Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Indian security experts survey post-Osama scene

Part of this report appeared in the DNA Mumbai on May 4, 2011

New Delhi: Security experts have assessed the elimination of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by United States' Navy Seals – part of the special forces – in interesting and diverse ways. The only thing they agreed on is that there is no political will in India to take the hard decision.

Says Ajai Sahni, an expert on terrorism and internal security, “Which political leader in India will sign an executive order directing the killing of a terrorist wherever he is found the way president Barack Obama did? We are not even willing to execute a terrorist who has been convicted by the Supreme Court in the case of attack on parliament.”

On the issue whether India is a soft state which is incapable of hard decisions, Sahni said, “It is not a question of a hard state or a soft state. In India we have a dysfunctional state.”

Gen. V.P. Malik, former army chief, argues about the absence of political will but in the administrative and strategic sense. He says that in the American system, there is perfect coordination between the state department, defense department and the intelligence agencies. The special forces, of which the Navy seals are a part, work under a single command which does not exist in the Indian forces. They all work closely with each other. In India, Malik says, the armed forces, the foreign service, the intelligence agencies, the national security advisor operate in watertight compartments. One does not consult the other, and they do not know what the other is doing.

Malik emphasised that political leaders will have to take interest and understand military operations as do American presidents, and the generals will have to understand the political implications of military moves.

Both Malik and Sahni agreed that India cannot be compared to the United States. What Washington can do and get away with, New Delhi will not be able to do. But there are ways of acting against terror in the regional context. Malik said, “We need not send forces to Rawalpindi or Karachi. But we can certainly attack the terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). We have the capability even now to do that.”

Sahni suggests a subversive option. He says that once the external intelligence agency is given a green signal, it will succeed in getting the most wanted terrorist connected with the March 1993 bomb blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, now in Pakistan, eliminated without much ado. “They will hire the hit-men, and of course it would need careful planning but it will be done,” he says.

Malik asserts there is no evidence at this stage that there was any deal between Pakistan army chief Ashraf Pervez Kayani. He says that one of the key aspects of the operation against Osama was its meticulous planning and complete secrecy. “They took their time to gather the information, but there was absolutely no leakage of that information. That rules out the involvement of the Pakistan army at any stage – either of planning or execution.”

Gen. Ashok Mehta, who served in Sri Lanka and a security expert, rules out any secret deal between Pakistan army and the Americans. He says that the American helicopters might have actually flown from somwehere in Pakistan and so escaped detection on the radar. He says Americans have helicopters which can do 'nap flying' or 'tree-top level flying' which is below the radar detection level. Malik and Mehta rule out the participation of Pakistan army in the operation.

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