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The Hindu Notes for 26th November 2018

Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 26th November 2018

Ten years after the Mumbai attack

Vigilance is important against new variants of terror, remaining ahead of the curve is even more vital

  • Ten years ago on this day, Pakistan carried out one of the most heinous of terror attacks perpetrated anywhere in the world. The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, named after the date in 2008 when the attack took place, is in some respects comparable to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S. Comparisons with the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005 are, however, misplaced.
  • India, and Mumbai city, are no strangers to terror. In 1993, over 250 people were killed in Mumbai in a series of coordinated bomb explosions attributed to Dawood Ibrahim, reportedly as reprisal for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. In July 2006, bomb explosions in a number of suburban trains in Mumbai killed over 200 people and injured several more. The most audacious terror attack till the 26/11 Mumbai terror incident was the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 by the Pakistan-based terror outfits, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
  • Into the 21st century

  • Terrorism is hardly a post-modern phenomenon. Several of the terror attacks in the 21st century, however, reflect a paradigmatic change in the tactics of asymmetric warfare, and the practice of violence. Today’s attacks carried out in different corners of the world by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and similar terror outfits, are very different from those witnessed in the previous century. The tactics employed may vary, but the objective is common, viz. achieving mass casualties and widespread destruction.
  • The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was one of a kind, and not a mere variant of previous instances of terrorist violence. It was the rarest of rare cases, where one state’s resources, viz. Pakistan’s, were employed to carry out a series of terror attacks in a major Indian city. It was a case of ‘war by other means’, in which the authorities in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Pakistani armed forces, were involved. It is difficult to recall any recorded instance in modern times where a state and its various agencies were directly involved in carrying out a terror attack of this nature. As is now known, the Mumbai terror attack was not based on a sudden impulse or whim. Several years of planning and preparation had preceded the attack, even as the the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, was talking peace with then Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
  • The degree of involvement of the Pakistani deep state in the planning and preparation of the attack is evident from many aspects that have come to light subsequently. Seldom has any terrorist group then, or for that matter even now, used such highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol. Planning for the attack involved the use of a third country address. Handlers in Pakistan were given unfettered freedom to provide instructions to the terrorists during the entire four-day siege. The choice of the sea route aimed at deception and avoiding detection, was again dictated by official agencies.
  • The involvement of the Pakistani Special Forces in preparing the 10-member fidayeen group was confirmed by one of the conspirators, Abu Hamza, arrested subsequent to the 26/11 terror attack. The training regimen dictated by the Pakistani Special Forces involved psychological indoctrination by highlighting atrocities on Muslims in India and other parts of the globe, including Chechnya and Palestine; basic and advanced combat training; commando training; training in weapons and explosives; training in swimming and sailing — all under the watchful eyes of Pakistani instructors from the Special Forces. An even more unusual feature of the Mumbai attacks was the involvement of two U.S./Canadian nationals of Pakistani origin, David Headley (who at the time was a LeT operative) and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. The 10 attackers came via the sea from Karachi in a small boat, hijacked an Indian fishing trawler en route, and reached Colaba in a rubber dinghy on November 26 evening.
  • Horror over four days

  • The targets were carefully chosen after having been reconnoitred previously by Headley for maximum impact, viz. the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Jewish centre at Nariman House, and the Leopold Cafe, since these places were frequented by Europeans, Indians and Jews. The Mumbai terror attack went on for nearly four days, from the evening of November 26 to the morning of November 29. Seldom has a terrorist incident lasted this length of time, since the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972.
  • From an Indian standpoint, it was perhaps for the first time that an operation of this nature involved Rapid Action Force personnel, Marine Commandos (MARCOS), the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Mumbai Police.
  • It was inevitable that there should be a great deal of recrimination in the wake of terror attack. The principal charge was that the security establishment had failed to anticipate an attack of this nature, and was not adequately prepared to deal with the situation. In retrospect, it has to be recognised that the Mumbai terror attack was an unprecedented exercise in violence, involving not merely a well-trained terrorist group, but also backed by the resources of a state, viz. Pakistan. Till then, the Pakistani state was only known to harbour terrorist groups like the LeT and the JeM, and use terror as an instrumentality to create problems for India.
  • Secrecy was the very essence of this operation. Plans were limited to a mere handful of persons. In the LeT hierarchy, apart from Hafiz Sayeed, only a few like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, its chief military commander, Sajid Mir and Zarar Shah, its communications chief, were privy to the operational plans. U.S. intelligence is said to have penetrated Zarar Shah’s computer, and possibly had far more details of the operation than were actually shared with Indian intelligence.
  • Streamlining security

