Wednesday, June 30, 2010



"It should be a matter of concern---but not yet of alarm---- that the fedayeen attack by a group of two terrorists---- apparently from Pakistan --- in the Lal Chowk of Srinagar on January 6, 2010, has come at a time when emotions are once again being whipped up in Pakistan over the Kashmir issue. The fedayeen attack resulted in a 22-hour confrontation between the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the terrorists, who managed to entrench themselves in a local hotel before they were killed.

"The whipping-up of emotions has the following objectives:

* To divert attention away from the domestic challenges faced by Zardari and the PPP-led Government.
* To placate the Army due to fears that the Army might get involved in any conspiracy to force the exit of Zardari.
* To placate the Punjabi jihadi organisations, which have been itching for renewed action in J&K, in order to bring about a divide between them and the anti-Army Pakistani Taliban.

"As a result of an improvement in the ground situation during the last two years, the Government of India, with the co-operation of the Government in Srinagar, had embarked on a policy with the following components:

* A calibrated withdrawal and/or re-deployment of the Army troops in order to give the J&K Police and the CRPF a greater responsibility for maintaining peace and law and order in the State.
* Maintaining on the ground the confidence-building measures already agreed upon with Pakistan before the bilateral dialogue came to be suspended following the 26/11 terrorist strikes by the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Mumbai.
* Maintaining the momentum of the dialogue between the Government and representatives of different political formations in the State in order to work out a political solution to their demands which are considered legitimate.

"The first fedayeen attack since 2007 need not call into question the wisdom of continuing this strategy. At the same time, the danger that a besieged Zardari-led Government might try to undermine this strategy by stepping up jihadi terrorism in the State has to be constantly studied, analysed and assessed by our intelligence agencies, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). "

--------- From my note of January 8,2010, titled " Terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir" at


The latest spell of unrest in Jammu & Kashmir ( J&K) involving clashes between stone-throwing and curfew-breaking mobs and the security forces has resulted in some fatalities----many of them allegedly young people. According to available accounts, the unrest has been partly spontaneous and partly orchestrated by elements suspected to be associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in the Sopore area. The exploitation of the unrest by the LET and its subsequent aggravation should not be a matter of surprise. The unrest, if it can be kept sustained, gives the LET and other Pakistan-based jihadi organizations an opportunity to turn the international focus back to J&K without incurring any international criticism. While the West has come out against jihadi terrorism of Pakistani origin in hinterland India outside J&K, it will be inclined to close its eyes to the role of the Pakistani jihadi organisations in the latest spell of unrest in J&K and focus only on the manner in which the Indian security forces have been dealing with the unrest.

2. In Mumbai and the rest of hinterland India, the focus was and continues to be largely on Pakistan, but in J&K it will be considerably on India. This makes it important for us to adopt a mix of firmness in discouraging violence and avoiding over-reaction in responding to acts of violence----particularly by young people. There is a need for a verbal restraint from all sides. Lionisation of the security forces by some political parties and praising their valour in facing the violent mobs would be as inadvisable as their demonisation by others. Similarly any attempt by the Governments in the State and at the Centre to demonise the Kashmiri youth participating in the demonstrations against the security forces would be unwise. Even if the Government has concrete evidence of the involvement of the LET in provoking and stoking the unrest, it should avoid for the time being any over-projection of the external involvement since this could further provoke the younger elements.

3. The immediate objective should be enforcement of law and order without letting ourselves be provoked into using more force than necessary and at the same time diluting the anger through interactions with the civil society and seeking its co-operation in discouraging violations of curfew and mob violence directed against the security forces. The Government has done well to advise the security forces to use restraint in dealing with stone-pelting mobs. It is an advice easily given, but difficult to carry out, but one has to find ways of doing so if there are a large number of children in the mob.

4. Remarks by political leaders on both sides of the political spectrum which lend themselves to misinterpretation by sections of the people that the political class and the security personnel are insensitive to the deaths of young people allegedly at the hands of the security forces add to the anger and tend to make the situation even more uncontrollable than it has been.

5. We cannot treat our Kashmiris as no different from the Pakistanis of the LET and other Pakistan-based organizations even if they let themselves be used by the Pakistani organizations. The Government has an obligation to ascertain their grievances and address those which seem to be legitimate. Perceptions of Government’s indifference to dialogue unless it is forced to talk through mob violence add to the violence and create fresh spells of unrest.

6. The Government of Pakistan, its Army and Inter-Services Intelligence cannot ask for anything better than a confrontational situation between the security forces and sections of the people of Kashmir. Confrontational situations play into the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists and would enable them to keep J&K boiling again.

7. In the training of our security forces in mob control, we have to stress the importance of a balanced response and not getting easily provoked by a mob.

8. The coverage of the unrest in J&K by some of our TV channels has been unfortunate. This has been particularly so in the case of Shri Arnab Goswami, the Editor and Anchor of the Times Now Channel, who has converted his channel into an electronic Hyde Park. In a programme on the evening of June 30, he had invited a representative each of the Congress (I) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau, and two Kashmiri leaders who are not on the same wavelength as the Governments in Srinagar and New Delhi. Since the Kashmiris are the aggrieved people, one would have expected him to give adequate opportunity to the two Kashmiri leaders. Unfortunately, he allowed most of the discussion to be monopolized by the Congress (I) and BJP leaders, who fought in an unbecoming manner. The two Kashmiri leaders were hardly able to give vent to their feelings. The fact that Mr.Goswami is a man of many prejudices came out clearly. (1-7-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Monday, June 28, 2010



In an interview to ABC TV channel’s “This Week” Programme on June 27,2010, Mr.Leon Panetta, Director of the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is reported to have stated as follows: “ Osama bin Laden remains in very deep hiding but consistent pressure will flush him out. While hard data on him has been slight since the 2001 attacks, the CIA and US forces have killed or captured at least half the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We took down the No. three in their leadership (Mustafa Abu al-Yazid) a few weeks ago. We continue to disrupt them. We continue to impact on their command and control. We continue to impact on their ability to plan attacks in this country. Al Qaeda’s depleted numbers had shrunk dramatically. The pressure is definitely on bin Laden and Al Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri. I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100 (Al Qaeda members), maybe less. If we keep that pressure on, we think ultimately we can flush out bin Laden and Zawahiri and get after them. President Barack Obama had made going after Al Qaeda the fundamental purpose of the Afghan military mission. We’ve got to disrupt and dismantle Al Qaeda and their militant allies so they never attack this country again. bin Laden remains in very deep hiding in a tribal area in Pakistan surrounded by tremendous security. The terrain is probably the most difficult in the world. It has been years since the United States has had good intelligence on the whereabouts of bin laden, although he is thought to be in Pakistan.”

2.It is nine years since the US intelligence agencies and military forces in the Af-Pak area started their hunt for Osama bin Laden after he was believed to have escaped into Pakistan’s tribal areas through the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan. They have had no success in getting at him. At least in the case of al-Zawahiri, his No.2, there was a report in January 2006 of a near miss in the Bajaur agency, but in the case of bin Laden there have been no reports of even a near miss. Neither the periodically enhanced cash reward offers nor stepped-up attacks by the Drones (pilotless planes) of the CIA have got him. The Drone strikes---helped by improved human and technical intelligence--- have been increasingly successful against leaders and cadres of the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan and the Punjabi Taliban organizations. There have been some successful hits against other leaders of Al Qaeda too, but not against bin Laden.

3. The Drone strikes have been largely confined to North and South Waziristan and occasionally the Bajaur agency. If bin Laden is in one of these agencies, he is most likely to be hit one of these days if the US keeps up its Drone strikes because Al Qaeda and its alles do not have a wide choice of hide-outs. The fact that there has not even been a speculation that bin Laden was anywhere near the areas which have so far been hit by the Drones would give rise to questions as to whether he could be in one of the Waziristans, where he is often placed by the US intelligence. Other likely tribal areas of his hiding are in the Chitral area of Pakistan and in the Nuristan area of Afghanistan. There has been no concrete indication from those areas either.

4. The announcements of huge cash rewards for information leading to his capture or death amounting to millions of US dollars have been widely disseminated all over the tribal areas in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and in its Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province (formerly known as the North_West Frontier Province ). The absence of any leads about him from the Pashtun areas could be attributed to the loyalty of large sections of Pashtuns to him and to their aversion to helping the US in getting rid of him. But not all Pashtuns like bin Laden or are loyal to him to that extent. The Shias among the Pashtuns particularly in the Kurram Agency of the FATA and in parts of Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa and the Pashtun members of the Awami National Party, which is a member of the ruling coalition in Islamabad and is the head of the coalition in Peshawar, dislike him. They have no interest in protecting him.

