Friday, September 9, 2011



Dear Mr.Fareed Zakaria,

I read with considerable interest extracts from your interview to the CNN-IBN on counter-terrorism in which, inter alia, you have compared the track record of the Indian counter-terrorism community with that of the US.

2. has reported on your CNN-IBN interview as follows: “

“ When looking at the capacity and talents of intelligence agencies around the world, I don't think anyone has spoken highly about the Indian intelligence agencies.

“As a matter of reporting, India's counter-terrorism operations are not regarded very high. This is an area India has not focused on a great deal.

“India has not done good because as it has a large Muslim population, but again India's police force is pathetic. Look at Mumbai -- India's police force is not a police force -- it is a patronage job that is given to people to support communities, they don't know how to police.”

3. Before I comment substantively on your observations, I must introduce myself: I was an officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS). I joined the IPS in 1961 and retired in August,1994, after having served for about four years in the Madhya Pradesh Police, one year in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the Government of India and 26 years in the Research & Analysis Wing ( R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency. When I was in service, the R&AW had two divisions dealing with terrorism----one with indigenous terrorism --- what many now call home-grown terrorism--- and the other with international terrorism. I headed the Division dealing with indigenous terrorism from 1981 to 1985 and headed both the Divisions from 1988 till my retirement in 1994. Between 1991 and 1994, I used to wear a second hat as the head of the division responsible for intelligence liaison with foreign intelligence agencies. In that capacity, I had interacted closely with the intelligence agencies of the US and the UK----particularly in matters relating to counter-terrorism.”

4. The Indian track-record in counter-terrorism is not one of abysmal failure. We have had remarkable success stories particularly against Khalistani terrorism in Punjab and against the terrorism of Al Umma in Tamil Nadu. In both these instances, it was the local police force which led the counter-terrorism operations and won final victory despite all the handicaps suffered by it. In Jammu and Kashmir too--- though final victory has not yet been won--- the Indian counter-terrorism forces led by the Army have succeeded remarkably in bringing what we call cross-border terrorism under control.

5. The poor track-record of the Indian counter-terrorism community has been mainly against jihadi terrorism in North India.

6. We have had instances of jihadi terrorism in the South too in places such as Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh and Bengaluru. In the 1990s, we had the Al Umma phenomenon in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

7.The police in South India has generally done better against terrorism emanating from the Muslim community than the Police in North/West India because the political class and the media in the South have generally refrained from demonising the Police and the intelligence agencies whenever they have acted against Muslims who have taken to terrorism. The Police in the South has, therefore, the confidence that it can do whatever is legally permissible in order to bring terrorism involving the participation of some Muslims under control.

8. Thankfully, in the South, there has been no politicisation till now of counter-terrorism which affected some members of the Muslim community. Unfortunately, there was politicisation of counter-terrorism directed against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). We paid a heavy price for it in May 1991, when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by the LTTE in Chennai. Since then, this politicisation too has come down.

9. In North and West India, the admittedly poor record of the counter-terrorism community against jihadi terrorism---whether of the home-grown or Pakistani variety--- has been considerably due to the reluctance of the political class to act against the terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan and its equal reluctance to act against those members of the Muslim community who take to terrorism.

10. It is very unfair on your part to have compared the track-record of the Indian counter-terrorism community with that of the US. Many things which are permitted against Muslims in the US will not be permitted in India and we in the counter-terrorism community feel should not be permitted by the political leadership. Examples of what we in India do not do and will never do are:
• Treating a Muslim as a suspect by virtue of his religion and appearance unless proved otherwise. Shah Rukh Khan, the famous Indian film actor, was treated as a suspect in the US. Such things will not happen in India.
• Treating jihadi suspects as “war criminals” and keeping them in a military camp (Guantanamo Bay) and subjecting them to trials by military tribunals.
• Use of air strikes against terrorists and their sanctuaries, killing a large number of innocent Muslims. Since India became independent in 1947, we have used the Air Force only once in Mizoram in 1966 when the Mizo insurgents over-ran almost the entire State.
• The so-called rendition flights by which the US counter-terrorism agencies kept flying Muslim suspects arrested abroad from country to country in order to avoid having to produce them before a court of law.
• The extraordinary methods of torture sanctified by the US Justice department that were used against Muslim suspects---whether in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

11. I am proud to say that neither the Indian political class nor the Indian counter-terrorism community would ever think of resorting to such diabolical methods. Even if we thought of them, the Indian media would have been the first to start a campaign against them.

12.Mr.Zakaria, how many of you in the US media world raised your voice against these methods when these were being used in the years after 9/11. Did you raise your voice against them, Mr.Zakaria? You all believed that any method is a good method against Muslim suspects till Al Qaeda is brought under control.

13. We have a self-denying counter-terrorism policy. We consciously deny to ourselves many practices which you in the US permit to yourselves in your counter-terrorism against Muslim suspects. We are proud of such self-denying provisions in our counter-terrorism policy.

14.One last point, I should make. India is next door neighbour to Pakistan. Much of our jihadi terrorism emanates from Pakistan. The US is thousands of KMs away from Pakistan. We face a terrorist threat from Pakistan every day. You face a threat sporadically. And yet, the kind of methods that you have used against Pakistan we have never used. We fight against terrorism emanating from Pakistan with one hand tied in the back.

