With the government taking active steps to establish "real time links" between intelligence agencies at the centre and the states, India's security levels are "much higher now" than at the time of the Mumbai terror attacks, Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Wednesday.
"I can say with a fair degree of assurance that the level of security is much higher now (than when I assumed office)," Chidambaram said during question hour in the Rajya Sabha, detailing the steps that had been taken since he assumed office Nov 30, 2008 in the wake of the Mumbai carnage that claimed over 170 lives and cost then home minister Shivraj Patil his job.
"I can assure you that in the event of another attack, the response will be extremely swift and deterrent," he added.
In this context, he noted that by March 31, "real time links would be established between the Multi-Agency Centre (in the national capital), the SMACs (State Multi-Agency Centres) and the intelligence bureaus of the state police forces to improve connectivity for intelligence sharing".
"India faces threats. We have to maintain high levels of preparedness and have to respond in a firm, deterrent and decisive manner. We have to become more responsive," Chidambaram maintained.
He replied in the positive in response to a supplementary from Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena) as to whether India had learnt any lessons from the steps taken by the US post the 9/11 attacks that had ensured there was no recurrence of the strikes.
"Yes, we have studied the measures taken by the US. You can appreciate that it is a rich country and has spent billions of dollars to put together a counter-terrorism apparatus under the Department of Homeland Security.
"We were invited to send a team to study these measures and have taken whatever elements that were relevant and germane to our requirements," the home minister said.
This apart, India was also working with the security agencies of other countries like Israel, Britain and Germany, he added.
"We are learning and improving but there is still a distance to go," Chidambaram contended.
Asked by Congress' T Subbirami Reddy why the latest weapons were not being provided to the state police forces to enable them fight terrorism and extremism, he said: "No, that is not correct. We are providing AK-47 and (Indian manufactured) INSAS rifles."
"I have also been visiting the (terrorist and Maoist affected) states and holding meetings with the chief ministers, the state home ministers and the police chiefs and taking decisions and recording them on the spot," Chidambaram said.