5. The fact that neither the interested reward-seekers nor the CIA Drones have been able to get any inkling of the whereabouts of bin Laden would once again bring to the fore the question which I had raised from time to time in the past. That is, is he really hiding in the tribal areas as assessed by the CIA or is he hiding in the non-tribal areas with the help of Pashtun migrants in those areas. The Drones cannot reach him in the non-tribal areas. There will be many non-tribals interested in the huge cash rewards, but they may not have access to information about him. It is easier to get information in the sparsely-populated tribal areas than in the densely-populated non-tribal areas. In the past, some top-guns of Al Qaeda were found hiding in the non-tribal areas---- Abu Zubaidah in Faislabad in Punjab, Ramzi Binalshibh in Karachi and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in Rawalpindi. Many Afghan Taliban leaders were found hiding in Karachi and other places and not in Balochistan as used to be assumed.

6. While continuing to maintain the present hunt for bin Laden in the tribal areas, it is, therefore, important to extend it to the non-tribal areas too. Karachi, which has more Pashtuns than even Peshawar, needs attention. So too Quetta in Balochistan, which has a large Afghan refugee population, who have given shelter to the leaders of the Afghan Taliban. The strong-holds of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in the Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan are other areas calling for search. Of all the Punjabi Taliban organizations, the LEJ and the JEM are the closest to Al Qaeda.

7. The question of Drone strikes in the non-tribal areas does not arise. The CIA cannot expect the Pakistani intelligence and Police to co-operate in the search in the non-tribal areas. The CIA has to organize its own search operations with the help of anti-Al Qaeda communities such as those of the Mohajirs in Karachi, the Balochs in the Quetta area and the anti-LEJ Shias in Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan. ( 28-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and also Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Saturday, June 26, 2010



Mr.P.Chidambaram, our Home Minister, has exhibited refreshing firmness during his talks with Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, in Islamabad on June 25 and 26,2010. He had gone to Islamabad to attend the SAARC Home Ministers' meeting, which was held after a gap of more than two years and availed of this opportunity to hold detailed bilateral discussions with Mr.Malik on terrorism-related issues.The focus of the discussions between the two and of their media briefings was on terrorism in general and Pakistani action against the Pakistan-based perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai in particular. He had gone to Islamabad determined to show that the willingness of the Government of India to resume the bilateral dialogue on various contentious issues would not mean a dilution of the focus on terrorism.

2. In his remarks in Islamabad, Mr.Chidambaram took care not to directly blame the State of Pakistan for the acts of terrorism in Indian territory committed by the Pakistani organisations, which are now collectively referred to even by Pakistani analysts as the Punjabi Taliban. However, he did not hesitate to highlight directly or indirectly the inaction or unsatisfactory action of the State of Pakistan against the anti-India terrorists in general and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in particular.

3. While keeping up an unrelenting pressure on Pakistan for action against the LET and its perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, including Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed, the Amir of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JED), the political wing of the LET, he saw to it that his observations and pressure did not spoil the current cordial atmosphere in the bilateral relations and would not come in the way of meaningful , forward-looking discussions during the visit of Mr.S.M.Krishna, our Minister for External Affairs, to Islamabad next month.

4. Keep up the pressure on Pakistan on the issue of terrorism, but at the same time don't allow justified concerns over terrorism stunt fresh thinking on other issues. That seems to be the new motto of the Government of India. It is apparent Mr.Chidambaram shares this motto despite his ill-concealed disappointment with Pakistan for failing to do all that it can and should to bring to book the Pakistan-based perpetrators of 26/11.

5. However, despite the refreshing firmness of Mr.Chidambaram, one felt disappointed to notice an apparent lack of adequate attention to questions of importance like the establishment of a networking relationship between India's Intelligence Bureau and its Pakistani counterpart, which comes under Mr.Malik, between the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan both of which are the central investigation agencies for terrorism-related cases and frequent interactions between senior police officers of the two countries. Mr.Malik did speak of the FIA and India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which already interact with each other during INTERPOL meetings, jointly investigating the 26/11 case. No elucidation on this was forthcoming from Mr.Chidambaram, who appeared to be over-focussed on the 26/11 case --- rightly so--- but under-focussed on the need for a web of institutional relationships between the intelligence collection and investigating agencies of our Home Ministry and Pakistan's Interior Ministry.

6.Mr.Malik suffers from professional and political handicaps as compared to Mr.Chidambaram. de jure, Mr.Chidambaram is the political head of only the IB and the NIA, but de facto, in counter-terrorism matters, all agencies of the Indian intelligence community----whether civilian or military---- report to him, keep him informed and carry out his instructions , even if they come under the control of the Prime Minister or the Defence Minister. Mr.Malik, an ex-police officer, is the political head of only Pakistan's FIA and IB, which has only limited powers and resources as compared to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and other military intelligence agencies.

7. In India, the military intelligence agencies play a role in counter-terrorism and in counter-insurgency only in the border areas. In the rest of the country, it is Mr.Chidambaram as the Home Minister, who is the czar of counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence. In Pakistan, the ISI and other military intelligence agencies, which have more powers and resources than the institutions of the Interior Ministry, do not recognise the overlordship of Mr.Malik in counter-terrorism. They do not always keep him informed of all the intelligence coming to their notice and carry out his instructions. The heads of the military intelligence agencies avoid attending meetings convened by him.

8. Additional problems arise in Pakistan because the Army and the ISI do not look upon the LET as a terrorist organisation. The LET is the virtual covert action division of the ISI and its operations in India and Afghanistan against India are viewed as covert actions in Pakistan's national interests. If Mr.Malik wants to take effective action against the LET, he cannot do so due to the perception of the LET as the covert action wing of the ISI.

9. Despite these limitations of Mr.Malik and his Interior Ministry, we must build up our contacts with them and the Pakistani police and encourage other countries such as the US and those of the European Union to do so in order to contribute in the medium and long-term to building up the status and powers of the Interior Ministry in Pakistan's internal security management. In the years after Pakistan's independence, the Internal Security Ministry used to be the overlord of internal security management. After losing control of East Pakistan in 1971, the Army and the ISI have taken over this responsibility, reducing the Internal Security Ministry to a virtual non-entity.

10.The present civilian Government in Pakistan is trying to re-empower the Internal Security Ministry. This is a process which all democratic Governments should encourage. China has been doing so. It has given the Ministry over US $ 300 million for capacity-building. It had invited Mr.Malik twice to China to discuss counter-terrorism co-operation. It has two programmes for counter-terrorism co-operation with Pakistan---one between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Pakistan Army and the other between China’s Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal security and intelligence, and Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.

11. It is hoped that Mr.Chidambaram would adopt this objective and work for it in the months to come.(27-6-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Friday, June 25, 2010



According to reliable sources in the Uighur diaspora in Pakistan, the authorities in some of the towns of the Xinjiang province have made it mandatory for all religious sermons to be approved in advance by the local officials of the Ministry of Public Security, which is responsible for internal intelligence and security. Prior permission of the Ministry is also required for holding any religious gathering. Members of the Communist Party of China have been banned from attending religious congregations.

2.Earlier, a directive issued by the Religious Affairs Department of Shayar county in the Aksu Prefecture of the Xinjinag province in April had stated as follows: " All religious groups must register with the village branch of the Religious Affairs Department, allow monthly inspections of religious sites and special meetings by authorities, and obtain prior approval of the content of any religious services. Before village members gather for worship, the Religious Affairs Department must review the content of the texts in question. An information officer for religious activities will verify the content of the texts and must be advised of the specific situation in which the texts will be used in worship."

3.According to the same sources in the Uighur diaspora of Pakistan, due to pressure from the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan's Ministry of the Interior has ordered the closure of the Omer Uighur Language School in Rawalpindi. The Chinese authorities have accused the school of having links with the Munich-based World Uighur Congress (WUC). The Chinese Embassy has advised the members of the Uighur diaspora in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad area that in future they should send their children to a school at Rawalpindi set up earlier this year by the Chinese Embassy.

4. In July 2007, the Chinese authorities had exercised pressure on the Government of Gen.Pervez Musharraf to organise a commando raid into the Lal Masjid and its two madrasas in the Islamabad area following the kidnapping of some Chinese employees of beauty parlours by the students of the madrasas. It was anger over this raid which led to the formation of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the wave of terrorist strikes by the TTP and other jihadi organisations. There were also attacks on some Chinese working in the Khyber-Pakhtoonkwa province and Balochistan.

5. In the past, the Chinese Embassy was insisting on action only against Uighurs in Pakistan suspected of supporting the Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan (IMET), an associate of Al Qaeda.Now, they are insisting on action against Uighur supporters of the WUC too.

6.The Chinese Ministry of National Defence announced on June 24 that the third joint counter-terrorism exercise between the Chinese and Pakistani Armies will be held at Qingtongxia in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region from July 1 to 11. The first exercise was held in 2004, in Xinjiang's Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County bordering Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. About 200 soldiers from both countries participated. The second exercise was held in 2006 in the Abbottabad area of Pakistan. About 400 soldiers from both sides participated. The third exercise was to have been held in China in 2008, but was postponed for unexplained reasons. According to the Uighur sources, the authorities of the two countries were probably concerned that a joint exercise in the wake of the anger over the Chinese role in the Lal Masjid raid could lead to fresh attacks on Chinese nationals in Pakistan.

7.Though no joint exercise has been held since 2006, the close co-operation in counter-terrorism continues at two levels---between the two armies and between the Interior Ministry of Pakistan and the Ministry of Public Security of China. Mr.Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, had visited China in 2009 and again earlier this year to discuss counter-terrorism co-operation, including exchange of intelligence. China is reported to have pledged assistance amounting to more than US $ 300 million to enable Pakistan strengthen its counter-terrorism capacity.

8.The "Los Angeles Times" reported on May 25,2009, that the Obama Administration had appealed to China to provide training and even military equipment to help Pakistan counter a growing militant threat and that Mr.Richard C Holbrooke, the administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, had visited Beijing in this connection for talks with the Chinese authorities. According to unconfirmed reports, Abdul Haq Turkestani, the Amir of the IMET, was reported to have been killed in a US Drone (pilotless plane) strike in the North Waziristan area in February last. During his visit to China earlier this year, Mr.Rehman Malik claimed that this information was correct, but neither the US nor the IMET nor the Chinese have confirmed his reported death so far.

9. In December last, a mixed group of 20 Muslim and Christian Uighurs, helped by a Macau-based Christian organisation, had managed to reach Phnom-Penh in Cambodia from Xinjiang and sought political asylum from the local office of the UN High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR). Before the UNHCR office could intervene, the Cambodian authorities had them arrested and deported to China. Three Muslim members of this group have since been projected by the Chinese authorities as terrorists, who were members of the IMET.

10.Mr.Wu Heping, a spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, told a press conference at Beijing on June 24 that the authorities of the Ministry had arrested a group of over 10 Uighurs belonging to the IMET. The details of the arrested persons given at the press conference indicated that the terrorist cell which the Chinese claimed to have broken up included three Muslim members of the group which had sought political asylum from the UNHCR office in Phnom-Penh in December 2009. It is not known what happened to the other 17 handed over by the Cambodian authorities.

11. Two persons were killed in an explosion in an oil storage tank in the Midong area of Urumqi on June 22,2010. According to the local authorities, the explosion took place when some welding work was going on. However, they have stated that it has not yet been established whether the welding caused the explosion. ( 25-6-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

Sunday, June 20, 2010



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the ninth instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

Prior to the bombing, the Government as a whole had the following information
relevant to the risk that Sikh extremists could successfully carry out the bombing
of an Air India plane:

It was aware that Sikh extremists were serious about a terrorist
attack during June 1985 against a symbol of the Government
of India. It knew the identity of the extremists likely to be
involved in such an attack.

It was aware that Air India’s fl ights were likely to be a target
of Sikh extremists and that a likely means for such a terrorist
attack was a time-delayed explosive concealed in checked

It was aware that the most serious threat to civil aviation was
no longer hijacking, but sabotage.

It knew that Transport Canada’s regulatory regime was
inadequate to deal with this sort of threat and that the specifi c
security measures currently instituted by Air India were
inadequate and were based on unreliable technology and
untrained screeners.

It was aware of rules and procedures that could have been
prescribed by Regulation, and that would have been more
eff ective in responding to security risks posed by interlined
baggage and by baggage checked-in by passengers who did
not show up for their fl ights.

It was also aware of more eff ective procedures, such as
passenger-baggage reconciliation, and practices for screening
baggage and identifying potential risks.

Nevertheless, because the Government did not address what was, by its own
evaluation, a security regime wholly inadequate to identify and respond to
known serious threats, it failed to prevent the bombing of Air India Flight 182.
( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the eighth instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

Bartleman’s evidence is not essential to arrive at the conclusion that the
Government knew enough about the pre-bombing threat to make its failure to
implement responsive security measures inexcusable. However, the prominence
given to the testimony of Bartleman by the Government makes it necessary to
conduct an evaluation of his evidence. With an understanding of what was
known by the Government in the pre-bombing period, Bartleman’s evidence
can now be assessed in its proper context.

Despite the aggressive insistence of the Government to the contrary, there is
nothing implausible about the existence and subsequent disappearance of a
document referring to a threat directed against a Canadian Air India fl ight. It is
possible that the passage of over two decades may have blurred some details
in Bartleman’s recollection, but the essence of his testimony is credible. The
Commission, applying the elements of common law assessment of evidence,
fi nds him a credible witness. He had nothing to gain from coming forward
with his evidence and he was fully aware that his evidence would be vigorously

The Commission accepts the possibility that a document such as that described
by Bartleman would have been ignored and then subsequently could have
gone missing from the Government’s documentary holdings because:

The documentary holdings for the pre-bombing period are

Archives have been purged with no index of destroyed

CSIS, as a matter of policy, destroyed source documentation
once it had been reviewed and any intelligence reports had
been written.

Despite statements made in documents before the
Commission and in corroborating testimony at the hearings
that asserts that in the pre-bombing period the RCMP was in
receipt of a large volume of threats to Air India forwarded by
Air India itself, the number of RCMP documents produced to
the Commission falls well short of that description.

The state of CSE documentary holdings from the pre-bombing
period is unclear and the holdings themselves almost certainly

Various government witnesses claimed that information about a threat against
an Air India fl ight would have made an impression on them and that they
would have raised an alarm immediately. This assertion, however, is inconsistent
with what is known about the reaction to threat information received by the
Government of Canada in the spring of 1985 for which documentary evidence
remains. Such threat information, including the June 1st Telex, received little if
any reaction.

A government witness who stated that he would have remembered and reacted
to any bomb threat concerning Air India had to be reminded of the existence
of an April 1985 threat against an inbound Air India fl ight. He defended his lack
of response in that case on the basis that there were no security precautions
necessary to deal with a threat against an inbound fl ight. Nevertheless, the
failure to raise an alarm and the absence of documentary reference to this
threat in any other material from the pre-bombing and post-bombing periods
parallels what happened to the June 1st Telex.

A CSE witness who attempted to attack Bartleman’s credibility asserted that he
would have warned the Government of any threat against an Air India fl ight, as
he had done months earlier when he saw a reference to the November Plot. He
apparently was unaware, however, of the existence of the CSE information about
security measures being mandated for Air India operations, inside and outside
of India in response to threats of sabotage by Sikh extremists and information
that Indian airports were conducting security audits in light of these threats.
This is information whose relevance to the Air India bombings the Government
disputes to this day. The very fact that the relevance of the CSE documents is
disputed is illustrative. If past and current CSE offi cials cannot, even in hindsight,make the connection between this information and the threat to Flight 182, it should hardly be surprising that its relevance was unappreciated in 1985.

It remains unknown how accurate the threat information seen by Bartleman may
have been. As he freely admitted, the information he saw merely suggested the
existence of a threat and he had no way to assess its seriousness or credibility.
The RCMP witness who testifi ed that the Force received threats to Air India before
every fl ight used that fact as justifi cation for the RCMP’s view of these threats as “fl oaters” – sent by Air India in the hopes that the Canadian Government would
provide additional security without additional cost.

This account of the RCMP’s view of the credibility of threats to Air India issued
at the time is consistent with Bartleman’s account of the dismissive and even
hostile reception he received when he sought to bring the information to the
attention of the Force. It is also consistent with notations in earlier
documentation about a seeming annoyance on the part of the RCMP with being
“second-guessed” on security decisions by a member of External Aff airs.

