There will be one question many people will ask today — are we any safer today than we were on that fateful day four years ago when Pakistani militants terrorised Mumbai. Many complex plans were formulated to ensure that such an incident would never happen again. But how many of those have fructified? Given that the militants came by sea, there were to be various surveillance units on the 7,516 km coastline, 80 fast attack boats which could patrol as far as 200 nautical miles off the Indian coast and identity cards to be issued to fishermen which could be checked by radar. Some of this has been put in place but not at the pace that was required. Certainly more police personnel have been added resulting in more footfalls on the ground. Four hubs of the National Security Guard have been created in four major cities to provide faster response time and a multi-agency centre which already existed has been strengthened to make intelligence actionable. But these hubs should have better weapons and equipment which sadly are lacking.
We know how important equipment is when tackling terrorism. It is for want of quality equipment like bullet-proof vests that valiant policemen lost their lives in the attack. After 26/11, there was much talk of a new security architecture. All databases were to be collated through Natgrid, though this is still a work in progress. On the question of data collection, the issue of privacy has been raised. The National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) which was to bring intelligence under one umbrella ran into difficulties, the foremost being political. The minister in charge, in this case the home minister, would with an effective NCTC with its vast reach of data become politically more powerful than many would care to see. Since the gathering of intelligence is a state subject, many states objected to what they saw as an incursion into their territory.
A major lacunae has been that external intelligence has not improved. We know that the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind 26/11, is roaming about in Pakistan spewing venom against India. We still don’t know who in Pakistan is planning acts against India. The Research and Analysis Wing needs to be refurbished but so far that has not happened. We must understand that the terrorist is always two steps ahead of us and so India needs to improve its human intelligence. Today, it is difficult to intercept messages as terrorists have got cyber savvy and communicate in codes on various social media. The fight also has to begin at home. There has been an increased radicalisation of certain sections of Muslim youth misled by the propaganda of militant outfits. The Indian State must take this into account and put in place remedial measures. So, if we take stock today, we cannot say with any certainty that a 26/11 cannot happen again. But all we can say that the government has at least moved forward in some areas though there are still far too many chinks in the armour.