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Spies learn how to play as a team

delhi Updated: Nov 25, 2009 23:16 IST
Aloke Tikku
Aloke Tikku
Hindustan Times
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A week before the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) intercepted a conversation on a satellite phone located in the sea near Mumbai about plans to reach the city.

R&AW had two months earlier given four locations — Taj, the Marriott, Land’s End and Sea Rock — that were on the Lashkar radar.

The Navy sent out a patrol for two days, on November 21 and 22, to look for the intruders, but could not find anything.
Four days later, 10 terrorists landed on a Mumbai beach. By the time they were neutralised four days later, 173 people had lost their lives.

“It is well known that intelligence agencies never co-operate with each other, to hide sources or incompetence,” former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra recently acknowledged. Home Minister P. Chidambaram, figured out that the lack of coordination could undo any effort that he was to make. He did two things.

He activated the Multi Agency Centre that brought officers from dozen-odd agencies to hold meetings to analyse and disseminate information.

He would summon the chiefs of the IB and R&AW every noon.

“It isn’t that organisational rivalries just disappeared ... But regular interactions of officers from agencies help build personal equations within the group,” a senior home ministry official said.

The MAC has been networked with subsidiary centres at the state level and this ensures that everyone remains in the loop.
Nearly 7,000 posts were vacant in the IB in November last year. A few hundred have been filled.

Similarly, the home ministry gave central police forces a rap on the knuckles to get them to expedite modernisation plans.
The coastal security management system has been revamped under the Navy’s command and the identity card system for fishermen in coastal villages — which would help identify genuine fishermen — has started.

But India’s security problems are deep-rooted.

Bihar does not have a training academy for police officers, Orissa hasn’t recruited a deputy superintendent of police in more than a decade and the home ministry counts a shortfall of nearly 300,000 policemen across states.

Chidambaram does not try to cloud the reality.

India might be better prepared than last year but remained as vulnerable to terrorism as it was on 26/11, he said just a month ago.

The government has decided to set up a National Intelligence Grid, an information exchange grid that would gather data from varied sources and funnel it through powerful analytics to predict trends.

The home ministry has also prepared a concept paper for setting up a National Counter Terrorism Centre, inspired by the one set up after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

“It would be the intelligence super-structure — with people from all security agencies — to be the one-stop body for coordinating anti-terror activities,” a home ministry official said.