15. It is not only because our political leadership will not permit it, but it is also because of the hypocrisy of the US Government which will use any methods against Pakistan in order to protect the US Homeland and American lives, but never hesitates to come in the way of India following a similar policy to protect the Indian Homeland and Indian lives.

With regards,

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 .

Mr.Fareed Zakaria,
Time Magazine,
New York




It has been reported that two claims of responsibility have been received by the investigating authorities in the wake of the explosion outside the Delhi High Court on September 7,2011. Both claims have been made through E-mails sent from cyber cafes. The first E-mail purports to be from the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the second from the Indian Mujahideen (IM). The authenticity of the two E-mails has not so far been established.

2. The HUJI, which came into existence during the Afgfhan jihad against the Soviet troops in the 1980s, has a presence in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. The Pakistani branch is referred to by terrorism experts as HUJI and the Bangladesh branch as HUJI ( B ).

3.The HUJI, with which Ilyas Ibrahim of the so-called 313 Brigade used to be associated, was active in Jammu & Kashmir, but not in Indian territory outside J&K. HUJI (B) was active in the Indian territory outside J&K, but not in J & K.

4.The Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police, which investigated two explosions at a Hindu temple and a local railway station at Varanasi on March 7,2006, announced on April 5,2006, that its investigation had established that the two explosions were carried out by three terrorists of the HUJI (B), with local help provided by one Walilullah, the Imam of a mosque at Phulpur in Allahabad, and five other Indian Muslims.

5.While Walilullah and the five other Indian Muslims, who had helped the three terrorists from Bangladesh, were arrested, the three terrorists, who actually carried out the explosions, managed to escape to Bangladesh after carrying out the terrorist strikes. Twenty innocent civilians were killed in the two explosions. The UP Police described Walilullah as the Eastern UP Area Commander of HUJI (B).

6.In a confessional statement, Walilullah reportedly cited the demolition of the Babri Masjid in UP in December 1992 by a Hindu mob and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in February,2002, as the reasons for the terrorist strikes against the temple and at the railway station. He projected the twin blasts as acts of reprisal terrorism. He gave the names of the three persons, who came from Bangladesh to carry out the explosions, as Bashiruddin alias Bashir,Mustafiz and Zakaria, all Bangladeshi nationals. According to his version, they had studied along with him at the Deoband seminary in UP some years ago and he had been in touch with them since then.

7.Walilullah had once been arrested by the Allahabad Police in 2001 on suspicion of his links with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) of Pakistan. He was released after eight months without being prosecuted. Bashiruddin took him to Bangladesh in June 2004 and introduced him to one Maulana Asadullah of HUJI (B), who enrolled him into the organisation and appointed him as its Area Commander for Eastern UP.

8. The other five Indian Muslims arrested were Syed Shuib and Farhaan (Lucknow), Mohammad Rizwan Siddiqui and Mohammad Saad Ali (Amroha) and Shahid (Allahabad). They were working in a power loom in Bhiwandi near Mumbai. All the arrested Indian Muslims were reported to have confessed that they had visited Pakistan via Bangladesh for training in jihadi terrorism, organised by Maulana Asadullah.

9. A child was killed in an explosion in Varanasi on December 7, 2010, a day after the anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. An e-mailed message purporting to be from the IM--- carrying the December 6 dateline, but sent on December 7--- claimed responsibility for the attack. It projected the attack as in reprisal against a court judgement relating to the ownership of the land on which the Babri Masjid stood. The Muslims felt aggrieved by the judgement which they saw as based on Hindu religious beliefs and not on provable evidence. They expressed their determination to have it set aside by a higher court.

10.Incidents of violence were feared by the UP police on the day the judgement was delivered by the court, but nothing untoward happened. A delayed violent act of reprisal came on December 7, 2010, from unidentified elements claiming to be from the IM. The message purporting to be from the IM expressed the determination of the IM to keep up its fight on the Babri Masjid issue.

11.The HUJI (B) came into existence in 1992 after the Afghan Mujahideen captured power in Kabul in April,1992, after overthrowing the then Afghan President Najibullah. It was set up by a group of Bangladeshi nationals, who had fought against the forces of the Najibullah Government after having undergone jihadi training in Pakistan. The formation of the HUJI (B) was announced at a press conference in April 1992 by a group of Afghan war veterans. It was projected as a successor to a first Bangladeshi Mujahideen group that had been formed in 1984 by Commander Abdur Rahman, for fighting against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He later reportedly died in the Afghan War in 1989.

12.Instructors from the HUJI (B) used to be attached to the training camps of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) near the Tirupura border. It was suspected that the attack on the security guards outside the US Consulate at Kolkata in January,2002, was orchestrated by HUJI (B), in collaboration with the JEM and the Lashkar-e-Toiba, under the name the Asif Reza Commando Force (ARCF). Aftab Ansari alias Aftab Ahmed alias Farhan Malik, the prime accused in the attack, was in touch not only with the office-bearers of these organisations in Pakistan, but also with Omar Sheikh, who had masterminded the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl, the US journalist.

13. While there has so far been no evidence of institutional contacts between the HUJI (B ) and the IM, some members of the Muslim community in UP had facilitated the terrorist strikes of HUJI ( B ) in Varanasi in March 2006. The present contacts of HUJI ( B ) in India---particularly in UP -- need to be re-examined in the light of the nine terrorist strikes since 26/11 which have remained undetected. ( 9-9-11)

(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)