Posts Tagged ‘K. Subrahmanyam’


November 28, 2008


28 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST

This nation is under attack. The scale, intensity and level of orchestration of terror attacks in Mumbai put one thing beyond doubt: India is effectively at war and it has deadly enemies in its midst. Ten places in south Mumbai were struck in quick succession.

As in the case of the demolition of New York’s World Trade Center in 2001, Mumbai’s iconic monuments such as the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Oberoi Trident and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus have come under attack. The number of people killed in multiple attacks is 101 and counting, which includes foreigners and senior policemen. At least 300 have been injured.

The terrorists who carried out the attacks are well supplied, armed to the teeth and extremely well motivated. The question now is whether the nation can show any serious degree of resolve and coordination in confronting terror. This war can be won, but it will require something from the political class, from security forces and from ordinary people. It’s time now to move beyond pointing fingers at one another or resorting to cliches such as ‘resilient Mumbai’. It’s also time to end the habit of basing one’s stand on terrorism on the particular religious affiliation of terrorists, criticising or exonerating them using their religion a point of reference. Terrorists have no religion. Political bickering on this issue is divisive; what India needs now is unity.

While Mumbai also witnessed multiple attacks which brought the city to a halt in 1993, this one is different in two respects. One, it is unfolding in slow motion with the world media as witness, which makes for maximum psychological impact. Two, foreigners have specifically been targeted. Sites frequented by them have been chosen for attack and Britons, Americans and Israelis appear to have been singled out.

This kind of attack on India’s financial capital is intended to send the message that India isn’t a safe place to do business. The Indian economy and its links with the world are under attack. On the plus side, there have been unprecedented outpourings of sympathy and offers of cooperation from world governments. All the more reason to make the attacks on Mumbai a transformative moment. There has been talk of beefing up India’s poor infrastructure. Security must now be seen as an essential element of infrastructure, as vital as power, water or transport.

Both L K Advani and Rajnath Singh have said it’s time to rise above politics, which is welcome. An announced joint visit to Mumbai by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leader of the opposition Advani would send a signal of political unity. Beyond that the PM, in consultation with senior opposition leaders, must draw up a consensus plan about how to deal with contingency situations as well as upgrade India’s security culture.

A host of institutions have been built since the 1980s when India first encountered terrorism. New agencies, special cells and commando units have come up since then. But how well do we run them, how well resourced are they and is there proper coordination among them to maximise and collate information? According to the home ministry, terrorists sneaked in from the Arabian Sea. They may have sailed past the naval headquarters to blast their way into the city. However, it took a while before the National Security Guards and naval commandos in the city were pressed into action. What explains such delay? Was it a multiplicity of commands or plain bureaucratic lethargy? The point is even in circumstances when personnel and infrastructure are available, planning and execution are shockingly poor.

Constitutional experts must put their hands together to see whether under existing laws any special, but temporary, powers can be given to the security agencies. All major political parties should be taken into confidence to see what urgent steps can be taken to prevent the nation from sinking deeper into chaos. There is a pressing need to restructure India’s security architecture. A federal agency to deal with terrorism has been suggested by this newspaper and now by the PM. A coordinated effort to process information gleaned by state and central agencies should help to transform randomly collected information into actionable intelligence.

The government should immediately work on an internal security doctrine that demarcates the role of various security wings and a clear command structure to deal with terrorism. This should include contingency plans for various scenarios which lay out in advance how to respond to them. Tougher laws, in consultation with the opposition, may also be needed to control terror.

It’s incumbent on all chief ministers to remain on alert and maintain calm in their states. Unnecessary repercussions from the Mumbai incidents need to be avoided at all costs. Election campaigning needs to be kept at a minimum to avoid stretching security too thin. The political class must ensure that communalism of all varieties is kept out of politics.

