One watched with concern the explosion in an Israeli embassy car near the prime minister's 7 Race Course house in New Delhi on television news channels on Monday. On Tuesday, a similar incident took place in Bangkok -- the Thailand capital was rocked by three explosions.
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While the Israeli establishment was prompt and forthright in holding Hezbollah and the Iranian government responsible for the attacks, Home Minister P Chidambaram has opted to not name any outfit. Whether he is clueless or trying to walk the diplomatic tight rope is anybody's guess.
The vent sets me thinking as an ex-security person whether such incidents, apparently caused by highly trained and motivated terrorists can be prevented?
Well, in my view, it is difficult for the police to prevent them, keeping in mind the volume of persons at any public place in the city and the chaotic condition of our roads. Detection of such cases, of course, depends a lot on public cooperation and technical and forensic expertise available to the police of the metropolis that is attacked.
Well-planned deep penetration intelligence operations backed by technical intelligence inputs are very
complex and need dexterous handling by experienced sleuths. Moreover, they need full support from the government to succeed in preventing terrorist attacks in public places.
In both these areas our police and intelligence agencies are seriously handicapped by tight bureaucratic controls in the matter of recruitments, procurements, and purchases. I don't know about the other metropolitan police forces in the country but in Delhi, the police commissioner is rather tied up with several proposals from the home ministry aimed at making the police and intelligence agencies effective to counter terrorist organisations.
Files keep making their endless journeys up and down the corridors of North Block between the Union Territory -- police divisions of the MHA to the expenditure division of the Ministry of Finance, all located on the same floors. And the blame game between the state police and central intelligence agencies invariably starts after such incidents. In Delhi it is less pronounced since both report to MHA.
It is unimaginable that a capital city with a high level of threat from religious terrorist groups does not have in position a CCTV network even in its high security zone. It is yet not known if the Delhi police has been able to get hold of the number plate and photographs of the motorbike and its rider who is believed to have stuck the magnetic explosive device on the embassy car.
I know that the IB's counter-terrorism wings and the operations unit of the Delhi police are manned by some of the best intelligence officers, but the lack of adequate technical intelligence support is a handicap for both.
Let's hope that the HM, who has shown that he is a man of action and not words, is able to quickly fill this critical gap.
(The writer is a retired member of the Indian Police Service.)