Monday, September 30, 2013

The Use of SWAT Units in Indian Homeland Security: Lessons from Mumbai 26/11

Dr Prem Mahadevan, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

The Indian security establishment was fiercely criticized both domestically and internationally for its tactical response to the 26/11 attacks. Some of this criticism was justified, while some was apparently motivated by a deliberate effort on the part of foreign powers to deflect attention from the Pakistani origins of the attack. As subsequent disclosures by Wikileaks have revealed, the United States and United Kingdom, together with their traditional intelligence partners in the ‘Anglosphere’ – Australia, New Zealand and Canada – formed a diplomatic cabal while the attacks were still ongoing, to devise a propaganda strategy that would protect Pakistan from India’s legitimate anger.1

One aspect of this strategy seems to have been a concerted media campaign to debase the professional reputation and track record of Indian security and intelligence services. It was implied that India bore more responsibility for having allowed the attacks to occur on its soil, than Pakistan did for having allowed them to be planned, financed and rehearsed on its territory. Thus, the Indians were projected as having been more incompetent than the Pakistanis had been treacherous. To this day, perceptions of 26/11 are dominated by memories of police confusion and military slowness, with a degree of personal incompetence also attributed to national and state-level politicians.

In all this, clinical analyses of the attacks have been confined to a handful of experts within the Indian strategic community, and to Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) units in the West. Those Western scholars who took the trouble to study the 26/11 attacks in depth, have offered valuable and valid criticism of the Indian security response. They have also had the humility to acknowledge that the tactical challenges posed by such attacks are of an unprecedented nature, and that Western SWAT capabilities have fallen behind the threat curve.2 Mumbai 2008 was a wake-up call about the extent of their own vulnerability, and it triggered a frantic search for a new tactical concept.

This article will explain what was ‘new’ about the 26/11 attacks from a tactical incident response perspective. It shall suggest that the current SWAT model which India has copied from the West is unsuited to the task of combating suicidal or ‘fidayeen’ terrorism. This model is optimized for challenges set in the 1970s. It is meant to provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template for coping with a dual-faceted threat: accidental as well as deliberate hostage-taking, and its tenets are more inclined towards resolving the former than the latter. In the forty years since, terrorists have adapted to the challenge posed by SWAT units and developed a concept of suicidal operations. These operations are fast-moving and fluid, and need to be countered through systemic changes.

The Myth of a ‘Reverse Stockholm Syndrome’

Readers of this article would be familiar with the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. It connotes a situation wherein hostages gradually begin to empathize and identify with their captors, since both are subject to prolonged confinement: the hostages are unable to move within the limited space that they share with their captors, while the captors themselves cannot leave that space because of police encirclement. Over a period of time, both parties see themselves and each other as innocent victims, who must set aside their differences and pull together in order to survive their common ordeal. At least, that is what hostage rescue theorists have long believed to be the case.

The Stockholm Syndrome in its truest sense is assumed to be bi-directional. Hostages begin to rationalize the criminal actions of their tormentors, while the tormentors’ willingness to do the hostages harm is weakened as a result of prolonged association. Thus, the Stockholm Syndrome presages that hostages will try to shield their captors in the event of a SWAT assault, while hostage-takers will momentarily hesitate about harming their victims during that same assault. To a large extent, current SWAT doctrine has been built around the latter assumption in particular – that a reverse flow of empathy from captor to hostage will emerge from a lengthy siege.

This assumption may not be complete nonsense, but it is unsupported by the bulk of real-world counterterrorist experience. Certainly, in isolated cases, eyewitness reports state that terrorists hesitated to shoot hostages even though they knew that they were themselves about to be killed by SWAT assaulters. The 1976 Entebbe raid is an example: even as Israeli commandos charged into the building where hostages were held, one terrorist steeled himself to fire, but desperate pleading from the hostages weakened his resolve and he instead turned to face the commandos. Likewise, in 1997, left-wing terrorists occupying the Japanese embassy in Lima could not bring themselves to execute hostages although SWAT teams were seconds away from shooting them dead.3

Such cases of terrorists rising to a higher degree of morality are rare. Empirical evidence suggests that, contrary to the training concepts of SWAT teams and hostage negotiators, the Stockholm Syndrome seldom occurs in real life.4 This is largely due to the deliberate brutality that captors inflict on their hostages in order to gain psychological dominance and shatter the will to resist. Such brutality is especially likely in cases of politically-motivated hostage-taking, where terrorists initiate a hostage situation only after deliberate planning and intense psychological conditioning. In contrast, empathy towards hostages tends to be shown when a hostage situation is inadvertently created – for example, during a bungled robbery. It is worth remembering that the original hostage siege in Sweden which gave rise to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ was actually a bank heist that went wrong.

The Origins of SWAT – Police and Military

Special Weapons and Tactics units were created in the 1970s to provide niche expertise in ending hostage situations and arresting well-armed criminals. There are two types of SWAT units: police and military. Police SWAT originated in the United States, where the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 had severely curtailed the government’s ability to deploy military personnel on US soil. Beginning in Los Angeles, the police SWAT concept was soon replicated across the country. It called for having a quick reaction team of marksmen, armed with military-grade weaponry, who could surround and neutralize dangerous criminals hiding in populated areas, where indiscriminate firing could not be resorted to. 5

Military SWAT was pioneered by the UK’s 22nd Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment, through an operation code named ‘Pagoda’. Consisting of two permanent ‘Special Projects’ teams, codenamed ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’, Op Pagoda aimed to provide the British government with a military option for ending hostage situations. The 1972 Munich Olympics massacre had proven that European policemen, unlike their American counterparts, were less trigger-happy and prone to hesitation when ordered to fire upon armed terrorists, even if this was necessary to ensure the safety of innocents. Policemen lacked battle inoculation of the kind that was intrinsic to military special forces units like the SAS.6

Both police and military SWAT drilled for scenarios where terrorists would seize a building or airliner, gather hostages, make a few bizarre political statements to publicize their ostensible ‘cause’ and then issue specific, time-bound demands. Throughout all this, it was assumed that the terrorists would want their hostages to remain alive, as insurance against a SWAT assault. This placed the burden of responsibility for a peaceful solution onto the government and led to an implicit deal in the interim: provided the terrorists were not provoked, they would not harm the hostages. Negotiators were instructed to exploit this dynamic and lull the terrorists into thinking that their demands would be eventually met, while SWAT teams gathered intelligence and rehearsed for a rescue mission.

Even at this early stage (the 1970s), there were tell-tale signs that SWAT rescue operations depended for their success on the terrorists’ own mindset. Certain famed interventions such as the 1977 assault on a hijacked airliner in Mogadishu came within a hair’s breadth of failure, due to the hijackers’ willingness to kill themselves along with their hostages. Other incidents such as the 1974 massacre of Israeli schoolchildren at Maa’lot were labelled as botched rescue operations, due to manifestly poor performance by the SWAT personnel deployed on-site. However, even in these botched operations, it was the terrorists’ readiness to slaughter their hostages that sharpened the difference between a partial failure and a completely mismanaged rescue mission with a high death toll.

SWAT in India

To date, India does not have a culture of armed policing, except in counterinsurgency. Even this took a long time to develop. During the 1980s, as Khalistani militants committed massacres in Punjab, bureaucrats dithered over the question of upgrading police firearms. It was felt that a civilian police force had no business carrying military-grade weaponry. Only the relentless death toll inflicted by Khalistani Kalashnikovs, obtained from Pakistan, broke this conservative stance and led to a partial militarization of policing.7 One of the innovations introduced was the formation of five commando battalions in the Punjab Armed Police. These battalions helped in turning the tide against the militants by attacking them in their own strongholds along the border, and storming their urban safe-houses.

On the military side, the Indian Army created a counterterrorist unit in the late 1970s, in the form of the ‘Special Group’ within the Cabinet Secretariat’s Establishment 22. The unit saw action alongside regular infantry and Para-Commando troops during Operation Bluestar in 1984, when it was tasked to assault the innermost defences of Khalistanis holed up in the Golden Temple. Despite their training and courage, the Special Group commandos were unable to make headway in the face of murderous small arms fire. Eventually tanks had to blast away the militant fortifications, causing extensive damage to the complex, and lending the entire operation a (false) image of brutality.

