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Prospects for Effective Internal Security Reforms in India1

C. Christine Fair
July 11, 2011

Abstract: This article examines the important strides in internal security reform that India has
undertaken since the November 2008 attack by Pakistani terrorists on Indias financial hub and port city
of Mumbai. However, it argues that despite decades of foreign and domestic terrorism and insurgency,
India had never previously responded with such alacrity. This essay next seeks to understand why this
attack galvanized such reform whereas previousand more deadlyattacks had not. To do so, this
essay describes the important achievements by contextualizing them in the background of Indias past
insouciance and general approaches towards internal security. It concludes with a discussion of
important factors (e.g. center-state relations, patronage politics, composition and preferences of Indias
electorate, and corruption) that will likely render more extensive change exceedingly unlikely if not
impossible for the policy-relevant future.

This paper was first presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association Meeting in February
of 2010. The author is grateful to Professors Sumit Ganguly and Paul S. Kapur as well as Walter Ladwig their helpful
comments upon earlier drafts of this essay. All errors of fact or interpretation are due to the author alone.

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1885488

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Introduction
At 9:30 p.m. on 26 November, 2008 ten Pakistani terrorists associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba
(LeT)/Jamaat ul Dawa (JuD), operating in four attack teams, assaulted ten targets in Indias
megacity of Mumbai. In part due to the complexities of the counterterrorist operations, the
tenacity and training of the attackers, and the inadequate capabilities of the Indian security
forces, it took more than three days to end the rampage and eventual siege which claimed the
lives of 166 people.2
Many Indian and international commentators quickly bequeathed the 26/11 attack
with the ignominious distinction of Indias 9/11. Sunil Khilnani, among others, rejected the
moniker explaining that The Mumbai attacks were less like 9/11 than like a man-made Katrina:
a calamity preceded by many warningsand followed by government bungling. At the time of
the attacks, many Mumbai police were armed only with bamboo sticks. Of those who had guns,
many didn't know how to fire them. Commandos had to be called in from the north, since none
were stationed in India's financial capital.3

There is a surprising range of fatalities reported in the Indian media. This figure is from Final Form/Report (Under
th
Section 173 Dr.P.C.) In the Court of Addl. Chm M.M. 37 Court, Esplanade, Mumbai, February 25, 2009.
http://www.hindu.com/nic/mumbai-terror-attack-final-form.pdf.
3
Sunil Khilnani, The Revenge of the Near: The 11/26 attack on India was no 9/11and Indias reaction must also
be different from Americas, Newsweek, February 9, 2009. http://www.newsweek.com/id/182538. Alexandra
Rice, Not Indias 9/11, and thats to Indias Advantage, The Financial Express, November 26, 2009.
http://www.financialexpress.com/news/not-indias-9-11-and-thats-to-indias-advantage/546194/0

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1885488

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Indeed, India had suffered numerous earlier, albeit less sophisticated, attacks some of
which had previously been so labeled Indias 9/11. In December 2001, five suicide attackers
associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked Indias parliament in New Delhi, killing 10
persons. In July 2006, Pakistani and local LeT operatives launched a coordinated attack on
multiple sites within Mumbais commuter rail system. That assault was even more lethal than
the 2008 carnage, killing at least 187 persons. Pakistan-backed as well as domestic Islamist
militants have in fact perpetrated dozens of attacks within India in recent decades in addition to
those executed by other indigenous religious, ethnic and left-wing militant groups.
Arguably, what made the U.S. 9/11 event distinctive from the subsequent terrorist
attacks in England, Spain, Turkey, India and elsewhere was not the merely size and scale of the
destruction, the complexity of the al Qaeda mission, or even the enormous direct and indirect
economic costs of the attack; rather the relatively swift and sweeping reforms that the U.S.
government took in its wake.4 Washington founded a new (but far from perfect) bureaucracy
to oversee internal security, the Department of Homeland Security; instituted massive
intelligence reform efforts culminating in the institution of the apex agency, the Directorate of
National Intelligence; and increased efforts to improve coordination across federal intelligence
and local law enforcement agencies and between and among federal and state entities. Despite

Researchers conservatively estimate the direct costs of the World Trade Center attack (e.g. lost earnings,
property loss and damage, cleanup and restoration) ranged between $27 and $50 billion. The indirect costs of the
attacks (e.g. loss of national income, increase in insurance costs, increase in defense spending, etc.) may be as high
as $500 billion. See Robert Looney, Economic Costs to the United States Stemming from the 9/11 Attacks,
(Monterey: Center for Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School, 2002).
www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/rsepResources/si/aug02/homeland.asp; Jason Bram, James Orr and Carol Rapaport.
Measuring the Effects of the September 11 Attack on New York City, Economic Policy Review Vol. 8, No. 2
(November 2002). papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=802786.

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this progress, few would deny that United States still has far to go in establishing robust
internal security measures.

Indias previous attacks had not precipitated such sustained focus upon internal security
among state and federal political actors and institutions that culminated in real reform.5 The
2008 attack exposed Indias enduring vulnerabilities and precipitated public outrage that Indias
political system failed to prioritize the safety of its citizenry against threats that were are wellknown and enduring. Some two years after 26/11, Indian commentators note with despair that
while India has embarked upon a serious transformation of its internal security apparatus the
revolution is unfinished.6 Others have opined that India is no better prepared to contend with
such an attack, noting widespread persistent problems with the preparation, training and
equipping of Indias domestic security forces.7

This essay argues that while these critiques are surely justified, India had embarked
upon an important but stalledprocess of internal security reform. Despite the stagnation,
the progress it did make was impressive given Indias traditionally lethargic political and

After the incident, the government established a committee to review the events leading up to and during the
crisis. This report put forward a series of recommendations for extensive modernization of Indias external and
internal defense systems, including better integration across intelligence, internal and external security apparatus.
See India Kargil Review Committee, From Surprise to Reckoning: The Kargil Review Committee Report (New Delhi:
Sage Publications, 2000).
6
Sandy Gordon, India's Unfinished Security Revolution, IDSA Occasional Paper No. 11, 2010.
http://www.idsa.in/system/files/OP10_IndiasUnfinishedSecurityRevolution_0.pdf.
7
Author fieldwork in India in April 2010. See also Are We any Safer, India Today, November 19, 2009.
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/71557/Are+we+any+safer.html?complete=1; Post-26/11, Is India Better
Prepared Against Terror?, India Today, October 29, 2009.
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/68547/Cover%20Story/Post26/11,+is+India+better+prepared+against+terror+.html.

