Wednesday, June 29, 2011



Since India became independent in 1947, it has had four in-house and one inter-ministerial reviews on certain aspects of national security management.

2. The in-house reviews went into the deficiencies in national security management as noticed during the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, the Mizo uprising of 1966 and the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai. The inter-ministerial review by the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) headed by the late K.Subramanyam in 1999 went into the operational deficiencies noticed during the Kargil military conflict in 1999.

3. Of the five reviews held since 1947, three were totally Pakistan-centric, one of 1962 was China-centric and one was terrorism-related. All the previous reviews were the result of perceptions of failures in national security management which led to specific situations having a detrimental impact on national security.

4. All of them were essentially post-mortems with restricted terms of reference. They did bring about significant modifications or additions to the national security architecture--- such as the creation of the Directorate-General of Security after the 1962 war to enhance our capabilities vis-à-vis China, the creation of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) after the 1965 war with Pakistan and the Mizo uprising, the creation of the National Security Council and its Secretariat, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) after the Kargil conflict and the National Investigation Agency and the proposed national intelligence grid after the 26/11 terrorist strikes.

5.All the major recommendations which came out of these previous reviews were implemented except one relating to the creation of the Chief of the Defence Staff system, which was not implemented reportedly due to differences amongst the three wings of the Armed Forces over the need for it.

6. Thus, the previous reviews did make significant contributions to a revamping of our national security architecture. However, since the previous reviews were triggered by perceptions of specific failures or deficiencies, they focussed on identifying the reasons for those failures and deficiencies and making necessary changes to prevent a repetition of those failures or deficiencies.

7. Since independence, there has never been a comprehensive, proactive strategic review of our national security management system, which will be futuristic and all-encompassing and not a panic reaction to past failures. Such a futuristic review has to project over different time-frames the threats to national security that could be expected in the future in the short, medium and long-terms, examine whether we have the required capabilities to be able to meet those threats, Identify existing deficiencies in capabilities, recommend action to remove them and suggest a time-frame for removing them.

8. Any futuristic exercise has to go beyond classical or conventional perceptions of national security management and the national security architecture. Its objective should be not only to enable us anticipate and meet future threats, but also to make a benign projection of our power abroad. National security management under the new context of India’s expected emergence as a major power of the region and ultimately of the world would involve identification of not only likely threats to our national security in the classical sense, but also likely hindrances to our emergence as a major power and recommending action to prevent or remove those hindrances.

9. The Government of Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh needs to be complimented for setting up a National Task Force headed by Shri Naresh Chandra to make a futuristic review of our national security management system and come out with appropriate recommendations. The Task Force, as constituted, has eminent persons who had occupied senior positions in the Armed Forces, the Intelligence Community and the Atomic Energy Commission, and also non-governmental experts.

10. Shri Naresh Chandra’s credentials for heading such a futuristic exercise are immense. He had served as the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary and ultimately retired as the Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India. He is thus familiar with the working of the Armed Forces and the intelligence community. He had served as the Indian Ambassador to the US at a difficult time and is thus not a stranger to the world of big power diplomacy. He had served and continues to serve in the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and was its convenor for some time. He is thus familiar with the deficiencies which have crept into the working of our national security management system since the Kargil review of 1999.

11. How useful is the futuristic exercise being attempted for the first time since 1947 would depend on the constitution of the Task Force, its Terms of Reference, its methods of work and concepts, and the co-operation that it is able to get from the serving national security managers of today. Unless one is able to convince the serving officers of today of the need for changes, reforms, new thinking and new concepts and ideas, even the best of Task Forces would fail to meet the objectives for which it was set up.

12. It is to be hoped that the Government would have carefully worked out the terms of reference of the Task Force. Its organisation, methods and concepts have to be decided by the Task Force itself. The Government would have and should have no role in the matter. The Task Force should devote the first month of its existence to a brain-storming with different sections of our national security management world in order to get its ideas and concepts right before plunging into the nuts and bolts of the exercise.

