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CMs' meet has terror on agenda sans 26/11

By a Delhi Correspondent | January 05, 2009 20:34 IST

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Coverage: Terror strikes heart of Mumbai

A chief ministers' conference on internal security conveyed in New Delhi [Images] on Tuesday by the Home Ministry will focus on terror but its agenda is silent on the November 26 attacks in Mumbai [Images] that prompted this conclave.

All that the agenda mentions about the ghastly terror attack is a sentence in the introduction and another while discussing the coastal security.

The 35-page agenda notes, which is in possession, including annexures, gives a ready ammunition to opposition parties' chief ministers to protest at the Centre sharing nothing -- no information on the Mumbai attack -- with them.

Politics appears to have played the upper hand in not focusing on 26/11 since it involves the Congress government in Maharashtra whose shortcomings the Congress-led government at the Centre won't like to be discussed, particularly with the opposition parties that may use it for their benefit in the not-so-distant Lok Sabha polls.

Unless Home Minister P Chidambaram [Images] chooses to share all the details of the Mumbai attacks with the chief ministers while exhorting them to tighten the state machinery to tackle terrorism, the conference may see fireworks right from the start.

NDA CMs' strategy

Chief ministers of the National Democratic Alliance, who met at senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani's [Images] residence in New Delhi on Monday evening to formulate a joint strategy for the conference, as also the Left chief ministers are bound to rally against the Centre not sharing anything with them on 26/11 but providing the same information hours earlier to the Pakistan High Commissioner and readying a dossier Chidambaram will be carrying to the United States next Monday to buttress India's case against Pakistan.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] will lead the attack on the Centre for not allowing Gujarat and Rajasthan governments to arm their police with a law that tackles terrorists effectively and pooh-pooh the government's half-hearted steps. He will be joined in the attack by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Since the agenda notes discuss all aspects of tackling terrorism, including intelligence, prevention, human capabilities, investigation and prosecution that may come handy if falling in the hands of the terrorists or the terrorist-friendly states like Pakistan, they have been marked confidential with a caution: 'Participants are requested to ensure safe custody of this document'.

The agenda discusses terrorism in the last ten years, especially since 2002, in the introduction and says: 'More recently, the bomb blasts in Guwahati (October 30, 2008) and the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (November 26, 2008) have shocked the nation. In a sense, these were the tipping points.'

The only information on 26/11 that finds place in the agenda notes is: '�the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were perpetrated by Pakistani nationals who had infiltrated through the sea route after hijacking an Indian fishing vessel, and travelled to the coast in a rubber-inflated dingy.'

Coordinated action

Pointing out that 'the whole country now expects the governments, both at the central and state level, to respond with speed and determination to stamp out terrorism', the agenda stresses that the Centre and the state governments will have to work together for coordinated response in the fight against terror.

Admitting that the boundaries set by the Constitution -- that vests defence and security of India in the Central government and public law and order and policing in the state governments -- must be respected and indeed are respected, the agenda notes stress that 'terrorism transcends these boundaries' posing the challenge that warrants the Centre and state governments pull together 'so that the people are assured about a coherent policy and coordinated response in fight against terror'.

Despite Intelligence

Stark truth that the agenda notes admit is that 'in a number of instances in the recent past, even where intelligence inputs about possible terrorist threats/attacks were available, these could not be translated into effective preventive measures and operational response at the field level'.

In that context, it is stressed that there is need to set up specialised and dedicated teams or units 'for following up and taking focused action at the operational level on intelligence inputs that may be received from time to time' and that the flow of operational intelligence to such units need to be on a real-time basis.

The agenda notes also recommend to the states to emulate a model adopted by the Delhi Police in the form of an 'eyes-and-ears' scheme for community involvement and community policing, particularly in the metropolitan and urban areas.

Tackling Naxals

With a specific reference to the areas affected by Naxalite violence and other forms of insurgency, the notes point out a decision of the Centre to establish 10 commando battalions for resolute action (COBRA) within the Central Reserve Police Force that have specialised skills to deal with guerrilla and jungle warfare type of activities.

These battalions are proposed to be located in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. As regards the regional hubs of the National Security Guard -- whose commandos were rushed to Mumbai to tackle the 26/11 terror onslaught -- these would be set up at Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata in the
first instance.

'Some of the other metropolitan centres are proposed to be covered by other specialist units of the armed forces,' say the agenda notes, particularly to pacify several state governments pressing for locating the NSG hubs in their states.

It is also made clear that 'it would take some time before the regional hubs can be fully established' since the NSG force is constituted and manned by personnel drawn from the Army and the central paramilitary forces whose selection cannot be made overnight.

It adds that the state governments should expeditiously make available land to establish infrastructure and facilities parallel with the process of recruitment training and procurement of equipment.


The agenda papers break up the intelligence and counter-terrorism structure into four parts: Intelligence gathering, intelligence sharing, intelligence analysing and intelligence coordination.

As regarding the preventive measures, again four aspects are dealt with where the security arrangements must be made. These are: Public places, vital installations, private establishment and public awareness and cooperation.

As regards the human capabilities to counter terrorism, the agenda lays stress on four aspects: Filling up o vacancies and augmenting police at the field level, special counter-terrorism forces, training in intelligence, investigation, prosecution and special operations and operational capabilities.

MAC for intelligence gathering

The agenda papers also includes an official memorandum issued by the Home Ministry on December 31 for augmenting the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) operating within the Intelligence Bureau since 2001 after the Kargil [Images] conflict but not able to achieve the objectives for which it was established.

The memorandum stresses that MAC will coordinate all activities relating to intelligence pertaining to terrorism and terrorist threats and that 'all civil and military authorities in the territory of India shall act in aid of the MAC in respect of the functions and duties entrusted to it'.

It is this agency with which all stage agencies will have to share the intelligence gathered and the assessment of that intelligence in so far as it pertains to terrorism, terrorist threats and terrorist offences. The memorandum also envisaged the MAC to set up its subsidiary MACs in each state or for one or more states and Union Territories.

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