Mumbai Terror

Got news of the terror attacks while on vacation. Some random thoughts while its still not over.

Never watch an India related news event through the eyes of CNN or any other US TV channel. Thank goodness for NDTV Live which worked surprisingly well from the hotel over broadband. Until, that is other people found out about it and it crashed.

But for print news I found myself going to BBC and New York Times. Why?

Why did Hemant Karkare, 54, head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad, have to go in on the encounter himself? Isn’t that a little unusual? But whatever the reason, I salute him for leading from the front. Many brave officers and policemen lost their lives yesterday in the line of duty.

There is no place remote enough in India where 30 terrorists who are suicidal could get training in automatic weapons and incendiary.

At least some of the terrorists would have had to “case the joints”, which means that they or some of them were in Mumbai recently to check out things like the rear entrance to the Taj, the petrol station in Colaba and how to get from point A to B.

Intelligence is going to get a lot of flak after this is over, regardless of how it ends. It is already, in the western media. The fragmentation of intelligence across state police departments and RAW and Military Intelligence is not a recipe for success. Internal and external are now seamlessly melded. Exactly the reason why the US had to create a department for Homeland Security.

Mumbai will always be a soft target for terrorism. Teeming millions, easy to get lost in. Huge coast line and an entrenched underworld some of whom have the wrong ideas about who the enemy is. The fact that it is the financial and commercial capital of the country makes it an attractive soft target.

Why does the NSG commando force have to be entirely in Delhi?

The media handling could have been much better. With so many “forces” involved in the rescue operations, coordination must have been very tricky, but we may never know how it was handled. But there should have been protocol set on how these things are handled with the media. Single point of contact, coordinated messaging from leaders, saying “that’s all we know at this point” or “that’s all we can share at this point” is much better than no information. The one thing that stood out in all the media coverage was that there were a lot of images, but no real information.

Risk premium in the short term will go up on

    Foreign travel to India and Mumbai
    Staying at the Taj, Oberoi and other high profile hotels
    Business in India
    Investing in India

Hawks will dominate the discussion in the next few weeks in India. The one thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a Pakistani government with a single purpose. There are many different government and non-governmental bodies who may or may not pay heed to the elected executive and legislature.


  1. With the predictable economic outcomes, I just hope that an unexpected administrative outcome too happens – the responsible authorities putting in place a robust structure to pre-empt these events and systematically dismantle the terror infrastructure.

    While there is obvious anger at this time, the nagging feeling is that we seem nowhere close to preventing a recurrence…


  2. Satya says:

    My Belief: This is not the failure of political leaders (who are no less than terrorists now-a-days if what had happened and happening now in Mumbai by some regional leaders is of any indication to anyone) or intelligence or various departments or media. No, not at all.

    This is the failure of us: we Indians, we as a nation. Only in a rogue nation this kind of blast can happen and it is due to rogue people who get the fruit of democracy such as freedom of speech, pay for a day’s labor; but do not even think for 5 minutes for the country – forget doing anything.

    – How come so many terrorists got into the building in the first place, no one saw anything.
    – How come they came, organized, planned the entire attack and no one came to know anything about it.
    – How come when the bones were scattered, the fleshes torn apart people were watching the fun and no one was coming forward to help. Check the scenes: same were scenes when the blasts happened in Delhi and Bangalore.

    The other day when I was coming on a bus (of a reputed IT company in Bangalore) the driver was at its acerbic best. One employee tried to get off the bus (as I had seen it was not his mistake) and driver started talking in Hindi (which he could not and was actually abusing already). The employee could not talk Hindi and he was telling it was not his mother tongue. But lo: a couple of localities and “nearest friendly neighbors from other states” already started to misbehave with that employee: reason he is an outsider! They were supporting the driver! Now what happens when the same driver does the raxx/murder of the same localites (Bangalore has seen it already and no longer safe)?