Criticism for having used excessive force against its own citizens led the government to create a new SWAT capability under the Union Home Ministry. Known as the National Security Guard (NSG), it was modelled on the German Grenzschutzgruppe 9. However, unlike GSG9 which had a distinct corporate identity, the NSG was a part-civilian and part-military organization. It drew half its manpower from the Indian Army and the remainder from various central paramilitary forces. This haphazard personnel policy led to differentiated operating philosophies, which as counterterrorist experience elsewhere has shown, tends to produce sub-optimal performance from the entire force overall.8 Coupled with the rapid turnover rate of officer-rank personnel, it prevented the NSG from growing into an independent entity that could proactively lobby for additional training resources and operational infrastructure.

For the first few years of its existence, the NSG was provided with state-of-the-art facilities for simulating hostage situations and practicing urban combat drills. Subsequently, a lack of maintenance funds led much of this equipment to waste away. The NSG continued to do excellent work in breaking up terrorist networks in Jammu & Kashmir and elsewhere, but its success was crucially dependent on the quality of intelligence provided by central agencies, as well as the ingenuity of its own personnel in improvising new tactics. In terms of systemic support from the policy establishment, the NSG got little by way of new authority and funding, partly due to economizing trends in government.

Lagging behind the threat

The biggest problem, however, was not resource shortfalls but the changing nature of terrorism itself. Even as the NSG grew into a force of 14,500 men, hostage-takers across the world were discovering that it did not pay to be ‘nice guys’. Whenever they agreed to be reasonable, the situation ended badly for them. For example, in 1994, Algerian terrorists planned to crash a hijacked airliner into the Eiffel Tower. Owing to a lack of operational focus, they allowed themselves instead to be talked into landing at Marseilles, and were killed by GIGN, the SWAT unit of the French gendarmerie. They had come close to accomplishing their mission, but sheer fatigue led them to be swayed. Years later, the 9/11 hijackers ensured that the timeframe of their action was too short for any intervening variables to come between themselves and their intended targets. Even as US authorities thought they were dealing with ‘regular’ hijackings, the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit, kamikaze-style.

Eagerness on the part of terrorists to attain martyrdom totally changed the nature of hostage-taking. Previously, political hostage-takers were ready to die for their cause if necessary, but preferred to live. If offered a face-saving way out by government negotiators, they tended to accept it. In this, they were not so different from armed criminals in the West who, during the 1970s, would spontaneously seize bystanders as hostages whenever they found themselves in an unexpected shoot-out with policemen. Both accidental and deliberate hostage-takers of that era were open to dialogue, if given time to ponder the hopelessness of their situation and see the merits of surrendering peacefully.

The 1990s and the rise of millennial groups such as Al Qaeda brought a mindset shift into international terrorism. Now, terrorists knew that they could generate more publicity for their cause by killing a lot of people, rather than just taking them hostage and waiting for SWAT units to figure out how best to rescue them. If grabbing such media attention required sacrificing themselves, that was acceptable, since they were anyway assured of sweet benefits in the eternal hereafter. Once terrorist groups adopted a bureaucratic style of functioning, as Al Qaeda did, organizing cadres into specialized departments based on their aptitude, it was easy to create a sub-group of brainwashed suicide operatives with relatively low IQs who could be controlled by smooth-talking handlers.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT0 was at the forefront of this trend. Its military curriculum was managed by ex-soldiers from the Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG). In particular, members of Zarrar Company, the SSG’s counterterrorist team, played a crucial role in conceptualizing the ‘fidayeen’ model of operations. Having been trained in the same Western-derived template of mission planning as Indian SWAT units, they understood the weaknesses of existing hostage rescue capacity. 9 They knew that terrorists had a window of opportunity to inflict maximum damage without risk of serious opposition, in the minutes immediately following an armed assault. Thereafter, any prospect of a negotiated settlement was moot, since no government could offer safe passage to suicidal terrorists.

26/11 as a commando operation

Event timelines are crucial to understanding why the tactical response to the 26/11 attacks was so poor. From the opening shots at 2140 hours on 26 November, the clock had begun ticking for the NSG and Mumbai police to intervene swiftly, but they did not yet know it. Initially, the widely dispersed shootings were thought to be an outbreak of gang warfare. First responders were thus confused and overawed by the firepower that the attackers wielded. Once it became clear that a synchronized terrorist assault was underway, false sightings poured into the police control room, inflating the scale of the crisis to a point where the force leadership was psychologically overwhelmed. The bad luck of losing the Head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), Hemant Karkare, crippled the one unit which was capable of reacting to the crisis. The ATS had 60 AK-series assault rifles in its inventory, while none of Mumbai’s 86 regular police thanas had even one such weapon.10 This did not stop individual policemen from heroically trying to stop the attackers, but heroism is only the last refuge of those who have been failed by their own system, not those who are trained and equipped to do battle.

If viewed retrospectively, the Mumbai attacks inflicted so much damage because they adopted the textbook principles of a military-style commando raid. William McRaven, the mastermind of the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, has identified six such principles. He has observed that a small-sized attacking force must gain ‘relative superiority’ over a larger defending force by:
  1. developing a simple plan,
  2. ensuring that it remains secret until the moment of implementation,
  3. carrying out detailed rehearsals of the implementation,
  4. timing the implementation in such a manner that it achieves localized surprise,
  5. ensuring that the speed of action is greater than the enemy’s ability to adapt, and
  6. maintaining a sense of purpose, despite all distractions and ground-level confusion.11
The attacks were simple to execute, because killing unarmed civilians is actually a simple affair. The only real complication was in transporting the attackers on-site, and once the LeT developed a sea-borne attack capability, that complication was resolved. Secrecy was preserved by tight personnel vetting – LeT compartmentalized the attack preparations, such that barring a few key personnel, nobody had access to the entire operational plan. Rehearsals were carried out based on topographical intelligence collected by penetration agents. The assault was timed to take place when the Pakistani foreign minister was on a goodwill mission, since that would delay recognition of the true nature of the attack ie., cross-border and state-sponsored. Speed was attained by ad hoc vehicular movement, in a context where first responders struggled to reach the affected areas. Finally, purpose was maintained by real-time encouragement from LeT handlers who were safely ensconced in Pakistan.

Once the attacks began, time was not on our side

The 1970s concept of SWAT deployment worked according to a lengthy timeline. It assumed that, since terrorists would not kill hostages unless provoked by police, a hasty assault should be avoided. Instead, pressure was to be built up gradually, like a psychological noose being tightened. First, police were to evacuate bystanders and cordon off the area, a process that could take up to 90 minutes. 12 While this was going on, the SWAT command element would arrive in advance of the rest of the unit, and conduct a preliminary reconnaissance. The unit commander would contact leaders of the first responder units and agree to tactical communications procedures, while his second- and third-in command would identify potential locations for snipers and develop an Immediate Action Plan (IAP).

The IAP would be a rough-and-ready template for rapid intervention, in case the terrorists started killing hostages mid-way through negotiations. It was to be ready for implementation within 30 minutes of the rest of the SWAT unit arriving on-site, with all its heavy specialist equipment. 13 How long that would take depended on how far the target location was from the unit’s base. In 1980, the British SAS took over 16 hours to move a 25-man Special Projects team from Hereford to London, despite having begun the move even before civilian authorisation had been received.

Seen from this perspective, the NSG’s nine-hour deployment time to Mumbai during 26/11 was surprisingly good, considering the difficulties that the force had to overcome just to take off from Palam airport. The 200 men of the intervening unit, 51 SAG, were delayed by traffic congestion, particularly at the Manesar-Gurgaon toll gate. Had policymakers been willing to upgrade the unit’s capabilities for rapid response, they would have made themselves aware of the fact that chokepoints on National Highway 8 are clogged after nightfall, which increases NSG reaction time. During the 2002 Akshardham Temple attack, the force had been similarly delayed while racing to the airport. In the six intervening years, no effort was made to provide it with a dedicated tactical airlift capacity.

Even if the NSG had miraculously possessed the capability to become airborne within 20 minutes of the first shots being fired (ie., at 2200 hours on the night of 26 November), the flight time to Mumbai would have itself been too long to save those who had initially been targeted by the LeT fidayeen. From available accounts, an overwhelming majority of the 176 people who died in the attacks, were felled within the first three hours. As per the current model of SWAT deployment, it would have taken the local police half as long merely to isolate a single complex that had been attacked by terrorists. Coping with multiple simultaneous assaults, unfolding in a fluid pattern against fixed targets as well as targets of opportunity, would have been beyond the capacity of any police force, Indian or Western.

Lessons: Tactical and Psychological

There were several failures on 26/11. Leadership failure on the part of local police is the most obvious. Once the gravity of the situation set in, top police officials showed a lack of nerve, abdicating responsibility and waiting for the NSG to arrive from Delhi. Bureaucratic failure meant that the Navy’s marine commandos were not deployed until four hours after the attack began, because procedures for calling out the military were unfamiliar to the civil servants who were coordinating the initial response. Capacity failure on the part of emergency services meant that casualty evacuation was slow, with lives being lost from arson in the Taj Palace Hotel because fire engines ran out of water. Equipment failure due to poor maintenance caused police firearms to jam when first used. Worst of all, secrecy failure led state and national politicians to issue public statements without any regard for operational security. A central minister generously revealed the timeframe according to which the NSG would reach Mumbai and begin operations – information which LeT handlers in Pakistan put to immediate use. Another politician revealed his hiding place in the Taj Palace Hotel (and that of 200 other guests) in a cell phone interview. It is only thanks to the Navy’s MARCOS that indiscretion did not cost him his life. The terrorists were minutes away from locating the politician and his fellow-escapees when the MARCOS intervened, allowing the civilians to flee.

For the narrow purposes of this paper, three issues need to be especially highlighted for SWAT units:
  1. Firepower: LeT fidayeen operate in a manner akin to special forces, moving swiftly in buddy pairs and carrying their combat loads on a man-pack basis. On average, each is kitted out with an assault rifle, roughly 300 rounds of ammunition, a sidearm, several grenades, communications gear, emergency rations and (perhaps) night vision goggles. Their main asset is initially the ability to open fire whilst in disguise, and thereafter to remain mobile. A static defence deprives them of the initiative and leads to a drop in their lethality, even if it increases the duration of an engagement. It is therefore vital that they should be aggressively engaged by first responders even before SWAT units arrive, with view towards restricting their freedom of movement. Regular policemen need to have basic proficiency in firearms usage and maintenance, as their initial reaction is crucial in deciding the outcome of a fidayeen attack. SWAT units can provide a mechanism for such training, through running marksmanship schools in high-risk cities. Rather than the specialized skills required for hostage rescue, first responders ‘only’ need to know is how to shoot moving targets whilst themselves being fired upon. Admittedly, this in itself is not easy, and weapon training is expensive. However, given the persistent threat of fidayeen attacks upon India, it is necessary to have a minimum standard which armed policemen in mega-cities cannot be permitted to fall below. For purposes of economy, priority for training should be given to those thanas that are located nearest to sites that have already been identified as likely fidayeen targets.
  2. Real-time intelligence: the most important challenge facing a decision-maker during a crisis, is to recognize what kind of a crisis it is. After the international scrutiny that it attracted as a result of 26/11, LeT is chary about directly targeting Western nationals in India. This means that a hostage situation involving Westerners would probably feature non-Pakistani terrorists (perhaps even brainwashed Indians, although this is unlikely). Any other attack would probably once again take the nature of a coordinated fidayeen strike, where the goal is not to take hostages, but simply to inflict a high civilian death toll. There are three questions which need to be answered in this situation, for SWAT to form a tactical appreciation: how many sites have been attacked, are the attackers in contact with their Pakistani handlers, and are they mobile or static? The answers to these questions will not be held by any one agency; they need to be fused together in a crisis intelligence cell. It would perhaps be worth creating such a cell in the Intelligence Bureau, with a hotline to local police officials, NSG Headquarters and the relevant NSG regional hub. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) is a logical choice for controlling such a cell, since it will be able to obtain information from local police about the unfolding ground-level situation while also exploiting national signal intelligence assets to ascertain the terrorists’ tactical objectives, in case these are dictated from Pakistan. Information needs to flow both upwards and downwards simultaneously, but with priority being given to the needs of immediate users.
  3. Image management: LeT uses fidayeen attacks as a means of boosting its public image within Pakistan. It showcases both tactical innovation and military skill, using media coverage of an attack to reconnect with its mass constituency of rabid sympathizers in the Pakistani middle and lower classes. It is therefore vital that during a crisis, SWAT units should project themselves as far more competent than the fidayeen, even if this is not really the case. One relatively simple way of doing this would be to release pre-drafted press statements, claiming that the NSG has been extensively trained by American and British SWAT experts. This would make it difficult for commentators in the US and UK to then ridicule Indian counterterrorist performance, as they did after 26/11, smug in the knowledge that geography protected them from similar attacks. Between them, the US and UK shape global narratives on South Asian geopolitics, often to India’s detriment. To be muzzled, they should be embraced. At a more substantive level, intervention units also need to be perceived as genuinely proficient in conducting dynamic entry and precision shooting during a fast-moving engagement over unfamiliar urban terrain. This requires that they be provided with digitally-stored building plans (which would have been previously obtained through routine reconnaissance), high quality nightscopes, and hands-free tactical radios at the sub-section level. Since fidayeen are unlikely to operate in groups larger than four to six at a single location, they need to be relentlessly pursued by comparably-sized house intervention teams (HITs), each of which should be carrying enough hardware to allow it to fight until reinforced.
Unlike their Western counterparts, Indian security officials have a poor understanding of discourse-management. SWAT units in the West and Israel have long ago learned how to cover up their weaknesses and project an impression of omnipotence, seeing it as a psywar instrument that discourages terrorists from carrying out more hostage-takings. The British SAS is the best at this, ensuring that in-house scandals are not reported in the media and sometimes going to the extent of inflating its own contribution to counterterrorist successes in which it had only been a bit player. 14 In part, this is because the United Kingdom needs modern-day heroes to revitalize its fading memories of imperial glory, and this had made the political establishment keen to project the SAS as supermen.

Even American SWAT units have been caught wrongfooted when hostage-takers suddenly open fire, but they are treated more kindly by their media. For instance, in 2011 US Navy SEALs botched up a maritime rescue operation, when Somali pirates seized hostages and upon being cornered, panicked and began executing their captives. In the ensuing fire fight, all four hostages died. Since the action took place on the high seas, away from press coverage, the US Navy was able to disseminate a version of events that was charitable to itself, and labelled the hostage deaths as unavoidable.15 Calibrating media coverage through restricting journalistic access to the operational area is important, if unflattering images are to be prevented from going viral. This requires strict crowd control.

SWAT as a way of the future

Indian security forces are not used to their cities being turned into battlefields by armed gangsters, as happens in ghettoised neighbourhoods in the West. For their part, Western security forces do not have to cope with the challenge of a terrorist state that pushes mercenaries across its borders in order to externalize domestic militancy. This means that neither India nor the West as yet has a template for dealing with ‘swarm’ attacks launched on soft targets by international terrorists. The US and UK have sidestepped this problem by appeasement: they have tacitly signalled to Pakistan that it can continue to target Indian civilians, provided it cooperates in their own efforts to combat jihadist militancy. As Major General (Retd) G.D Bakshi has noted, India is the victim of a compact between the Anglophone West and Pakistan, founded on an implicitly racist logic that Indian lives are worth less than British or American ones. Having itself realized this, LeT is being emboldened to plan more fidayeen attacks.16