13. We tend to have an over-fascination for nuts and bolts and an allergy for concepts. The reports of such reviews ultimately turn out to be a plethora of nuts and bolts recommendations without a proper conceptual framework which could sustain our national security management system in the coming 10 years, if not longer. We should avoid this in carrying forward this important exercise. (30-6-11)

( 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: Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )




After a gap of three and a half years, Kabul saw another terrorist attack on an important hotel frequented by foreigners and local VIPs on the night of June 28,2011.

2. The previous attack had taken place on January 14, 2008, when a group of terrorists, believed to be from the Afghan Taliban, stormed the gymnasium of the most popular luxury hotel, the Serena, and killed eight persons, including an American, a Norwegian and a Philippino woman. A Norwegian delegation under Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre was staying in the hotel at the time of the attack. The Australian Embassy was functioning from the hotel.

3. The target of the latest attack was Hotel Intercontinental, which is not part of the international chain by the same name. A part of the hotel was undergoing renovation involving employment of labour. Police suspect that the terrorists might have taken advantage of this to circumvent access control and gain access to the hotel.

4. At the time of the attack, a wedding party was going on in the dining room of the hotel. A meeting of provincial Governors was to start at the hotel the next day.

5. A total of nine terrorists, carrying explosive devices and wielding hand-held weapons, participated in the attack. All of them died during the operation, which lasted about five hours. After the attack started, the security forces, who were wearing night-vision devices, switched off the power supply to the hotel. This gave the security forces an operational advantage over the terrorists.

6. The attack resembled the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, which involved, inter alia, attacks on two hotels, in two respects and differed in two other respects. The resemblances were regarding the selection of a hotel frequented by foreigners as a target and the use of a mix of modus operandi involving the use of explosive devices and hand-held weapons.

7. The important differences were that it was not a swarm tactics involving well orchestrated attacks on multiple targets located at different places by multiple teams of terrorists thereby forcing the security forces to scatter their resources. It was a single target attack by a single team of terrorists. Moreover, whereas in Mumbai, there was a conscious attempt to take hostages in order to prolong the exchange of fire with the security forces, there was no such attempt in the Kabul attack.

8. Since 9/11, there have been terrorist attacks on international hotels and places of entertainment visited by tourists at some places--- twice each in Bali and Jakarta, and once each in Mombasa, Sharm-el-Sheikh, Islamabad and Mumbai. Hotels and places of entertainment for foreign tourists become favoured targets of terrorist groups because of the international publicity the attacks provide and the impact on the tourist economy.

9. Disruption of the tourist economy does not appear to have been the main motive of the Kabul attack of June 28. The objectives seem to have been to demonstrate the continuing capability of the terrorists to penetrate security barriers in Kabul and the weaknesses of the Afghan security forces and to call into question US claims of making progress in the counter-insurgency operations against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. While the Afghan Taliban has made an as yet unsubstantiated claim for the attack, the possibility of the involvement of the Haqqani network has not been ruled out by the authorities.

10. The available details of the attack are as follows: According to Afghan security officials, the attack was initiated by two suicide bombers. One of them blew himself up at the front of the hotel and the other on the second floor. Three attackers managed to reach the roof of the hotel. They were killed by a NATO helicopter. One of the attackers took shelter in a room. After an exchange of fire with the security forces, he blew himself up. As he did so, two policemen and a Spanish guest of the hotel, a commercial pilot, were killed. The details relating to the killing of the other three terrorists are not available. A total of 11 civilians and two policemen were killed in the attack.

11. The attack once again highlighted the difficulties faced by security forces and private security companies in providing effective physical security in hotels. Excessive deployment of armed security personnel might deter foreign tourists from staying in the hotel. Inadequate security could make the hotel a tempting target for the terrorists. ( 29-6-11)

( 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: .Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )