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How much more specific intelligence is needed?

December 9, 2008
In addition, the location of an Indian trawler Kuber, which was reported missing since November 13, was located by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard found a satellite phone and GPS maps of south Mumbai, which suggest that in a well planned operation, the terrorists had decided to use the Indian vessel to merge with other fishing vessels and evade detection.

It also raises questions about the steps taken after the Kuber was reported missing on November 13. Except during the monsoon or inclement weather, boats usually do not go missing on either coast. It is clear that the case of the missing boat was not investigated and it was as a routine incident.

Not withstanding the almost defensive statements of the two admirals on the west coast, it is clear that the maritime forces, security agencies and the government machinery were unprepared and caught off guard despite the warnings about Mumbai being the next target of a terror attack.

The fact that the next threat could come from the sea was discussed, debated and understood as a 'real and potential' danger that was staring us in the eye. The Intelligence Bureau had clearly sounded the warning bells and claimed that the Maharashtra government and the Coast Guard were warned about the impending attack through the sea routes.

The intelligence agencies knew that a large number of cadres were being trained in water-borne operations, by Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence and the Pakistan Navy, for a period of 12 to 18 months. How much more specific intelligence is needed?

It is clear that there was hardly any response to the intelligence input and there was no coordinated collective action to respond to this 'actionable intelligence'. The Indian Navy claimed that it did not receive the intelligence, raising serious questions about the existing protocols for transferring sensitive and vital intelligence. Also, as per some reports, the Navy was engaged in an exercise to defend the Gujarat coast from attacks.

If this is true, some very serious questions need to be asked about what prevented the Navy from stopping the intruders. The history of porous borders goes back fifteen years -- when a huge consignment of RDX had landed on the western coast, with the connivance of the Customs and police authorities. The corrupt authorities had allowed the consignment to reach Mumbai by road, after landing at Shirodi, a coastal village. The RDX was used to deadly effect in the Mumbai serial blasts on March 12, 1993.

After the devastating blasts, the Navy launched Operation Swan to augment coastal security, and the operation was handed over to the Coast Guard recently. The issues of security of the seas off often overlap, as there are multiple agencies involved.

The number of agencies involved is over a dozen, including both state and central agencies. It was decided that the Marine Police wing would have jurisdiction within five nautical miles and the Coast Guard would have jurisdiction up to 30 nautical miles (some reports say that it is limited to 12 nautical miles).

Image: Marine Commandos during a mock drill off the Porbandar coast, December 7, 2006. Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

Also read: Terrorists showed no remorse
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