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bureaucratic system which has hardly concerned itself with national security issues.8 This essay
documents these important innovations against the past approaches that India has taken to
internal security generally and the specific shortcoming exposed by the Mumbai attack.
Second, this essay puts forth several factors that together explain why the 2008 Mumbai attack
triggered reforms when previous and more sanguinary outrages did not. In this vein, this essay
argues that the nature of the attack and its media profile, the unprecedented mobilization of
elites with business interests, Indias growing capacity to manage national security affairs, the
strategic regional context of the event and, finally, the initiative of specific Indian leaders all
contributed to these important innovations. However, this essay argues that meaningful and
pervasive reform at the federal and state levels ill be very difficult due to: center-state
relations; the challenges of Indias democracy; the enduring system of patronage that
undergirds federal and state politics; and corruption across the administrative service, political
parties and critically, the police forces.9

This essay first lays out some of the important antecedents to the Mumbai 2008 attack,
which underscores the sustained failures of Indian federal and state agencies to protect its

Partha S. Ghosh, Foreign Policy and Electoral Politics in India: Inconsequential Connection, Asian Survey, Vol.
34, No. 9 (1994), pp. 807-817; S.D. Muni, Indian Elections 2009: Foreign Policy Will Hardly Matter, ISAS Insights
No. 43, Institute of South Asian Studies, March 2009.
kms1.isn.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/98000/.../378fc1be.../55.pdf; Jason Miks, Foreign Policy to Play a
Marginal Role in Indian Elections, World Politics Review, April 20, 2009.
http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/3631/foreign-policy-to-play-a-marginal-role-in-indian-elections

For a discussion of the pervasiveness corruption and the varied vested interested in resisting efforts to minimize
it, see Jennifer L. Bussell, Why Get Technical? Corruption and the Politics of Public Service Reform in the Indian
States, Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 43, No. 10 (2010): pp. 1230-1257.

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citizenry. Second, it turns to 2008 attack itself and the shortcomings it exposed. Third, it briefly
lays out the numerous and unprecedented reforms that India managed to undertake in the few
years after November 2008 as well as planned reforms that have not yet fructified (and indeed
are unlikely to do). Fourth, it describes some of the reasons why this terrorist outrage
galvanized reforms whereas previous attacks had not. Next it presents a series set of
impediments that restrict Indias ability to make further reforms, at either the federal or state
levels.

26/11 and Its Antecedents


Indian and international commentators and officials alike characterize the 2008 Mumbai attack
as unprecedented. In some significant ways it was. LeT waged simultaneous commando-style
assaults on multiple targets across Mumba which led to a 3-day long standoff. While India has
long experienced terrorism, previous attacks involved a single target (the Parliament, the
Kashmir state assembly, an intelligence facility at the Red Fort among numerous others). In
manybut not allcases, these attacks involved bombs that were planed (e.g. the 2006 attack
on Mumbais commuter rail system, myriad bombs in shopping markets and places of worship).
In other instances, such as the 2000 Red Fort attack by LeT, the Kaluchak massacre of families
of Indian army personnel in 2002, the 2001 Parliament Attack in New Delhi among others, the
terrorists used commando style raids.
While the additive innovations observed are important during the Mumbai attacks of
2008, it is important to note the critical antecedents of that attack. Doing so illuminates the
sustained inattention to Indias internal security and enduring failure to respond to the evolving

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nature of Indias internal security threat landscape.10 First, LeT established networks in Indias
heartland as early as August 1999, allowing it to stage attacks far beyond Kashmir. The earliest
such incident occurred in 2000 against an intelligence center co-located with the Red Form in
New Delhi noted above. Also in 2000, Indian authorities intercepted three Pakistani LeT cadres
who had planned to kill Bal Thackeray, leader of a Hindu nationalist group called the Shiv
Sena.11
In 2004, another LeT cell was disrupted that aimed to attack the Bombay Stock
Exchange. While the LeT has been one of the most prominent Islamist militant group in India it
is not the only one. Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar/Harkat-ulMujahideen, among others, have all sustained activities in India.
In June 2006, the Maharashtra police arrested an 11-member LeT cell that shipped
some 43 kilograms of explosives, assault rifles and grenades to India using sea routes. Several
of those militants had ties to the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). SIMI, along with its
more recent militant offshoot, the Indian Mujahideen (IM), is responsible for numerous attacks
within India using Indian cadres.12 Indian analysts believe that LeT, working with SIMI, the IM
and smuggling rings, have been able to successively move large amounts of explosives and

10

Angel Rabasa, Robert D. Blackwill, Peter Chalk, Kim Cragin, C. Christine Fair, Brian A. Jackson, Brian Michael
Jenkins, Seth G. Jones, Nathaniel Shestak, Ashley J. Tellis, The Lessons of Mumbai, RAND Occasional Paper, 2009.
The inventory of weapons of the team varies in different accounts. According to the lone survivor, each man was
carrying an AK-47, two magazines, eight grenades and a mobile phone. Some also carried explosives. See
Mumbai gunmen identified Kasabs Pak nationality confirmed, Indian News Online, December 15, 2008.
Available at http://news.indiamart.com/news-analysis/mumbai-gunmen-identi-20605.html, accessed July 27,
2009.
11
Praveen Swami, Road to Unimaginable Horror, The Hindu, July 13, 2006. Available at
http://www.hindu.com/2006/07/13/stories/2006071303420800.htm.
12
C. Christine Fair, On the Students Islamic Movement of India, Asia Policy, No. 9, January 2010, pp. 101-120.

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weapons by sea along the Gujarat coast.13 These are in addition to dozens of attacks
throughout India that have been attributed to LeT. And LeT is only one of several Pakistansponsored groups that have operated in Kashmir and the rest of India since 1990.
Moreover, mafia syndicates, working with and for Islamist militant groups, have moved
explosives, guns, grenades and other illicit cargo through similar routes along the Gujarat and
Maharashtra coastlines since at least 1993 when these routes were used to supply explosives
for the 1993 assault on the Bombay Stock Exchange, which killed at least 200 people. 14
Dawood Ibrahim, orchestrated that 1993 attack using Indian militants with Pakistani support.15
Thus, while the 2008 sea-based landing of the ten militants was exceptionally daunting, the
concept was not innovative even if the complexity of the movement was.
In addition to Pakistan-backed terrorism, India has also endured several ethnic
insurgencies in Indias northeastern states some of which have endured since 1947 and
earlier;16 a Sikh nationalist insurgency that was centered on the northern state of the Punjab

13

In May of 2006, Mohammad Iqbal, a LeT activist from Bahawlpur (a city in southern Punjab in Pakistan), was shot
dead by Delhi Police. Iqbal had worked through mafia-linked traffickers to ship a consignment of explosives
through Gujarat that was used in the February 2006 attack on an Ahmedebad (Gujarat) train platform, See Swami,
Road to Unimaginable Horror.
14
See Praveen Swami and Anupama Katakam, Investigators Shut Down Terror Cells Tasked with Executing Strikes
in Gujarat, but the Threat Remains, Frontline, Vol. 23, No. 10, May 20-June 2, 2006.
15
S. Hussain Zaidi, Black Friday: The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts (New Delhi: Penguin, 2002), pp. 50-67.
16
See D.B. Shakatkar, Indias Counterinsurgency Campaign in Nagaland, in Sumit Ganguly and David P. Fidler Eds.
India and Counterinsurgency: Lessons Learned (London: Routledge, 2009), pp. 9-27; Vivek Chadha, Indias
Counterinsurgency Campaign in Mizoram, in Ganguly and Fidler, India and Counterinsurgency, pp. 28-44; Sanjib
Baruah, Separatist Militants and Contentious Politics in Assam, India: The Limits of Counterinsurgency, Asian
Survey, Vol. 49, No. 6, (Nov. - Dec., 2009), pp. 951-974; Lawrence E. Cline The Insurgency Environment in
Northeast India, Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 17, No. 2, (2006), pp. 126-147. <
http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/09592310600562894 >).