Preparation for meeting these attacks, in the form of capacity building for rapid intervention, should continue. ‘Active shooter’ protocols need to be drawn up at the police thana level, to speedily isolate each site that is known to be on the LeT target list. As soon as first reports arrive of a firearm assault at one of these sites, the protocol should be activated, along with the crisis intelligence cell in Delhi. The aim of ‘active shooter’ protocols should be to seal off exit routes and insert a small team of policemen (perhaps just 4-6 strong) who can move swiftly towards the sound of gunfire and engage anyone they see carrying a weapon. Meanwhile, assessments should be prepared of the terrorists’ motives, based on the nature of the still-unfolding attack. If only a single building has been hit, then the terrorists are probably seeking to establish a defensible perimeter and create a long-drawn standoff, similar to an old-style hostage situation (albeit with much greater readiness to kill). If multiple buildings have been hit, or a large complex has been attacked, then they are most likely seeking to carry out a straightforward suicidal strike that will continue until they are finally run to earth and gunned down. Identifying what kind of attack is underway will be crucial for optimising the level of force used by the intervening SWAT unit, whether it be provided by the police, NSG, or military. Should an attack fail to inflict the level of damage expected by its planners, it would count as a victory for Indian security forces, even if the attack itself cannot be prevented owing to lack of specific advance warning.
At a more strategic level, it should be recognized that ‘deterrence by denial’ is not enough to defeat a group like the LeT, which receives the fullest backing of the Pakistani army. A more aggressive approach has to be taken to neutralize attack planners on their own turf. Although this is not strictly speaking a SWAT mission, it is still an essential component of maintaining Indian homeland security. LeT cadres such as Sajid Majeed (who directly supervised the 26/11 attacks and ordered the execution of hostages in real-time) need to know that they might one day be found in a gutter with a bullet hole on one side of the head, and an exit wound on the other. The only outstanding questions are: how long would it take to happen, and will their family members be safe from accidents in the meantime? 17 The answers to these questions need to be formulated in Delhi, as part of ‘deterrence by punishment’.

  1. ‘WikiLeaks reveals how foreign diplomats charted response to 26/11’, Indian Express, accessed online at, on 9 September 2013.
  2. John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, ‘Preventing Another Mumbai: Building a Police Operational Art’, CTC Sentinel, accessed online at, on 9 September 2013.
  3. Peter Harclerode, Secret Soldiers: Special Forces in the War Against Terrorism (London: Cassell, 2000), pp. 517-524.
  4. Kathryn Westcott, ‘What is Stockholm syndrome?’, BBC News Magazine, accessed online at, 9 September 2013.
  5. Hans Halberstadt, SWAT TEAM: Police Special Weapons and Tactics (Osceola, WI: Motorbooks, 1994), pp. 16-24.
  6. Adrian Weale, Secret Warfare: Special Operations Forces from the Great Game to the SAS (London: Coronet, 1997), p. 205.
  7. K.P.S Gill, ‘Endgame in Punjab: 1988-1993’, Faultlines, Vol. 1, accessed online at, on 10 September 2013.
  8. The example of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts, one of the most effective special forces units in the history of low intensity warfare, is illustrative. Initially drawing upon both police and army personnel for its manpower, it later shifted to being an all-army unit that operated under police guidance. R.F Reid-Daly, Pamwe Chete: The Legend of the Selous Scouts (Welteverdenpark: Covos-Day, 2001), p. 122.
  9. S. Hussain Zaidi with Rahul Bhatt, Headley and I (New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2012), p. 80.
  10. Adam Dolnik, ‘Fighting to the Death’, RUSI Journal, Vol. 155, No. 2 (2010), p. 63.
  11. William H. McRaven, SPEC Ops – Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare: Theory and Practice (Novato, CA, Presidio Press, 1996), pp. 8-23.
  12. Wayman C. Mullins, ‘The Role of First Responder at a Hostage Situation’, Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2003), p. 33.
  13. Andy McNab, Immediate Action (London: Corgi, 1995), p. 325.
  14. Peter Popham, ‘The SAS confronts its enemy within’, The Independent, accessed online at, on 10 September 2013. An example is the GSG9 hostage rescue operation at Mogadishu in 1977. A two-man SAS liaison team provided the German assaulters with stun grenades and were allowed to watch the rescue mission as it was underway. However, British spokesmen mischievously told the press thereafter that the SAS team had led the assault. See The Sunday Times Editorial Team’s book Siege! (London: Hamlyn, 1980), pp. 109-110.
  15. Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield (London: Serpent’s Tail, 2013), pp. 482-483.
  16. G.D Bakshi, ‘Mumbai Redux: Debating India’s Strategic Response Options’, Journal of Defence Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4 (2009), p. 22. Also see Saleem Shahzad, Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban (London: Pluto Press, 2011), p. 94.
  17. To get to the Hizballah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh, Israel’s Mossad killed one of his brothers in 1994, in the hope of luring the man himself to come out of hiding and attend the funeral. Mughniyeh stayed away on that occasion, but was eventually killed in 2008. See Ronen Bergman, The Secret War with Iran (London: Oneworld, 2008) p. 242. Perhaps the only reason that people like Sajid Majeed, Abu Qahafa and Yusuf Muzammil have not yet met similar fates is because they do not appear to be worth killing, since they already live in a country where the value of human life is depreciating on a daily basis.

Carnage of Christians and Other Minorities in Pakistan

Sushant Sareen, 
Senior Fellow, VIF

On 22nd September, 2013, two suicide bombers targeted a church in Peshawar, killing over 80 people and injuring nearly 150. Entire families were wiped out. Many Christian households, who in any case barely eke out an existence in a country and society where they are treated as Untermensch (sub-humans, because they are not Muslims) lost their sole bread earner. Teachers, students, newly-weds, about to be married, pregnant women, children (around 20) were blown to bits by the jihadists fighting for the glory of Islam. Of course, this is neither the first time such a carnage of minorities has happened in the ‘Land of the Pure’, nor will it be the last time such a massacre has happened because if truth be told, an open season has been declared on minorities in Pakistan. Muslim minority sects, Shias in particular and within the Shia community, the Hazaras, have routinely come in the cross hairs of jihadist mass murderers. Other non-Muslim communities too have been targeted – Hindu girls are a favourite target, Ahmediyas subjected to the worst kinds of hate crimes, and Christians not only made victims to the infamous and obnoxious blasphemy laws but also pogroms in which entire neighbourhoods are burnt by rampaging mobs. 

Every time an outrage such as the bombing of the All Saints’ Church in Peshawar takes place, there is the standard response in Pakistan: the government wrings its hands helplessly and issues a pro forma condemnation but does absolutely nothing tangible to prevent such an incident from being repeated; most politicians also issue similar pro forma condemnation not because they genuinely feel outraged, but because that is the politically correct thing to do; other politicians – to name just the most notorious of this lot, the Taliban defender and supporter Imran Khan, the flag-bearer of Islamist terror Munawar Hasan of Jamaat Islami and the Maulana who wants to run the Taliban but is currently running scared of them, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F – condemn the incident but then make the whole thing sound insincere and disingenuous by adding qualifications which are really short hand for not pointing the finger at the real perpetrators but deflecting the blame to an un-named ‘third force’ or insinuating a ‘foreign hand’ (which though not always specified is often an allusion to the US, Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies).

The ugly reality is however quite different from the spin that the self-serving and scared politicians, analysts and strategists give to gruesome acts of terrorism. A son of Maulana Maudoodi, founder of the Jamaat Islami, the party that serves as the ‘Mother of political Islamism’ and is arguably not only one of the political faces of the Al Qaeda but also partners Imran Khan’s party in running the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, hit the nail on the head when he said that the bombing of the Peshawar church was a natural outcome of creating a state in the name of religion. But even this is a partial explanation of the blood lust that drives the jihadists. Pakistan's real problem isn’t so much that terrorists are running amok, but that Islamist terrorists are operating with impunity and, to an extent, with the sanction of state. In other words, more than terrorism, the problem is societal extremism and a communalised national mindset.

Much as Pakistanis like to explain away extremism in society as something that was fostered on the country by the Islamisation policies unleashed by the former military dictator, Gen Zia ul Haq, the fact is that this mindset has been present since before independence. If anything, it was this mindset that gave birth to Pakistan, and if there is no course correction, then this very mindset will probably become the reason for the death of the state of Pakistan. Terrorism and radicalism are only the manifestations or symptoms of the deep seated extremist mindset which has been consciously and deliberately fuelled by the State through an education system in which children are taught to hate other communities, rendering most of them incapable of living in peace with not only non-Muslims but also Muslims who adhere to a different sect or school of theology.