Even if Bartleman saw nothing more than what was contained in the CSE
information unearthed by the Commission, it is likely that it would have been
enough, given his knowledge of Sikh extremism in Canada, to convince him that
the threat needed follow-up. The fact that Canada had the largest Sikh diaspora
in the world, that June was a time when there was a very high risk that some
action would be carried out against Government of India interests and that Air
India was a possible symbolic target, all would lead anyone with his knowledge
and experience in the area to raise questions about what precautions had been
taken. This was precisely what Bartleman did. ( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the seventh instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

The November 1984 Plot is a similar instance of a pre-bombing failure to
integrate important information into the mosaic of threats. In September 1984,
the RCMP learned, through “Person 1,” that Sikh extremists were organizing to
bomb an Air India plane but failed to share this information with its own HQ,
with CSIS or with other agencies. CSIS did not learn of the existence of this
plot until late October 1984, when the Vancouver Police Department received
essentially the same information from “Person 2”, which it then shared with
CSIS and with the RCMP. The RCMP, however, failed to inform CSIS that this
information constituted corroboration of earlier information from another
independent source, Person 1.

CSIS was aware of several threats against Air India during the month of October
1984 and, prior to learning of Person 2’s information, issued a threat assessment
noting that an attack in Canada was remote but could not be ruled out.

After receiving Person 2’s information, CSIS updated its assessment to a “real
possibility” that Sikhs would damage an Air India plane.

It was not until March 1986, when the RCMP performed a post-bombing fi le
review, that Person 1’s statement to police in September 1984 about a man in
Duncan who could manufacture “nitro” for blowing up an Air India fl ight come
to light. If CSIS had received this information in the pre-bombing period, the
signifi cance of the excursion by Parmar and Duncan resident Inderjit Singh
Reyat into the woods near Duncan would have undoubtedly been assessed in
a more sinister light.

This chain of events dramatically illustrates the role that corroborating
information can have on the threat assessment process. It also highlights how
a lack of all relevant information can result in a serious potential threat being

Quite aside from the information provided by Bartleman and intelligence about
the June 1st Telex and the November Plot, there were other key pieces of the
mosaic in the possession of government agencies that CSIS never received and
therefore couldn’t use in its threat assessment.

After the close of the hearings, the Commission became aware of relevant
information in the possession of the Communications Security Establishment.
CSE information is subject to rigorous National Security Confi dentiality
requirements, and little detail can be revealed about this information except
that the information indicated that specifi c security measures, substantially
similar to those listed in the June 1st Telex, were to be undertaken inside and
outside of India for Air India fl ights due to threats of sabotage and hijacking by
Sikh extremists. Furthermore, Indian airports were undertaking security audits
in response to the threats and the Government of India had shown an increased
interest in the security of airports against the Sikh terrorist threat in the month
of June 1985. This latter fact would have clearly called into question RCMP and
Transport Canada offi cials’ view that threats, such as the June 1st Telex, were
provided by Air India solely as a means to obtain additional security for free.

This additional information might, in itself, seem unremarkable, but in the
context of the June 1st Telex, as well as other information known to agencies of
the Canadian government in June 1985, it should have suggested a signifi cant
risk of a bomb attack on an Air India fl ight in June 1985. There is no record of
the CSE information being provided to CSIS.

The June 1st Telex and the CSE information were more than enough, had they
been assembled in one place and assessed by a skilled analyst, to have mandated
an upgrading of security and the implementation of responsive measures at
Pearson and Mirabel airports and, arguably, at airports with connecting fl ights
to Air India, so as to respond to a high threat of sabotage by bombs concealed
in checked baggage. The Commission accepts the expert evidence given at the
Inquiry that, even on its own, the June 1st Telex clearly should have led to this
upgrade in security. ( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the sixth instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

In terms of the most important information regarding threats to Air India in
the year leading up to the bombings, CSIS appears to have been provided with
very few of the essential pieces of the mosaic possessed by other government

One of the most striking instances of the impairment of CSIS’s ability to benefi t
from the mosaic eff ect is the June 1st Telex.

On June 1, 1985, Air India’s Chief Vigilance and Security Manager in Bombay sent
a telex to Air India offi ces worldwide, warning of “…the likelihood of sabotage
attempts being undertaken by Sikh extremists by placing time/delay devices
etc. in the aircraft or registered baggage.” The telex went on to set out specifi c
security precautions to be implemented. These precautions included “explosive
sniff ers and bio-sensors [dogs]” as well as physical random checks of registered
baggage, at least until June 30, 1985.

Air India forwarded the telex to the RCMP Offi cer in Charge at Pearson airport in
Toronto, who sent it on to the Acting Offi cer in Charge in the RCMP HQ Airport
Policing Branch, requesting instructions on how to respond. The A/OIC sent a
telex to CSIS, asking for an updated threat assessment in relation to Air India.
CSIS responded with a threat assessment indicating that it was unaware of any
“specifi c threats” against Air India at the time.

In its submissions to the Honourable Bob Rae, the RCMP indicated that it had
forwarded the June 1st Telex to CSIS along with its request for an updated threat
assessment. The RCMP also told Rae that the heightened security measures
it implemented included the use of explosives-sniffi ng dogs to check the
passenger section of the aircraft prior to departure. Both of these statements were

The June 1st Telex not only was not sent to CSIS, it appears not to have been sent
anywhere other than to HQ Airport Policing. It was not even sent to RCMP NCIB,
the branch in charge of internal RCMP threat assessments.

The June 1st 1985 Telex was a key piece of the mosaic that never reached CSIS and
was never integrated into the threat assessment process about Sikh extremism.
The failure to forward the telex to CSIS eliminated any opportunity for CSIS to
consider the information it contained about the threat of imminent attack in
light of other information CSIS had received.

In his testimony, the former CSIS investigator in charge of the pre-bombing BC
investigation into Sikh extremism stated that knowledge of the June 1st Telex
would have given him a better understanding of the signifi cance of the “loud
noise” reported by CSIS surveillants when they followed Parmar, Reyat and an
unknown person into the woods near Duncan on June 4, 1985. A Toronto CSIS
investigator made precisely that connection shortly after the bombing when
he zeroed in on the Duncan Blast surveillance report and identifi ed the noise
referred to as almost certainly being a test explosion rather than, as previously
thought, a shotgun blast. ( To be continued)

Saturday, June 19, 2010



In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada.329 civilians---270 of them Canadian nationals, 27 British nationals, 22 Indian nationals and 10 other foreign nationals---- were killed. The majority of the Canadian and British nationals killed were of Indian origin. The 22 Indians killed included 20 members of the crew. The flight was operating on the Montréal-London-Delhi-Bombay route. It was blown up in midair by a bomb in Irish airspace.

2.The report of the John Major Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which was set up only in 1984, allowed the terrorist attack to take place.We have been carrying relevant extracts from the report on the web site of the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) at

3.The terms of reference of the Commission were restricted to finding out whether intelligence relating to the plans of the Sikh extremists based in Canada to blow up a flight of the Air India originating from a Canadian airport existed, if so, whether the disaster could have been prevented and why it was not prevented. The Commission's enquiry did not cover the role of Pakistan in assisting the Babbar Khalsa in organising acts of terrorism against Indian targets. This was not in its terms of reference. After the explosion, Parmar fled to Pakistan, where he was given sanctuary by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He operated from Pakistan against India till 1992 ----- for seven years --- and crossed over into India from Pakistan in 1992 following Western pressure on Pakistan to have him arrested and handed over to India for investigation and trial. He was killed in an encounter by the Punjab Police in 1992. The role of Pakistan in giving shelter to the main conspirator in the plot which blew up the Kanishka and continuing to help him and sponsor his acts of terrorism was also not gone into by the Major Commission. It was not in its terms of reference either.

4. When the Kanishka aircraft was blown up, Gen.Zia-ul-Haq was in power in Pakistan and was playing an active role in assisting the Central Intelligence Agency of the US in its operations against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. In gratitude for this assistance, many transgressions of Pakistan were overlooked by the Western Governments. One of these transgressions was its assistance to the Babbar Khalsa which blew up the Kanishka and not extending mutual legal assistance to India in the investigation of the case. The second transgression was its clandestine acquisition of a military nuclear capability with the collusion of China.

5. Mrs.Benazir Bhutto came to power with the reluctant approval of the Pakistani Army and the ISI, then headed by Lt.Gen.Hamid Gul, following the elections held after the death of Zia in a plane crash in August,1988. After assuming office, she started exercising pressure on the ISI to stop playing what she used to call the Sikh card against India. There was pressure on the ISI from the Western Governments too.