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from the early 1970s to circa 1992;17 as well as various ostensibly Marxist militant groups
operating under the banner of Naxalites (also referred to as Maoist) in various states at
multiple periods in Indias history. (While the name Naxalite has been used across these
periods and states, the movements have tended to be separate across time and space despite
some degree of ideological affinity.)18 Pakistan is also suspected to support some of these
indigenous insurgencies as well to varying degrees.
Indias approach to these various internal security challenges has tended to be ad hoc
and conflict-specific despite some general features in common. The most obvious common
denominator has been the use of the army, which has deployed at various points in most of the
insurgencies especially in the beginning of the outbreak of the violence. India has also used
local police, federal police forces, as well as paramilitary organizations such as the Rashtriya
Rifles, the Border Police, and the Indo-Tibetan Police Force among others.19 India has
established numerous distinct paramilitary organizations to contend with its myriad internal
security challenges in part to minimize the role of Indias army in such operations.

17

C. Christine Fair, Lessons from Indias Experience in the Punjab, 1978-1993, in Ganguly and Fidler, India and
Counterinsurgency, pp. 107-126; Gurharpal Singh, Punjab since 1984: Disorder, Order, and Legitimacy, Asian
Survey, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Apr., 1996), pp. 410-421.
18
Bert Suykens, "Maoist Martyrs: Remembering the Revolution and Its Heroes in Naxalite Propaganda (India)"
Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 22, No. 3 (2010), pp. 378-393; Pratul Ahuja, and Rajat Ganguly. The Fire
Within: Naxalite Insurgency Violence in India, Small Wars & Insurgencies, vol. 18, no. 2. (2007) Pp.249-274.
19
For a comprehensive assessment of Indias varied counterinsurgency campaigns, see Sumit Ganguly and David P.
Fidler Eds. India and Counterinsurgency: Lessons Learned (London: Routledge, 2009). Also see Rajesh Rajagopolan,
Innovation in Counterinsurgency: the Indian Armys Rashtriya Rifles, Contemporary South Asia, Vol. 13, No. 1
(March 2004), 25-37; Rajesh Rajagopolan, Restoring Normalcy: The Evolution of the Indian Armys
Counterinsurgency Doctrine, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 44-68;

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In 2006, India took an important step when it formalized its first counter insurgency
doctrine.20 That doctrine called for a unity of effort across Indias military, police, paramilitary
and intelligence agencies; however, India did not undertake the extensive multi-agency
reorganization and reform required for effective internal security management. This process
only began only after the Mumbai attack despite the fact that India has long been a victim of a
vast array of domestic and foreign militancy. Dipankar Banerjee (a retired Major General and
current Head and Director of the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies in New Delhi) attributes
this in some measure the fact that law and order is a state subject in India and thus difficult to
impose such reforms from the central government.21 Other prominent Indian security analysts
contend that this failure is due in part to the governments lack of capacity for national security
issues.22

The November 2008 Attack: Failures and Fault Lines


The local and state response to 26/11 exposed several other failures and shortcomings within
the Indian internal security architecture across state and federal levels. Many of these have
been identified by the High Level Enquiry Committee (a.k.a. the Ram Pradhan Committee),
which the Maharashtra government established to investigate the systemic shortcomings in the
Indian internal security establishment exposed by the attack.23

20

Integrated Defense Staff, Doctrine for Sub-conventional Operations, December 2006. Available at
http://ids.nic.in/Indian%20Army%20Doctrine/doctrine%20sub%20conv%20w.pdf.
21
Banerjee, The Indian Armys Counterinsurgency Doctrine, p. 191.
22
See C. Uday Bhaskar, Kargil: Whose war was that? Thaindian.com, July 26, 2009.
http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/kargil-whose-war-was-that-comment_100223033.html.
23
See 26/11 report finds serious lapses on Gafoor's part, rediff.com, December 21, 2009.
http://news.rediff.com/report/2009/dec/21/anniversary-26-11-report-finds-serious-lapses-on-gafoors-part.htm. A
leaked version of the document is available. Report of the High Level Enquiry Committee(HLEC) on 26/11,
December 2009. http://www.scribd.com/doc/23474630/Pradhan-Committee-Report-about-26-11.

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The Committee found that Indian agencies failed to respond to numerous intelligence
leads about potential attacks, many of which were highly specific in nature. 24 The report did
not find that there was an absence of intelligence generated by Indian agencies; rather, a
failure or inability to act appropriately.25 Second, the Committee identified coastal security as a
particularly appalling lapse: the government received at least six alerts between August 2006
and April 2008 about the likelihood of terrorists infiltration by sea.26 More generally, terrorists
have been using these same sea routes since at least 1993 when the Indian mafia network led
by Dawood Ibrahim, with support from Pakistans intelligence agencies, attacked the Mumbai
stock exchange.
In the wake of that 1993 incident, the central government had renewed interest in
fortifying Indias coastal security. This resulted in the launch of Operation Swan n 1992, which
aimed to prevent the landing of contraband and infiltration along the Maharashtra and Gujarat
coasts. Operation Swan called for the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard to patrol the high seas
while a joint coastal patrol team, comprised of persons from the state police, Navy and
Customs, were to conduct patrols to enhance surveillance in shallow waters (e.g. creeks and
inlets). Operation Swan remains operational.27

24

Sumit Ganguly, Delhis Three Fatal Flaws, Newsweek, December 8, 2008; Ajai Sahni, Mumbai: The Uneducable
Indian, South Asia Intelligence Review, Vol. 7, No. 21, 2008; Rabasa et al. The Lessons of Mumbai; Pradhan
Committee Report, December 2009, n.p.. Draft obtained by the author. While the report was completed and parts
of leaked by May 2009, the report was presented to the Maharashtra State assembly only in December 2009. See
Pradhan Committee slams Gafoor on 26/11 attack handling, ZeeNews, December 21, 2009. Available at
http://www.zeenews.com/news589279.html#.
25
Pradhan Committee Report, n.p.
26
Pradhan Committee Report, n.p
27
Pushpit Das, Coastal Security Arrangement: A Case Study of Gujarat and Maharashtra Coasts (New Delhi: IDSA,
November 2009).

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The 1999 Kargil Crisis also reinvigorated attention to coastal security. The Kargil Crisis, it
should be noted, was not a terrorist or insurgent attack; rather, a conventional assault to seize
Indian territory by Pakistans then-paramilitary outfit, the Northern Light Infantry, with direct
support from the Pakistan Army. However, in the early days and even weeks of the crisis,
Indian (and other) media reported it as a mujahedeen action. These reports have had an
enduring effect as accounts still characterize the event as having a significant mujahedeen
component when in fact it involved no such non-state actors.28 However, the Indian electorate
was outraged first that ostensibly a rag tag ensemble of militants could seize territory without
rousing the suspicion of Indian intelligence and military agencies. That anger was not tempered
by the later realization that was Pakistani paramilitary and military forces executed the land
grab.
In response to public outrage and deep humiliation across the national security and
intelligence agencies, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee established in inquiry into the causes
of the massive intelligence failure, which was chaired by K. Subrahmanyam. The report that the
committee issued, the Kargil Review Committee Report, suggested sweeping reforms including
the establishment of a specialized marine police based out of coastal police stations. The
government authorized these much later in 2005-2006. However, it took the 2008 attacks to

28

C. Christine Fair, Militants In the Kargil Conflict: Myths, Realities, and Impacts," in Peter Lavoy Ed.
Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences of Kargil (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2009), pp. 231-257.
12

