Five years later
After 26/11, India's response to security threats continues to be ad hoc and uncoordinated.
In the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attack, or 26/11, India's national security matrix has seen some reform, but the bigger picture is far from reassuring. At the heart of the inadequacies that continue to plague India's security preparedness is the fact that 26/11 was never painstakingly investigated — not only in terms of the pursuit of the perpetrators, but to pronounce what went wrong, where, how and why. A post-mortem on such a comprehensive scale, which identified each node of lapse and tied it to an analysis of the state response at each moment of the unfolding crisis, would have best enabled us to move on from that catastrophic moment.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), set up in the immediate aftermath of 26/11, has been the biggest addition to the security infrastructure and has demonstrated its capability — for instance, in the extradition of Abu Jundal and the apprehension of Yasin Bhatkal. In the latter case, the NIA's mandate helped the agency collate information that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Bihar police acted on. But such inter-agency, Centre-state collaboration remains the exception, it has not become the norm. The political failure to set up the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the NIA's unborn post-26/11 twin, compromises national security. The NCTC would have streamlined intelligence collection and collation, bypassing the labyrinth of competing bureaucracies that undermine counter-terror operations. While the Centre had initially announced the NCTC unilaterally, in its latest version the proposed entity is a shadow of the original. But states and parties have persisted in opposing it, citing the politically convenient spectre of federalism-in-danger. Our responses to security challenges by and large continue to be ad hoc, uncoordinated and even counter-productive. This inability to