6. The ISI asked the Government of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, which was then in power in Punjab as the Chief Minister, to take over the responsibility for assisting the Khalistani terrorists, including Parmar, and for funding and training them. The Nawaz Government readily agreed to this and asked the Special Branch of the Punjab Police to take over from the ISI the responsibility for assisting the Khalistani terrorists. It appointed Brig.Imtiaz, who headed the political division of the ISI under Zia, as adviser to the SB to supervise this project. He had been removed from the ISI by Benazir, who intensely disliked him.

7. What happened in Pakistan after the Kanishka disaster is now being repeated after the terrorist strikes of 26/11 in Mumbai carried out by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) with the prior knowledge and possibly tacit if not open approval of the ISI. One hundred and sixty-six persons, including 25 foreigners of different nationalities, were killed. Till the Kanishka disaster of June 1985, the repeated warnings of the Indian intelligence and security agencies about the emergence of the Babbar Khalsa as an international terrorist organisation were not treated seriously by their Western counterparts.

8. The Major Commission report clearly brings out that there was a considerable flow of intelligence and warnings from the Government of India about the plans of the Babbar Khalsa branch in Canada to blow up an Air India plane originating from Canada. There were also similar warnings and requests for physical security enhancements from Air India to Candian security offcials responsible for aviation security. The Major Commission report indicates that these warnings and intelligence, which had emanated from the Government of India and Air India, were not seriously acted upon by the Canadian authorities. The reports from the Government of India were attributed by them to the Indian tendency to "cry wolf". Air India's warnings were attributed to its alleged desire to obtain security enhancements without paying for it. The result: 329 innocent civilians perished. The disaster could have been easily prevented and their lives saved, if the warnings from the Govt. of India and Air India had been acted upon.

9. This could not be done because of the tendency of the Canadian authorities to view any intelligence warning emanating from India with a prejudiced mind through the prism of Inda's disputes with Pakistan. This prejudiced mindset is not unique to the Canadian authorities. It is shared by the authorities of other Western Governments too. Have they learnt any lessons from the Kanishka disaster?

10. No. The same prejudiced mind was seen between 9/11 and the London explosions of July,2005, in their tendency to dismiss Indian warnings of the emergence of the LET as an international terrorist organisation on par with Al Qaeda. They started paying serious attention to the LET only after the London explosions of 2005 and then after the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai.Just as they were looking at the Indian warnings regarding the Babbar Khalsa through the India-Pakistan prism, they continue to view even today the Indian warnings regarding the LET through the India-Pakistan prism.

11. In the actions taken by them after the Kanishka disaster, they made a distinction between the role of the Babbar Khalsa in indulging in terrorism and the role of the ISI in assisting it. Post-1985, they acted against the Babbar Khalsa as a terrorist organisation and co-operated with India in monitoring its activities, but they refrained from acting against the ISI. After the Kanishka explosion, it took about 10 years for the Babbar Khalsa to be brought under control. During this period, many more innocent civilians perished at its hands .

12.History has been repeating itself since 26/11. The Western Governments are now taking seriously the threat posed by the LET to them, but, at the same time, they are refraining from acting against the ISI without whose support the LET cannot survive for long. Unless there is simultaneous action against the LET and the ISI, the threat from the LET will continue for a long time.

13.After 26/11, the ISI is behaving exactly as it behaved after the Kanishka disaster. Because of the Western pressure and the close monitoring of the activities of the LET, it has asked the Special Branch of the Punjab Police to take over the responsibility for keeping the LET and its political wing the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD) alive and active and for funding their activities. The Punjab Government of Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif, the brother of Mr. Nawaz, is going along with this.

14. The "Dawn" of Karachi reported on June 16,2010, that according to the supplementary budget for 2009-10 recently submitted to the Punjab Provincial Assembly for post-facto approval, the Government of Mr.Shabaz Sharif gave a grant of Rs79 million to the Markaz-i-Taiba, the headquarters of the JED and the LET at Muridke in Punjab. In addition,another sum of Rs3 million was given as grants to the schools run by the JUD in different districts of Punjab.Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who has been accused by his critics of having contacts with the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is playing a leading role in the Punjabi Taliban, has admitted to having given the money to the JUD.

15. One does not see any sign that the West is moving to act against the continued nursing of the LET by the ISI, either directly, if possible, or through the Punjab Police. Unless this is stopped, disasters of the Kanishka and Mumbai kind will be repeated.The prejudiced view of Indian intelligence warnings and assesssments brought out in the Major Commission report continues even today 25 years after the Kanishka disaster---not only in Canada, but also in other Western countries. So long as they are not able to rid themselves of this prejudiced mindset, threats of mass casualty terrorism planned and carried out from Pakistani territory or with the assistance of its ISI will continue to confront not only India, but also the West. (20-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the fifth instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

The central unanswered question that Canadians, and especially the
families of the victims of the bombing of Flight 182, have hoped a Public Inquiry
might reveal is whether the Government and its institutions had information
prior to the bombing that could have allowed the authorities to prevent it.

The answer is complex. There is no evidence that the Government was aware in
advance of the details of the events of June 22, 1985. That is the basis for the oftrepeated
statement that there was no knowledge of any “specifi c threat” against
Flight 182.

To pose the issue in this form is, however, to miss the point. In 1985, “specifi c
threat” was a technical term tied to emergency protocols put into place when
the authorities received a call-in threat that identifi ed a target, in circumstances
where there was not enough time to conduct a proper investigation or
assessment of the threat. This sort of “specifi c threat” justifi ed emergency
measures because of the magnitude of potential consequences even if it wasn’t
possible to assess the likelihood of their occurrence.

It is one thing to say that, had there been such a “specifi c threat,” detailing a time,place and method of a planned attack on Flight 182, emergency measures would
have been implemented to hunt down the bomb. It is entirely something else
to suggest that, in the absence of such a detailed, precise and “specifi c” threat,
nothing further could or should have been done to prevent the bombing.

The claim that there was no “specifi c threat” to the June 22, 1985 departure of
Flight 182 is accurate only in a limited and literal sense. No one source provided
detailed information to any one agency in one place and at one time about
the plan to blow up Flight 182 on June 23, 1985. On the other hand, various
agencies of government had extremely important pieces of information that,
taken together, would have led a competent analyst to conclude that Flight 182
was in danger of being bombed by known Sikh extremists.

Prior to the bombing, CSIS, the RCMP, the Department of External Aff airs, local
police forces and Transport Canada were collectively in possession of the
following information about Sikh extremism and threats to Indian interests:

• A plot to bomb one and possibly two Air India planes was allegedly
being hatched by Sikh extremists in British Columbia in the fall
of 1984;

• In the fall of 1984, Ajaib Singh Bagri was allegedly nominated to a
committee planning the hijacking of an Air India plane;

• Talwinder Singh Parmar’s group, the Babbar Khalsa, was reportedly
working on a “highly secret project” in the spring of 1985, and
Parmar had been assessed as the greatest threat in Canada to
Indian diplomatic missions and personnel;

• In early June, Parmar and associates conducted experiments in the
woods involving a loud explosion;

• During a June 12, 1985 meeting, a prominent Sikh extremist stated
– in response to questions about the lack of attacks on Indian
offi cials - that something big would happen in two weeks; and

• In late May and early June, Air India warned that sabotage attempts
against Air India planes were likely to be made by Sikh extremists
using time-delayed devices in registered baggage, that special
vigilance was warranted on items like transistor radios, and
that police should oversee the loading of registered luggage
onto airplanes.

James Bartleman, who at the time he gave his evidence was Lieutenant Governor
of Ontario, and in 1985 was Director General (DG) of the Intelligence Analysis and
Security Bureau at External Aff airs, testifi ed that shortly prior to the bombing, he saw, as part of the material he received electronically from CSE on a daily basis,
information that indicated that Flight 182 would be targeted. He was not able to
assess the reliability of the information but thought it important to ensure that
the authorities were aware of the information and were dealing with it. When he
brought the information to the attention of an RCMP offi cial who was attending
a security meeting in the building, he was met with a hostile reception and an
indication that the RCMP was aware of the matter and had it in hand. On June
23, 1985, when he was informed of the bombing, he thought immediately that
this was the materialization of the threat, and that the authorities had been
unable to prevent it.

Counsel from the Department of Justice, on behalf of the Government and all
its agencies, approached Bartleman’s evidence as though it was the only prebombing
indication of the danger to Air India Flight 182. In an entirely misguided
approach, Bartleman was aggressively cross-examined and witnesses were
called to attempt to call into question the details of his evidence.

