Sunday, February 14, 2010


FEBRUARY 14, 2010, 12:47 P.M. ET

An Antiterror Wake-Up Call


India suffered its first major terrorist attacks since the 2008 Mumbai massacre Saturday with the bombing of a popular bakery in Pune. While the death toll, currently at nine, doesn't approach the 166 killed in Mumbai, the incident should provoke a rethink of the speed with which New Delhi revamps its approach to the war on terror.

Saturday's attack was a single act of terrorism directed at a soft target. It was not an act of suicidal terrorism, as the bomber left a backpack under a table and then left the building. The device may have been timed or remotely activated. The explosion took place when one of the bakery's clients tried to open the backpack. Such attacks require access to explosive material and basic knowledge of how to assemble a bomb. The terrorist may not have had any special expertise or training.

The Pune incident is unfortunately not a single event. India suffered a wide range of terrorist attacks by different individuals and groups over the years. The 2008 Mumbai massacre was a commando-style attack perpetrated by 10 Pakistani terrorists on multiple targets, and lasted three days. Between November 2007 and September 2008, a group of Muslims calling themselves the Indian Mujahedeen carried out a series of well-orchestrated serial explosions in various cities, including Jaipur and Bangalore.

After the Mumbai attacks, the Congress Party-led government considerably strengthened the country's counterterrorism machinery. Home Minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram has strengthened the capability of the special intervention forces, such as the National Security Guards, to put down commando-style attacks quickly by deploying them in important cities, instead of keeping them concentrated in New Delhi as was done before the Mumbai massacre. Mr. Chidambaram has introduced greater cohesion in the functioning of the intelligence agencies and personally coordinated follow-up action on the data collected.

Further, he has created a National Investigation Agency to investigate serious terrorist attacks with national ramifications. He has proposed the creation of a National Counterterrorism Center and a Ministry for Internal Security patterned after America's Department of Homeland Security. When these institutions are eventually created, all agencies responsible for counterterrorism would function under a single command. Mr. Chidambaram himself would oversee the entire apparatus.

Saturday's successful explosion at Pune shows the measures already taken by the government have not been as effective as hoped. Pune was known to be a target for terrorists. America's Federal Bureau of Investigation has been looking into frequent visits to India by David Headley, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin based in Chicago who belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba network and is alleged to have played a role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Mr. Headley is alleged to have scouted out possible targets in New Delhi and Pune, including an ashram close to the bakery attacked Saturday.

India's own National Investigation Agency undertook a separate investigation into Mr. Headley. The NIA's investigation identified other potential targets, such as a Jewish religious and cultural center—also located close to Saturday's attack—that was similar to the center attacked in Mumbai in 2008.

Pune has many technical universities and other institutions of learning which attract Muslim students from abroad. Many of Pune's Muslim youths interact with these students, and are becoming radicalized. Three members of the Indian Mujahedeen—information technology experts—were drawn from Pune's Muslim community.

Given this evidence, the government should have moved proactively to strengthen physical security in the area, in coordination with the owners of the vulnerable private establishments. According to Mr. Chidambaram, they were alerted about their vulnerability, but nothing more seems to have been done to help them in preventing a terrorist attack. There were too few arrests and interrogations of individuals associated with Mr. Headley.

All this shows that Mr. Chidambaram might have created the right institutional infrastructure for dealing with terrorism, but this infrastructure is yet to start working in a coordinated and effective manner. The result is that India's preventive capability continues to be weak. Institutions are important, but it is even more important to make them work as they should.

Mr. Raman served in India's external intelligence agency from 1968 to 1994 and on the National Security Advisory Board of the government of India from 2000 to 2002.

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...


Why worry. We have an excellent congress home minister right. P Chidambaram!!! He can deal with this stiuation better than the communal and bigotted NDA.

Like you said before, UPA1.0 was good. And UPA 2.0 is even better (Than communal NDA).

What makes you think we care for your opinions anymore? It would be better for you to shut up.

Optimistic Indian said...

@Raman :

I dont understand what good this would have made :

"the government should have moved proactively to strengthen physical security in the area,"

Would adding a few additional PCs in that area or patrolling in fact , changed anything that happened that day ?

Of course the intelligence machinery should have worked better , but I am still not sure how such attacks can be effectively thwarted with such absence of information !

ambi said...

I feel that Pakistan tested water how hot it is, by attacking Pune, just before the talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. Hence the intensity and no of casualties are low comparatively.
It might have used the local module of Indian Mujahidin for this so that no finger can be pointed at Pakistan as a state. And ‘it’ (these attacks) will be not termed as a terrorist acts but an indigenous struggle of Indian Muslim youths.
If talks go on with Pakistan despite this attack, then it will take it as green signal and launch large scale offensives against the state.
Buck stops at P Chidambaram. He is aright man at the right place at the right time. But surely that is not enough. What can one do about someone like our enlightened CM of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, who has other priorities like releasing ‘My Name Is Khan”, and as Economic Times reports, threatening personally to Multiplex Owners to release the film? Hardly anything.
P. Chidambaram & Manmohan Singh both are surely in the line of fire.
Both will lose the face in case of any further attack but the real loser will be America. Cause in case of further attacks, Manmohan Singh will face such a domestic Pressure, that no matter what little leverage US has in India, it will lose it.
Its really interesting time ahead. I am not sure of my safety, because I am living in Maharashtra and unfortunately I am not a Shahrukh khan Fan. Maharashtra State provides full security to Shahrukh Khan his family & friends & his fans only. May be King Khan should take initiative & just like state issues Voter ID cards, PAN Cards, so he should issue LSKF Cards i.e. Loyal Shahrukh Khan Fan Card. They can be issued from Mantralaya. One can just show it to police & ask for full police Security for free. It’s so simple.

n00b said...


So you really think even if the police has specific or almost specific intelligence input they will be prompted to pre-empt the attack?

Say they get information that some XYZ Khan is planning to plant a bomb. They arrest him beforehand. There will be a huge outcry against the officer that he has caught the man just because he is some "Khan".

Ishrat Jehan case, Batla house encounter or look at Madani, the police offer will not get praise but only fire for being effective.

They would rather let the blasts happen and then act.

shaan said...

As you said, Chidamabaram has done much but still he has to do more. India's police force has to be trained properly. Our policemen are good only to harass the public, demand bribes and shout at people.

The dialogue across civilizations said...

such a senior person and retired with no political ambitions could not rise above his political bias. God bless the motherland.

Anjaneya said...


thanks for putting things in perspective. It should remind our fearless leaders that its too early to start giving each other accolades.

@Chitrakut -
Raman gets paid for what he writes on WSJ, so obviously there are a whole lot of people who care about what he writes and thinks, or atleast more than those willing to pay you. By mouthing cliches such as "Communal NDA" you clearly display your ability for original thinking. So, someone needs to shut up and its not B Raman.

@Dialogue across...
Man, grow a pair. B Raman has written more articles than you know words in english. If you read his book, it is clear that his political affiliations, whatever they are, do not cloud his judgement and actions. he has the courage to call a spade a spade, unlike the sea of "yes men" suits that infest every nook of our UPA government today.

satya said...

Asia times has reported that 313 brigade an offshoot of alqaeda has claimed responsibility for the blasts(Ilias kasmiri being the key man).
As opposed to PC , other key congress leaders are busy pandering the separatism in muslims. The most effective way they have found is by visiting azamgarh (Digvijay singh)or bareily(Sheila dixit).For Ashok Chavan release of a stupid film is more important than any other thing(May be he had a percentage in the profits). Congress is a tainted lot. Shakeel ahmed is under suspicion for giving shelter to renegades of IM caught few days back. Meanwhile kasab & afzal are having great time in jails. Shame on congress.

Broadway said...

Raman sir,
Saw you on indian tonight. It seems pakistan plays two ways. It creates an environment in its country where radicalism is achieved without any help from the state. It also creates state sponsored terrorists. So if the little independent groups don't launch an attack, pakistan sponsored groups do that instead.

I think the pune blast is the result of these small independent jihadi groups. Pakistan's used state terrorism to force india to talk. So if the talks are already slated to happen, why would the ISI state sponsored groups attack india?

I'd like you to have a say on this by participating in the comment section.

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