Senior journalist Sandeep Unnithan, author of Black Tornado, a semi-official account of the 26/11 attacks, was on Rediff.com chat on November 26. In what was a frank and instructive interaction Rediff users spoke to the scribe about his views on the status of security and possible upgrades to the same.
we need to upgrade our security and have multi level security such as Coast Guard for peripheral security , city based patrolling, intelligence gathering,Rapid action Team, shap shooters , GIS based servillence , what is our preparedness based your assessment ?
Hello Ramesh, on a scale of 1-10, i'd say we are at 5. lots more needs to be done. Training needs to be emphasised, contingencies rehearsed.
Why the operations in the Taj Mahal palace were delayed?
Hello Nirupama, several reasons. primary one was the presence of thousands of civilians in the hotel. there were over 3,000 civilians on the night of 26/11...security forces had to be careful they did not shoot them by mistake. they began operations in earnest on Friday only after they were sure that the hotels were emptied of all civilians
I believe that even after such a long time still there is lack of communication record at police control room. Do also agree with this?
Hello Swastik, as far as i know, all police communication is duly logged and recorded.
is not it failure of Coast Guard to detect infiltertration ?
Hello Ramesh, there were failures at every level...too many in fact to blame just one organisation. It was a failure of the whole system. sadly, we didn't have an inquiry commission to tell us where we failed
Did you know a shooter game was developed theme based on 26/11 attacks named “Terror Attack Mission 25/11”
Hello Shirish, really ? where can i find this? i'm not sure this is in good taste if what you say is correct
How the force overcame the sieges despite shortages of manpower and equipment at multiple locations?
Hello Nitin, through Indian jugaad i guess. they improvised at times...used a fire brigade snorkel covered with bullet proof jackets to create a protected sniper perch.
The government today said that the overall coastal and maritime security along the entire coast is "much stronger than before" as several steps have been taken in this regard. Is it true?
Hello Manik, coastal security today is stronger than it was before, but still has gaping holes. the weakes t link is the Marine Police that functions under state police units...their boats are in v poor shape and rarely go out to sea. States must invest more in coastal policing and not leave everything to the navy and coast guard
What were your greatest learnings while writing this book?
Hello Nitin, my greatest learning was that all the security forces that we have built up, operate in silos. The army does not operate with the NSG...the NSG does not operate with the Marine Commandos...which means they have different drills and in a crisis, instead of combining forces, they prefer to operate alone. India cannot afford the luxury of creating mini empires.
What are the major threats you foresee?
Hello Neetu, the next attack, if it comes, is likely to be of a nature that is previously unimagined. i was in Israel recently...the agencies there mentioned that they had picked up chatter about terrorists using 'biological human bombs', i.e. carriers infected with diseases, to attack countries.
Sandeep, your book made for great reading. Your book painted the heroes as they went through an ordeal of fire, but I also came away with a feeling of despondency, at our woeful lack of preparedness for such an assault. The next one, when it comes, will be bigger and better. How will we cope with that!
Hello Sai, through better investments in human resources. the senior-most man for the job principle has to be abandoned if institutions related to national security are to survive. get the right man for the job, they will know how to fix institutions. We have seen this happen with islands of excellence like the Delhi Metro
Do you think India's coastal security has improved after 26/11/08? What are the 5 significant improvements according to you?
hello Jim. 1) an awareness of the seaborne threat 2) greater coordination between the various forces-- navy, coast guard and marine police 3) projects like the IMAC centre inaugurated by the Navy in Gurgaon 4) significant investments in assets like aircraft, helicopters, patrol boats 5) greater supervision fm the centre
There are talks now that L&T is going to fix 6000 CCTVs in Mumbai? Is that a step in the right direction to enhance the counry's financial capital's security infrastructure?
Hello Satish, absolutely. this project ought to have been completed five years ago. it is simply shocking that this vital project has been retendered four times
Does your book also talk about Rakesh Maria's lapses that addl CP Ashok Kamte's wife allegedly talked about?
hello Amol, the issues you raise have been covered at great length in other books.
How did you gather information for this book? How do you cultivate your sources? How reliable are your sources?
I based my book on official documents and first-person accounts of the officials who participated in the operation...i would call it the best obtainable version of the truth.
Why did you write this book?
Hello Gurshan, simply because there has been no official account of the military responses during the 26/11 attacks. the response of the police is well known and tackled in great detail by the Pradhan Committee report. where is the union govt report that handles larger issues of how the army, navy and intelligence responded?
those arguing for more commando-type forces to deal with 26/11 attacks, i would say this: train the existing force better. Remember these two names-- Sgt Kevin Vickers and Sgt Mark Todd. these were two regular policemen who stopped rampaging shooters in the Canadian parliament and Fort Hood, Texas, respectively.
Kasab and his cohort Ismail Khan accounted for over 50 deaths...nearly 1/3rd the death toll of 26/11...active shooters on the loose can extract a heavy toll.
Thank you everybody for being here and joining me on the rediff chat. It was great talking to you all. Stay alert.