Intelligence specialists often observe that an item of information, although
apparently insignifi cant in itself, may in fact be the missing piece to a puzzle
that helps a foreign or hostile group or agency see a pattern or draw conclusions
that have profound intelligence value. This “mosaic eff ect” metaphor is typically
used by intelligence agencies, sometimes excessively, to describe the potentially
dangerous consequences that can result from the disclosure of their own
information and to justify the need for secrecy. It is an equally apt description of
how gathering and sharing information can help an agency’s own intelligence
eff ort.

The essence of good intelligence analysis is that it pulls together disparate
facts and information from diverse sources to assemble a pattern in which one
can have confi dence. Once enough information has been assembled, even
seemingly insignifi cant new additions can lead to new insights and deeper

However startling and important Bartleman’s testimony may be, it is not, as
the blistering assault on his credibility by some Government witnesses and the
Attorney General of Canada’s submissions would imply, the only evidence that
suggests that the Government had enough knowledge of the threat to Flight
182 to warrant a diff erent security response.

Even without the document that Bartleman described, there was more than
enough disparate pieces of information that, had they been assembled in one
place, would have not only pointed to the nature of the threat, but would have
provided corroboration for the seriousness of that threat, thereby highlighting
the need to implement measures aimed specifi cally at responding to the
possibility of sabotage by means of explosive devices concealed in checked
baggage. Bartleman’s evidence is best understood as simply one more piece in the

In 1985, the institutional arrangements in place and the prevailing practices
of Canadian information-gathering agencies were wholly defi cient in terms of
allowing the mosaic of the threat of Sikh extremism to be pieced together so as
to make visible the pattern that clearly pointed to the high risk of a bombing of
The consequence of these defi cient arrangements was that CSIS, the government
agency that was given the primary responsibility for threat assessment, did
not have suffi cient access to facts about the threat of Sikh extremism. Lacking
good access to sources of its own within the Sikh community, CSIS was heavily
dependant on other agencies, both foreign and domestic, for the information it
needed to understand the threat.

CSIS had an abundance of threat information from the Indian government about the situation in India and about what was going on in the Sikh community in Canada, but it was unable to corroborate it.Without corroborating information, however, the large volume of information from the Government of India gave the impression that it was “crying wolf.”( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the fourth instalment of relevant extracts from the report.)

Even the most important achievement of the surveillance, hearing the explosion
in the woods, was marred by the misinterpretation by the surveillants of what
they actually heard. The surveillants thought they heard a shotgun blast, when
in fact they heard an explosion intended to test the detonation system for the
bombs Parmar was building. Instead of leading to a realization that Parmar was
planning to blow something up, the surveillants’ belief that they heard a gunshot
supported the mistaken conclusion by the CSIS BC Region that the primary
danger from Parmar and the Babbar Khalsa was a possible assassination attempt
or armed assault.

But even this misinterpreted information, which at the very
least appears to demonstrate that Parmar and his group posed a serious threat
to commit a terrorist act, never made it into the formal CSIS threat assessment
process. Likewise, a number of other signifi cant pieces of threat information in
various hands were also never reported, further compromising the ability of the
CSIS HQ threat assessment process to put together the pieces of the puzzle in
time to raise an eff ective response to the threat that was to crystallize into the
terrorist attack on Flight 182.

The fate of the electronic surveillance on Parmar, fi nally approved in March 1985,
was no less problematic, and arguably constituted an even more serious failure
because of its consequences for the subsequent investigation of the bombing.
In this case too, resource issues were important. While listening devices can
record conversations, it takes human resources to transcribe, to translate if
necessary, and, ultimately, to analyze and interpret them. Each of these steps
proved problematic.

In order to safeguard security, CSIS, like the RCMP Security
Service before it, adopted stringent security qualifi cations for its translators,
including lengthy periods of Canadian residency as well as Citizenship.
As prudent as this may have seemed in the abstract, in practice it meant that
there was only a very small pool of potential translators available for recruitment.
In BC Region it meant that there were no Punjabi translators available at all.

To cope with this problem, the tapes of the Parmar intercepts were shipped to
Ottawa, where they were added to the workload of the already overburdened
Punjabi translator at CSIS Headquarters. Delays were inevitable and a serious
backlog ensued.

Shipping the tapes across the country meant that there was no meaningful
possibility for the BC investigators to interact with the translator, who was
essentially left to her own devices to extract, translate and summarize what
was related on the tapes. Although a Punjabi translator for the BC Region was
eventually recruited and began work on June 8, 1985, a signifi cant backlog of
translation work in BC remained throughout the pre-bombing period. There still
seems to have been little interaction with the investigators on the ground and
there remains some doubt as to how many, if any, of the “transcripts” that were
produced were in fact reviewed by the investigators.

The transcripts were prepared by a transcriber who reviewed and summarized
what she thought relevant in the English language content, adding material
from the Punjabi content based on the translators’ notes. The eff ectiveness of
this disjointed process became further impaired by the vacation schedules of
the transcriber and one of the investigators. One of the investigators was off
duty in the two weeks leading up to the bombing and the transcriber was away
just prior to, and for a week after, the bombing. Because the intercept tapes
were erased shortly after they were processed, there was no opportunity to go
back to the actual tapes for further analysis or to remedy any defi ciencies in the
transcription and translation process. Whatever information was not recorded
in the transcription notes was lost permanently.

As discussed elsewhere , disputes remain as to the actual content
of the tapes that were reviewed and of those that were caught in the backlog, as
well as about the adequacy and comprehensiveness of the review and analysis.
What is beyond doubt is that no material from the Parmar intercepts made its
way into the CSIS, or any other, threat assessment process in April – May or June
of 1985. ( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.This is the second instalment of relevant extracts from the report)

Despite its awareness of the threat and of the identity of the potential
protagonists who might carry it out, CSIS appears to have obtained little
important new information of its own about the Sikh extremist threat or about
the Babbar Khalsa or about Parmar from the fall of 1984 through to March of
1985. The major reason for this gap lay in the state of the warrant approvals
process that had been put in place by the CSIS Act in June 1984.

On the ground, CSIS BC investigators were aware of the urgent nature of the
threat from Sikh extremism and of the inadequacy of their information resources
to deal with it. They simply had no information sources of their own and had
been totally unsuccessful in recruiting sources within a Sikh community that
was somewhat insular and vulnerable to intimidation by the extremists. They
soon concluded that they needed surveillance and electronic intercepts in order
to be able to understand and respond to the increasing threat.

The institutional response to the request to approve a warrant to intercept
Parmar’s communications demonstrates a fi xation with form over substance
and, despite protestations to the contrary at the time – and subsequently,
suggests a lack of appreciation of the reality of the threat.

The civilianization of CSIS was in part a reaction to RCMP Security Service
excesses in its investigation of the Front de Libération du Québec (the “FLQ”)
and extremist Quebec Separatists. Under the RCMP Security Service, while
electronic intercepts had required approval, the process was informal, simply
requiring a request to the Solicitor General, the Minister responsible for the
RCMP (and later also for CSIS). With the creation of CSIS, as one of the means to
protect civil liberties from unjustifi able intrusion by or on behalf of government,
a new system of judicial supervision of certain intelligence operations was
instituted, including a requirement for judicial approval for intercepting private
communications. This new protocol was to apply prospectively but also was
intended to cover existing intercepts that had been approved by the Minister.
There was an explicit requirement that existing intercepts had to be reviewed
internally and approved by the Solicitor General and then by a judge of the
Federal Court, all within 6 months of the coming into force of the CSIS Act, i.e. by
January 1985.

When added to the considerable stresses and strains that accompanied
the rushed transition to CSIS from the RCMP Security Service, it was entirely
foreseeable that this warrant conversion process would be the source of added
pressure and potential misadventure. The foreseeability of the problems that
might be caused by the requirement to devote considerable resources to the
conversion process should have called for added care and attention to ensure
that the process would be capable of meeting new needs that would arise and
not just of preserving existing arrangements. Instead, the response of CSIS was
to prioritize existing warrants and to defer new applications, with the exception
of only those deemed most urgent. As CSIS understandably would want to avoid
disrupting existing investigations, in theory, this process could be considered a
sensible policy; in practice, its eff ectiveness depended on the Service’s ability to
respect the new needs that were more urgent.

