13 March, 2014
Mumbai: From the 1986 Rajghat attack on Rajiv Gandhi to 26/11 — the failure of various Indian agencies to act in a coordinated manner on intelligence has been an ongoing saga for decades. On October 2, 1986, a terrorist attacked Rajiv as he was paying tribute to the Mahatma. The incident took place despite RAW, the country’s external intelligence agency, having information on a likely attempt. The information was inexplicably neglected by the Delhi police, IB and the SPG.
In his book “National Security and Intelligence Management — A New Paradigm”, former special secretary in the Cabinet secretariat V Balachandran says that according to intelligence, a terrorist disguised as a gardener was to mount an armed attack from behind the bushes when the top leadership of the country assembled at Rajghat on the Mahatma’s birth anniversary.
The alert was handled individually by various agencies, but without any coordination. “Fortunately, the assailant could not equip himself with more than an old pellet shot weapon and hence the damage was minimal,” Balachandran’s book says.
The book dwells into the 1991 Rajiv Gandhi assassination probe, which showed that “technical pointers were collected by the Indian intelligence agencies well before the incident… But no follow-up action by way of warning was issued since the raw intelligence was not processed for dissemination. Had these technical indicators been converted into intelligence, this colossal tragedy could have been avoided”.
Balachandran, who co-authored the Pradhan Committee report on the 26/11 lapses, says that despite alerts about the LeT training teams for seaborne commando attacks on multiple targets, including luxury hotels, in Mumbai, there was no capacity building by the local police.
The story is not very different across the Palk Strait either. The Sri Lankan government did not act on Indian alerts on a possible attack on Lankan politician Gamini Dissanayaka. Dissanayaka was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Colombo on October 24, 1994.
Balachandran’s book stresses the need to have publicprivate participation to prevent terror attacks and relying more on human intelligence.
“Technology at times lulls the human element in an intelligence or surveillance agency into a false sense of well being, leading to serious errors, especially considering the fact that not more than 20% of technical intelligence is converted into actionable intelligence all over the world.”