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'It's not ten people as they are saying, some people have got away'

December 26, 2008

Archana Masih in Mumbai

Last month's terrorist strikes in Mumbai compelled the government and citizens to introspect much more than any other incident of terror in recent times.

"Some issues ought to get addressed, more money budgeted, but overall, the biggest problem with us is that we are extremely poor learners. We keep re-learning lessons," a former Marine Commando, a Special Forces veteran, told in an exclusive interview.

A veteran of counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, the former Indian Navy officer looks back at the commando operations in Mumbai and provides a candid assessment of the lessons India and Indians need to learn urgently.

On the armed forces filling in for the lacunae in the police:

What happened on 26/11 was a hardcore police function. The armed forces are not meant for security duties within the country, it's filling in for the lacunae in the police.

Some of the better anti-terrorist units abroad are part of the police, not part of the military. Like British and US police have their SWAT teams. The Americans don't call in the Seals, Ninjas and Green Berets when they have something like this in any of the cities. Who are their heroes? The LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department), NYPD (New York Police Department), their SWAT teams.

In our (Marine Commandos) charter of duties, we are prepared for offshore intervention. Within half an hour a MARCO team can take off for a maritime contingency. We can take on an operation like 26/11 because the core skills are the same.

Somebody decided that a military option has to be exercised. They told our guys, go in get them.

Our training is not oriented towards capture. When we move in, we kill.

The NSG (National Security Guard) training is very similar to us. In terms of intervention techniques, we (MARCOS) are exactly the same.

When the NSG intervened, the training pattern that they have is meant to eliminate the threat. It means killing, doesn't mean capture. Here these guys needed to be captured because of geopolitical ramifications.

Image: Marine Commandos at the annual Navy Day celebrations in Visakhapatnam, December 4. Photograph: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters.

Also read: 'Terrorists showed no remorse'

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