The evidence before the Commission indicates that, despite the priority
afforded to the warrant conversion process, it was possible to secure a warrant
in an extremely short timeline to respond to a perceived urgent priority, as
occurred in an area other than the threat of Sikh extremism. The protracted wait
for the processing of the Parmar warrant application either demonstrates an
unthinking application of the concept of priority of existing warrants or, more
likely, refl ects the lack of appreciation of the true urgency of the threat of Sikh

Despite certifi cation by the existing chain of command in BC as well as by the
Headquarters counterterrorism hierarchy, and despite increasingly pointed
memoranda from the front lines in BC, the application for the Parmar warrant
lay dormant for months while the conversion process went forward. Then, after
proceeding through multiple steps in the complicated, and still in fl ux, approval
process, it was further delayed for an additional month by what turned out to
be an irrelevant issue raised by the Minister’s Offi ce. Although the fi nal steps
leading up to the submission of the warrant to, and approval by, the Federal
Court proceeded relatively quickly, the total time from the request for a warrant
to the date of approval was over fi ve months. This lengthy delay was entirely
disproportionate to the heightened threat and the demonstrated lack of
intelligence sources available to respond to it.

The subsequent course of the BC investigation confi rms the theme of inadequate
resourcing and indicates that execution on the ground was not suffi cient for the
seriousness of the threat being dealt with. Eventually the BC investigators did get
approval both for electronic intercepts and for physical surveillance coverage on
Parmar. As will be seen, the story of neither eff ort is particularly edifying. ( To be continued)



( In 2006, the Canadian Government had appointed a Commission of Inquiry headed by former Supreme Court justice John Major to enquire into the crash of an aircraft of Air India named Kanishka on June 23,1985. The crash was caused by an explosive device suspected to have been planted in a piece of unaccompanied baggage by Sikh extremists belonging to the Babbar Khalsa headed by the late Talwinder Singh Parmar of Vancouver, Canada. The report of the Commission was released on June 17, 2010. The Commission has found that a "cascading series of errors" by the Government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service allowed the terrorist attack to take place.We will be carrying from today relevant extracts from the report)

The Air India Flight 182 tragedy was the result of a cascading series of
failures. The failures were widely distributed across the agencies and institutions
whose mandate it was to protect the safety and security of Canadians. There
were structural failures and operational failures; policy failures, communications
failures and human errors. Each contributed to, but none was the sole cause
for, Sikh terrorists being able to place a bomb in the checked baggage loaded
aboard Flight 182 without being detected. Some failures came to light almost
immediately, but a number have lain undetected, or at least unacknowledged,
for decades and have only come to light during the currency of this Commission
of Inquiry.

The first question posed by the Terms of Reference of this Inquiry is whether
Canadian institutions adequately understood and assessed the threat posed by
Sikh extremism.

All of the institutions and agencies were theoretically aware of the potential
threat to safety and security posed by terrorism in general. A few had some
knowledge of the dangers of its Sikh extremism version in particular. Several
were nominally aware of the threat of sabotage to passenger aircraft by means
of timed explosive devices in checked baggage, and one agency was even
aware of information indicating that Air India might be targeted by this method
in June 1985. As a practical matter however, none of the institutions or agencies
was adequately prepared for the events of June 22/23, 1985.

Indeed it is impossible to draw any conclusion other than that, almost without
exception, the agencies and institutions did not take the threat seriously, and
that the few individuals within these institutions who did, were faced with
insurmountable obstacles in their efforts to deal with the threat.

There are a number of plausible ways to break down the failures that allowed
the bombing of Flight 182 to occur. Each of the agencies and institutions that
should have had a role in preventing terrorist attacks displayed structural flaws
that impaired their performance.

CSIS only came into being as an independent civilian agency in 1984. Before
that, the national security intelligence was under the purview of the Security
Service of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The circumstances surrounding
the birth of CSIS had a deep and detrimental impact on its ability to detect the
particular security threat posed by Sikh extremism and on its ability to provide
useful advice to the agencies and institutions charged with protecting Canadian
lives and property.

Although the notion that intelligence should be handled by a civilian agency
rather than the police had been widely discussed and debated in Canada for
over a decade, the CSIS Act, which brought about this transformation, was
passed hurriedly as the last legislative act of the outgoing Liberal government
in June of 1984. It was then left to be implemented in a very short time frame
by a new Progressive Conservative administration with limited accumulated
experience in the area of national security. The result was an uneven transition,
marred by scarce resources and by bruised feelings: both at the RCMP, which
felt wronged by the removal of its intelligence mandate, and at CSIS, which felt
poorly supported in its new role.

While intelligence officers were aware of the existence of the phenomenon of
Sikh extremism, the rise in the intensity, fervour and potential danger of this
phenomenon was the result of events in the Indian sub-continent that took
place in the same time frame as the transition from the Security Service to CSIS.
These events included the occupation and fortification of the Golden Temple
in Amritsar, Sikhism’s central shrine, by armed Sikh separatists, the subsequent
bloody storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian army, and the resulting
massacres and intercommunal violence in the State of Punjab, all of which
culminated in the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her
own Sikh bodyguards. This chain of events led to a rise in anti-Indian sentiment
within the Sikh diaspora, including the Sikh community in Canada.

Even in a relatively stable institutional environment, keeping up with the rapidly
changing landscape of Sikh extremism in Canada would no doubt have proved
challenging. The impact of the transition from the RCMP Security Service to CSIS
made a difficult situation that much worse.

Although CSIS personnel were dedicated and hardworking, the institutional
context was poorly geared toward dealing with terrorism in general – and with
a terrorist threat arising from Sikh extremism in particular. Canadian intelligence
gathering was stuck in a Cold War paradigm in which the primary threat to
national security was assessed as emanating from espionage by hostile foreign
governments. Most resources were allocated to counter-espionage, with
comparatively few resources devoted to counter-terrorism.

Of the resources devoted to counter-terrorism, most were concentrated on the
risks posed by Armenian terrorist attacks against Turkish interests in Canada.
Even at the so-called “Sikh Desk” at CSIS headquarters, (which was a sub-unit
of the “Western Europe and Pacific Rim” unit of the Counterterrorism unit) the
arguably inadequate official complement, consisting of a unit head and four
analyst positions, was in fact only partially staffed. Only the unit head and
two analyst positions were actually filled, and that even smaller number was
further reduced by the fact that, for the better part of the year leading up to the
bombing of Flight 182, one of the incumbents was away on French language
training. In the Regions, staffing was equally thin. In BC Region, where the most
militant and most obviously dangerous elements of Sikh extremism in Canada
were to be found, two investigators were responsible for the entire investigation
of Sikh terrorism.

CSIS personnel assigned to this investigation received no additional training;
investigators and analysts were expected to learn on the job. CSIS appears
to have uncovered little, if any, information on its own, with most of
its information coming from the Government of India through the Indian High
Commission. The full extent of CSIS’s knowledge in the summer of 1984 was that
Talwinder Singh Parmar had been released from prison in Germany following a
failed extradition attempt on murder charges by the Government of India, and
had returned to Canada, where he was launching a public campaign of fiery
rhetoric and communal intimidation to radicalize gurdwaras (Sikh temples)
and to take over their direction and their revenues. CSIS was unable to provide
confirmation of its existence in Canada, let alone the actual size of the extremist
Babbar Khalsa movement that Parmar claimed to lead, and even referred to it as
the “Barbara Khalsa group.” By the fall of 1984, CSIS had pieced together enough
information to be able to identify Parmar as the most dangerous Sikh in Canada
and to opine that his associate Ajaib Singh Bagri could be manipulated to carry
out a terrorist attack. ( To be continued)

Thursday, June 17, 2010




( This may kindly be read in continuation of my earlier article of October 24,2008, on the same subject, which is available at . The earlier article is annexed for easy reference ) has reported as follows: "The long-pending investigations into the three-year-old Mecca Masjid blast case on Thursday (June 17,2010) moved forward with the Central Bureau of Investigation producing two suspects RSS pracharak Devender Gupta and his accomplice Lokesh Sharma in a special CBI court in Hyderabad. 14th additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate remanded the two to the judicial custody till June 30. A CBI team brought the two from Ajmer jail on a prisoner transit warrant......Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, prime accused in bomb blast in Ajmer Dargah, were in Ajmer jail for the last one and a half months. CBI sources said that they will seek the custody of Gupta and Sharma to question them about their role in the bomb blast in Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007. 15 people were killed in the blast during Friday congregation and subsequent police firing. CBI says that it was on the look out for two more suspects Sandeep Dange and Ramachandra Kalasangar alias Ramji. "

2. The investigation is still on-going and the final charge-sheet against the accused----all members of the Hindu community--- is still to be filed. The investigation made so far points in the direction of suspected targeted attacks on Muslims and their places of worship by some individual elements in the Hindu community as acts of retaliation for jihadi terrorism in different parts of India.

