Lack of timely, candid co-operation among various state counter-terror agencies and central agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, has allegedly eroded the country’s capability to pre-empt terror attacks and probing effectively.
“Lack of timely sharing of information among multiple counter-terror agencies has been an irritant that sometimes led to costly lapses,” said a central intelligence source. “Professional competition among counter-terror agencies is good, but often the race to nab the prized-catch takes precedence over maximising the results,” said the source.
A case in point was when the Gujarat police, which was probing the July 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, came to know of the stay of Indian Mujahideen (IM)’s operative Abu Bashar in Delhi for four days after the attacks but allegedly chose not to alert Delhi police, said a police source.
According to the source, the Gujarat police’s alert could have helped the Delhi police pre-empt the September 13, 2008, serial blasts in the city. “His presence in Delhi was an indication that Delhi was to be IM’s next target,” said the source.
Such a race is among agencies of the same state police as well, said the intelligence source. For example, when the Mumbai crime branch nabbed Afzal Usmani, who recently fled from police custody from a court in Mumbai, in September 2008 after he had supplied stolen cars for use in the July 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, it allegedly did not share the revelation with the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad.
“With the information, the crackdown on IM could have begun earlier,” said the source.
The source pointed out that a co-ordinating agency like the proposed National Counter Terror Center (NCTC) could play a positive role.
Similarly, pressure to crack a case sooner also weighs adversely on counter-terror probes, said sources. “Minutes after a terror attack, the security and political establishment, and the media, begins making speculations about the perpetrators, which may adversely affecting the probe at times,” said the source.
Within days of the July 2006 Mumbai serial blasts, the Centre had shelved the third round of the foreign secretary-led dialogue with Pakistan amid suspicions of the involvement of the LeT and the Inter Services Intelligence. The pace of probe went into overdrive as the Indian political establishment wanted to confront Pakistan with concrete evidence, said the official.
But the then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi, who is now Thane’s police commissioner, differs. “There was no pressure from the government. The ATS’s probe was correct,” he said.