A recent example of this climate of intolerance was when a news anchor (infamous for being part of the caretaker setup put in place in 2007 by the then dictator and self-proclaimed ‘enlightened moderate’, Gen Pervez Musharraf) who started a campaign against an elite Lahore school because it was teaching comparative religions to students in order to inculcate tolerance and understanding of other faiths, and the alacrity and zeal with which the Punjab government headed by Shahbaz Sharif came down on the school administration and registered cases against them. In such an environment, bombing of religious places of ‘others’ – Christian churches, Hindu temples, Shia Imambargahs and Ahmediya masjids – is par for the course.

Yet another example is that of the Blasphemy law. The problem with the blasphemy law isn’t so much that it is a bad law (which it is) but the extremism in society. Many places have bad laws or laws that are anachronistic. For instance, Britain has both an adultery law and even a blasphemy law but it is hardly ever applied because society has moved on. In Pakistan, however, merely accusing a person of blasphemy is enough to practically pronounce the death sentence on the person because if the people don’t kill you even before any court finds you guilty, the judge will be so terrified of acquitting you that he will pronounce the guilty verdict without applying his mind or evaluating the evidence, and if by chance he does acquit you, then waiting to kill you outside the court will be all sorts of people.

There is little doubt that a lot of the terrorism that is affecting Pakistan now is really a blowback of the Pakistani State’s policy of using jihadist terror groups as instruments of state policy. But here again, it was not this policy per se that's the problem. Other countries have also used such cynical and disastrous policies and lived to regret it and then being forced to change course and jettison such policies. But unlike other countries, Pakistan doesn’t have the benefit of the political and social space for pulling back from the disastrous course it took some seven decades ago when it first tried to use jihad to achieve foreign policy and national security objectives. If anything, it appears extremely unlikely that the Pakistani State (as it is currently constituted) will survive the wages of this jihadist policy. The reason is that this policy fits in well and feeds on the national narrative of extremism. It is both a concomitant and a corollary of the conscious spread and tolerance of extremist thought in Pakistani society. It is now part of the culture that the state inculcated in the people.

It is precisely because of this culture of intolerance that neo-jihadists like Imran Khan and old school communalists like members of the ruling PML-Nawaz invariably resort to denial, deflection and obfuscation even in the face of horrific incidents of terrorism. So terrified are these so-called leaders of the Pakistani people that they do not even mention the name of the terrorist group which carries out such attacks, even though the terrorist group openly takes responsibility for the attack. With almost the entire country suffering from a sort of national and civilizational Stockholm Syndrome, how can Pakistan even think of fighting, forget about defeating, the Taliban?

While there are still a lot of right thinking and sensible people in Pakistan, many of whom display great courage and intrepidness to openly criticise, condemn and even challenge the Taliban and other Islamist terror groups and their overground supporters, the sad fact is that these brave people don't count for anything in today’s Pakistan. The main reason for this is that they depend on the state to fight on their side but the state is run by people who are either on the side of the terrorists or are using terrorists for their grandiose, if also delusional, strategic objectives or are just too scared of facing, much less fighting, the terrorists. A prime example is Shahbaz Sharif who publicly pleaded to the Taliban to spare the Punjab from their attacks since the PML-N and the Taliban were fighting for the same cause!

Today, the PML-N is in power not only in Punjab but also in Islamabad, and given the recent resolution passed by the All Parties Conference for opening a dialogue with the Taliban, the ‘fighting for the same cause’ has now been taken to the next level, in which the Taliban have been made ‘stakeholders’ in the system. In such a situation, the massacre of minorities is a small price to pay, especially when the PML-N storm-troopers in Punjab have also participated in pogroms against Christians. Therefore, chances are that in the coming weeks, months and years, there will be many more such incidents, all of which will be followed by the usual meaningless statements of condemnation and bizarre conspiracy theories.  

All Eyes on Singh-Obama Talks

Kanwal Sibal, 
Dean, Centre for International Relations and Diplomacy, VIF

All eyes will be on the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama this week and what it produces. This is natural as our relationship with the US is, in many ways, the most important external relationship we have.

The US is our largest trade and investment partner as well as the biggest source of advanced technology, management practices and technical and financial consultancies for our economic sector. The people to people contact with the US is profound, not only because of the large population of Indian origin and the almost 100,000 students we have there, but also because of the influences imbibed by our younger generation.

The range of our engagement with the US is larger than with any other country, with over thirty on-going dialogues on various subjects, which implies a regularity of official exchanges on economic, political and security issues.


Our armed forces have the largest number of military exercises with the US, even though it is not our largest supplier of defence equipment. However, here too the US is making headway, with substantial orders already obtained, even as promises are being made of joint production of advanced weaponry and transfers of technology to rival Russia as our leading defence partner. The political commitment shown by the US leadership to remove the most contentious nuclear issue in our relations has raised expectations on our side that dramatic breakthroughs in relations will continue, even though we cannot define what they could be precisely. At the very least, we expect a trouble free relationship with the US.

On the US side, the expectations are more concrete and precise. They would want orders for the US nuclear and defence industries to materialize quickly enough as a quid pro quo for the nuclear deal. They want more access to the Indian market, for which financial and education sector reforms are considered necessary, not to mention improved regulatory frameworks.

To the old grievances have been added new ones relating to Indian protectionism as indicated by the decision to give preferential market access to locally established companies in the telecom sector, the retrospective application of our tax laws as in the Vodafone case and inadequate protection to IPRs as decreed by the Supreme Court in the Novartis case.

None of these decisions involve US companies, but the US has concerns that India’s example might be followed by other countries affecting ultimately either the global business models of its companies or negatively impacting their future operations in India.


The US corporate sector, earlier in the forefront of lobbying for India in the US Congress, is now taking the lead to have Indian trade practices investigated by the Congress. All the indications are that the mood in the US towards India has soured at the political and commercial levels.

This is unfortunate because short term considerations of immediate gain are gaining ground over longer term US strategic investment in the India relationship. India’s views about the US have changed fundamentally and the relationship will become more intense with time. US impatience will not necessarily accelerate the process.

India and the US have differences on WTO and Climate Change related issues. These differences are in a multilateral context, not a bilateral one, but the US is trying to push for bilateral convergences on these issues. Such pressure should not become counterproductive. India’s nuclear liability law has become a major obstacle in implementing India’s commitment to place orders on Westinghouse and GE for supply of nuclear reactors generating 10,000 MWs of power at two separate sites in India. Secretary of State John Kerry had voiced his expectation that by September India would have found a way to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of US companies, having no doubt Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in view.


Reports suggest that India may find a solution by interpreting the rules framed under the Liability Act flexibly enough to meet the demands of not only the US companies but the Russians as well for Kudankulam 3 and 4. This may not be easy in view of Article 17 of the legislation that obliges the operator to take recourse against the supplier for supply of defective equipment, even if the right to recourse is not expressly included in the contract. The challenge is to devise a way to provide insurance cover for such liability through some kind of a pooling arrangement, the cost of which can be adjusted in that of the project. Meanwhile, the decision to sign a “small works agreement” between Westinghouse and NPCIL during Prime Minister’s visit as a token of our intent to implement our commitment might be a diplomatic way out of the current impasse for now, but the larger questions of project cost and tariff competitiveness will remain unaddressed and could block negotiations in the future and cause disappointment.

On the Afghanistan question, President Obama will not give us satisfaction as he is seeking a dialogue with the Taliban brokered by the Pakistani military. India’s political and security interests in Afghanistan are becoming peripheral to US interest in an orderly withdrawal from there through a pact with the very extremist forces that they had initially dislodged and an understanding with the Pakistani military whose double-dealing they have directly experienced. With the continuing terrorist mayhem in Pakistan and extremist religious forces on the rampage in West Asia and Africa, accommodating the Taliban could prove a folly.

The PM’s Washington visit is unlikely to produce any dramatic result, but it will serve its purpose by reminding both sides of the high stakes they have in a progressively improving relationship that is undistorted by impatience or undue expectations on either side.

