A Mindset Of Insecurity

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Battlescars The upper floors of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai after the battle with terrorists ended
Battlescars The upper floors of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai after the battle with terrorists ended Photo: AP

So Kuber set sail and went missing without detection even though there were specific intelligence reports warning of the possibility of a sea attack. RAW, the country’s external intelligence agency, issued repeated warnings, in fact, all pointing to the possibility of a sea attack, and of an attack in Mumbai’s Gateway of India. One alert, ironically, clearly specified the Taj Hotel as a target. Ratan Tata only confirmed this when he told live television that yes, he had been alerted and they had also increased security at the Taj Hotel. A senior intelligence bureau officer confirmed to TEHELKA that RAW’s intelligence alert, which came on November 19 — a week before terror struck Mumbai — was sent to the Navy but Admiral Mehta, while admitting that there was some information, still presses the point that the input was not ‘actionable’. Nobody in government — not the Prime Minister, not the Home Minister, present or former, pressed him on the question of why the Navy and the coast guard failed to proactively patrol the high seas when they had received information, including the co-ordinates of the ‘Lashkar ship’. This time the Navy seniors will probably get away with its pass the buck exercise. On numerous occasions, agencies have often not shared information only because of the rivalry that has come to beset its various arms.

The intelligence setup is beset with rivalry. Agencies often don’t share their inputs

Kuber’s story does tell the story of our internal security apparatus in so many ways.
THE POSSIBILITY of a threat from the seas, far from being unknown or unexpected, has been a matter of government record at the highest level since 2006. That year, then home minister Shivraj Patil had categorically said, “We understand the terrorists have been collecting information regarding location of various refineries on or near the Indian coastline… Some Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives are also being trained specifically for sabotage of oil installations. There are plans to occupy some uninhabited islands off the country’s coastline to use them as bases for launching operations on the Indian coast…” A year later, he again reiterated the threat to Director Generals of Police. Similarly, Defence Minister AK Antony informed the Lok Sabha in March 2007 that “Pakistanbased terrorist groups, particularly LeT, have been exploring possibilities of induction of manpower and terrorist hardware through the sea route…” Even the National Security Advisor, MK Narayanan, whose primary duty it is to strengthen and streamline security, was aware of the threat. He is ducking television cameras following reports that he had offered to resign, but only recently he had told the International Institute of Strategic Studies that the sea route, in particular, was becoming the chosen route. Even this year, on March 12, 2008 to be precise, the Home Ministry had briefed the senior staff of ISRO, Bhabha Atomic Energy Centre, Reliance and others who have coastal assets of the threat of a sea attack.
Yet, Kuber sailed on.
Unknown to either the Navy or the Coast Guard, Kuber was hijacked on the night of November 23-24. Solanki, its tendel, either willingly or under duress, helped the heavily-armed men steer their way into Indian territory. Barely a few nautical miles from Mumbai — and this now is the account of Azmal Kasav, the lone survivor amongst the group of 10 — Solanki was killed. They had no use for him anymore. Dumping his body into the engine room of the vessel, they jumped into an inflatable speedboat and walked onshore at Mumbai’s Badhwar Park, a railway colony barely a mile from the Indian Navy’s dockyard.