Besides terrorists coming in from the Arabian Sea, their looking for Americans, Britons and Israelis give the signal that the attack on Mumbai is a spillover from the larger war on terror. Al-Qaeda is, for the first time, feeling the pressure in its Pakistani sanctuaries as it is under Pakistani and American attack. But South Asian borders are notoriously porous. Al-Qaeda affiliated organisations such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) have struck deep roots in Bangladesh.

To tackle terror in India it is urgently necessary to stabilise Pakistan and Bangladesh. And, India should seek international help now to upgrade its own security apparatus, but also to stabilise the entire region stretching from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. There is no time to waste.


TOP ARTICLE | Neighbours Create Trouble

28 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST,


Mumbai has experienced terror attacks earlier. In March 1993, simultaneous attacks on a number of targets resulted in over 270 fatal casualties.

Their origin was traced to Dawood Ibrahim and his associates who were based in Karachi. The multiple bomb blasts on Mumbai trains killed 200 people in July 2005.

Once again the investigations led to a link between those who carried out the blasts and Pakistan. The present batch of terrorists is reported to have landed close to the Gateway of India in rubber dinghies. The equipment, training and sophistication of their planning and the identity of a suspect arrested in Chowpatty would tend to indicate a Pakistani link.

Unlike in previous attacks when the casualties were all Indians, this time there are foreigners among the dead. There are also reports that the terrorists were particularly interested in US, UK and Israeli passport holders.

While an organisation called ‘Deccan Mujahideen’ has claimed responsibility the Indian agencies do not consider this a genuine claim; they feel that this is a Pakistani jihadi operation.

Since a few terrorists have been captured, their identities would surely be revealed in the next few days. The Mumbai police believe that the sophistication and skill of the terrorists would tend to indicate that they were not locals. It appears that a mother ship had dropped dinghies close to Mumbai. The Indian Navy has intercepted a vessel from Pakistan believed to have been the mother ship. Though in the 1993 operations the explosives came via sea the people who placed the explosives were from Mumbai. In this case, the terrorists landed on the Mumbai waterfront. Though sea-based terrorist attacks have been talked about, presumably those in charge had not paid adequate attention to it.

The counterterrorism efforts in India are fragmented among the state and central agencies. Efforts to have an integrated central agency to deal with terrorism have so far been thwarted by political parties who tend to place their own parochial interests higher than national interests. In the US, where they had a number of federal agencies dealing with different aspects of intelligence in the wake of 9/11 they found that there was inadequate coordination among them.

Hence, there was a failure to assess the 9/11 threat though there were bits of information. Subsequently, a new post of director of national intelligence was created to supervise and coordinate all intelligence agencies. In the biggest bureaucratic reshuffle in US history the department of homeland security was also created with bipartisan support. The terrorist threat India faces is far more severe than the one faced by the US separated from Europe and Asia by two oceans and having friendly neighbours in Mexico and Canada.

India has three unfriendly porous borders and nearly three decades of terrorism and proxy war directed against it. Yet our political parties are not sensitive enough to appreciate the need for intelligence coordination and an integrated internal security structure. Recently the Pakistani government stripped the ISI of its responsibility for political intelligence. Pakistan had to seek a multi-billion-dollar loan package from the IMF and the loan has been sanctioned with conditionalities.

Many in Pakistan have openly resented president-elect Barack Obama’s friendliness towards India. The recent friendly remarks of Pakistani president Asif Zardari towards India have also not found approval among sections of the Pakistani establishment. A section of the Pakistani establishment and the ISI have been attempting to bleed India through a thousand cuts.

The ISI was known to create problems for its own government to advance its interests. Therefore, the possibility of rogue elements in ISI and jihadi elements in Pakistan conspiring to create tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad cannot be ruled out. This would keep ISI’s pre-eminence in Pakistan’s India policy and help it to argue with Washington that increased tension with India rules out Islamabad playing a more effective role on its western front.