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prompt the Gujarat state into action. Significant lapses in maritime security persist to date, as
described below .29
In principle, at the time of 26/11, India had a notional three-layer coastal security
concept. The Indian Navy patrols the high seas and conducted aerial reconnaissance with shipbased aircraft. The Coast Guard patrols the middle layer, which comprises Indias exclusive
economic zone (12-200 nautical miles). And, the above-described joint teams under Operation
Swan patrol Indias territorial waters. (Coastal police stations, once they are all operational, will
assume control for policing the territorial waters.) However, in practice, the system was
ineffective and largely remains so to date. Das, in his robust assessment of the extant coastal
security system, found that the system is undermined by insufficient manpower, poor training,
inadequate infrastructure, lack of adequate resources and certain systemic flaws. 30 The latter
includes inter- and intra-agency confusion about operational jurisdiction and lack of
coordination, laws and government apathy.31
The Pradhan Committee determined that high level police officials evidenced a
cavalier disregard of the standard operating practices (SOPs) established by the
Commissioner of Police in the event of a bomb or a terrorist strike with numerous; ill-suited and
ad hoc personnel reassignments; and failure to ensure that police were at the center of the
29

P. Das, Coastal Security Arrangement; CAG Report Says Maharashtra Government was Callous on Maritime
Security, Thaindian News, December 2, 2009. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/cag-report-saysmaharashtra-government-was-callous-on-maritime-security_100126021.html; Manas Dasgupta, Post-26/11,
Saurashtra coastal security found wanting, The Hindu, November 28, 2009.
http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/28/stories/2009112855661200.htm. See also Sumit Ganguly, Delhis Three Fatal
Flaws, Newsweek, December 8, 2008; Sahni, Mumbai: The Uneducable Indian; Rabasa et al. The Lessons of
Mumbai; Pradhan Committee Report, n.p..; Pradhan Committee slams Gafoor on 26/11 attack handling,
ZeeNews, December 21, 2009. http://www.zeenews.com/news589279.html#.
30
P. Das, p. 19.
31
P. Das, p. 25.

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response to the attacks.32 The police were poorly led; failed to execute response protocols; did
not establish command posts and dragnets for sealing off the attack venues; and they failed to
cordon off the attacks sites to contain the terrorists. These shortcomings were exacerbated by
the multi-site nature of the attack spanning several distant points In the sprawling metropolis.33
It also found that special response teams were severely delayed in arriving due to
operational readiness and due to political decision-making. Local contingents of the army
arrived a full five hours after the first shots had been fired. The first special response team
(Marine Commandos) arrived a little later. The elite National Security Guards (NSG) arrived
more than nine hours after the attacks began. (The NSG was established in 1986 in the
aftermath of Operation Blue Star and is the designated rapid-reaction force.34) In practice
many of its resources and personnel are tied down in VIP security.) The NSG, at the time of the
26/11 attack, had one hub with NSG personnel based in Manesar (on the outskirts Delhi). It
lacked dedicated aircraft for mobilization outside of Delhi. The only aircraft that could take the
200 mobilized commandos with their gear was a slow IL-76 that was based in Chandigarh
(about 240 km north of New Delhi). By the time the plane arrived in New Delhi and the NSG
commandos boarded the plane, more than four and a half hours had lapsed. The IL-76 took
more than three hours to reach Mumbai. Lacking helicopter air assets to navigate the citys
horrific traffic, the commandos then boarded a bus to be transported to the venue which took
nearly another hour. The commandos began operations at 7 a.m., more than 9 and half hours

32

Pradhan Committee Report.


Rabasa et al. The Lessons of Mumbai; Pradhan Committee Report, n.p.
34
Operation Blue Star was the 1984 army-led action to roust Sikh militants ensconced in the Golden Temple in
Amritsar, Punjab. The NSG established under the National Security Guard Act of the Indian Parliament in 1986 and
acts within Indias Central Paramilitary Force structure.
33

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after the terrorists struck.35 Had the NSG arrived in rush hour, it would have taken hours to
reach the attack sites by bus.
The local police and even the NSG were improperly equipped to contain much less
neutralize the militants. With respect to the police, the Committee found that Many of the
police mobile vehicles were equipped with only riot gear of lathis [bamboo canes], gas guns and
.303 rifles which were no match to the superior fire power of the terrorists who carried AK-47
assault rifles, pistols, hand grenades, bags of 8KGs of RDX, sophisticated cell phone with
headphone, commando wear clothing etc.36 The police personal protective equipment (PPE)
and weaponry were simply archaic and not designed for modern combat. One retired police
official acknowledged that he knew of two batches of body armour that had failed tests in
2001 and 2004 but had nonetheless been inducted by the Mumbai police. They couldnt take
rounds from AK47 or AK56The bullets pierced the jackets. 37
Hemant Karkare, the head of the Anti Terrorist Squad, was wearing such a bulletproof
vest and a battered tin helmet when he arrived at the scene in Mumbai and was subsequently
shot and killed. With modern PPE, he may have survived. Other police officers went to the
scene wearing 0.55 mm-thick plated body protectors used for riot control. This was because the
entire country of India had only 100,000 bulletproof vests for police and paramilitary forces,
according to the MKU, the supplier of the vests. Moreover, the helmets employed were World
War II era and not designed for combat. The police were armed with .303s or self-loading rifles
35

See Why did NSG take 9 hrs to get there?, Times of India, November 30, 2008.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Why_did_NSG_take_9_hrs_to_get_there/articleshow/3775003.cms.
36
Pradhan Committee Report, n.p.
37
Jeremy Page, Outgunned Mumbai Police Hampered by First World War Weapons, TimesOnline,
December 3, 2008. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5276283.ece.

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like those adopted by the British Army in the 1950s.38 While the equipment shortcomings of
the police are well-known, even the gear of the elite NSG is archaic and dates back to the year
the organization was founded.39
Compounding all of these imminently preventable failures, many officers were (and
are) not adequately trained on weapons due to a shortage of ammunition and shooting
ranges.40 The Committee report dilated upon this at length noting that even the Quick
Response Team was unable to do any live ammunition training since September 2007 due to
severe ammunition shortages. (They are supposed to life fire drills every fourth day.)41
Finally, Pradhan Committee found that the government evidenced appalling strategic
communications and information management. The government neither appeared to be in
control nor did it disseminate accurate information. The Committee identified this as an
important concern noting that while the media was reporting on the basis of its teams in
Mumbai on different sites, there was hardly any systematic briefing either by the police or by
[the Maharashtra state government]. In the evolving situations at different venues, it is only the
Control Room that had more detailed information. CP as head of the Crisis Management or a
designated spokesperson at the Police HQ ought to have performed that task. 42 A perusal of
the news reportage of the event demonstrates confusion about the nature of the attack,

38

Page, Outgunned.
Are We any Safer.
40
Page, Outgunned.
41
According to the Director General of the Maharashtra Police, the dearth of ammunition has precluded
appropriate firing practice and has created serious disability in the offensive capability of the police. For example,
the last supply of AK-47 rounds was 45,000 received in 2005. After 2006 December no ammunition has been
received. Pradhan Committee Report, n.p.
42
Pradhan Committee Report, December 2009, n.p.
39

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identity of the attackers and exposed significant operational details as the security forces were
televised undertaken offensive operations against the militants.

