bite back with force when threatened beyond a level. we must wipe out Pakistan’s military infrastructure completely.

  19. There is one more aspect to this great crime which should not be overlooked. This is the three big kills of Bombays finest of the finest, Mr. Hemant Karkare, Mr. Vijay Salaskar and Mr. Ashok Kamte.

    Reports indicate that all three were killed in the vicinity of Cama Hospital. There might be one aspect that they were taken by surprise and the speed of constantly moving attackers because they underestimated the threat.

    As it was a developing situation, none of them had any prior knowledge of the kind of training and arms the terrorists were carrying. Mr. Karkare, in one of the last visuals, is seen carrying an automatic pistol in hand and nothing else.

    However there is another sinister aspect that would require intense probe. Was there an internal mole, embedded in the security establishment, who was revealing the co-ordinates of these officers to the terrorists ? This is one aspect that must not be overlooked.

  20. I read all the comments above and liked most of them, either for form or content (and in very few cases, for both).
    I would like to hear your thoughts on
    a) short term and long term counter terrorism measures
    as well as on
    b) measures along ‘prevention’ and ‘cure’ dimensions

    I agree that Operation Parakram failed to achieve its objective and as such, was a waste of time, efforts and money. I would rather prefer small initiatives (with possibility of expansion) with long term impacts.

    How about making the armed forces an attractive career option for graduates and young people? How about having a 2 or 3 year track for the Short Service Commission?

    If you read about the role played by South African commandos (in saving the lives of several tourists in Mumbai), it is easy to see the benefits of having well-trained people around – not necessarily on duty!

  21. I don’t thing having a military presence in Afghanistan is a good option. There are no clear security objectives, and such a commitment is open ended. Furthermore, it is unclear that the military will be able to control the lines of communication and transport in the region, and such an endeavor is a serious logistic problem. It sounds like a nice idea on paper, but I doubt it will work or is a very good option in practice.

  22. since this question was being discussed, i am quoting myself from another blog.

    “let us not get sucked into afghanistan, diverting everyones attention to ourselves. let us first improve our homeland security, then venture into afghanistan. if we venture unprepared on the home front, we will be inviting them aghanistan, while our internal security is worse than, US, UK and also Pakistan. look at the state in Pakistan, despite having one of the best intelligence agencies and their armed forces directly involved in internal security (even rangers are under the army) they are having it left right and centre, and imagine what would be our state with our quality of intelligence agencies, police and paramilitary forces.
    so, let us first look at our internal reforms, intelligence, police, crisis management body, decision making capabilities etc.”

    so what is the other option? covert operations?

    “as much i would like this (covert operations) to happen, we do not have the capability. u really have to meet a few of the RAW functionaries to believe it. that’s why its name Research and analysis wing. it only does research and analysis like the babus. thank god the NSA also resigned with the home minister. let us find a more active (and for god’s sake not a policeman again) NSA who can really advise on capacity building, and reforms of the intelligence agencies to make them understand, that they are not clerks (their largest strength sits in delhi, rather than field). their field component should be the prime focus, with rest in support and advisory role.”

    capability building (to make out intelligence agencies capable of undertaking covert operations) will take minimum 5-8 years by very conservative estimates.

    so accorn what solution? (i am also not in favour of parakram II). i don’t think anyone can find a solution except internal reforms.

    Photonman @ 18

    we were not reacting to unconventional warfare during parakram, but penalising a country which provided active support to conduct the operation on the parliament. minimum we could have pushed the pakis to a more defensive line (defensible against infiltration), along poonch river and other such options in the valley. this would have resulted in a loss of face for the pakis, a lesson that any such act in future would be penalised and of course we would have had a more defensible line, to make infiltration very difficult. of course this is not a solution now, because it is very probable that the Pak govt was not actively involved. (if they were! god bless us, they have raised our threshold levels for reaction very high.)

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