The terror attack on Mumbai was aimed at hitting tourist traffic and its commercial relations with the US and other developed countries. It was also intended to club India with the Crusaders (the US and the West) and Zionists (the Israelis). This may look like an act of desperation by the jihadis and their friends in the ISI and Pakistani establishment. In a sense, the jihadis may be attempting to bring the clash of civilisations thesis to its denouement. One should not forget the original ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis was the two-nation theory which the Indian Muslims repudiated by choosing to stay on in India.

The present acts of terrorism is an attempt by the advocates of this thesis to create tension between the two communities in this country. Till now the US and other western nations were not adequately sensitive to terrorism perpetrated against India. This was partly because the casualties were all Indians. This time it is different.

While all evidence points to the involvement of Pakistani elements in the terror acts, New Delhi should at the same time be careful not to walk into the trap of creating major Indo-Pakistan tensions as a new president takes over in Washington and with India facing a general election in the next few months. The country expects the two national parties to get together to formulate a joint strategy to thwart the jihadi attempt to create a ‘clash of civilisations’ in this country.

The writer is a Delhi-based strategic affairs analyst.


Mumbai paradigm of terror

28 Nov 2008, 0101 hrs IST, ET Bureau


Even for a country distressingly familiar with terrorist outrages, the multiple attacks in Mumbai herald a new low. The sheer audacity and scale of the attacks, the spectacle of young men armed to the teeth with machine guns and grenades roaming on the streets of India’s financial capital, bring home the fact that terrorism has attained a new sophistication and organisational ability.

To talk of an intelligence failure is almost a truism, yet given that such a large group of men could physically launch attacks on multiple high-profile targets, eschewing the recent pattern of engineering blasts, is a clear sign of an abysmal deficiency in our intelligence-gathering capabilities.

To combat such a new level of terrorism, it is imperative the contours of the extant anti-terror paradigm change. Terror has simply been politicised, with parties using it as yet another electoral plank. The scale of this latest outrage demonstrates the pitfalls of a divisive polity squabbling over instrumentalities.

The need of the hour, and the future, is for political parties to break with past patterns and evolve a clear consensus on how to prevent the recurrence of such heinous attacks. In this context, it is heartening to see that there is some sort of communication between Manmohan Singh and L K Advani.

To ensure a better security culture, and the involvement of every citizen in contributing to it, is also a matter of shaping a thoroughly neutral investigative apparatus. The issue of abysmal intelligence gathering also has to do with the perception of investigative agencies as being partisan.

This has also led to severing of links between effective policing and intelligence gathering and various communities and groups. The prime minister has in the past spoken on the need for wider police reforms, and we could not agree more.

The wider aspect of such reform, however, should also be to address the rifts within civil society at large. The spectacle of young men engaged in such brutally invasive terrorist acts, with no thought whatsoever as to concealing their identities also posits that idea of a collapsed civil society.

And beyond measures such as preparedness and response, the extremism that feeds such fanatical acts needs to be addressed in the wider socio-political arena. That is, without doubt, and as various nations around the world have discovered, the best kind of pre-emptive measure.

That said, installing effective anti-terror mechanisms are also a matter of intra-state and international cooperation. While domestically measures such as institutionalising state coordination among investigative agencies would be imperative, India should now press hard for greater intelligence sharing within the region.

These latest attacks have also demonstrated a new level in the terrorists’ capabilities. The organisational and logistical abilities they have displayed are staggering. Both in the kind of targets chosen, the scale of the destruction and bloodbath, as well as the fact that for the first time, western nationals were sought to be targeted for greater international impact, point to a sharp escalation in terrorist ambitions.

And even the response and management capabilities of the state have been shown to be glaringly low. That such an immense attack, almost akin to a mini-invasion, should have happened in Mumbai, home to one of the more respected police forces in India only underlines that fact.

Another aspect of terrorism relates to how security forces are able respond in a situation where hostages are taken by terrorists. The past 36 hours have shown that the police is not equipped to handle such complex situations.

The National Security Guards (NSG), where commandos are drawn from the army, has the wherewithal to do so. But the NSG has limited numbers and is a national-level organisation. Wednesday’s incident has indicated the need to have NSG-like outfits at the state level so that they can move more swiftly into action when the need arises. The NSG is trained specifically for such situations.