    But, the point is not that. The point is we are too divided based on language, region, religion etc. Only a group of good citizens make a good country. Not the vice versa. We are aliens in our own country; we hate our own brothers and sisters based on language/region/religion. So no amount of intelligence or money can stop blasts if we do not change ourselves!


  3. Krishna says:

    The sheer density of population and an awfully skewed police : citizen ratio of 1:2000 in crowded cities like Mumbai will always leave enough scope for sophisticated terrorists to dodge security surveillance networks, no matter how tight. Their task is all the more difficult since these officers will also have to do `bandobast’ duty -of escorting VIPs in their cavalcades. Over time, they lose their tack and are horribly out of touch to deal with such sophisticated counter terrorism techniques in which they were trained long back, if at all. This could be one reason why NSG commandos are kept back in Delhi since in a decentralised set up, political bigwigs in the state will use them to announce their arrival than upon well defined gradients of threat perception.

    That said, the best police and intelligence forces in the world fail to discover the plan in the mind of a terrorist until (s)he seeks to act it out. When it happens, security can just play catch-up. And then, the terrorists only have to get it right once, whereas state actors have to be right always or suffer huge casualties.

    Then there is sophistication – While technology has been the focus of considerable commentary, and its use in organized violence can scarcely be overestimated. The parallel growth in the sophistication of the use of technology has gone largely unremarked, may be because it has not been the focus of analytical interest. So the potential for further surprises from the exploitation of sophistication rather than technology per se is high.


  4. sudeep says:

    We can never aviod terrorist attacks – thats an unfortunate truth. Unlike US, we do not have a ocean seperating us from poeple who hate us. We are more like British or Spain – we have terrorists who can reach us easily.

    Given this, the focus nees to be on
    1. Pre-emptive intillegence, to the xetent possible. However, even the best intillegence cannot prevent all attacks
    2. Prepare for the inevitable attack. We have been attacked so many times already and yet we do not have a plan for response. It is really pathetic
    3. Plan for retaliation. This is perhaps the most important factor. Groups that atatck us MUST feel the pain. Or elose, they will keep us attacking. It is not enough to simply kill the actual terrorist – most are on a sucide mission anyways. We have to take out their sponsors.

    We need to learn from Isrealies


  5. Basab says:


    Good points. We have a porous border and the terrorists don’t look or talk any different from us Indians. Which makes it difficult for us to keep them out but on the flip side, it should make it easier for us to infiltrate them.

    Retaliation is very tricky, though. They are not just hidden, they are hidden amongst civilians. Even if they were not, retaliation against terrorists in a foreign country is indistinguishable from an act of war. Exception to the rule is America’s use of unmanned drones in Pakistan to take out Taliban terrorists in the villages that give them shelter.


  6. Siddharth says:

    Basab’s Question #1 – Why did Hemant Karkare, 54, head of the Anti-Terrorism Squad, have to go in on the encounter himself?

    My Answer #1 – Morale is needed to win battles and it is built by acting on the ground. It is best understood as the difference between Management and Leadership.


    Basab’s Question #2 – But for print news I found myself going to BBC and New York Times. Why?

    My Answer #2 – Irrespective of whether the channel is print or cable, some organizations understand India better – and yes, that includes BBC and NDTV. Others lack news quality because of limited India focus that begins and ends with outsourcing.


    Basab’s Question #3 – Why does the NSG commando force have to be entirely in Delhi?

    My Answer #3 – When they live together, they also fight better. Their help was requested at 1 a.m. and they were in Mumbai at 5 a.m. which is desirable. However, to further improve that response, they need their own plane to scramble. BTW, more of an issue is delay in asking for their help.



  7. shalini says:

    I believe that the 3 top cops that were shot did not die in a combat. They were travel toward Cama hospital and were in the same jeep. They were stopped by two of the terrorist and shot dead. This was recounted by the driver who escaped with injuries. I have seen the media making them into heroes(and they were no doubt) but there was no heroism involved in their deaths. This fact has been well glossed over. I saw this report in Mumbai Mirror (attached to the Times of India) and it was also collobrated by people we knor


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