India overhauls national security after Mumbai attacks

Reforms arrive amid fears of additional attacks; India prepares to confront Pakistan over handling of terror suspects.

India's government has promised a major overhaul of its security apparatus following a public outcry over its handling of the Mumbai attacks. The changes include the creation of a federal investigative agency and more funding for intelligence agencies and coast guards. The government earlier admitted to lapses in intelligence and security work.

The revamp comes as Indian officials brace for more attacks by militants, who are believed to have been trained and equipped in Pakistan. India says the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible and has demanded that Pakistan dismantle it and detain its leaders.

Nine gunmen involved in the attack were killed by Indian security forces. On Thursday, a 10th man failed to appear in court in Mumbai and a judge granted a two-week extension in his detention. Police had raised security concerns about his appearance. Indian law allows police to hold suspects for some months before filing criminal charges.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was captured by police early in the attacks that began Nov. 26 and left some 171 people dead over three days of violence. He has been interrogated repeatedly by authorities, who say he has given up details of the plot and pointed to those responsible for its commission.

India's home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, outlined Thursday to Parliament the steps being taken to beef up security, the BBC reports. Security measures include a coastal command, equipping intelligence agencies with advanced technology, opening 20 antiterrorism schools to train police and security officers, tougher money-laundering laws, and state-based commando forces to respond to any repeat attacks. He also promised to recruit more intelligence officers in the near future.

"We cannot go back to business as usual. We have to take hard decisions and prepare country and people to face the challenge of terrorism," Mr. Chidambaram, the newly appointed Indian interior minister, told parliament.

A retired senior Indian security official told Al Jazeera that greater intelligence coordination is needed at the state level and warned that there would be political consequences if the government failed to deliver. Prakash Singh is the former director general of India's national police force.

"It was felt that the interstate coordination - in the sharing of intelligence and in coordinating the investigative links in different states - was not there. Every state was pursuing its own line of investigation," Singh
told Al Jazeera.
"Some of these measures should be in position within the next month or so, like the setting-up of the federal investigation agency. All the government has to do is pass an ordinance until a law on the subject is enacted by the parliament.
"The government will have to move quickly or they will lose credibility and lose the next parliamentary election."

Chidambaram said suspicion "unmistakably" falls on Pakistan as the base for the Mumbai attacks, Bloomberg reports. During the parliamentary session, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India wouldn't be provoked by the attacks.

Under international pressure, Pakistan recently raided a camp in Kashmir run by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an organization connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba. Agence France-Presse reports that Pakistani authorities said they had arrested two senior leaders of the group – Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah – whom India had named as suspects in the Mumbai attacks. A total of 15 people were arrested in the raid over the weekend.

The Times of India reports that the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday designated Jamaat-ud-Dawa a terrorist group and imposed sanctions on four of its leaders. The sanctions include freezing assets, a ban on travel, and an arms embargo.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that India is anxious to see that Pakistan doesn't ease up on militants when the spotlight is off, as it did in 2001 after attacks on the Indian Parliament blamed on Lashkar-e-Taiba and another group. For its part, the US is wary of the two neighbors going on a war footing that would distract Pakistan from counterinsurgency operations along the border with Afghanistan. India may ultimately have little leverage to push Pakistan to clamp down hard.

Caught between an agitated Army and an angry populace, the Indian government realizes it is in "a bit of a box," says Paul Kapur, a South Asia expert who teaches at Stanford University and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
Military strikes will only empower the Pakistani Army – the institution that is most hostile to India and began using militants to strike India in the first place. Yet Pakistan's problems are so deeply rooted and its 10-month-old civilian government so weak, that diplomacy can offer only slow progress. It could take years to strengthen Pakistan's civilian government to the point that it can control the Army and the militants it nurtured.

In an editorial, the Hindustan Times, a daily newspaper in New Delhi, says Pakistani Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari has a limited capacity to root out terrorist groups. The stumbling block is Pakistan's army, which has nurtured these groups. Only by joining hands with the US can India hope to tackle the terrorist threat, the unsigned editorial argues.

This is the time India can make use of America's belated understanding that Pakistan's army – unlike its political establishment – continues to play a dangerous 'both sides now' game in which it is desperate to hold on to a chip that can be played against a growing India-Afghanistan-US axis of anti-terror. The Pakistani military establishment now sees America as a fairweather friend. So its desire to hold on to the only 'insurance' it has as leverage is far stronger than the Zardari government's desire to save Pakistan – never mind the subcontinent – from Pakistani terror.

In the aftermath of the attacks in Mumbai, Indians have united in condemning the violence but have also taken aim at their own government for its failings, says The New York Times. Terrorism experts have also criticized India's politicians for failing to detect and stop the plotters, given the alleged role of Lashkar-e-Taiba in an earlier plan to strike at landmarks in Mumbai that police said they had foiled.

Last week, tens of thousands of citizens stormed the Gateway of India, a famed waterfront monument near the Taj Mahal Hotel, venting anger at their elected leaders. There were similar protests in New Delhi and the southern technology hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad. All were organized spontaneously, with word spread through text messages and Facebook pages.
And last weekend, young people affiliated with a new political party, called Loksatta, or people's power, also gathered at the Gateway, calling for a variety of reforms, including banning anyone who has been convicted of a crime from running for political office.
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to India overhauls national security after Mumbai attacks
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today