In India’s post 26/11 response, a template Israel can follow - Hindustan Times
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In India’s post 26/11 response, a template Israel can follow

Nov 27, 2023 09:00 AM IST

Consider the ramifications if India had responded with an all-out attack highlighting that effective governance demands strategic acumen.

Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks wherein 10 terrorists from Pakistan had wreaked havoc in Mumbai. The 60-odd hours that followed were a saga of struggle and helplessness.

Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks wherein 10 terrorists from Pakistan had wreaked havoc in Mumbai. The 60-odd hours that followed were a saga of struggle and helplessness.(Hindustan Times) PREMIUM
Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 26/11 attacks wherein 10 terrorists from Pakistan had wreaked havoc in Mumbai. The 60-odd hours that followed were a saga of struggle and helplessness.(Hindustan Times)

First came the struggle. The initial moments of the assault misled the police; they mistook it to be a gang war. However, reality soon dawned on them as eight different locations came under attack. Chaos ensued, and members of the anti-terrorism squad of the Maharashtra Police and civilian officers were seen frantically running about where the attacks occurred. Indian Police Service officers Hemant Karkare, Vijay Salaskar, and Ashok Kamte lost their lives in the attacks — an unprecedented loss in any encounter in any Indian metropolis.

Despite the loss, the morale of the Mumbai Police remained high. They valiantly fought on multiple fronts despite a paucity of resources. ASI Tukaram Omble’s confrontation with Ajmal Kasab, armed with only a baton, became a historic moment. Kasab’s capture was a milestone in the history of counter-terror operations. It was the first instance of a terrorist being apprehended alive after such an attack and provided undeniable evidence of Pakistan’s sinister intentions.

Now, let us come to the helplessness experienced during the attacks.

Initially, the navy’s marine commandos (Marcos) were summoned to end the Taj Hotel siege. Eventually, the National Security Guard (NSG) took charge and ended the siege three days later with the elimination of all the terrorists there. The significant loss of life and property in the attack dealt a severe blow to Indian pride and dignity. It raised concerns about the vulnerabilities of our security apparatus, neglect of maritime borders, and the deployment of anti-terrorism squads.

It was a learning experience for the government. For instance, the NSG was previously stationed solely in Gurugram, which caused delays in its deployment in Mumbai. After the attack, four centres were established in different parts of the country. Anti-terrorism squads and intelligence units across various states were fortified. Also, essential equipment was allocated to the Navy and Coast Guard to bolster security along maritime borders.

The capture of Kasab gave the foreign affairs ministry a strategic advantage. The evidence it handed over to major countries unmasked Pakistan’s deceitful nature and resulted in the diplomatic isolation of that country.

Today, I am not recalling 26/11 as a ritual. On October 7, as I was watching the Hamas attack on Israel on TV, the Mumbai attack kept coming to my mind. For decades, Israel’s army, and its spy agency Mossad have been the epitomes of efficiency. Despite this, they were unable to halt the attack. The police and security forces in Israel were too slow to respond. Doubts have also been raised about Israel’s retaliatory measures. I’m not saying Tel Aviv didn’t have the right to retaliate, but Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates displayed the same arrogance that George W. Bush had shown in declaring war on Afghanistan after 9/11. Israel is now locked in Gaza indefinitely. It will have to invest an enormous amount of resources for a long time to sustain its offensive. Would it have been better if Israel had used intelligence and diplomatic tactics to eliminate Hamas?

India’s approach in this regard serves as a notable example. Following 26/11, then PM Manmohan Singh had conveyed to Pakistan’s then president, Asif Ali Zardari: “I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.” Also, various direct and indirect messages directed at Islamabad proved to be impactful.

PM Narendra Modi has continued to bolster this stance more resolutely. Following the loss of 18 soldiers in Uri, the Indian government executed a surgical strike, and after the sacrifice of 40 Central Reserve Police Force soldiers in Pulwama, an air strike on Balakot sent a clear message that talks would be replaced by decisive action. Both strikes were closely overseen by Modi himself, marking a distinct and effective shift in India’s policy. It’s noteworthy that since Pulwama, there hasn’t been a major terrorist incident of that magnitude in the country.

Consider the ramifications if India had responded with an all-out attack. It underscores that effective governance demands not just fervour but also strategic acumen.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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