3.The fact that some of the arrested Hindu suspects had alleged links with the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) and other allied organisations has given rise to fresh allegations regarding Hindu terrorism. Prominent office-bearers of the RSS have done well to dissociate their organisation from the alleged acts of terrorism of the arrested individuals and express their support for the investigation against them to move forward vigorously.

4. Retaliation by a State against a State sponsoring acts of terrorism through surrogate terrorist organisations and against terrorist organisations which let themselves be used by a State are permitted under many UN resolutions against State-sponsorship of terrorism against another State. Such acts by a State are categorised as amounting to indirect aggression. There are instances of States retaliating against another State or in the territory of another State in order to make the sponsorship of terrorism by a State or acts of terrorism by an organisation from the territory of another State prohibitively costly.

5.The US air strikes in Libya in 1986 were an act of State retaliation for the terrorist attack on some US soldiers in a West Berlin discotheque by suspected terrorists allegedly sponsored by Libya. The US Cruise missile attacks on suspected Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan in 1998 were acts of State retaliation against a terrorist organisation for its suspected involvement in the explosions of August 1998 outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. There have been such acts of retaliation by Israel too.

6. While such acts of selective retaliation against another State and terrorist organisations in their foreign hide-outs can be justified depending on the circumstances which led to the retaliation, no law----domestic or international---permits an act of retaliation by a State or organisation or individuals in one's own territory against one's own co-citizens.

7.There has been no universally accepted definition of terrorism, but it is agreed by terrorism analysts that the indiscriminate killing of civilians by using an explosive device in a public place is an act of terrorism. Thus, the members of the Hindu community who have been arrested and are presently under investigation have indulged in acts of terrorism against Muslims if the facts alleged against them are proved in a court of law.

8. Calculations of what we call vote bank politics ---- electoral dividend or the lack of it---- should not be allowed to come in the way of the thorough investigation of the charges against the arrested persons There are two kinds of violence under the law----- violence in the heat of the moment in exercise of the right of self-defence and pre-meditated and pre-planned acts of violence. There is no excuse under the law for pre-meditated and pre-planned acts of violence-----whether they amount to terrorism or not.

9. Any perception that the investigation against the arrested Hindus is not being done as vigorously as the investigation against Muslims suspected of terrorism would weaken our case against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and provide an excuse to organisations such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM) for indulging in more acts of terrorism. The statement disseminated by the IM before its blasts in Uttar Pradesh in November 2007, alleged that the Indian criminal justice system is unfair to the Muslims. Any perception of a lack of thoroughness in the investigation against the arrested Hindus would add substance to this allegation of the IM.

10. It is in the interest of the RSS and allied organisations to strongly support such a thorough investigation and make it abundantly clear that they do not support acts of retaliation in our territory against our co-citizens. ( 18-6-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )


Paper no. 2892 24-Oct.-2008
Anti-Muslim Reprisal Terrorism? - International Terrorism Monitor--Paper No. 460
by B. Raman

"Some sections of the Muslim community suspected that this attack ----like the other attacks targeting members of their community--- must have been the responsibility of Hindu extremist elements. There was no basis for their suspicions, but they persist. The only way of removing their suspicions is through a thorough investigation and the definitive identification of all those involved. The many missing links in the investigation of this strike as well as in the terrorist attack on the Mumbai suburban trains should be a cause for concern. Targeted attacks on innocent Muslims by Al Qaeda and other jihadi organizations is nothing new. Such attacks take place often in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, in those countries, the attacks on Muslim civilians are generally due to one of two factors. Either the targeted Muslims belonged to a rival sect (Sunni vs Shia or Deobandi vs Barelvi) or rival organization or were perceived as collaborators of the Government and hence apostates. None of these factors applied in the case of the Muslims----Indians and Pakistanis--- who were traveling by the Samjotha Express. The conventional wisdom was that the Muslims were now being deliberately targeted by the jihadi organizations in order to provoke them against the Government and the Hindus. I do not subscribe to this wisdom. It is important to keep an open mind while investigating these targeted attacks on Indian Muslims and one should not jump to the conclusion that the LET or the HUJI must have been involved. We owe it to our Muslims, most of whom have kept away from Al Qaeda and other pan-Islamic organizations, to see that these cases of targeted attacks on Muslims are thoroughly investigated instead of coming to a facile conclusion that jihadi organizations must be behind them."

-----My comments on the terrorist strike in the Samjotha Express in my book "Terrorism---Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" published in June, 2008, by the Lancer Publishers of New Delhi (

"While there are grounds for suspecting that the blast of Delhi and those of Agartala might have been carried out by the IM ( Indian Mujahideen) and its associates from the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Delhi and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) of Bangladesh in Agartala, the blasts in Modasa and Malegaon seem to stand apart. Though the Gujarat Police are reported to have detained some members of the Students' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) during their investigation of the Modasa blast, the Modasa and Malegaon blasts do not carry any unique signature. More evidence will be required before one could analyse as to who might have been responsible. "----From my article of October 2, 2008, titled "Mushrooming Terrorism: Now Agartala" at

In the last three years, we have had at least seven terrorist strikes in different parts of the country in which the perpetrators seemed to have targeted innocent Muslim civilians. Those seemed to be not indiscriminate attacks on all civilians, but targeted attacks on Muslims. There were two such incidents in Malegaon in Maharashtra and one each in New Delhi, Hyderabad, in the Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan, in the Samjotha Express to Pakistan and in Modasa in Gujarat.

2. On the basis of the available reports, I had myself stated after five of these strikes---- but not after the Malegaon and Modasa incidents of September 29,2008--- that they seemed to have been carried out by terrorists belonging to jihadi terrorist organisations. I had also referred to instances of jihadi terrorists deliberately targeting innocent Muslims in many countries in pursuit of their agenda.

3. Some months after the Ajmer Sharif incident, a young Muslim officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) had met me privately and expressed his doubts as to whether Muslims would have been involved in these incidents. He strongly believed that no Muslim however extremist he might be and to whichever jihadi organisation he belonged would have planted a bomb in or near the Ajmer Sharif.

4. I did not feel convinced, but felt somewhat troubled by what he said. I felt that as a senior (though now retired) officer of the IPS, I owed it to him and other young Muslim officers of the IPS to take note of what he said and re-open my mind. It was in pursuance of this that I made the above-mentioned observations in my book.

5. Who carried out the pre-September 29, 2008, terrorist strikes, which seemed to have mainly targeted innocent Muslims? Where they the acts of the usual jihadi organisations or are they the precursor to acts of reprisal terrorism against members of the Muslim community by some irrational elements in the Hindu community? These questions, which were already being raised by sections of the public----Muslims as well as non-Muslims--- even before September 29, have re-surfaced following the publication or dissemination by some sections of the media of reports claiming that the Anti-Terrorism Cell (ATS) of the Mumbai Police have detained three Hindus in connection with their investigation into the recent Malegon blasts. The ATS itself has neither officially denied nor confirmed these reports.

6. The matter is in the initial stages of the investigation. To instill confidence in our Muslim community, the ATS should see that the investigation against these Hindus and any others associated with them is carried out thoroughly irrespective of their organisational affiliation. Religion is not a mitigating factor in deciding on the culpability of a person suspected of involvement in a criminal act. If they are proved to have participated in the acts of terrorism in Malegain and Modesa, the fact that they are Hindus would not make them any the less criminal or terrorist.

7. Indian criminal laws----the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Code--- do not talk of the majority or the minorities or even of Indian citizens or foreigners. Their provisions apply to anyone who commits an offence in Indian territory---whether he or she is an Indian national or a foreigner, whatever be his or her religion, language or ethnicity. The arrested persons must be investigated and proceeded against without worrying about their background or organisational affiliation.

8. Do these arrests strengthen the case for a ban on the Bajrang Dal or any other organisation to which they might have belonged? Or do they at least call for a characterisation of such orgainsations----even if they be of Hindus---as terrorist organisations? To characterise an organisation as a terrorist organisation and to take legal action against it ----and not merely against its members---- two types of evidence are required. Firstly, that its constitution or manifesto advocates the resort to violence amounting to terrorism for achieving its objective. Secondly, that it has been involved in repeated acts of pre-meditated violence which amount to terrorism. One has to wait and see whether such evidence surfaces during the investigation.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: