Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will India heed the wake-up call? Mark Tully

Sir Mark Tully was the BBC's correspondent in India for many years. With the Indian intelligence community appearing to bear much of the blame for the attacks in Mumbai, he reflects here on intelligence failings and what to expect next.

The morning after the second day of what some are calling India's 9/11, the Indian Express front page carried the headline: "Our Nightmare, Our Wake-Up Call'.But will India wake up? If the past is anything to go by the answer has to be "no". India is like a great ocean liner that pitches and rolls precariously but never capsizes as it sails through tempests in which smaller and less stable craft would turn turtle.


The storms that have rocked India include wars, riots, assassinations and, of course, terrorist attacks. The Indian liner also tends to right itself rapidly. I remember after Hindu extremists tore down a historic mosque in Ayodhya, being asked whether the harmony between the two main religious communities would be shattered and India would become like Lebanon or Northern Ireland.

I didn't think it would because, as I explained, tension tends to erupt rapidly in India but to subside with equal rapidity. The negative side of this is that Indians, once they are back in calm waters, tend to ignore the storm and so don't wake up to the problems which created it. The attacks in Mumbai have once again shown the weaknesses of the police and the intelligence services. On the first evening the police were at sixes and sevens. There appeared to be no order and no discipline.

Political interference

The head of the anti-terrorist squad, who should have been in the control room, went to the front line and was shot. Television crews were given freedom to show pictures of the police operations which could have provided valuable information to the terrorists. It's now also clear that there was a serious lack of co-ordination between the intelligence services and the security forces, including the police and the coast guards.

The prime minister has promised there will now be a new federal agency to fight terrorism. One of the main factors which has undermined the existing agencies has been political interference in their working. I once heard a retired head of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the federal detective agency, admit that political interference had made it an instrument of oppression in the hands of the government.Will the new agency be free of political interference? Here again I have my doubts. If I am to be proved wrong the ingrained habits of politicians will have to change.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Utpal Sinha said...

Hi Satya, Nice pick.

Comparing India to a great ocean liner reflects Mark Tully's understanding of this country and its ways and this article gives me a better insight on whats happening in the country.

Thanks for sharing this.

Lightlight said...

Second the comment about this being a nice pick. Mark Tully represents the old, much more refined school of journalism in and on India. Thoughtful and insightful - this is rare today and so thanks for posting....

Also thanks for your thoughtful comments on my post- yes, plenty of bad habits.