Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta sought to deflect criticism of the Navy over its failure to stave off Mumbai attacks fixing blame on a “systemic failure” at all levels for India’s worst terror strike.
In his first public comments on the attacks on Tuesday, Mehta emphatically said the Navy did not get any actionable intelligence about the attacks from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence, to prevent the tragedy. Actionable intelligence implies inputs that specify the nature of the threat and its timing. Standard alerts do not fall in that category.
“I am not aware of any intercepts passed on to the Navy. Exchange of information with intelligence agencies happens regularly. The Navy has acted promptly whenever actionable intelligence has been made available.”
However, R&AW has claimed that its listeners picked up a satellite phone conversation on November 19, where the caller talked about reaching Mumbai between nine and eleven. His coordinates were tracked to a location 40 km off the Mumbai coast. R&AW had also intercepted satellite phone conversations of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) operatives pointing to the Mumbai attacks on September 18 and September 24.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony had reportedly offered to quit over the issue of Navy’s accountability at a Congress Working Committee meet last week.
Admitting to faultlines in India’s intelligence sharing mechanism, Mehta said systemic problems had been laid bare by the terror strike. “It’s a serious matter and needs to be taken stock of. Effective coordination among intelligence agencies is required.”
Touching on maritime complexities, Mehta said India accounted for over 1.5 lakh registered fishing trawlers with over 50,000 of them operating off the coast of Gujarat and Maharashtra. “A third of those are operating off Mumbai. The difference between Indian and Pakistani fishing trawlers can be spotted. But the terrorists were sailing on an Indian vessel (Kuber).”
He said the Coast Guard had intercepted fishing trawler Kuber, hijacked by the terrorists, but let it go after the occupants showed valid papers. Navy does not have the power to prosecute violators on the high seas, which vests in the Coast Guard.