26/11 attacks exposed weakness in decision-making: Ex-Cabinet secretary

Published on Dec 02, 2022 09:17 AM IST

In his recently released book ‘As good as my word’, Chandrasekhar faulted the situation following the creation of the post of National Security Adviser (NSA) in 1998

A view of the Taj Hotel, one of the terror attack sites in Mumbai. (PTI file photo)
A view of the Taj Hotel, one of the terror attack sites in Mumbai. (PTI file photo)
BySunetra Choudhary

Former cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar, who was the country’s top civil servant in November 2008 when Pakistani terrorists landed in Mumbai, has said that there was “no real clarity who was to do what at the central level” when the attacks took place.

In his recently released book ‘As good as my word’, Chandrasekhar faulted the situation following the creation of the post of National Security Adviser (NSA) in 1998, saying the government’s decision to create the NSA’s position was a step in the right direction. ‘...but instead of going all the way, the government chose to distribute responsibilities of power between the NSA and the Cabinet Secretary,” he wrote. This, he said, created “the possibility of confusion among roles in managing matters relating to security’’.

Also Read:‘Not forgotten, will never forget’: Rajnath, Jaishankar, among leaders, to pay tributes to 26/11 Mumbai attack victims

“The 26/11 attacks also exposed weakness at the highest level in decision-making in a grave emergency,” wrote .Chandrasekhar, who was handpicked by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2007 and served in the position for four years till 2011.

“The agencies under the Home Ministry and armed forces intelligence do not usually brief the cabinet secretary on field issues, preferring to give the juicy bits only to the Home Ministry or the Defence Ministry or the NSA. At the same time, without sufficient and timely information, the cabinet secretary is still required to deal with crisis situations, whether it be a terrorist attack or a hijack or militant extremism of various kinds,” he wrote.

Besides, there was no real coordination mechanism in place, he added.

“When a real crisis blew up on 26/11, therefore, there was no real clarity on who was to do what at the central level; confusion confounded by the act that law and order is a state subject under the Indian Constitution and that central intervention can only be at the request of the state government concerned. I waded into the crisis and its handling as is my wont but I had no background information, no intelligence inputs, not even full knowledge of what was actually happening in Mumbai until late in the night. I had no knowledge about the dimensions of the crisis and the capacity of the state government to handle the crisis on its own either, as normally happens in all such events”.

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