  • In the wake of the terror attack, several steps were initiated to streamline the security set-up. Coastal security was given high priority, and it is with the Navy/Coast Guard/marine police. A specialised agency to deal with terrorist offences, the National Investigation Agency, was set up and has been functioning from January 2009. The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been constituted to create an appropriate database of security related information. Four new operational hubs for the NSG have been created to ensure rapid response to terror attacks. The Multi Agency Centre, which functions under the Intelligence Bureau, was further strengthened and its activities expanded. The Navy constituted a Joint Operations Centre to keep vigil over India’s extended coastline.
  • Notwithstanding increased vigil and streamlining of the counter-terrorism apparatus, the ground reality is that newer methodologies, newer concepts more daringly executed, and more deeply laid plans of terrorist groups have made the world a less safe place. The actual number of terror attacks may have declined in recent years, but this does not mean that the situation is better than what existed a decade ago. Terrorism remains a major threat, and with modern refinements, new terrorist methodologies and terrorism mutating into a global franchise, the threat potential has become greater.
  • One new variant is the concept of ‘enabled terror’ or ‘remote controlled terror’, viz. violence conceived and guided by a controller thousands of miles away. Today the ‘lone wolf’ is, more often than not, part of a remote-controlled initiative, with a controller choosing the target, the nature of the attack and even the weaponry to be used. Internet-enabled terrorism and resort to remote plotting is thus the new threat. Operating behind a wall of anonymity, random terror is likely to become the new terror imperative. There are no ready-made answers to this new threat. Vigilance is important, but remaining ahead of the curve is even more vital.
  • Along the new Silk Roads

    Regional agreements such as the BRI could embrace greater trade liberalisation goals

  • At the recent Paris Peace Forum commemorating the end of World War I, the heads of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank made the case for a more inclusive multilateralism. Drawing comparisons between 1914 and today’s situations in terms of inequalities, they warned against the temptation of a divisive globalisation which could only benefit the wealthiest.
  • Along the New Silk Road
  • China’s discourse on a new “connected” multilateralism, through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is building upon the same inclusive project now led by a non-Western and non-democratic superpower. There is indeed an ambition to influence the world — if not directly control it — by making the rules on which it functions. This normative determination to achieve a far greater objective has hardly been addressed when analysing China’s BRI and its impact.
  • There is more to the BRI than the six economic corridors spanning Asia, Europe and Africa, of which the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is perhaps the most controversial. The BRI is included in the Constitution of an officially socialist China. The BRI “shared interest” and “shared growth” hence coexist with Marxism-Leninism and “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” in a country now said to be more trade-friendly than its protectionist American rival, the U.S. Beijing has never been afraid of contradictions in terms and this capacity to ‘Sinicise’ concepts is a signature trait. The BRI is a political project and a Chinese one no matter the number of other partners joining the effort and participating to its funding.
  • Normative yet not legal

  • In this regard, the normative framework put in place by Beijing plays an interesting role. These norms manifest themselves in the form of guiding principles, declarations, general agreements and other communication tools including the hardly studied “Digital Silk Road” envisaging “innovation action plans for e-commerce, digital economy, smart cities and science and technology parks”. They constitute a normative discourse, a form of behaviour, a standard to abide by, but are not legally binding yet. The BRI indeed develops without any dedicated law, nor is it a comprehensive trade or economic partnership. It is different from conventional trade agreements that seek to eliminate market access barriers, harmonise regulations and impose preconditions for entry. The only legal texts one could refer to are to be found in the network of foreign trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties and other international investment agreements China is a party to. However, these networks of agreements have no special link with the BRI, although they could be brought in to resolve issues emanating from the BRI. China is a party to numerous state-sponsored business contracts between Chinese firms, including state-owned companies, and foreign business partners, public or private.
  • This non-legal yet rather domineering proposal is not a surprise. The fluid, if not vague, nature of the BRI is nothing but a manifestation of a pragmatism with Chinese characteristics that has the capacity to constantly adjust to a fast-changing environment. The absence of law is actually partial and temporary. China is preparing for the domestic resolution of BRI disputes with the creation by the Supreme People’s Court of two dedicated branches of the China International Commercial Court, one in Shenzhen to tackle the Maritime Road disputes, and one in Xi’an to settle overland Belt issues. In addition, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre has specific BRI arbitration clauses and administered arbitration rules. Naturally, investor-state disputes could also be settled on the basis of China’s investment agreements, nationally or internationally, in a given arbitration forum — for example, the World Bank-sponsored International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID).
  • Institutional strategies

  • The institutional setting of the BRI is also rather light. Joint committees are put in place and the existing institutions mobilised from the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which is contributing to the BRI despite the rather distant position of some of its members and India in particular, which is the largest recipient of AIIB funding. In this context, China is not challenging the existing institutional set-up or proposing something different than what exists in the Bretton Woods Institutions. From the functioning of the banks to their advisory committees, the same structure and often the same people are found.
  • The BRI as it stands is not conceived as a tool for economic integration. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and six countries is better equipped to deal with market access and integration goals within the Asia-Pacific region. Again, the BRI’s dispute resolution will be predominantly on commercial disputes, involving either projects or contractual obligations. However, with the world trading system passing through a turmoil, the possibility of regional trade agreements or amorphous legal devices such as the BRI embracing greater trade liberalisation goals cannot be entirely ruled out. A failure to resolve the WTO Appellate Body crisis or any consequent weakening of the multilateral dispute resolution process could present an opportunity for purely nationalistic initiatives to transmute and assume larger objectives.
  • Ahead on malaria

    Odisha shows the way in bringing down the incidence of new cases

  • India has suffered from a major burden of malaria for decades, with high levels of morbidity and death. But the declining trend of the scourge shows that sustained public health action can achieve good results. The World Malaria Report 2018 of the World Health Organisation notes that India’s record offers great promise in the quest to cut the number of new cases and deaths globally by at least 40% by 2020, and to end the epidemic by 2030. A lot of that optimism has to do with the progress made by Odisha, one of the most endemic States. Investments made there in recruiting accredited social health workers and large-scale distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, together with strategies to encourage health-seeking behaviour, seem to have paid off. The WHO report highlights a sharp drop in the number of cases in the State. The reduction in cases by half in 2017 compared to the same study period in 2016 appears to reinforce research findings: malaria cases in Odisha have been coming down steadily since 2003, with a marked reduction since 2008, attributed to greater political and administrative commitment. This positive trend should encourage authorities not just in Odisha, but in the northeastern States and elsewhere too to cut the transmission of the disease further. Importantly, the reduction in the number of cases should not produce complacency and lead to a reduction in deployment of health workers and funding cuts to programme components. Where allocations have been reduced, they should be reversed. It should be pointed out that even in 2017, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry put the number of malaria cases in Odisha at 3,52,140.
  • One issue that requires monitoring in India is resistance to combination therapy using artemisinin. Recent reports indicate that some patients in West Bengal became resistant to the treatment protocol used for the falciparum parasite, which causes debilitating cerebral malaria and leads to a high number of deaths. The phenomenon requires close monitoring — although the WHO said in a recent assessment that the treatment policy was changed to another efficacious set of combination drugs in some northeastern States, after statistically significant treatment failure rates were found in 2012. Eliminating malaria requires an integrated approach, and this should involve Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, which have a higher burden of the disease. Odisha’s experience with using public health education as a tool and reaching out to remote populations with advice needs to be replicated. Given that emerging resistance to treatment has been reported in Myanmar, among other countries in this belt, there is a need for a coordinated approach to rid southern Asia of malaria.
  • Touchstone of the Republic

    The unity of India is sustained by the Constitution and not by any particular faith

  • The adoption of the Constitution on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly was a historic moment that laid the foundation for a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. The Constitution provides a framework for good governance based on law and jurisprudence.
  • Finding a place

  • From its first meeting on December 9, 1946 till the completion of its work and adoption of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly had to work in a politically turbulent environment. Some may not know that B.R. Ambedkar did not find a place among the 296 members initially sent to the Constituent Assembly. Only the withdrawal of Jogendra Nath Mandal, who was nominated from East Bengal, paved the way for Ambedkar to enter the Constituent Assembly. On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, announced the Partition of India. Bengal and Punjab were to be divided. Ambedkar ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly when India was partitioned.
  • Given the dependence of the Assembly on Ambedkar, who had done extraordinary work, Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel took efforts to get him elected from Bombay Presidency. It was only then that Ambedkar was immediately re-inducted as a member of the Constituent Assembly. By that time he was already Law Minister in the Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, who had moved the Objectives Resolution that defined the aims of the Constituent Assembly. Historians point out that Mahatma Gandhi, who knew about Ambedkar’s excellent work in the Constituent Assembly and in various other committees, was keen that Ambedkar head the Drafting Committee. On August 30, 1947, the Drafting Committee formally met and unanimously elected Ambedkar as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. Thereby he became the prime architect of the Constitution.
  • Partition witnessed huge tragedies: Hindu-Muslim clashes and killings, migration of large numbers of people, and the assassination of Gandhi. Ambedkar remained firm that “the destiny of the country ought to count for everything”. He did not compromise with divisive communal forces. He stoutly rejected the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. He warned that if at all Hindu Rashtra became a reality, it would be a calamity for the nation. He rejected the idea of a theocratic state and a presidential form of government. He believed in the idea of a republic and wanted India to be a secular state.
  • Challenge to the Constitution

