Indian Govt hasn’t learned any lesson from 9/11
Let me tell you about how easy it would have been for yet another commercial flight to be hijacked from an Indian airport that supposedly has the highest security measures in place.
Coastal security is as bad as it was in 2008.
Tavleen Singh27 Nov 2013
Two things occurred on the fifth anniversary of 26/11 that came as a frightening reminder that India remains as vulnerable to jihadi terrorism as it was in 2008. On the grim anniversary of the worst ever terrorist attack on Indian soil, I happened to finish reading The Seige: the attack on the Taj, and coincidentally that same day took a flight from Srinagar to Delhi. Before I tell you about what is unquestionably the best book written on the Mumbai attack let me tell you about how easy it would have been for yet another commercial flight to be hijacked from an Indian airport that supposedly has the highest security measures in place.
We arrived two hours early at Srinagar airport because we were told to prepare for exceptionally tight security and many baggage checks. I was travelling with a British friend of Pakistani origin, Nadira Naipaul, and so, we got there even earlier than we technically needed to. The first checkpoint was before we got to the terminal and we duly dismounted from our taxi and walked through metal detectors and manual checks while our bags were X-rayed.
When we got to the terminal there were two more checks before we got to the departure lounge. At the second of these, I was ordered to empty the contents of my two handbags and a policewoman opened and carefully examined everything in them including a compact and a box of Kashmiri saffron.
After several minutes of close inspection, she triumphantly confiscated a pair of tweezers. Meanwhile, Nadira sailed through with a matchbox, a bottle of water and a tube of toothpaste in her bag. She carried these on to the plane despite a third security check just before we boarded. My point is that nothing has been done in the past two decades to train airport security staff so all they do is go through the motions of random checks. Think of how dangerous that is.
Does this explain why so little has been done to improve national security in the past decade of UPA rule?
Now, let me tell you about the excellent book that Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark have written on the Mumbai attack. Incidentally, there have been no more than a handful of books written by Indian journalists on this attack and they have been mostly about conspiracy theories so bizarre that one of them is called ’26/11: an RSS plot’
. When this book came out, it was released by Rahul Gandhi’s political mentor, Digvijay Singh who happens to be one of the most important officials of the Congress. Does this explain why so little has been done to improve national security in the past decade of UPA rule? It partly does because Digvijay Singh is not the only Congress leader who has gone out of his way to underplay the role played by jihadists and Pakistan in terrorist attacks on Indian soil.
Rahul Gandhi has himself, according to Wikileaks, admitted to an American ambassador that Hindu terrorists were the real threat to India’s security. For this alone, may I recommend that The Seige be made compulsory reading for members of the Congress.
The book provides a detailed, vivid and terrifying account of what happened in Mumbai when it was put under siege by 10 Pakistani youths who were given orders by their handlers in Pakistan to kill whoever they saw and destroy whatever they could. The book gives details of the role of the ISI in the planning of an attack that in fact amounted to an undeclared war on India. And it gives details of David Headley’s role in providing the terrorists with video material gathered on his many trips to Mumbai. But, in my view, it is not these things that are important. We know that Pakistan is using jihadi terrorism to continue its long war against India and there have already been enough details about what Headley did.
For me, the most important part of this book is the details it provides about the criminal incompetence of the Mumbai police during the attack and the criminal incompetence of the Government of India in transporting black commandos from Delhi to Mumbai. The NSG commandos were ready to deploy within 20 minutes of the first shots being fired in the Leopold Café but did not get to Mumbai till 5.30 am on November 27 because the highest officials in the land were so utterly incompetent. The Cabinet Secretary took more than an hour to give orders for deployment and then could not find a transport plane to bring the commandos to Mumbai and the criminal incompetence continued after they landed in the city.
Can you believe that there was no transport at Mumbai airport except a convoy of white ambassadors to convey the Home Secretary. Meanwhile, the four terrorists in the Taj continued to hunt down and kill terrified guests and hotel staff. The same thing was happening in the Oberoi Hotel and in Chabad House so hundreds of lives were lost because the Government of India’s logistical problems.
This is why nothing changes-
You do not need me to tell you that no officials or police officers have been punished for their incompetence. You do not need me to tell you that the so-called inquiry commissions made no effort at all to analyse why it took so long for the Mumbai police to act or why it took nearly 12 hours for the commandos to get to Mumbai. You do not need me to tell you that no officials of the Maharashtra Government have been punished either. These are things that never happen in India and this is why nothing changes. As someone who lives next door to the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai I can tell you that it would be just as easy for trained terrorists to attack again.
As someone who travels frequently by boat to Alybaug, I can tell you that coastal security is as bad as it was in 2008. When you get off in Alybaug now you see metal detectors that sometimes work and sometimes a policeman orders me to open my handbag so he can inspect its contents but in much the same way as the policewoman did in Srinagar. Out of curiosity rather than a serious concern about security. If you keep in mind that jihadi terrorism could be the only war that India will need to fight in this century you see how frightening this is. The Sonia-Manmohan Government has failed in many ways but nowhere more dangerously than it has on national security and we only talk about this when this awful anniversary comes around once a year.