Friday, December 19, 2008

။ Another Investigating Agency ?

By Subir Bhaumik
After the Mumbai attacks , Shivraj Patil has been sacked and his successor P Chidambaram has tabled the bill for creating a new central investigating agency. Given the kind of consensus to do something about tackling the growing spate of terror attacks in India this year , the bill may be passed very soon. Perhaps in this session of the parliament. Neither the BJP nor the Left will oppose the bill - they dont want to be seen as less patriotic than the Congress.
I will however raise my doubts about what kind of an anti-terror agency are we getting ? Because this will cost the tax-payer quite a bit . What the nation wanted was a crack and effective counter-terrorism agency -- not another investigating agency like the CBI or the IB . I dont know what kind of an agency Chidambaram will create for India , but the initial look of the bill suggests it might be a hybrid of the CBI and the IB . Chidambaram's understanding of security issues is limited to a previous tenure as minister of state in charge of internal security . And though Chidambaram is a much more serious person than Patil and reads and discusses, I doubt whether he has the time to objectively assess what kind of an agency India now needs to fight terror. Parliament elections are due in April or May 2009 and Chidamabaram has to create the agency in the next few months by following up on the bill. We might get an agency which has some specialist investigators to check on , for example , illicit uranium trade . We might have some specialists on Islamic terror modules. But will we get an organisation that will generate effective intelligence on terrorist activities and also have the force to act on that intelligence. We needed an agency that could be integrated with the NSG - so that one part of it gathers terrorism related intelligence while the other part of it can move against the targets without having to go for one clearence after another. Only if it involves strikes outside the country would the question of clearence from the Cabinet Committee on Security arise. And there's no use having such an agency unless we could get our politicians to muster courage and authorise trans-border strikes like the way the Israeli Mossad strikes at "enemy targets" all over the world .
Here I am not talking of a strike like Entebbe airport in Uganda . In that strike, as all of you who have seen the film "Entebbe" will know, the Israeli commandos attacked the hijackers and those protecting them - the Ugandan army - and freed the pasengers of the Israeli airline El Al. This was a proper commando operation . But intelligence agencies do not carry out such operations. It can undertake such operations if it has special forces under its command - like the Russian KGB intelligence agency, which had the Spenatz special forces under its command . Which is why I was talking of a new agency with which the NSG can be integrated . In that case, the NSG component will only be used to fight terror , not guard VIPs. The SPG can be seperated and developed as a protection force capable of guarding VIPs.
But our politicians may not like that. They might want to keep the NSG as it is now. So that they can be guarded by them. In that case, what our new anti-terror agency could develop is secret strike capability . Say we raise a group of angry Pakistanis , Urdu-speaking Mohajirs who hate the Punjabi-dominated Pakistan army. And we also raise a group of Afghans who are against Pakistan. We bring them to India, train them and send them back to Pakistan . They quietly position themselves in Pakistan , then look out for our targets under the expert direction of an Indian officer who handles them . In the language of intelligence, this is called "creation of special assets." The new agency can create such "special assets" with foreigners or with some highly motivated (and capable) Indians . Then we can use them to strike down our targets . Why should we beg to Pakistan -- give us Masood Azhar, give us Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, give us Dawood Ibrahim. Our assets can target them and send them to heavens. Now will our new agency have this kind of a brief -- or this kind of focus . If not, it will be a waste. We have seen enough of investigations. The IB is brilliant at it. Very often, the IB would have no idea of a terror strike, but after it happens, they will have their great thesis ready . Full with who did what and where ? The RAW , if it was as efficient as it was in the days of Ramnath Kao or Anand Kumar Verma , could have had a special cell for these kind of offensive intelligence operations. But under a chain of rather useless chiefs , the RAW has become another worthless reporting agency . Before the Mumbai attacks, they did generate some intelligence about a sea borne attack after receiving tips from the Americans . But it would be much better if you get the intelligence , the information and you have the powers to act on them. Or else , no one can be pinned down . No one can be held responsible for success or failure. The Navy and Coast Guard now says the RAW intelligence was not specific , the RAW says that National Security Adviser M K Narayanan did not give sufficient importance to their inputs . The blame game goes on . This has to stop. So we have to create an agency that generates specific intelligence and acts on it . It should therefore have a "dirty tricks" department that will not hesitate to assasinate India's enemies .
People like Masood Azhar or the Lashkar leaders should be picked one by one and killed in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world. If India feels it will not be fair to bomb Karachi port in Sindh or Gwadar port in Balochistan as a revenge for Bombay, because that will end up killing innocent Pakistanis, we should atleast be capable of sending secret killers who can shoot down Masood Azhar while he supervises his new madrassa in Bahwalpur or knock out the Lashkar leadership when they appear on public rallies in Pakistani cities. Now the other thing that India has to really concentrate on is developing state police intelligence. Let me give an example. In my estimate, the serial bombings of 30 October that killed 87 people in Assam was an expensive operation for those who did it . It would have cost not less than one and half crore rupees. Just one operation. Now the entire police special branch budget for Assam is one and half crore rupees for the whole year. I repeat for a whole year. KPS Gill is a great believer in police intelligence because it is well positioned on ground. Right at the grassroots. West Bengal's tackling of Naxalites in 1971 , Punjab's tackling of Khalistani terror after the Operation Blue Star or the successful control of insurgency in Tripura in the early part of this decade all indicate this one great reality - that if the police and its intelligence is motivated and efficient, it can tackle all forms of terrorism. Because the police is capable of doing favours and therefore can use them to create assets by spending much less money than the federal agency. So I would strongly suggest that state police budgets must give more funds to intelligence - and post the best officers there to make good use of them. After the recent Mumbai attacks, I have been on many TV panels with senior military people. All of them - distinguished men like former army General Shankar Roychoudhuri or former eastern command chief of staff Johnny Mukherjee. They have all advocated more attention to developing police intelligence . They are right. They know that without good police intelligence, even the army cannot do a thing when it comes for special operations in any state.
Good police intelligence or anti-terrorism officers are a rare asset. Look at Hemant Karkare. What a loss ? I hate the politics around his death that is now taking place - both the BJP variety when Narendra Modi rushes to his family with cheques and the Congress variety when Antulay stands up to propogate his great conspiracy theory after Ajmal Kasab has said it all. Mumbai should install statues of Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar in front of the Cama hospital where they fell fighting the terrorists. Or all their colleagues who fought the terrorists so bravely - unlike the Kolkata police during the USIS attack , when none of its personnel could retaliate.
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