  • Today there is an open challenge to the Constitution. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena are all competing and coordinating with one another to achieve their agenda of converting the Indian secular state into a Hindu Rashtra. They have become desperate and aggressive in their pursuit to subvert the Constitution.
  • Ambedkar defined the Indian state as a welfare state in a society that is stratified by caste and deeply mired in structural forms of inequalities. The state, he said, should strive “to secure to all its citizens, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”
  • The way the Constitution was drafted and the way Ambedkar explained the provisions enshrined in it brought out its secular and socialist contents. They are of abiding significance in our time when communal and fascist forces have created a counter culture that endangers the Constitution itself. The way the Indian state is emerging as a neoliberal state goes against the socialist feature of our Constitution. When Professor K.T. Shah moved an amendment on November 15, 1948 to insert the words “secular, federal, socialist” into the Constitution, his proposal was vetoed. Ambedkar said that the Directive Principles of State Policy were declared to be fundamental in the governance of our country. In other words, the socialist contents enshrined in the Directive Principles must be the guiding force for governance. He said, “If these directive principles... are not socialistic in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be.” The Directive Principles must be followed in letter and spirit when rising levels of income inequality perpetuate other inequalities. Liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation have further exacerbated the problem of unequal access to basic opportunities. As President K.R. Narayanan said in his speech on the eve of Republic Day in 2000, “Our three-way fast lane of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation must provide safe pedestrian crossings for the unempowered India also, so that it too can move towards ‘equality of status and opportunity’.”
  • The manner in which constitutional objectives are being deliberately ignored by the present government in pursuit of the goals set by various corporates reminds me of Ambedkar’s warning in his last speech in the Constituent Assembly. He said that if political parties put creed ahead of the interests of the country, then we would stand to lose our independence forever.
  • Protecting the idea of India

  • Ambedkar had warned that even without altering the Constitution, administrators could subvert it using their powers, causing it to collapse. We need to address such problems, which have assumed the proportion of a crisis today. We need to defend the Constitution and cultivate constitutional morality. In Kerala, for instance, we are seeing people being mobilised to prevent the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment that allows women to enter the Sabarimala temple. This is a violation of the law and the Constitution. The leaders of the ruling party are openly making statements which are inconsistent with the constitutional scheme of governance. Let us be mindful of the fact that the unity and integrity of India are sustained by the Constitution and not by any particular faith. Constitutional values combined with the civilisational values of acceptance and tolerance are the need of the hour to defend the idea of India. In undermining the Constitution, we are undermining and diminishing the very idea of India.
  • Pursuing Lashkar-e-Taiba

    The U.S. has sought to pressure Pakistan over the terror group but the fundamental problem remains

  • Today, on the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, it is worth considering how U.S. policy towards the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has evolved over the last decade. The conventional wisdom is that the Afghanistan war has compelled Washington to give more attention to Afghanistan-focussed militants in Pakistan than to the LeT and other India-oriented jihadists. This is accurate to an extent — and especially today. Senior administration officials often emphasise that U.S. President Donald Trump’s top foreign policy priority is to protect American lives. With 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban is a much more clear and present danger to American lives than the LeT and its India-focussed ilk.
  • Still, the U.S. hasn’t exactly sidelined the LeT issue. And one wouldn’t expect it to. This is an organisation with American connections and enablers, including the infamous David Headley. And it killed six Americans in Mumbai.
  • The U.S. government has sought to pressure Pakistan over the LeT in ways that go beyond its formal designation of the LeT as a foreign terrorist organisation in 2001, and the $10 million bounty it put on Hafiz Saeed in 2012. Jason Blazakis, a top State Department counterterrorism official between 2008 and 2018, recently wrote of U.S. attempts to get the UN to designate individual LeT members as terrorists. Such efforts fell short, given China’s opposition. Early this year, however, the Financial Action Task Force penalised Islamabad for failing to curb the finances of the LeT-affiliated Jamaat-ud-Dawah. Additionally, China has signed on to BRICS and Heart of Asia declarations condemning the LeT. In April, the State Department designated the LeT’s newest affiliate, Milli Muslim League, as a terrorist organisation.
  • True, such moves have done little to address the fundamental problem: the LeT, its various front organisations, and many of its top leaders enjoy relative freedom in Pakistan, and Pakistani legal action against the Mumbai perpetrators remains limited. Nonetheless, impelled in great part by counterterrorism imperatives, the U.S.-India defence partnership continues to grow. Indeed, the Mumbai attacks are a tragic yet powerful symbol of the shared threat of terrorism that brings the two nations together. U.S.-India counterterrorism cooperation is poised to increase.
  • This isn’t to say Washington is about to start raining drones down on anti-India militant facilities in Pakistan. But there are other ways America can help India. Recent bilateral deals have paved the way for more intelligence sharing, arms sales, and technology transfers. Rumours persist that America may soon provide India with drone technologies. Such cooperation could go a long way towards helping strengthen India’s capacities to pre-empt and tackle terrorist threats and reducing the likelihood of another 26/11.