Eight years of Mumbai attacks: Coastline still vulnerable

With over 4,000 km of an open coastline, vulnerable riverine in the north, India needs strong intelligence and counter-intelligence apparatus besides adequate security forces


During the Mumbai attacks that took place on 26 November 2008, about 166 people were killed and more than 300 were injured. Photo: AP
During the Mumbai attacks that took place on 26 November 2008, about 166 people were killed and more than 300 were injured. Photo: AP

Mumbai: Eight years after the attacks of 26 November 2008, in Mumbai, in which about 166 people were killed and more than 300 were injured, a lot is still left to be desired in India’s intelligence apparatus.

With over 4,000 km of an open coastline and vulnerable, open riverine and spaces in the north, experts have suggested that it is India’s intelligence and counter-intelligence apparatus which needs a boost, as opposed to the security forces. At the same time, although efforts are being made to get marine police to man the shores—that will only be done by 2018.

“A dedicated team of three or four people can always sneak in through the coastlines. Setting up all this takes time—it cannot be done overnight. We had 2,500 people in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), set up training academies and put in place the required logistical support. But this is a slow process. It takes time for these people to finish training, go out on the field and start gathering intelligence inputs,” said GK Pillai, former home secretary.

While the process in underway, albeit slowly, intelligence tactics such as eavesdropping, surveying, intercepting wireless and telephonic communication are still not upto the mark, Pillai asserted – a skill, he said, the likes of the United States of America and Israel are better prepared with.

“Every individual prime minister of India has had a different take on cross border intelligence. We urgently need to develop our intelligence capability across the border. PMs need to start looking at the bigger picture on what the presence of bodies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) across the border can achieve,” Pillai added.

Late last year, although India’s counter-terrorism programme, spearheaded by the home ministry—the National Intelligence Grid (NatGrid) was given the go-ahead to set up base in Delhi, its roll out has remained mired in the red-tape, with environmental watchdogs insisting on the body keeping the ecological balance on its campus.

In an episode that reflected India’s glaring security and intelligence failure, 10 terrorists from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), carried out a series of coordinated shootings and bombings across 12 locations in Mumbai – with the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel taking the one of the biggest hits. While the Taj lacked any security cover from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) then, it still does not have any CISF cover.

“The Taj hotel did not have CISF cover then and still does not. However, we are fully prepared for any eventuality that may strike. We have the adequate level of preparedness to counter any attack that happens beyond areas that have CISF cover. In case of any such episode, we immediately beef up security at airports, stations and other similar areas that are under our ambit,” said OP Singh, director general of CISF.

Although, taking another step in the right direction to prevent another 26/11 like attack, the Union cabinet on Wednesday, cleared the Merchant Shipping Bill, which will require all seagoing vessels and fishing boats to be registered. In addition to that, these carriers will also have to be equipped with security devices in order to send out a distress signal in case of any emergency.

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