Mumbais Legacy: The Unfinished Business of Internal Security Reforms


The attack enraged the public and the government moved swiftly to announce a number of
internal security reforms. First, within days of the attack, Home Minister Shivraj Patil resigned
owing moral responsibility for the Mumbai outrage and Finance Minister Palaniappan
Chidambaram assumed the post. Chidambaram has been an energetic voice for reforming
Indias internal security apparatus. (Perhaps for this reason, he was retained following the
formation of the new government in the spring of 2009 and more recent cabinet
reorganizations in July 2011.) On December 11, 2008, he announced several efforts to improve
Indias domestic security, including the creation of a Coastal Command to secure 4,650 miles of
shoreline, establishment of 20 counter-terror schools and standing regional commando units,
creation of a national agency to investigate suspected terror activity, and strengthening of antiterror laws.43
Indias parliament acted swiftly to enact important legislation. On December 17, Indias
lower house (Lok Sabha) approved new anti-terror legislation; it was approved by the upper
house (Rajya Sabha) the next day. The new Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act provided new
powers to the security services, including the ability to hold suspects for six months without
charges. It also established a National Investigative Agency (NIA) charged with investigating
terrorism and gathering and processing intelligence. Some of these provisions (such as lengthy

43

Rama Lakshmi, Indian Official Unveils Plan to Strengthen Security, Washington Post, December 11, 2008.

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detentions without charge) have drawn domestic criticism.44 The NIA is functional with about
100 employees of which about one dozen are officers who have been creamed off of the
Central Bureau of Intelligence. However, this fledgling federal agency continues to face
recalcitrant states that resist handing jurisdiction to the agency. (Policing is a states subject in
India and the federal investigative agency has not been welcomed by all.)45
Learning from the inadequate quantity and dispensation of the NSG assets, there are
now NSG hubs in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad each with about 250
people.46 However, the NSGs antiquated equipment has not been upgraded. Specialized
equipment including helmets with integrated communication sets and lightweight protective
gear have not yet been procured and distributed. Current NSG expenditures sustain criticism
because they have focused upon acquiring land and constructing buildings while the forces
themselves remain ill-equipped. Given Indias personnel shortageespecially of trainers
questions loom about the quality of the force as it expands. And the NSG still faces serious
logistical and transportation challenges. As noted above, NSG mobility across the jammed
traffic grid likely requires tactical helicopters for timely movement yet this has not even been
raised as a policy option.47
India also instituted a Multi-Agency Center (MAC) in the aftermath of the 2008
attacks. (This fusion center within the Intelligence Bureau was first raised after the Kargil
44

UAPA Retains Most of POTAs Stringent Provisions, Times of India, December 17, 2008. http://timesofindia
.indiatimes.com/India/UAPA_retains_most_of_POTAs_stringent_provisions/articleshow/3847843.cms. Text of
these two pieces of legislation can be found at South Asia Terrorism Portal, India Documents,
http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/document/index.html.
45
Praveen Swami conversation, January 2010.
46
Gordon, Indias Unfinished Security Revolution.
47
Are We any Safer.

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crisis but was ultimately abandoned.48)The government issued an executive order on December
31, 2008 that expanded the institutional representation at the MAC as well as its mandate. The
MAC at the center now runs at full strength and coordinates across 23 representatives from the
intelligence agencies in the home, finance and defense ministries. State MACs (SMACs) have
also been set up however personnel shortages have hindered their efficacy and are in practice
little more than state-level Intelligence Bureau offices. 49 This along with daily security meetings
convened under the Chairmanship of the Home Minister has helped ensure wider situational
awareness across the expanse of government agencies involved in internal security. This
meeting is attended by the National Security Advisor, Home Secretary, the Secretary (Research
and Evaluation Wing), the Director of the Intelligence Bureau among other principles.50 The
meeting is also notable for the way in which it is convened. Indias National Security Advisor
(NSA) attends this meeting in the office of the Home Minister, attesting to the important power
shift away from the NSA towards the Home Ministry. Previously, it was the Home Minister who
visited the NSA in his office.51
The government has also achieved limited improvements in coastal security since
November 2008. The Coast Guard has been fortified and, as noted above, there is renewed
attention to marine police formations. Some 64 coastal police stations have been

48

Gordon, Indias Unfinished Security Revolution.


Praveen Swami conversation, January 2010. See also Are We any Safer.
50
Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture, December 23, 2009.
http://www.in.com/news/current-affairs/fullstory-home-minister-proposes-radical-restructuring-of-securityarchitecture-12161215-131928-1.html.
51
See Bhavna Vij-Aurora and Sandeep Unnithan, A super ministry of security, India Today, January 7, 2010.
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/78193/Nation/A+super+ministry+of+security.html.
49

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operationalized52 and the Coast Guard will add 54 new vessels and 20 aircraft and induct 3,000
new personnel. Moreover, a network of 46 coastal radars is planned but all of these efforts will
take at least five years to fructify. Similarly, after the 2008 attack, the Home Ministry approved
the construction of 168 modern speedboats at state-owned defense shipyards. These boats
were to be dispatched to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and West
Bengal. By late 2009, only 22 boats had been delivered and officials concede that having the
168 boats in the water by 2010 will be nearly impossible. The government has also concluded
that it needs a senior maritime security advisor (likely a three star from the Indian Navy), but
this has not happened two years after the attacks. 53
Chidambaram has raised the issue of poor police quality on numerous occasions after
26/11. In September 2009, he inaugurated a three-day long conference of directors general and
inspectors general of police organized by the intelligence bureau in New Delhi. However,
significant police reform has not taken place and remains the singular most catastrophic point
of failure.
It should be noted that this issue had long been a source of discomfiture among Indian
analysts who have long been concerned that despite Indias numerous internal security
challenges, India has a mere 125 police officers per 100,000 people, which is much lower than

52

Gordon, Indias Unfinished Security Revolution.


Are We any Safer.

53

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the United Nations norm of 222 per 100,000. Most western countries maintain ratios of 250 to
500 per 100,000 persons.54
Because policing is a state subject, the federal government has very limited ability to
compel the states to invest in their police. Nonetheless, in September 2006, Indias Supreme
Court directed both the central government and that of the state governments to undertake
significant police reforms.55 Even after the Mumbai attacks of 2008, only ten of Indias states
have agreed to implement those reforms on paper. Seven states are partially compliant and
twelve others have passed laws with the intent of circumventing the directives of the apex
court.56 (India has a federal structure, with twenty-eight states and seven union territories)
With respect to spending their federal funds for modernization of police forces, only
Gujarat, Kerala and Manipur showed any interest in the central governments no-refund grant
to states for modernizing their police forces, which totaled Rs 1,759 crore (approx $395 million ).
57

States have also been dilatory in securing funds available to them under the modified

Modernization of State Police Forces program which the central government initiated 2000-01. Per
this program, the various states have been placed into different categories which dictates the
percentage of cost sharing between the central and state for the states modernization plans. Since
54

See M Shamsur Rabb Khan, Poor Policing and Weak Intelligence Gathering, IPCS, No. 2391, October 10, 2007.
http://ipcs.org/article/terrorism/poor-policing-and-weak-intelligence-gathering-2391.html; Ajai Sahni, So Who's
Losing Sleep Over Chhattisgarh?, Outlook, March 19, 2007.
http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?235078.
55
These directives were issued in the judgment in the case of Prakash Singh vs. Union of India and Others. This
emerged from a Public Interest Petition filed in 1996 in which the state and central governments were
respondents. Prakash Singh, a former Director General of the Border Security Force and others sought intervention
in the failure of the central and state governments to implement reforms under the National Police Commissione
submitted in eight parts between 1979 and 1981. See Observer Research Foundation, Need of the Hour: Police
Reforms, Vol. 2, No. 1. January 1997.
56
Are We any Safer.
57
Police modernisation: states fail to utilise funds, FaceNFacts, March 13, 2011.
http://www.facenfacts.com/NewsDetails/6325/police-modernisation:-states-fail-to-utilise-funds.htm.

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2005-06 (the last year for which these data have been examined), the states have been categorized as
category A or B with 100% and 75% central government funding respectively. The North Eastern
States Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim were all
category A and eligible for a complete federal subsidy to implement their annual approved plans.58
In 2010, Indias Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) evaluated the states implementation of
police modernization efforts. The CAGs performance audit evaluated several categories of
modernization (e.g. mobility, bull-proof and mine-proof vehicles, weaponry, communications, training,
forensics and finger printing, etc.) over a contiguous five year period between 2000 and 2007. (The fiveyear period evaluated differed across the states.) During this period, the total amount proposed to be
spent modernizing the states police forces were reported as well as the actual release of funds. In most
cases, the actual release of funds were well short of the outlay. In some cases this was due to the central
governments failure to release funds. For example, in Bihar, the central released only 56% of its share.
In other states the culpability was that of the state in question: neither Rajasthan nor West Bengal
release any funds at all. 59 According to PRS Legislative Services, Kerala, Arunchal Pradesh and Karnataka
scored the highest in utilization of funds in excess of 80% (87%, 83% and 81% respectively). However,
Meghalya, West Bengal, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan ranked the lowest with utilization well
below 50% (28%, 28%, 32%, 42%, 43% respectively). Jharkandlong plagued by Maoist violence
utilized a meager 61%.60 These utilization rates are stunning given that only four states (Chhattisgarh

58

PRS Legislative Service, Modernization of Police Forces in Indian states, April 8, 2010.
http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/2010/04/08/modernization-of-police-forces-in-indian-states/.
59
PRS Legislative Service, Modernization of Police Forces in Indian states, April 8, 2010.
http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/2010/04/08/modernization-of-police-forces-in-indian-states/.
60
PRS Legislative Service, Modernization of Police Forces in Indian states, April 8, 2010.
http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/2010/04/08/modernization-of-police-forces-in-indian-states/. For annual reports
by CAG for each state, see the website of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India at
http://saiindia.gov.in/cag/state-audit/audit-report-state-finance-maharashtra-year-2009-2010. (Search under
police modernization to find the state-reports for 2009-2010.)

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(not evaluated in the CAG assessment), Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa) accounted for nearly 86% of Maoist
violence in 2008. together accounted for about 86% of all incidents of Maoist violence in 2008.61
Unfortunately, as Chidabaram himself has conceded, his attempts to lobby state

governments on state police reforms have not been successful. States have been unwilling to
revamp their recruitment procedures or constitute boards that will oversee transfers and
postings of police. Such boards are critical because police appointments are often manipulated
by corrupt politicians who seek to use the police for personal reasons and use postings as a
system of reward and punishments for those police under their remit. States have also simply
failed or refused to provide funding for state police. 62

Will Domestic Politics Structures Will Constraint Future Reform?


Chidambaram, after announcing his intention to completely restructure Indias internal security
architecture in the summer of 2009, sustained a surprising momentum in his efforts to do so,
despite sustained and vocal criticism. His successes were due in large measure to the support of
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who shares his vision and concern about Indias internal
security. Much of the proposed reforms are systemic and focus on institutions and processes.
The most comprehensive articulation of this vision was unveiled during his December 23, 2009
address to the 22nd Intelligence Bureau Centenary Endowment Lecture.

61

K S Subramanian, State Response to Maoist Violence in India: A Critical Assessment, Economic and Political
Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 32 (August 2010), p. 24. http://www.countercurrents.org/subramanian.pdf
62
R.K. Raghavan, The Indian Police: Problems and Prospects, Publius, Vol. 33, No. 4, Autumn 2003, pp. 119-133;
Arvind Verma, Cultural roots of police corruption in India, Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies
& Management, Vol. 22, No. 3, 1999, pp. 264-279; Sunil Sondhi, Combating Corruption in India: The Role of Civil
Society, July 2000m Paper prepared for the XVIII World Congress of International Political, Science Association,
August 1-5, 2000, Quebec City, Canada.
http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/APCITY/UNPAN019103.pdf.

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Chidambaram at that time inventoried the vast array of political, administrative,


intelligence and enforcement organizations with some connection to internal security. At the
political level, there is the Cabinet Committee on Security. At the administrative level there is
the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Prime Ministers Office and the Cabinet Secretariat.
Intelligence organizations are numerous and reside in several ministries: the Intelligence
Bureau (IB) reports to the Home Minister; Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) reports to the
Prime Minister; Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), National Technical Research Organization
(NTRO) and Aviation Research Centre (ARC) report to the National Security Adviser; and the
National Security Council Secretariat under the NSA, which serves the National Security
Council. In addition, the army, navy and air force maintain their own intelligence agencies in
addition to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Other agencies specialize in financial intelligence
such as the Directorates in the Income Tax, Customs and Central Excise departments, the
Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Enforcement Directorate. Enforcement agencies within the
current structure include the central para-military forces such as the Central Research Police
Force, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police,
Assam Rifles, Sashastra Seema Bal and the National Security Guard. Chidambaram expressed
concern that there is no single authority to which these organisations report and there is no
single or unified command which can issue directions to these agencies and bodies.63
Chidambaram stood up a National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) to bring these
agencies under such a unified command. When fully operational, this NCTC, which is modeled
upon the post-9/11 American institution, will be responsible for preventing terrorist attacks,
63

Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture.

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containing an attack once launched, and responding to the attack by inflicting pain upon the
attackers. In his December 2009 speech, he argued that this must be done urgently by the end
of 2010. (In contrast, the United States set up its NCTC within 36 months of 9-11. At the time of
writing, it is unlikely that this deadline will be met.) Chidambaram envisions that the MAC,
which is now staffed by the Intelligence Bureau, can be expanded to fulfill this larger role and
subsumed into the NCTC. 64
However, many principals of Indias intelligence agencies have resisted this
reorganization because it will deprive these agencies of their independence and prominence
within the current system by subordinating them to this new institution and its director.
Chidambaram identified the NIA, NTRO, JIC, NCRB and the NSG as naturally being brought
under NCTC. RAW, ARC and CBI would also have to deputize relevant personnel to the new
entity and some means would have to be found to place them under the oversight of the NCTC
to the extent that they deal with terrorism. 65 Given that RAW currently reports to the Prime
Ministers office, RAW can certainly be expected to resist such moves. The Intelligence Bureau
perhaps stands as the agency to lose the most as the current Director of the Intelligence Bureau
is considered to be the lead on domestic counter-terrorism. (This is perhaps akin to the loss of
institutional influence of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central
Intelligence Agency when the U.S. NCTC was established.) Chidambaram anticipates that other
institutional equities will inspire other turf wars as well.66

64

Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture.


Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture.
66
Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture.
65

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The NCTC will be aided by the forthcoming NATGRID, which will network all 21
databases that contain vital information and intelligence. Currently, each organization has its
own stand-alone database that cannot be accessed by others. This project is anticipated to
come on line by the end of 2011. In addition, the NCTC will have access to another database
that is under construction, the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System which will link up
all of Indias police stations.67
Chidambaram also sought to dramatically re-structure the Home Ministry itself. The
current Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) handles an extremely diverse array of functions, only
some of which pertain to internal security. Chidambaram proposed that those subjects not
strictly germane to security should be hived off under a separate department within the current
MHA or handled by another ministry altogether. The Home Minister should be primarily
focused upon internal security. 68
Should the Minister for Home Affairs become the internal security Czar and should the
NCTC become fully operational, the role of the National Security Advisor will shrink in
accordance. Indeed, it is suspected that the previous NSA, M.K. Narayanan, was removed from
his post because he opposed the formation of the NCTC which would bring afore-noted
agencies (JIC, NTRO, and ARC) under its command rather than that of the NSA. Narayanan had
considerable sway over these agencies. The portfolio of his successors will not be involved in

67

Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture; Vij-Aurora and Unnithan, A super
ministry of security.
68
Home Minister proposed Radical Restructuring of Security Architecture.

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operational intelligence coordination; rather he or she will focus upon problems of diplomatic
engagement leaving security issues to the Home Minister.69

Explaining the Reforms Thus Far?


As the foregoing exposition demonstrates, India has long endured a vast array of internal
security threats that have enjoyed various degrees of external support. Despite the severity of
previous outrages, the Indian government responded lethargically until the 2008 Mumbai
attack. And, as this essay exposite above, India has made important efforts towards revamping
its internal security apparatus subject to the limits of Indian federalism. Thus the question
arises as to why India undertook these changes after Mumbai, even though that attack claimed
fewer lives than previous attacks.
There are likely several reasons for this shift into action although evidence is inadequate
to evaluate which of these possible reasons offer the strongest explanatory power. First was
the nature of the attack itself. Never before had India experienced a multi-site, simultaneous
commando-style assault. Moreover, this trauma lasted more than three days and was covered
extensively in real time by the Indian media. Due to Indias burgeoning private media and their
business relations with international media (such as IBNs partnership with CNN), and the
expanded coverage of India within international media, Indian and global publics were
mesmerized by the gory spectacle. No doubt the global publics were also following the events
unfold due to the involvement of foreign victims. American audiences were captivated by the

69

See Shiv Shankar Menon next NSA?, NewKerala.Com, January 15, 2010.
http://www.newkerala.com/news/fullnews-31333.html; Profile of next NSA will be different, Thaindian.com,
January 19, 2010. http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/profile-of-next-nsa-will-bedifferent_100306286.html.

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attack as it occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday and because several of the victims were
Americans and Israeli, a country of great interest to many Americans. The internet and social
media also extensively covered the tragedy.
Second and related to the first, the attack mobilized urban elites who actually took to
the streets to protest against the Indian government.70 It also mobilized the business
communities. In December 2008, an extremely rare public interest lawsuit was filed against the
government by a similarly unprecedented coalition of investment bankers, corporate lawyers
and representatives of some of Indias largest companies, which are headquartered in Mumbai
as well as the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (the citys largest business
association). The chamber had never before lent its name to litigation in the public interest. The
suit charged that the government had lagged in its constitutional duty to protect its citizens
right to life, and it pressed the state to modernize and upgrade its security forces. 71 This had
never happened previously.
As further testament to the unprecedented engagement in the business community in
national security affairs, the Federal of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
convened a Task Force on National Security and Terrorism. The chairman of that task force,
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, explained in the first volume published from that task force that
a secure India is critical for our sustained economic progress and that the time for
platitudes and rhetoric is long gone. To secure India requires immediate and actionable

70

Khilnani, The Revenge of the Near.


Somini Sengupta, Mumbai Attacks Politicize Long-Isolated Elite, The New York Times, December 6, 2008.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/world/asia/07india.html
71

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steps and so FICCI had organized a Conference on Terrorism and National Security in the
aftermath of 26/11, where a series of action points were finalized and published. To
further reinforce that, FICCI assembled some of the finest minds in the field of national
security and terrorism to understand the challenges, to put together a comprehensive
set of policy suggestions that the government, the corporate world and the civil society
must adopt with further delay.72
Involvement of such institutions as FICCI attest to the unprecedented mobilization of the
private sector and the costs that Indias failures to evolve adequate security institutions
impose.
Third the attack took place in the context of Indias burgeoning efforts to revise its
position within the international system. India has long understood itself to be the preeminent
power of South Asia. In recent years, India has sought to establish itself as an extra-regional and
even global power.73 Indias claims to be a future global power were embarrassingly
undermined by the gross inadequacies of Indias security institutions which were on full display
during the assault and ensuing siege.
Fourth, the attacks also took place against the backdrop of evolving security dynamics in
South Asia. With the United States believing that it is reliant upon Pakistan for its prosecution
of the counterinsurgency and counter terror campaigns in Afghanistan, Washington has
demonstrated a consistent inability to persuade Islamabad to strategically abandon militants as

72

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, FICCI Task Force on National Security and Terrorism,
November 2009. http://www.ficci.com/SPdocument/20032/terrorism-report.pdf.
73
C. Raja Mohan, Crossing the Rubicon: Shaping of Indias New Foreign Policy (New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2005).

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a tool of foreign policy, whether these militants are the Afghan Taliban or the so-called Kashmiri
groups which attack India. The geopolitical environment as well as regional dynamics has made
it increasingly clear to India that the United States will not and cannot have interests in Pakistan
that are isomorphous with those of India for the near future.
This is not to say that Washington is disinterested. Far from it. After the 2008 Mumbai
attack, The United States, persuaded Pakistan to take steps that marginally satisfied Delhi.
However, Islamabad has been intransigent about taking more meaningful and permanent steps
such as prosecuting high-level JuD leadership, banning the organization, or restricting its ability
to operate. This is despite Pakistans early 2009 promises to ban the organization following the
UN Security Councils resolution that JUD is a terrorist organization. Washingtons motivation
to help avoid a war was due to its requirements for the Pakistan army to engage in
counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations on Pakistans west and elsewhere.
Washington encouraged India to avoid significant military mobilization that could provide
Islamabad with any excuse to swing forces employed along the border with Afghanistan
towards the east.
For India the implications of American interests are obvious: While India develops
conventional strategies to both punish Pakistan for continuing to support militants and compel
it to desist from doing so in the future, there is a begrudging recognition that India needs to
better prevent attacks from happening in the first place, quickly contain attacks once they
begin, and identify and prosecute the perpetrators whether they are foreign or Indian.

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Finally, these changes were also likely to due Indias current political leadership under
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. His first term was shaky and rattled by left-leaning parties
that nearly undermined his coalition government to prevent the fructification of the US-Indian
civilian nuclear agreement. The 26/11 attacks happened only a few months after Singh
managed to forge an alternative coalition to both secure the nuclear deal and maintain the
integrity of his government. While critics complain that some momentum was lost in the run up
to the general election in the spring of 2009, in fact Chidambaram continued making progress
on internal security. While there is much to be done, relative to previous catastrophic security
breaches, the 26/11 attacks appear to have galvanized sustained attention to security issues
well after the anniversary of the event.

Constraints that Bind: The Limits of Internal Security Reform


Despite the important and historically unprecedented changes in Indias internal
security architecture, there are three important systemic limitations that will be difficult if not
impossible for India to overcome any time soon.
First, Indias vibrant and growing private sector attracts high quality youth with pay,
status, and other amenities that government service at state or central levels cannot at present.
Moreover, the Indian Administrative Service no longer has the allure of prestige and status that
it used to have with previous generations. However, proponents of the merits of public service
over private employment note that there is nearly complete job security in the public sector. 74
(However, with government jobs in many countries that offer nearly complete job security,
74

Battling the Babu Raj, The Economist, March 6, 2008.


http://www.economist.com/node/10804248?story_id=10804248.

