Wednesday, May 18, 2011



More than two years after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai and the setting-up of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Government of India continues to have a shoddy counter-terrorism data-base.

2. That is the inevitable conclusion from the current controversy over an embarrassing professional and diplomatic faux pas relating to the alleged inclusion of the name of Wazhul Kamar Khan, a terrorism suspect living on bail with his family in Thane in Maharashtra, in a list of 50 terrorism suspects allegedly enjoying sanctuary in Pakistan. This list was reportedly given by the Government of India to the Interior Ministry of Pakistan some weeks ago and had remained a secret till now. This list was released to the media by the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of India after the Abbottabad raid by US naval commandos, which led to the death of Osama bin Laden. The belated release of the list was seen by many as an attempt by our Home Ministry to step up pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorism suspects wanted in India and allegedly sheltered in Pakistan.

3. The fact that Wazhul Kamar Khan's name was mistakenly included in the list was discovered not by the counter-terrorism agencies of India or Pakistan, but by Mateen Hafeez, a well-reputed journalist of the " Times of India". His investigative report was carried by the paper on May 17,2011.Our MHA and retired officers of the intelligence and investigating agencies appearing in TV debates have uncomfortably tied themselves in knots in trying to explain away or rationalise this faux pas. They have been projecting it as a clerical or human error, which does sometimes take place in Government and urging that one should not make a mountain of a mole hil and captalise on this unfortunate error to discredit our agencies.

4. There is nothing mala fide about the inclusion of the name of this suspect. It was not an instance of a fabrication of evidence against him or Pakistan in an attempt to fix Pakistan. At the same time, this error indicates serious deficiencies in our counter-terrorism data-base which should cause concern to our policy-makers. It would also cause concern to the international intelligence and investigating community and add to the suspicions that they already have about the credibility of our investigation process and about our allegations regarding Pakistan giving shelter to Indian terrorists.

5. Our credibility as professional counter-terrorism experts will be weakened by this serious error. A terrorism suspect had been arrested in Maharashtra. He had been gven bail by a court. He was living with his family. And, yet, the Government of India in New Delhi was not aware of it and its data-base indicated that he had been sheltered in Pakistan. That is why his name found its way into the dossier given to Pakistan.

6. At the time the dossier was prepared for being handed over to Pakistan, none any of the agencies of the Government of India or of the Government of Maharashtra would appear to have detected this embarrassing mistake. This would clearly show that there was no co-ordination in the preparation of the dossier. Nor was there any effective supervision of the process and any proper vetting of the dossier before the decision to hand it over to Pakistan was taken. In our anxiety to embarrass Pakistan, the whole exercise seems to have been handled in a very casual manner.

7. Other countries would be greatly concerned by this faux pas and by our casual approach for one very important reason. After the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, there was a demand in India for a retaliatory strike on the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan from which these attacks had emanated. The Government of Dr.Manmohan Singh managed to resist the demand from some sections of the public for a retaliatory strike.

8.If there is another 26/11 ( God forbid), the demand for a retalitory strike against the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan could be revived. For such a strike to be effective, it has to be based on an accurate data-base of the infrastructure in Pakistan. If this incident indicates the shoddy state of our data-base, by ordering a retaliatory strike on the basis of a shoddy data-base we might create a messy situation and find ourselves in an indefensible position before the international community.

9. Instead of minimising the implications of the faux pas and dismissing it as a human error sometimes unavoidable, we must tale the matter much more seriously than we seem to be doing so far, try to find out how the whole thing happened and take the required corrective action. Our reputation as professional CT experts is at stake in the eyes of the international community. ( 19-5-11)

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



I completed my quarterly anti-cancer evaluation on May 18,2011, after undergoing a series of lab tests ---blood, urine, ultrasound of the entire abdomen, chest X-ray etc--- since May12. At the end of them all, I had my seventh quarterly shot.

2. The progress is encouraging. My body has been responding well to the therapy and tolerating it without any major side effects. Twenty months after the cancer was detected, it has remained confined to the urinary tract and is showing no tendency to spread outside. Even in the urinary tract, it is showing signs of shrinking. My prostate, where the roots initially appeared, is free of them now. My doc told me today that the big-size, high-grade cancer in my prostate has miraculously disappeared.The lab had mentioned in the report that there is a lesion in my bladder, which needed investigation. The doc feels that it could be the scar left by the diagnostic procedure which he had done in October 2009. He would wait for a few months more before coming to any conclusion. My next hospital visit will be on August 18. I have been advised to continue with the hormonal therapy as before.

3. I feel happy. I feel good. But I am avoiding any feelings of exaltation. As one reaches the age of 75, the health gets into a zig-zag mode, whatever be the illness. One can never say when a zig can turn into a zag and vice versa.

4. Keep going so long as the going is good. I have been leading a normal life from the day the cancer was detected 20 months ago. The only two changes I have made are to drastically cut down my drinking ---only on social occasions now --- and to avoid foreign travels. The doc has been encouraging me for over a year now to resume my foreign travels. He has repeated the recommendation. Will decide in July.

5. Let me thank all of you in the real world of flesh and blood as well as in the world of tweets who have held my hand in these months. God bless all of you. (18-5-11)