It was more or less a foregone conclusion that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the fateful Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008, would get the death sentence. In many ways, it may provide some sort of closure for those who lost people dear to them in the carnage. But the verdict once again raises the issue of how prepared or rather how ill-prepared we are for this sort of attack. In 2008, the Indian security agencies were clearly caught off guard despite intelligence chatter that had been picked up which suggested that something very big was being hatched across the border and that an attack may come from the seaboard. In the usual reactive manner, when the dust had settled it was decreed that there would be a number of hubs on the coast which could spot and intercept the thousands of vessels on the sea. As usual again, little has been done to install these hubs or indeed improve surveillance on our coast. Comparisons are odious but it is significant that the US has not faced any serious internal terror threat since 9/11. And nowhere in the US is security as intrusive as it is in India.
There are some things we must take as a given. Pakistan, irrespective of its claims that it is a victim of terror itself, will continue to turn out so-called jihadis who have been indoctrinated to hate India. Therefore, it is vital that at least on this front, our many intelligence and security agencies have far better coordination. We are often told that one or the other agency had picked up advance signals of terror attacks but that the information did not reach the right place at the right time. The price that people have had to pay for these oversights has been enormous. The Mumbai attack also raised the issue of substandard bullet-proof vests being given to policemen, clearly the result of a scam involving many in the highest quarter. Today, we are no clearer on who is involved and whether this practice has been curtailed. In fact, today our security and intelligence agencies really have their task cut out for them given that there are a growing number of terror modules within the country. The value of human intelligence too cannot be over-emphasised.
All we have to show for our efforts are intrusive checks, even harassment, in public places of people in the name of security. It is true that an attack of the proportions of Mumbai has not taken place since. But that is cold comfort. A smooth and effective security system is the best deterrent to potential terrorists and their masters.