And it would be a good idea to create state-level NSG-like modules, which are ready to act swiftly when such incidents occur.


Our nightmare, our wake-up call

Shekhar Gupta

Posted: Nov 28, 2008 at 1038 hrs IST

How does a democracy of billion-plus people respond when a few madmen tear the heart out of its financial capital and shatter its soul? The question has to be asked because it is only adversity of such staggering magnitude that shakes up slumbering, old civilizations to turn it into an opportunity. It is time, therefore, to close rank, unite, focus on the greatest threat of our generation, perpetrators of which have benefited from the fuzziness that partisan politics can bring to most issues in a democracy. Posterity will record this as India’s 9/11. But are we now stirred enough to also respond to it with the equanimity with which the other democracy recovered, and has protected its people in the seven years that followed?
Nothing can guarantee that a small suicide squad will not infiltrate one of our cities and cause mayhem. But a policy of genuine, non-partisan zero-tolerance towards Terror of all kinds would have made the task of such conspirators much tougher. In this case, it seems to have been rather too easy. Sadly, our woolly-headed response to terror over the past five years was not caused so much by any fundamental differences in the way the two national parties look at it, nor because we have had so brilliant a Home Minister that he can tell live, realtime TV, which presumably the terrorists could be watching inside the hotels, that “200 NSG commandos” had left Delhi “at 1.15 (am)” and should be on the job in a few hours. It was caused by five years of surreal politics, rooted in psephology rather than ideology, that communalised our responses to terror in a manner that no other democracy allowed since 9/11. Both sides, the UPA and the NDA, were equally guilty, so while one railed endlessly against “jehadi” terror, the other searched for “root causes” of terrorism. Similarly, when a module of alleged radical Hindu bombers was busted, one side was smiling that vicious, non-stop “Gotcha” smile in TV studios, while the other was questioning the motives of the ATS, and demanding the sack of its brilliant and intrepid chief. At least in his death now Hemant Karkare would have achieved what he could not when alive, to have Congress and the BJP shed a tear for him. Together.

That is the key word: together.

Time had come a long time ago to depoliticise our response to terror just…


Fri,28 Nov 2008

A nation that cannot afford to sleep

Hindustan Times
November 27, 2008

India is under attack. And along with it, the idea of India is under attack.

When a city like Mumbai is held hostage by marauding terrorists, with its citizens forced to cower in fear under a fog of utter helplessness, any notion that the country is secure ― or will be able to re-establish its sense of security quickly and effectively ― becomes a fanciful thought. This country has had its fair share of experiences with terrorism. One would have thought that our governments, law and order machinery and political establishment would be prepared to tackle and disarm these noxious forces. But the tragedy that continues to unfold in India’s most vibrant, cosmopolitan city has exposed the terrible unpreparedness ― and dare we say unwillingness ― to fight terrorism on a war footing.

The attacks that have crippled life in Mumbai, stunned the nation and the world have also woken up many people from the reverie that saw India as a safe house in a dangerous neighbourhood. Terrorism in the Indian mainland, either perceived as a localised menace or one coming from ‘across the border’, has linked itself to a global phenomenon overnight. If there was any further confirmation needed regarding the borderless nature of terror, India has got it the hard way. Regardless of the nomenclature, the Deccan Mujahideen carries all the hallmarks of the genre of terrorist networks that go under the name of al-Qaeda. This is 21st century terrorism reaching the shores of our country.

Unfortunately, Indian counter-terrorism is still in 20th century gear. Intelligence collection and intelligence coordination are two processes lying at the core of the contemporary war against terror, whether in the United States, Israel, Britain or any other targeted country. India needs to understand that and understand it quickly. It also needs to implement stringent anti-terror-laws. Without these in place, India will still be fighting a contemporary war anachronistically. A department of homeland security is still shockingly a non-concept here. And to add to the general sense of flailing about is the spanner of politics. After September 11, 2001, America came together to fight a common, shape-shifting enemy. Can we as a nation that has known terrorism for far longer ― and with far more wounds to show ― come together to face this nation-crippling assault?

