Thursday, February 18, 2010



The strongly-presumed hand of Mossad, the Israeli external intelligence agency, in the successful neutralisation of a Damascus-based leader of the Hamas (Mahmoud al- Mabhouh ) while he was on a visit to Dubai in January last has come in the wake of other suspected covert actions of the Mossad in recent months, which were directed against Iranian nuclear scientists, who were reportedly playing a role in the development of the uranium enrichment technology.

2.While all these operations succeeded in eliminating the intended targets who posed a threat to Israel's national security, those directed against the Iranian scientists were copybook examples of covert actions whereas the one against the Hamas leader was not.The Mossad was able to maintain the total deniability of its strikes against the Iranian scientists.Till today, Iranian intelligence officials and police investigators have not been able to find out what happened. Apart from allegations, they have no evidence of the involvement of the Mossad, which has taken care not to leave any trace of its involvement.

3. In the case of the Dubai operation, the deniability has been weak and many tell-tale traces left behind by those who participated in the alleged elimination of the Hamas leader have enabled the Dubai Police to reconstruct in a fairly convincing manner what happened.The employment of an unusually large team of agents for carrying out the action and their inability to make the closed circuit TV in the hotel non-functional have enabled the Dubai police to make a break-through in the investigation.

4. The fact that the Mossad agents decided to go ahead with the operation despite their inability to make the CCTV non-functional strongly speaks of local collusion in the covert action. Since the CCTV was presumably functioning, those in the security control room of the hotel who would have been monitoring the CCTV, would have definitely noticed the Mossad agents forcing their way into the room of the Hamas leader. The fact that they did not raise an alarm for hours, which enabled the Mossad agents to flee Dubai without being intercepted, is an indicator of collusion in the hotel.

5.Even when they travel incognito, Hamas leaders are usually accompanied by at least one person from their security set-up who takes up a room opposite the room occupied by the leader so that they could keep a look-out for any attempt to break into the room of the leader. The fact that no one intervened as the Mossad agents forced their way into the room indicates that either there was collusion by Hamas elements too or the Mossad agents had neutralised the security detail of the Hamas leader before attacking him.

6.The entire story of the covert action will never come out.Particulars of any collusion will remain unknown for some time to come.

7.The Dubai operation of the Mossad was not copy-book perfect, but it was a successful operation in the sense that the agency eliminated a worrying threat to Israel's national security and to the lives of Israeli citizens and other Jewish persons.It was an attack carried out in exercise of the right of self-defence of the Israeli nation and people.

8. Laws of all countries---including India---- provide this right of self-defence and this rigt can be exercised by individuals as well as States.

9. Those opposed to covert actions might argue that despite the repeated resort to covert actions against identified enemies of the State of Israel and its people, Israel has not succeeded in eliminating terrorism and in countering effectively States like Iran which are determined to destroy Israel. Another way of looking at it is that but for such covert actions Israel and the Jewish people might have been forced to their knees by now by their enemies. It is such successful covert actions which have enabled the State of Israel to survive and even flourish.

10.The importance of selective covert actions to ensure the security of a State and its people has been recognised by many States----democratic and authoritarian. Some States----such as the US and Israel---admit that they have a covert action capability. Others don't, but they maintain the capability clandestinely. Pakistan is an example of a State in Asia which has over the years maintained an effective covert action capability for use against India. It has followed the model of other rogue States such as North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iraq of Saddam Hussain and Sudan in using terrorism as a way of waging a covert warfare.

11. Since 1997, India has been a pathetic victim of Pakistan's covert actions waged through different terrorist organisations. Pakistan has been using terrorism as a means of covert action against India since 1981.Between 1981 and 1997, India was retaliating in its own limted manner. The policy of covert retaliation was stopped in 1997 and has been totally discarded since then.

