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India-Pakistan: hiding behind excuses again? —Naeem Tahir

The 2008 terrorist act in Mumbai surely needs to be condemned in the strongest possible words, but one wonders why was the incident allowed to happen when all advance information was available. Why?

Once again, India and Pakistan “fail to make a breakthrough”. The Kashmir and Mumbai attack issues have blocked any progress. Over 60 years have passed since independence and we still cannot show the maturity to shed the old baggage and move forward like civilised, progressive people. The reservations are too deep, vested interests too strong, and there are suspicions about the ‘intent’. All these serve the anti-normalisation lobbies. We need real leadership to rise above these constraints.

Every time the good intent of making a breakthrough is expressed, opposing forces blow away the cherished goal of the majority of the people of the two countries. It happened in 2008 by burning the two bogies of Samjhota Express. Symbolically, the Samjhota was derailed in spite of the governments showing determination to settle disputes. This time the peace loving people are being flogged with the Mumbai incident and Kashmir issue.

I do not need to introduce the Kashmir problem. Everyone knows the issue. But using the Mumbai incident has some element of surprise. The 2008 terrorist act in Mumbai surely needs to be condemned in the strongest possible words, but one wonders why was the incident allowed to happen when all advance information was available. Why?

There is evidence available that actionable, and precise, information about the attack on Mumbai through the sea was available to India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) at least one week before. The terrorists were identified, their route was known, and even their number and the boat were on record with the IB. The IB even had the mobile phone numbers of the terrorists, which could be monitored.

India has a free and very professional press. This ‘lapse’ has been pointed out by important newspapers, not ‘rags’. Readers may refer to the following:

“RAW sent an intercept to IB as recently as November 19 saying that a Lashkar-controlled ship had, with dangerous cargo, sailed from Karachi and could try to sneak into Indian waters” (The Times of India, Pune, December 1, 2008). Indian Navy sources angrily deny that the information was ever passed on to them.

“US Intelligence alerted the state about a ‘potential attack from the sea against hotels and business centres in Mumbai’” (The Times of India, December 3, 2008).

“[R]esponding to an allegation, Naval Chief Admiral Suresh Mehta said that the suspected boat ‘Kuber’ was inspected and released by the Coast Guards because its papers were in order” and “Internal inquiries into the Mumbai terror attack have revealed that despite clear intelligence inputs, the Coast Guard and the Navy failed to either spot or interdict Al-Hussaini, the ship that carried terrorists, and this took place at a time when warships and IAF aircraft were participating in an annual exercise for the defence of Gujrat” (Sakal, Pune, December 3, 2008).

“The input by RAW requested the Coast Guard Jakhau station to direct a ship to the area for surveillance; launch Dornier aircraft at first light for a coordinated sea/air search and deploy boats and personnel to patrol off the creek area. This input was shared by all agencies concerned, including the IB. The Coast Guard, it is learnt, did launch a hovercraft and an offshore vessel to interdict the suspected LeT [Lashkar-e-Tayyaba] ship, but the search apparently ended by 6:00 pm at Kandla on November 21. Sources said Coast Guard ships docked for a function that night” (Indian Express, Mumbai, December 11, 2008).

“An internal probe…has pointed fingers at the Intelligence Bureau for not refining its inputs, and at the Naval HQ for keeping Western Command out of the loop” (Indian Express, Mumbai, December 15, 2008).

“Sources in the highest quarters in Delhi have told Tehelka that the mobile phone numbers that were used by the Mumbai terrorists were available with the Intelligence Bureau for at least five days before 26/11.” The news report reveals that a secret note containing 35 mobile numbers, precisely stating that “these numbers need to be monitored”, had been received by the IB on November 21. It is only after the terrorists “had killed 58 passengers at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, after ATS Chief Hemant Karkare had been shot dead with two other officers…that someone in the IB woke up to the fact that it had received a list of phone numbers” (Hindustan Times, Mumbai, January 10, 2009).

One could go on listing the lapses. The question being asked is if these lapses were, in fact, intended to use the chaos to get rid of Karkare and his colleagues in clandestine action because they had unearthed the full Indian network of right wing terrorists responsible for most of the acts committed in recent years. The objectives are varied, including political advantage, suppression of minorities, particularly the Muslims, and promoting Hindutva fascist philosophy. Karkare had filed an over 4,000-page case with Nasik court, and if he had the time to provide the evidence and to conclude the case, the whole terrorist network under the cover of Sangh Parivar would have been exposed, and the criminals involved in the Samjhota Express, Nanda and Malegaon incidents brought to book. These criminals were prominent rightist leaders and activists, so it was urgently necessary for the elements in the agencies to let the Mumbai terror attack happen and plant people in the chaos to get rid of the Karkare team. It appears that the unfortunate incident at Mumbai may have been ‘allowed’ to happen and the circumstances do point in that direction. With this background, Pakistan being whipped by the Mumbai bogie is not entirely fair.

In conclusion, one can only request the Indian leadership to avoid bowing to the rightist pressure and do the right thing and work for peace. Pakistan is laden with its own problems of terrorism and it is fighting to control them. Pakistan does not have the ability to guard the Indian borders nor can it be expected to do so. Then why make the Mumbai issue a hurdle in the peace process?

We all need to be upfront and honest, put our respective houses in order and stop the blame game. Let us look at some ‘out of the box solutions’, even in the case of Kashmir, provide real creative leadership, even at the cost of some popularity. Great leaders have the courage to take unpopular decisions in the larger interest. Let us all face the realities.

The writer is a freelance contributor. He can be reached at\03\04\story_4-3-2010_pg3_4

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