The Lesson from Muzaffarnagar – Establish the Rule of Law

Dr M N Buch, 
Dean, Centre for Governance and Political Studies, VIF

Muzaffarnagar is a district of Uttar Pradesh, the headquarters of which is about a hundred miles from Delhi on the main highway leading to Roorkee, Dehradun and beyond.

The district is very largely canal irrigated and is known as the sugarcane capital of India. It is, therefore, a prosperous district. Its population is divided between different castes and religions, but the Muslims form about 18.5 percent of the population and there is also a sizeable number of Jats. When Chaudhary Charan Singh was the dominant leader in U.P, he had an electoral alliance in western U.P. between Jats and Muslims and by and large these communities co-existed without much friction. Unfortunately, since then the politics of U.P. has become highly divisive.

Like Bihar, U.P. has also become an epicentre of caste and communal politics, in which no political party can claim the moral high ground. For example, during the last election to the State Assembly whenever Rahul Gandhi visited a district where there was a sizeable number of Muslims, he sported a fortnight old beard, thinking thereby that the Muslims would take him to be one of their own. The appeal to the Muslims was blatantly communal and, to add insult to injury, doubts about the veracity of the Batla House encounter in Delhi where a police inspector was shot dead by terrorists were raised and it was projected as a possible false encounter. The Muslims, not being terrorists at heart, firmly rejected this ploy, but in the minds of people at large an impression remained that Azamgarh District is the breeding ground for terrorists and that Muslims are sympathetic to communal terrorism. Unfortunately, the Congress has still not woken up to the fact that the Muslim of 2013 is not the Muslim of 1947. To him India is home and he wants to live here securely, confident that he will get a fair share of the development pie. To single him out as being different from others and then to seek his vote is an insult to the Muslims besides militating against the basic secular tenor of our Constitution and our society.

The Samajwadi Party, whose leaders such as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav try and masquerade as Muslims by donning skull caps, has made a blatantly communal appeal to the Muslims, based on religion and on creating a sense of fear amongst the minorities about possible domination by the majority community. The Samajwadi Party has done this because it is confident that regardless of what concessions it makes to the Muslims, it has a secure Other Backward Classes (OBC) constituency and that Yadavs, Ahirs and Gujars in will any case vote for the Samajwadi Party. In this cauldron of caste politics, Mayawati’s appeal is to the scheduled castes, more specifically the Chamars, though she has made some inroads into the Muslim vote bank and also has some upper caste Hindus supporting her. The BJP, knowing that in U.P. it will not get Muslims votes, is dependent on its upper caste Hindu votes and has reached out to the Jats. Viewed in totality, politics in U.P. has nothing to do with ideology, programmes or a development agenda. In the caste and religious divide, where honest officers are shunted around very rapidly, the discretion of the District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police to act independently to maintain law and order is severely constrained by political interference and all this has wrecked the administration almost completely.

The Constitution vests the executive powers of the Union in the President who exercises them through officers subordinate to him. In the States, the executive power vests in the Governor who exercises such power through officers subordinate to him. The Seventh Schedule of the Constitution gives the legal competence of Parliament, the State Legislature and of both of them concurrently to enact laws as per Lists 1, 2 and 3 of the Seventh Schedule. List 1, the Union List, gives the authority to Parliament to legislate on the defence of India, the armed forces and deployment of such forces in aid of the civil power in a State. List 2, the State List, empowers the State Legislature to legislate on matters relating to public order and the creation and maintenance of the police. List 3, the Concurrent List, permits both Parliament and the State Legislatures to enact laws on criminal law, criminal procedure and preventive detention. Within the competence prescribed in the Seventh Schedule and the laws framed thereunder, it is for the executive government at the Centre and in the States to enforce the law and to implement the mandate of the Legislature as prescribed by law. Therefore, it is for the Executive to create an environment of law and order, public peace and security against external aggression which would permit the people of India to have justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The maintenance of law and order and the promotion of public peace, therefore, become the fundamental duty of government. This duty is given in the Indian Police Act and the Police Acts which refer to specific areas such as the Delhi Police Act. The Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for the creation of an Executive Magistracy, lays down the duty of the Magistrates and the police to maintain public order. The Code of Criminal Procedure vests both preventive and coercive powers in the Executive Magistracy and the police. Chapter XI of the Code directs the police to prevent the commission of cognizable offences and to make arrests to prevent such commission. Chapter VIII empowers the Executive Magistracy to bind over any person who is likely to indulge in acts which disturb public peace or lead to the commission of cognizable offences and in lieu of security for good behaviour commit the person to prison for the period of the bond. The Executive Magistracy and the police, therefore, have adequate legal powers to take preventive action and thus maintain order.

Chapter X enjoins upon the Executive Magistracy and the police to maintain public order, disperse an unlawful assembly, use necessary force to enforce an order of dispersal and if civil force proves inadequate to the task, then the senior most Executive Magistrate may requisition the service of the armed forces and direct the commanding officer to take necessary steps to disperse the assembly and restore order. Under section 144 and 144-A, Cr.P.C, an Executive Magistrate may issue a prohibitory order directing a particular person or people at large to desist from doing an act or acts which can lead to a disturbance of public peace or create a nuisance. To this can be added Chapter IV, Cr.P.C. which in section 37 makes it compulsory for every person to assist the Magistrate or a police officer demanding his aid and under section 39 to give information to the police about the commission or intention to commit the offences given in section 39. The scheme of the law is that not only must the Magistracy and the police prevent the commission of offences, but they must also take effective action to maintain public order and for this purpose members of the public at large are required by law to assist the police and the Executive Magistracy.

It might be noted that nowhere does any law state that an Executive Magistrate or a police officer is required to seek the orders of either a superior officer or of a politician in order to perform the duty of maintaining public order. In fact, no minister, no government officer, no political functionary has any role to play in the matter of preventing a breach of peace and only a superior Executive Magistrate or police officer under whom the area Magistrate or police officer functions may give any directions in this behalf. In the matter of maintenance of public order, the District Magistrate is King and the Superintendent of Police is both Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief. That is how our system functioned when I was a District Magistrate. Neither my S.P. nor I sought orders from government, nor did government give us any directions in matters which related to the maintenance of public order. We took our duty seriously, the police took preventive action whenever trouble was brewing, we issued prohibitory orders where necessary, we intervened at the earliest juncture when we sensed that the situation merited it and we had no hesitation in using necessary effective force to ensure that no rioting or public disturbance took place. As a result of this, whenever an ugly situation developed the local authorities took immediate action and by and large public order was maintained.

Let me give one example. From early 1965 to the third quarter of 1967, I was District Magistrate of Ujjain and the finest police officer I have had the honour to serve with, Ramrao Dube, was the Superintendent of Police. In 1966, student trouble took place all over India, the United States and much of Western Europe. We had some problems in Ujjain also, but the S.P. and I decided that university students would not be allowed to take to the streets. We liaised with the university authorities, but unfortunately one of the very respected and senior teachers, who went on to be a very distinguished Vice Chancellor of the university, decided not to use his moral authority to keep students under control. The students tried to defy the prohibitory order, the police did not permit the students to advance into the streets, there was considerable stone pelting which injured a number of policemen, including the S.P, who had five broken ribs and we had to resort to the use of force. The S.P. was determined not to use lethal force and kept the armed party under his direct control. We were able to clear the educational premises, the injured on both sides were admitted to hospital and I decided to keep the city under curfew till tempers cooled. When some ministers decided to play politics, I requested the Chief Minister to stop them from coming to Ujjain and a couple of political luminaries who did come were reminded that the city was under curfew and they would not be allowed to move around the town. Peace was restored in quick order, I took the students for a picnic where their hockey team beat the district team and we soon became fast friends. Nevertheless, neither the S.P. nor I had any doubt as to how we would deal with the situation and Ujjain has never had any real trouble since then. We were given a very free hand because that is what the law states.

I contrast this with what happened in Meerut in the early eighties of the last century, including the infamous Maliana massacre. Meerut witnessed a number of communal clashes and the army had to be summoned repeatedly. I asked the D.M. and S.P. of Meerut why they could not control communal violence. The D.M’s answer was classic. He said, “For 364 days in the year, we are summoned to the Circuit House by some visiting minister or the other and lolling on the sofas by the side of the visiting minister are the local political goondas. The S.P. and I are lucky if we are offered a chair, but we have to swallow the insults of the political goondas and the orders of the minister to do what these people demand of us. On the 365th day when the same political goondas foment trouble, we are asked to deal with them harshly. Neither I nor the police force are schizophrenic so that one persona of ours cringes before trouble makers for much of the year and then another persona is required to take over in order to deal severely with these very people. Give us a free hand and I guarantee there will be no riots”.

Another example is of West Bengal where in the seventies of the last century the Left Front ordered that the police would not intervene in industrial disputes, despite the fact that 00workers physically restrained, through gherao, the management’s freedom of movement. This amounted to an offence of illegal restraint and intimidation, but the West Bengal Police was not permitted to act. Soon the police realised that in every matter, including crucial law and order issues, it was necessary to obtain political clearance before action could be taken. This was the end of effective policing in the State and ushered in an era of lawlessness which was exploited first by Left Front workers and now by the Trinamool Congress workers. Once the police stops functioning independently, the virus of lawlessness is bound to assume a dirty and virulent communal form and this is precisely what we have witnessed in Muzaffarnagar and other districts of western U.P.

It is increasingly clear that the district administration in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding districts of Meerut and Saharanpur Divisions stands emasculated. In Muzaffarnagar there was an altercation between a Muslim boy and two Jat boys. This escalated into a fight in which one Muslim boy and two Jat boys were killed. Had the administration intervened immediately and forcefully, then within the first hour of the incident the matter could have been contained. Instead, the district administration did nothing and the flames of communal passion engulfed large parts of Meerut and Saharanpur Divisions. The problem with the government in U.P. is that it is openly wooing the Muslims and did not want action against Muslim law breakers in Muzaffarnagar and elsewhere. At the same time, the Jats are a very substantial and aggressive community which has a high degree of social cohesion. This community would certainly not take any insult or injury lying down. Incidentally, the Jats contribute large numbers of soldiers to the Indian Army and they have fighting skills. The government does not want to antagonise the Jats and, therefore, fell between two stools in which keeping the Muslims happy on the one hand and Jats on the other became two such contradictory poles that whatever government did was bound to be wrong. The political interference of government, not only in this incident but over a long period of time has resulted in officers vested with the power and the duty to maintain public order not acting, large numbers of people being killed and houses being set on fire and about fifty thousand people becoming refugees. All this happened within a hundred miles of Delhi, the national capital. And they call this a government!

The Central Government, though not directly responsible for law and order, is nevertheless the guardian of the Constitution. Its responsibility, therefore, to maintain public order becomes all the more important because under our Constitution residuary powers vest in Parliament, under Article 256 the Union Government can give directives to States to ensure that a constitutional and legal structure is properly maintained and, if necessary, assume all or any of the functions of a State under Article 356. What is more, the D.M. is an IAS officer and the S.P. is an IPS office, both belonging to All India Services, whose ultimate rule making control vests in the Central Government. To remind them that they are servants of the law and not of the political executive of a State is well within competence of the Central Government. However, the response of the Central Government to the Muzaffarnagar situation is weak and indecisive and that is because the Centre does not want to annoy the Samajwadi Party and, therefore, it is prepared to tolerate the massacre in Muzaffarnagar but will not annoy Mulayam Singh Yadav. What should have happened is that within twenty-four hours of the start of the episode of rioting, the Union Home Minister should have visited Muzaffarnagar and, regardless of how the U.P. Government would react, he should have told the D.M. and the S.P. that if within the next twelve hours the situation was not controlled the Central Government would dismiss both of them without an enquiry under Article 311 (2) (b) and (c). The message being conveyed would be that even within the federal structure of India, All India Service officers charged by the law to exercise certain authority are expected to exercise such authority without looking for political directions and on their failure to do so, the Central Government would intervene and dismiss them from Service. If even two officers are dismissed in this manner, I will bet my last rupee that no D.M. or S.P. in India will be able to offer the excuse of being fettered by the State Government when dealing with a law and order situation. For them, the alternative to failure would be dismissal from Service. This should ginger them up in doing their duty. This would ensure peace and public order in India and that should be most welcome. This is vitally important because in the past whenever there have been communal riots it is because the district administration and the police have failed to function.

Therefore, the answer to all communal riots is independent action by the Executive Magistracy and the police and the formula I have suggested of immediate dismissal by the Centre of IAS and IPS officers who do not do their duty. This would certainly make the district administration function. Is the Prime Minister listening?  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why India should Deploy Dedicated Defence Satellites?

Radhakrishna Rao, 
Visiting Fellow, VIF

The successful launch of India’s advanced communications spacecraft, GSAT-7 by means of an Ariane-5 vehicle of the European space transportation company, Arianespace, on August 30 has come as a shot in the arm for the Indian defence set up. For this 2,550-kg multi band satellite designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will serve as an exclusive satellite of the Indian Navy, the youngest of the Indian services. The significance of GSAT-7 lies in the fact that it is the first dedicated military satellite that India has put in place. As envisaged now, the safe and reliable communication channels provided by GSAT-7 satellite, will help the Indian Navy strengthen its blue water combat capabilities in all its manifestations. With its 2000 nautical miles footprint over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), GSAT -7 will help Indian Navy network all its 140 warships, 13 submarines and 200 aircraft along with its ground based “resources and assets.” Specifically, GSAT-7 will serve as a “force multiplier” by sharpening Indian Navy’s edge in terms of network centric operations. On another front, it will provide the Indian Navy the necessary level of expertise for its seamless integration into the tri service aerospace command, the formation of which is awaiting clearance from the Government of India. More importantly, the robust communications link up facilitated by GSAT-7 will substantially enhance India’s maritime security over a wide swath of eastern and western flanks of IOR. GSAT-7 communications space platform is well equipped to serve as a “sensitive command post” in space over IOR and help transform the entire maritime domain awareness of the Indian Navy.

With a view to boost its striking punch and also expand its area of influence, Indian Navy is working on a well conceived strategy to link up its long range missiles, radars and air defence systems on all the sea based assets to a central room through a highly reliable satellite network made available by GSAT-7. The synergy between combat platforms moving in the high seas of the world with the land based nodes through GSAT-7 capability would help bring about a radical shift in the operational strategy of the Indian Navy .There is no denying the fact that a satellite based communications network is immune to many of the “deficiencies and limitations” associated with a conventional communications system. As a follow up to GSAT-7, it is planned to launch GSAT-7A for the exclusive use of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Meanwhile, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has revealed that in the years ahead it is planned to launch a range of dedicated military satellites for the exclusive use of the three wings of the services. Clearly and apparently, there is a growing realization that satellites could serve as “ears” and “eyes” of the defence forces on the lookout for a strategic lead. Of course, ISRO has maintained a stoic silence over the use of GSAT-7 by the Indian Navy. For being a civilian space agency, ISRO cannot openly associate itself with a space defence project. GSAT-7, which is the last of ISRO’s seven fourth generation communications satellites, would provide a substantial level of expertise for the optimum utilization of military oriented space platforms that India will launch in the years ahead.

By all means, the Indian Navy is keen on acquiring a range of spacecraft meant for a variety of end uses. For the tech savvy Indian Navy is fully well aware that ocean watch satellites snooping on the naval movements, electronic ferret satellites gathering data on radio frequencies, meteorological satellites predicting weather to facilitate an effective use of the weapons systems, navigation satellites guiding lethal weapons to designated locations with an unfailing accuracy, reconnaissance satellites providing vital data on the strength of the potential adversaries and the communications satellites ensuring a real time link up for the effective use of the resources have all become vital components in the mechanism of the modern day warfare. But then for now, GSAT-7 located over the Indian Ocean will enable Indian Navy to stand up to the expanding Chinese influence in the IOR. As strategic analysts observe, with China beefing up its presence in the Indian neighbourhood including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives through its much hyped “string of pearls” strategy, India should make vigorous efforts to realize a versatile, robust satellite based surveillance network designed to enable Indian Navy enhance its vigil in the Indian Ocean Region with the objective of warding off any threat to the Indian mainland.

