Even as Mumbai mourns its dead, democratic India faces two pressing challenges. The first is the task of ensuring that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba commanders responsible for the horrific massacre are delivered to justice. The second is the challenge of developing homeland security capabilities that will ensure that terrorists from across the border can never again menace the people of this country or deliver an affront to the Indian state with such ease. Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s resignation is a necessary but clearly insufficient political response to the crisis. Mr. Patil cannot credibly be made a scapegoat for the failed policy attempts by two successive coalition regimes in India to pressure or persuade Pakistan’s government and political establishment to dismantle the terrorist networks operating against India. Nor should Mr. Patil be held solely accountable for the deficiencies in India’s security and enforcement capabilities. In speech after speech, the United Progressive Alliance government’s virtually irremovable Home Minister pointed to India’s vulnerability to terror; over the past four years, every Annual Report of his Ministry drew up fictional plans to address this. The problem was that even the intention to turn these fine words into action was lacking. Such comprehensive failure was held up to the world’s view during 60 hours of unprecedented trauma, featuring ten heavily armed terrorists who sailed into Mumbai from Pakistan and penetrated Indian defences as if it was child’s play and put up a protracted fight against India’s elite commando force.
What should New Delhi do now? First, it must take up, and test, President Asif Ali Zardari’s public expression of solidarity with India and his offer of practical cooperation. Minister of State Shriprakash Jaiswal, among others, has gone on record to say that there is “no doubt” that the terrorists came from Pakistan and that “we have evidence of their nationalities.” With such evidence in hand, New Delhi should make a reasonable demand on Islamabad to cooperate with the ongoing criminal investigation in accordance with bilateral understandings and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373. Since all the indications point to the Lashkar-e-Taiba being the organisation behind the terror in Mumbai, a dossier of evidence must be presented to Pakistan as soon as feasible. The investigators have the testimony of Ajmal Amir Kamaal, the sole surviving terrorist, that he acted on the orders of Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, and an operations chief code-named ‘Muzammil.’ What is more, the Research and Analysis Wing says it has tapes of phone calls made by the terrorists from the high seas to their commanders in Pakistan. More hard evidence of the Pakistan connections also exists in the form of call data stored on a satellite phone used by the killers. Confronted with such evidence, the Pakistan government will be left with the choice of finally acting to eliminate the Lashkar’s infrastructure and resources — or making it clear to the whole world that the state, or intractable elements within it, are complicit in the terrorism of this and perhaps other jihadist groups.
Should Islamabad fail to act, the UPA government must resist the temptation of relying solely on the United States to crank up the pressure. Instead, it must use the multilateral instruments at its disposal and work with all the permanent members of the UNSC to build pressure on Pakistan’s civilian government. In this connection, a suggestion made by CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat at the all-party meeting on Sunday must be taken seriously. It is to go — in the event of Pakistan failing to cooperate within a reasonable period after the evidence has been presented — to the United Nations Security Council in pursuance of Resolution 1373. The resolution, which was adopted in September 2001, makes a number of specific demands on all states to act against entities or persons involved in terrorist acts. These include taking “the necessary steps to prevent the commission of terrorist acts,” providing early warning to other states by exchange of information, denying safe haven to those involved with terrorism and bringing them to justice, and assisting other states in connection with “criminal investigations or criminal proceedings relating to the financing or support of terrorist acts.” While Pakistan claims that it has proscribed the Lashkar, India is not alone in insisting that the terror group continues to operate under the flag of its parent political organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. New Delhi is likely to find a good deal of international support for pressing Islamabad to act in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1373.
Meanwhile, the new Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has the challenging job of showing some tangible progress in capability-development in the internal security arena. New Delhi has announced its intention to enhance coastal security and set up expert crisis management teams manned by National Security Guards in several cities. However, the government does not currently have the resources to train the additional personnel needed. Even if State police forces begin upgrading their technological skills and human resources today, it will be months before facilities can be built and instructors found. A Federal Investigation Agency (on the lines of the FBI) has been promised but it is unclear how this body will function better than existing organisations, which are under-staffed, under-trained, and underpaid. Finally, upgrading the intelligence-gathering facilities at both the Research and Analysis Wing and the Intelligence Bureau must be done on a priority basis. Every major terrorist attack has resulted in promises that are forgotten as soon as the grieving is done. India can only hope that Mr. Chidambaram will start to deliver where others have so badly failed.