12. None of the Indian Prime Ministers in office since 1997 has had the political will to revert to a policy of at least limited retaliation against the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and its terrorist surrogates. The result has been that our national security has been continuously endangered and our people have been dying in their hundreds. When Pakistan, through its intelligence agencies and terrorist surrogates, has been waging a relentless covert warfare against India, we cannot protect the State and the people merely by revamping our counter-terrorism atchitecture.

13. Unless we create a capability for retaliatory covert actions in a deniable manner and use that capability we will continue to bleed.

14. Between 1981 and 1997, the Prime Ministers in office followed a dual policy of "talk, talk, hit, hit" against Pakistan. They never fought shy of talking to Pakistani leaders and officials. At the same time, they never missed an opportunity to undermine the State of Pakistan covertly in retaliation against its covert actions against India.

15. Since 1997, our policy has been reduced to one of talk, talk and more talk with no retaliation even covertly. Our political leadership and large sections of our bureaucracy have no concept of the importance of covert action in an assymetric proxy war.That is the tragedy of our country. ( 19-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: )



Three prestigious global sports events are scheduled to take place in India between now and the end of the year---the World Cup Hockey, the IPL Cricket League and the Commonwealth Games.

2. These events will atract the attention of not only the sports enthusiasts of the world, but also of the terrorists with a global oran anti-Indian agenda who will look upon the events as an opportunity to publicise their cause and to demonstrate their capability to take the intelligence and security agencies by surprise. Even if they are not able to carry out any terrorist strike on the ground, they will try to create feelings of insecurity in the minds of sports enthusiasts and the general public by the spread of rumours, issue of threats and other means.

3.The Internet and the E-mail have placed at their disposal means of spreading nervousness through threats disseminated electronically in the names of well-known terrorist organisations. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to establish the authenticity of such mails and the seriousness of such threats. At the same time, it will be unwise not to factor them into our security planning just because their authenticity could not be established.

4. It is incumbent on all those------ whether governmental or non-governmental experts, sports enthusiasts or the general public--- who are determined to defeat terrorism not to let themselves be intimidated by such rumours and threats. They should go ahead with their administrative, logistics and security arrangements for these events and ensure that these events are held successfuly undeterred by the despicable attempts of the terrorists to sow the seeds of fear.

5. The moment we let ourselves be intimidated and unnerved by the tactics of the terrorists we will be paving the way for more terrorism in the world. Defiance in the face of intimidation should be our motto.

6. While thus maintaining our equanimity, we should ensure that our security planning leaves nothing to chance and that every security-related contingency is catered for. The intelligence and the physical security agencies of the Government should work in tandem and in close co-ordination with those in the organisations responsible for organising these events, who would be in charge of physical security.

7. Access control, venue security, route security and the security of the general public in the towns and cities where these events will be held should receive priority attention from those responsible for security. Strict access control at the place of stay of the participants, along the routes by which they will be moving to and fro, and at the venue of the events would go a long way in thwarting any plans by terrorists or other mischievous elements to disrupt the events.

8. The intelligence agencies will have, as always, an important role to play in enabling the physical security agencies to provide effective security by stepping up their intelligence collection efforts through intensified street patrolling, thorough local enquiries at transport hubs and places of stay such as hotels, inns etc and through technical means. We should not fight shy of seeking the assistance and co-operation of intelligence agencies of friendly countries well disposed towards India for supplementing our intelligence collection efforts.

9.Any equipment and other technical capacity shortages should be immediately identified and the deficiencies removed through our own efforts and resources or through the co-operation of friendly governments.

10. We are fotunate that these events will be taking place at a time when we will not be preoccupied with other high-level security commitments. We should be able to devote our undivided and undiluted attention to the security of the coming events and there should be no shortage of manpower for this purpose.

11. The quality of the supervision over the security arrangements would be of the highest importance. The Government of India, in consultation with the State Governments and the central intelligence and security agencies, should mobilise the services of the best officers in physical security, who have proved themelves in the past, for supervising the arrangements. (18-2-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )