Sunday, January 11, 2009



(Following are some more questions from its readers forwarded to me by "India Today", the weekly published from New Delhi, and my answers to them. These are available at its web site at

Question No.1: Do you see any difference between the RAW and the Mossad?

A:MOSSAD is an intelligence collection as well as an action-oriented agency. The ISI of Pakistan is somewhat like the MOSSAD. From 1968 till 1997, the R&AW too used to be like the MOSSAD. In 1997, as an unilateral gesture to Pakistan, Inder Gujral ordered that the R&AW's Covert Action division should be wound up. Many senior officers represented to Gujral that if he wanted to show a gesture to Pakistan, he could suspend its covert operations for a while and see whether Pakistan reciprocates. If it did not, they could be resumed. They strongly advised him against winding up the division. They pointed out that it took about 29 years to develop the division. If it was just wound up and if a future Prime Minister wanted to re-start it, it would take him at least two or three years. He was adamant and refused to re-consider his decision. When A.B.Vajpayee became the Prime Minister in 1998, the R&AW officers were hoping that he would approve the re-starting of the division. But, surprisingly, he took the same line as Gujral and believed that a unilateral gesture to Pakistan was necessary, He declined to reverse the decision of Gujral. Since 1997, the R&AW is therefore a purely intelligence-collection agency like the MI6, the British external intelligence agency. When Ariel Sharon was the Israeli Prime Minister, the charter of the MOSSAD was revised to give the highest priority to the collection of terrorism-related intelligence. About two-thirds of MOSSAD's budget goes towards the collection of terrorism-related intelligence and only one-third towards the collection of political, economic and military intelligence about Israel's adversary States such as Iran and Syria. It is estimated that only about 25 per cent of the R&AW's budget goes towards the collection of terrorism-related intelligence. The remaining 75 per cent is spent on political, economic and military intelligence about India's neighbours and State adversaries.

QUESTION NO.2: How can we fight with terrorism when we have so many MPs with criminal background?

A: You are right. The number of political leaders with a criminal background or with contacts with the mafia world is quite high in India as compared to other democracies. During the investigation into the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, which were orchestrated by Dawood Ibrahim, it came out that sometimes Dawood's men, during their visits to Delhi, used to stay in the servants’ quarters of a senior Minister in the Cabinet of Narasimha Rao. On one occasion, when the servants’ quarters were not available, the Personal Assistant of the Minister had put up a member of Dawood's gang in the guest house of a public sector company. This was brought to the notice of Narasimha Rao. One does not know how many political leaders have contacts with terrorists and give them shelter. When some of our own political leaders give shelter to mafia gangsters and terrorists, our protests to Pakistan over its giving shelter do not carry conviction. No Prime Minister has tackled this issue seriously.

Question No.3: Why did the NSG commandoes take so much time to kill only four terrorists in the Taj hotel in Mumbai?

A.There were about 600 persons staying in the Taj Hotel or eating in the restaurants there at the time the terrorists forced their way in and took them hostages. Only 31 of them died either as a result of the terrorists' action or in the exchange of fire between the terrorists and the NSG. In the Oberoi/Trident hotels there were about 400 people, of whom 32 died. Thus out of the about 1000 people in the two hotels, including the staff, 63 died and the remaining over 900 either managed to escape on their own or were rescued by the NSG. This is a creditable record. A special intervention force such as the NSG requires time to study the maps of the hotels, collect intelligence about the number of terrorists, their weapons, mood etc before they intervene. Some Western analysts criticised the NSG for being too slow. On the other hand, some Israeli analysts criticised them for being over-hasty. They felt that the NSG should have tried to buy time by engaging in a telephone conversation with the terrorists in an attempt to tire them out. The Israelis themselves on their own through intermediaries tried to engage the two terrorists in the Jewish centre in the Nariman House engaged in a telephone conversation. Unfortunately, the mobile telephone of the terrorists ran short of power and the conversation was cut off. I will not criticise the NSG for taking 60 hours. The most objective assessment of the performance of the NSG and the Police has come from Ami Pedazhur, a Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and the author of the forthcoming book "The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism," in an article contributed by him to the "New York Times " ( December 19,2008). Mr.Pedazhur wrote : "It is clear that the Indian security forces made some mistakes. However, mistakes are inherent in such crises. At the same time, given the complex nature of the attacks, it seems likely the death toll could have been much higher. After the initial confusion, the Indians seem to have done a thorough job of gathering intelligence and carefully planning their counterattacks. The execution itself was careful and thorough."

Question No.4: Why don't we empower the RAW to covertly sabotage the very structure of the ISI and render it powerless, thereby destroying the engine of the whole terror mechanism.

A.As an independent country, Pakistan has every right to have its own intelligence agency, We cannot question the right of Pakistan to have the ISI and give it a covert action capability. We should not target the ISI as an institution and its officers. We should target the covert action capabilities of the ISI and make them ineffective. Similarly, we should target the terrorist organisations and their leaders used by the ISI against us. We have not been doing this. Hence our problems.

Question No.5: Shouldn't our armed forces report directly to the President of the country instead of the political leaders sitting in the govt offices?

A.In our understandable anxiety to teach Pakistan a lesson for using terrorism against India, we should not let India become another Pakistan.The Prime Minister as the leader of the party directly elected by the people should have the political primacy over the Armed Forces and the security agencies which should obey his orders. For ceremonial purposes and for purposes of protocol, the indirectly elected President, in his capacity as the head of state, has a very limited role, but his role vis-a-vis the Armed Forces and the security agencies is not like the role of the President of the US, who is elected by an electoral college directly elected by the people. The relationship of the armed forces with the head of State and the head of Government as laid down by the founding fathers of the Indian Republic has served us well. We should not tinker with it.