An American anti-terrorist and human rights expert on South Asia believes the intelligence failures in Mumbai were systemic and in some ways aped the failures of the United States before September 11, 2001.
Richard L Benkin, founder of Interfaith Strength, said in an interview with this correspondent that one gigantic problem in India is the lack of coordination among intelligence agencies that might have "different pieces to a deadly puzzle."
"Although Israeli intelligence has been aiding India on a number of fronts, there was little or no multi-national coordination, and that is a particularly deadly mistake with regard to Islamist terror because Islamist terror is an international phenomenon and discreet national efforts will never defeat the enemy at its source," Benkin said.
"The third systemic failure is the refusal of the Indian government to recognise that Islamist terror is an existential threat whose perpetrators will be satisfied with nothing less than the death of India as we know it," he said.
By his admission Benkin has traveled to South Asia several times to free political prisoners, visit refugee camps, identify the alliance among South Asian Islamists and Communists, oppose Islamist radicals, and protest the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, Benkin said there have been over 11,000 incidents of terror worldwide. He noted that even before the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], terrorists had murdered over 1,100 Indian citizens this year alone. "What sort of rationalisations could convince anyone that these attacks are discreet and limited? We in the United States made the same mistake when we failed to see the same threat after the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York," he said.
"But I do not believe that these delusions are coming from the intelligence establishment itself. Clearly, these agencies are not independent operators and are held subordinate to the political structures and elected leaders in the nation," he said.
"We have the same problem in the United States. To be sure, India and the United States are democracies and have certain standards of acceptable and moral behaviour but it is a particularly imbecility of our time that holds those structures incompetent if they do not demonstrate their power over the intelligence professionals in some public manner," he said.
In response to a question whether or not anger generated by the attacks in Mumbai would be translated into a sustained government resolve to overcome terror, Benkin said the first and most important factor is recognising the fact that no matter what happens today, tomorrow, or the next day, or even if the US apprehends Osama bin Laden, the terrorist threat will be diminished perhaps for a time but in no way eliminated.
He said there is a need to recognise that the threat is a transnational one, needing a transnational response.
Benkin favours an alliance against extremism among India, Israel and the United States. "All three countries have been targeted for elimination by the Islamists -- and if that is not sufficient motivation for strong action, it is rather impossible to imagine what is. Each of these three nations has withstood unrelenting terror attacks and still thrives," he said. "Their power in an alliance would be unstoppable -- so long as all three discard self-destructive notions like political correctness. Once those conceptual changes have been made, effective action is a matter of filling in the blanks."