26/11: How India debated a war with Pakistan that November


The last of the 26/11 terrorists had been killed only a few hours back when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over an urgently called meeting of the country's security top brass. Present at that meeting on November 29, 2008, were Defence Minister A K Antony, the then National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, heads of both intelligence agencies and the three service chiefs the Army was represented by its Vice-Chief Lt Gen M L Naidu as Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor was overseas among other high-ranking officials. The key issue on the agenda India's response.

By then, there was no doubt among any of those present at this meeting, which lasted for over two hours at the PM's residence, that the entire attack had been controlled, coordinated and plotted by the Lashkar-e-Toiba and its handlers in Pakistan. An undeniable body of evidence had already piled up from the calls monitored between the terrorists and their handlers in the course of the attack. More evidence was pouring in by the hour. There was no way any government in New Delhi could drag its feet the Prime Minister knew he had to ask the dreaded question to all those responsible for the defence of India.

He started with the words that the people of India "will not forgive us" for what had happened and that the government had indeed failed them. This was not an empty comment. About 10 days before, US intelligence had intercepted a phone call from "somewhere in the Arabian Sea" to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. The input with coordinates of the boat's position had been passed on to Indian agencies and then disseminated but not with the immediacy and urgency it deserved. Coast Guard authorities carried out reconnaissance sorties but by then it was too late. They found nothing on those coordinates except for scores of fishing boats that looked alike. The boat had obviously moved on. The Coast Guard filed a report that it needed the latest coordinates. And that's where matters lay until the night of November 26 when the 10 terrorists surfaced in the heart of Mumbai.

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