Indeed, not long back, Dr.V.K.Saraswat, the former Scientific Adviser to the Indian Defence Minister had rued the fact that the tremendous strides made by India in space exploration has not gone to fill the gap in India’s capability to create space assets designed to help Indian defence forces meet the challenges of the future. According to him, in a futuristic battlefield scenario, successful operations of the defence forces on the ground, sea and air would depend on how efficiently space resources are exploited. Any denial of access to space would mean a clear cut set back to military operations at all levels. As such, ensuring the security of space assets too has assumed more than usual importance.

Space based assets are also critical to the flawless functioning of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) shield being put in place by DRDO. Indeed, in the context of rapidly changing global security scenario, the need for a range of satellites equipped with electro optical sensors and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) for early warning and other strategic purposes has become all the more pronounced. Currently, Indian defence forces have a limited access to the INSAT communications and IRS earth observation spacecraft constellations being operated by ISRO. But with the possibility of fighting a battle on the two fronts being very much on the cards, Indian defence forces are clearly in need of a wide variety of dedicated satellites to stay at the winning edge of the war.

But then ISRO’s civilian mandate and nature of operations focused on exploiting the fruits of space technology for the socio-economic development of the country, could act as a significant check on the attempt of the Indian defence establishment to involve the Indian space agency in a big way in realizing a resurgent space defence capability. However, technology developed by ISRO for its satellites meant for earth observation, communication and other end uses could well serve as a test bed for future military space projects. In the context of the efforts to revive the spectre of space war, as highlighted by the Chinese and American moves, India’s political leadership should seriously consider the issue of giving a military edge to India’s exclusive civilian space programme. Not surprisingly then , strategic analysts hold the view that launch by ISRO of increasingly capable, higher resolution earth imaging satellites has implications for surveillance and reconnaissance. The Cartosat series of satellites though designed for cartographic applications can be exploited to meet a part of the requirements of the Indian defence forces. But then there is no denying the point that Cartosat series of satellites fall short of the 10-15 cm resolution featured by the best of the defence satellites.

The launch of the 300-kg RISAT-II all weather microwave imaging satellite realized by ISRO in association with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in April 2009 did give a new edge to the surveillance capabilities of the Indian defence forces. In fact, RISAT-II was built and launched on a fast track mode to meet the challenges posed by the growing terrorist threat to the country and heighten vigil along the Indo-Pakistan border. Equipped with a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), RISAT-II is an all weather satellite capable of collecting data even under conditions of cloud, darkness, haze and dust. The fully home grown RISAT-1 satellite launched in April 2011 can easily complement the surveillance capabilities inherent in RISAT-II. The all weather microwave earth imaging satellites like RISAT-1 and RISAT-II would give early warning about any kind of troop build up and terrorist camps. Indian defence forces can access the remote sensing satellite capability built up by ISRO for meeting a part of their surveillance requirements, as remote sensing and surveillance are considered the two faces of the same coin.

The satellite intelligence capability is expected to provide Indian military planners, tactical and strategic information on military build up in China and Pakistan. The Hyderabad based Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL) of DRDO has hinted at developing an electronic intelligence satellite for the exclusive use of the Indian defence forces. This satellite would be capable to intercepting radar communications and satphone conversations of the adversaries .The glaring intelligence failure suffered by the Indian Army during 1999 Kargil skirmish with Pakistan has strengthened the urge of the Indian defence establishment to go in for space assets at an accelerated pace.

Clearly and apparently, the limited capability of ISRO in building and launching satellites could be a big hurdle in the way of helping the Indian defence establishment to meet their needs for “space assets”. Moreover, with the Indian industrial base lacking in resources and expertise to build satellites and launch vehicles on a turnkey basis, the Indian defence forces may find it difficult to get the kind of space platforms delivered into orbit well on time. However, a synergy between the technologies developed by ISRO and DRDO could prove a win win development for putting in place a platform for developing and launching a range of defence satellites. Indeed, in early 2010, DRDO had emphasized on a comprehensive Indian space defence capability on the strength of technological advances made by DRDO and ISRO. However, the road map for the building up of defence space capability of the country is far from clear. In particular, enough focus should be given to the institutional support mechanism for meeting the Indian defence forces’ rapidly growing needs of high performance defence satellites.

Of course, Indian industries continue to support the Indian space program by way of the supply of components and systems and hardware for satellites and launch vehicles. In sharp contrast, in US and West Europe, private industrial outfits have built up a technological and manufacturing base resurgent enough to supply both the satellites and launch vehicles in a ready to use condition. Against this backdrop, it may be appropriate to set up a high powered space defence agency authorized to pool the resources, expertise, talent and infrastructure available in the country-cutting across the private-public sector barriers for realizing the space based assets for the exclusive use of defence forces on a fast track mode with least bureaucratic interference.

The Indian Defence Ministry‘s “Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap” till 2025 has identified space warfare as a priority area. The concept of integrated warfare and the need for reducing the “sensor to shooter loop” underpins the need for a totally radical approach focussed on “battlefield dynamics” with system capable of making available information on real time basis to all the three wings of the services. The roadmap of the Indian Defence Ministry identifies in unambiguous terms, the development of an anti satellite capability based on “electronics or physical destruction of satellites in both low and geostationary orbits.”

The launch of India’s first full fledged navigation satellite IRNSS-1A on July 2 is a development that could positively impact on the battlefield strategy of the Indian defence forces. IRNSS-1A, the first of the seven spacecraft constituting the space segment of the home-grown Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), would provide the Indian defence forces a robust system for location identification and navigational support for combat aircraft as well as for combat platforms on land and sea. For the defence forces in the thick of the battle field operations, a GPS system like IRNSS enables locating objects in the dark and paves way for the coordination of the troop movements even in hitherto unfamiliar territory in addition to facilitating reconnaissance as well as search and rescue operations. For the Indian defence forces which had difficult times accessing the “restricted capability” of the US GPS system, IRNSS would provide hassle free, uninterrupted access to the satellite navigational capabilities.

Indeed the stunning effectiveness of the American GPS was demonstrated during the ‘Desert Storm’ operations of 1990-91 that was aimed at freeing Kuwait from the clutches of the invading forces from the neighbouring Iraq. Here the potentials of the American GPS was mainly pressed into service to guide bombers to targets, allow infantry and armoured units to locate their bases in frightening, featureless expanse of the desert and position artillery in a war zone ideally suited to fire at enemy lines apart from precisely navigating missiles to chosen targets. The US-led allied forces during their operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq relied heavily on satellite based navigation with hand held portable GPS devices to realize their strategic goals at a rapid pace.

By all means, GPS is considered a veritable force multiplier by the defence forces in the battlefield. Moreover, it has also been instrumental in shaping the contours of the precision warfare. For the Indian defence forces, the IRNSS system capabilities will be of immense use in refining the network centric warfare techniques. Similarly, the proposed Indian tri service aerospace command would need a large and independent satellite navigation capability that can be accessed anytime to boost its combat superiority. Indeed, for the Indian tri service aerospace command, access to GPS along with other satellites meant for communications, surveillance and weather watch would mean a quantum leap in meeting the challenges of the future warfare with confidence.

For India, there is an imminent need to develop a robust system to protect space assets that are critical to every aspect of military operations on the ground, in the air and on the sea. DRDO has hinted that it is working on putting in place the building blocks of an Indian anti satellite system to neutralize hostile satellites moving in low earth and polar orbits. The focus of DRDO would be on laser based sensors and exo atmospheric killer vehicle (EKV), the technology of which could be derived from its missile development programme. As it is, the technologies developed for India’s long range, nuke capable Agni-V missile which had its second successful test flight on Sept.16 could be profitably exploited for boosting India’s space defence and space warfare capabilities.

It was the early 2007 Chinese test that made use of a ground based medium range ballistic missile to smash an ageing weather watch satellite stationed at an altitude of 537-kms above the earth that sent shock waves through the Indian defence establishment. Subsequently, there was a strident clamour to develop a full fledged Indian space war capability along with a range of dedicated defence satellites. And the modest effort now on in this direction seems to be a response to Chinese strides in space defence capability. In realizing the military space capability, India should look beyond the Chinese threat by taking into account the global advances in the area of satellite technology and space warfare techniques.