The days ahead will show whether we will be able to survive ‘effortless’ terrorist attacks. It will also show whether we can save the idea of India and the way we live our lives. Playing the headless chicken is no longer an option.

Open letter to K. Subrahmanyam re his Indian Express article: Sonia’s Choice

May 29, 2008

Open letter to K. Subrahmanyam re his Indian Express article: Sonia’s Choice  


Thursday, May 29, 2008


Dear Mr. K. Subrahmanyam, Good day


This refers to your IE article: Sonia’s Choice (May 27, 2008).


I am surprised that you have written such a personal and emotional address to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, working on her special relationship with her late husband Rajiv Gandhi to push a line of action that apparently is not supported by a wide circle of political leaders, elected members of parliament and general public. To deal with the proposed Indo- US civilian nuclear agreement is something in public domain and is not a private affair of the Gandhi family. It is people like you though enjoying highest level of credibility in your chosen field, when stoop to the such personal level of sycophancy to win an argument that on the one hand erode their bona fide and on the other hand openly sets examples that eventually threatens the democratic structure of our nation.


You have failed to distinguish and inform your readers that the issue has two very different and distinct levels that require evaluation on two different counts. One is the technical and economic side of the issue, while the other is a commitment to forge a legal relationship that opens the country to exploitation and forces it to a regime of compromise that pinches on national sovereignty.


You may feel that the danger of any internal constraints on US administration is merely a paper detail, it certainly appear to be so to a wide spectrum of public opinion.


Some of seniors like you may be fully experienced in the art of diplomacy and governance to take such risks, but you will have to take the people in your confidence before you can morally commit the nation to any controversial and uncertain line of action.


As far as the basic nature of US interaction with India or any other developing country, there is long history of US considering it legitimate to force weaker nation to its self-centered agenda, through employing any number of pressure tactics and leverage, from open threats to arm twisting or global propaganda or even regime change.


It is for this reason that the Indian government should be strengthened through greater public debate, scrutiny, full transparency, building accountability in to decision making processes. The more public participation in matters of such profound nature that could impose on national security and its freedom of action, the more the official will be confident in dealing with their counter part on the other side.


Agreements of the nature of 123, must be presented to the Parliament, the issue should be thoroughly debated and the agreement should be put to vote. If US Congress has such legislatively clout, why Indian parliament should be so callously short-circuited.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



Sonia’s choice


By K. Subrahmanyam


Posted online: Thursday, May 29, 2008 at 0021 hrs



Whether to sacrifice national interests for a few more months in power



The president of the Congress, Sonia Gandhi, is facing a lonely decision as she did in the summer of 2004 when she decided to step aside in favour of Manmohan Singh as prime minister. At that stage, she was under tremendous pressure from almost all her partymen to assume the office of the prime minister. She asserted that she was listening to her “inner voice” and therefore not accepting their near-unanimous pleas. Once again, she faces the lonely decision whether to focus on the Indian national interest and Rajiv’s legacy or be influenced by her party veterans who tend to put what they consider, often mistakenly, party interests ahead of other vital considerations.


Rajiv Gandhi wanted to integrate India technologically with the world. He laid the foundation of India’s nuclear weapons programme and of the expansion of its civil nuclear programme by initiating negotiations with Russia on the Kudankulam project. Are we going to sustain and nurture his legacy or are we going to wind it up because the Left threatens to withdraw its support to the government if India were to continue the Rajiv legacy of technologically integrating with the world? All this for a few more months in office?


Rajiv Gandhi’s decision to make India a nuclear-weapon state was a painful one taken after four years of agonising. It was a lonely one. He might have informally consulted R. Venkataraman and P.V. Narasimha Rao who were the two in the know on the weapon research effort during Indira Gandhi’s days. But the decision was his alone. The cabinet was not in it, nor the party. Nuclear decisions all over the world were lonely ones and submitted to legislatures and parties for debate post facto. So it was when Atal Bihari Vajpayee took the decision to conduct the Shakti tests. When such decisions are taken by leaders the legislatures and parties usually accept them. Only leaders who have the confidence to carry the party and legislatures usually take such decisions.


