Members in both Houses of Parliament were united not only in their resolve to fight terrorism but also in pulling up the country’s security establishment.
The Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), Intelligence Bureau (IB), Military Intelligence and State Intelligence Bureaux were criticized for lack of coordination, while the Navy and Coast Guard came under the scanner for their failure in stopping the 10 terrorists who came by sea from Karachi to Mumbai and wreaked havoc in the financial capital.
Rap for intelligence units
Setting the tone of the debate, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “I have found that there is a tendency to treat some intelligence inputs that are not specific or precise as not actionable intelligence. Further, the responsibility for acting upon intelligence inputs is quite diffused.”
Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta had pleaded that the intelligence received was not “actionable” in the case of Mumbai — a premise that the home minister rejected. Mehta had also sought to deflect criticism by blaming the Mumbai atacks on a “systemic failure” of the government at all levels.
Chidambaram went on to say that though the Navy, following initial intelligence, was active “during the period November 19-20,” “in the absence of further inputs or information from the agencies concerned, it concluded that no further action could be taken on the basis of the available information”.
The BJP’s Arun Shourie asked why the movement of the vessel that brought the terrorists to Mumbai was not monitored. Opening the debate in the Upper House, he asked the government to “stop running to mummy (the United States)” every time. “This is a war we will have to fight alone.”
Making Pak accountable
Shourie demanded strong action against Pakistan and immediate suspension of the peace process, saying: “Your intelligence record shows that the ISI is now knitting together Indian insurgent groups.” The BJP leader quoted Vinobha Bhave to describe the government’s attitude towards fighting terror — baat hi ka kaam hei, kaam ki baat nahi, ie, all talk, no action.
Navy in hot water
Smacking the Navy, Karan Singh, Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha, sought disciplinary action against those who failed to perform their duty. He said, “The Navy knew about the vessel in Pakistani waters. How did they take their eyes off it? They should have kept track of it. It couldn’t have disappeared.”
Members cutting across party lines wanted the top officials of various agencies to be held responsible for the lapse.
NSA faces heat
National Security Advisor (NSA) M.K. Narayanan was under fire from several members, with CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury demanding accountability of top officials and JD-U leader Sharad Yadav going to the extent of demanding the “sacking of the NSA.”
N-dangered by US?
Yechury also linked the attacks to the India-US nuclear deal and said the government, by becoming a strategic ally of the United States, had made the country vulnerable to such attacks. Karan Singh slammed the R&AW, IB and other agencies for “total lack of coordination among them,” and demanded disciplinary action against “erring” officials.
In Lok Sabha, Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and most other speakers wanted bureaucrats too to be held accountable for the Mumbai terror attacks.
PM on UN action
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on his part, welcomed the UN sanctions on four Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, and the Jamaat-ud-Daawa, the LeT’s front. “This is the kind of purposeful action we believe should be pursued in a sustained manner by the world community,” he said.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, demanded Pakistan put Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Saeed in police custody. “I was told by an international interlocutor that Saeed was arrested and now I have heard from our mission that he’s appearing on TV. Azhar has been house arrested. What does house arrest mean?”