The nuclear weapon effort is Rajiv’s legacy. He initiated it after a lot of agonising. I am personally aware of it since I had argued with him on that issue for almost a year in 1985. He appointed an inter-disciplinary group under his chairmanship to debate the nuclear issue. It had as members chief ministers Karunakaran and Saikia, Arun Singh, the cabinet secretary, the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, two intelligence chiefs, Raja Ramanna, Bimal Jalan, the chief economic advisor and R.K. Khandelwal, chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee, as secretary. I was the only person from outside the government. I was the most vocal advocate for India going nuclear. Many others were on my side but chose to keep somewhat muted.


Rajiv was clearly unhappy about India going nuclear. At one point, he asked if India could not offer a revised, non-discriminatory, draft Non-Proliferation Treaty. I was not a believer in the Western nuclear strategy and nuclear war-fighting. But I argued that nuclear weapons were the currency of power in that world and India needed them for its security and strategic autonomy. After several sessions of arguments spread over months he directed that a study be conducted on the cost of going nuclear. A committee under General Sundarji, with R. Chidambaram, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Vice-Admiral Nayyar and Air-Marshal Johnny Greene went into the issue and came up with the report that at a cost of Rs 7000 crore (at 1985 prices) and over seven years time a credible minimum deterrent of 100 warheads and 100 missiles could be produced. After this report was submitted there were no more meetings of the interdisciplinary group.


But it was obvious that Rajiv was against going nuclear. In 1986, he distanced himself from Ramanna and rejected his recommendation to appoint P.K. Iyengar, a weapon scientist, as his successor. He chose M.R. Srinivasan, a reactor engineer, as the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He initiated negotiations on the Kudankulam reactors. He joined Mikhail Gorbachev in issuing the Delhi declaration on a nuclear-weapon free, nonviolent world. He persisted in this policy though Pakistan had publicly boasted about its nuclear weapon and threatened India during Operation Brasstacks.


Rajiv Gandhi presented his action plan for disarmament to the UN General Assembly on June 9, 1988, in which he fervently pleaded for global disarmament. He offered that India would not go nuclear if the world were to accept his phased disarmament plan. He asked them to negotiate a new non-discriminatory NPT. He also issued a veiled warning. He said, “Left to ourselves we would not want to touch nuclear weapons. But when tactical considerations, in the play of great power rivalry, are allowed to take precedence over the imperative of non-proliferation, with what leeway are we left?”


Rajiv Gandhi’s pleas were totally ignored. After another eight or nine months of agonising, he put India’s security and interests ahead of all other considerations and directed the weaponisation of the Indian nuclear programme. It could not have been an easy decision for him. But Indian security came first. Today, senior US statesmen like George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn invoke the words of Rajiv Gandhi to derive support for their campaign for a nuclear-weapon free world, some 19 years after Rajiv Gandhi vainly pleaded for nuclear disarmament.


He envisaged Kudankulam as the beginning of collaboration with foreign countries for rapid expansion of our civil nuclear programme. While the credit for conducting the tests may go to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the father of both the military nuclear programme and the renewal of foreign civil nuclear cooperation is Rajiv Gandhi. It should not be forgotten either that the first Indo-US military technical cooperation agreement was also initiated by him.


People all over the country understand that the decision on nurturing Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy of the nuclear issue rests wholly with Sonia Gandhi. Manmohan Singh would have gone ahead with it on his own. She should now listen to her inner voice and not depend upon the advice of her veteran party advisors. It will not be to her credit or to the long-term credibility of her party if Dr Singh is unable to sustain his international standing. Let her pause and reflect on her own. Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy is at stake.


The writer is a senior defence analyst