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efficiency and other aspects of public interests decline.) Indias interest in expanding the
number, size and geographical distribution of police, intelligence and other internal security
organizations will be hampered by recruitment shortfalls in capable candidates who have more
lucrative private sector opportunities.75 While this is a well-known problem for the various
policing agencies, it is also true of the intelligence organizations.76 While many western
countries have suffered a prolonged recession, Indias economy has continued to grow.
Between 2000 and 2009 (the year of World Bank data), Indias gross domestic product (GDP)
grew on average by 7.44% and in 2009 alone, it grew by nine percent.77 The public sector is
struggling to find ways of recruiting and retaining talent given Indias sustained economic
growth and private sector competition.
A second and even more alarming barrier to more significant reform is corruption and
patronage politics. Chandra (2009) argues that India is a patronage democracy, which is
defined by two features. First, the public sector dwarfs the private sector as a source of jobs
and provider of services. Second, elected officials have enormous discretion in allocating jobs
and services or even in the actual implementation of law. Chandra contends that a key aspect
of a patronage democracy is the power of elected officials to distribute the vast resources
controlled by the state to voters on an individualized basis through their discretion in the

75

Sebaston PT, Private Attraction, Outlook Business, November 3, 2007.


http://business.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?100306
76

Ajay K Mehra, Police Reforms at Sixty, Mainstream Weekly, Vol XLV, No 35, August 28, 2007.
http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article286.html; Arvind Verma, India in Transition: Internal Security
Challenges for the New Government, Center for Advance Study of India, April 12, 2009.
http://casi.ssc.upenn.edu/iit/averma.
77

World Bank, World Development Indicators and World Development Finance, Data on India. Available at
http://databank.worldbank.org/ddp/home.do?Step=3&id=4.

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implementation of state policy.78 This affects police reform directly and indirectly. First, is the
lamentable fact that many police forces in India are deeply politicized and, at lower and
leadership levels alike, have colluded with politicians for mutual benefit. Ramachandra Guha
describes the un-virtuous relations between law enforcement officials and politicians at all
levels of government:

This politicization of the Indian police is by no means restricted to jobs in state capitals.
A member of the legislative assembly or a member of parliament often decides who
shall be posted as the superintendent of police in the district in which his constituency
falls. The most prestigious and powerful jobs in the police are allocated, as often as not,
on the basis of kin and caste. At other times, they are bid for in the open market. In
some states, chief ministers are said to have demanded, and obtained, lakhs or even
crores of rupees in return for posting an officer to a district or division of his choice.
Once the top jobs are decided on considerations other than competence, it hard to
prevent lesser jobs being allocated in the same manner. So inspectors and station head
officers and constables are also often chosen on the basis of caste, religion, favouritism
or bribery. Down the line, this puts a premium on the policeman pleasing the man (or
minister) who appointed him to his post, rather than focusing on his main job, which is
the protection of the ordinary citizen. It also encourages corruption, the desire to make
hay before one is suddenly divested of ones responsibilities when a government
changes, an MP fails to win re-election, or the boss retires.79
Police officials, to ensure that they remain in the good graces of their benefactors, may engage
in activities that blatantly support them in elections or other public fora,80 manipulate the
ability of opposition to take out protests or support the patrons ability to do the same, or even

78

Kanchan Chandra, Why Voters in Patronage Democracies Split Their Tickets: Strategic Voting for Ethnic Parties,
Electoral Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2009), pp. 21-32.
79
Ramachandra Guha, Renewing the Force-The Indian Police Need to Be Insulated From Politics, The Telgraph
(Calcutta), December 6, 2008. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1081206/jsp/opinion/story_10205550.jsp.
80

See for example, In Election Mode, Congress Leaders Target Police, The Times of India, February 12 2011.
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-02-12/india/28543385_1_sukhbir-badal-amarinder-singhelection-mode.

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engage in violence at their patrons behest. According to a 2009 Human Rights Report on Indian
policing
Decades of partisan policingpolitically motivated refusal to register complaints,
arbitrary detention, and torture and killings sometimes perpetrated by police at the
behest of national and state politicianshave resulted in an unprecedented level of
public distrust and fear of the police. In a culture of shifarish, or favors, only Indians with
powerful connections can be confident they will obtain police assistance. State and local
politicians routinely tell police officers to drop investigations against people with
political connections, including known criminals, and to harass or file false charges
against political opponents.81

Since it is ultimately the role of politicians to pass legislation that guides the police, any
given politician has a strong disincentive to undertake reforms that would deprive him or her of
the police as a personal asset rather. Other studies have shown the politicians across Indians
various states have vigorously opposed efforts such as making public services available on line
because these efforts decrease politicians capacity to extract rents through bribes and other
direct and indirect remuneration.82 Without a strong exogenous pressure to clean up
corruption or domestic pressure to do so, there are slim chances if anythat politicians at
either federal or state levels will engage this issue seriously.
Corruption and patronage affects police readiness in other important ways as well.
Procurement of personal protective equipment, weapons, ground mobility vehicles and so forth
is also deeply affected by corruption that results in sub-par equipment being supplied to the
forces and often in inadequate quantities. Yes this equipment is critical to ensuring that police

81

Human Rights Watch, Broken System: Dysfunction, Abuse, and Impunity in the Indian Police (New York: HRW,
2009). http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/08/04/broken-system-0, p.7.
82
Bussell, Why Get Technical?.

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do their jobs as effectively as possible while minimizing the loss of their lives or injury. Despite
the tragedy of 26/11, the Maharashtra state police force is still horribly ill-equipped at least in
part due to a centralized and corrupt procurement system which in many case has provided Indian
security forces with defective equipment that fail basic tests of effectiveness. 83

Third, and related to the second, is the Indian electorate and its expectations of its
leadership. While there have no studies yet on electoral behavior with respect to the provision
of internal security as a public good, there are several studies of voter and politician behavior
with respect to the provision other public goods. Saez and Sinha conducted a sub-national
study of the variation in the provision of health, education, irrigation and agriculture and social
security. While they found enormous variation between Indias states and territories, they
found strong and enduring effects of cyclical (timing of elections and alteration of power) and
institutional variables (the extent of party competition on public expenditure decisions rather
than independent assessment of need for these services.84
Ghosh examines the relationship between electoral cycles and crime in India. This study
offers limited insights for this query. Ghosh found that both property and violent crime decline
in an election year with the decline in the former being most significant. However, Ghosh also
finds that both kinds of crime are responsive to an elections timingincreasing in the initial
years of an incumbents tenure and declining in the later periods as the elections draw nearer.

83

Jeremy Page, Outgunned Mumbai police hampered by First World War weapons, The Times, December 3,
2008. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/police-faced-militants-using-world-war-i-era-weapons/storye6frg6t6-1111118216709.
84
Lawrence Saez and Aseema Sinha, Political Cycles, Political Institutions and Public Expenditures in India, 19802000, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2009), pp. 93.

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Ghosh found that voters are most responsive during an election year rather than consistently
concerned throughout the politicians tenure.85
This study shows that politicians and voters care about personal security. However,
personal crime is very different from terrorism. For the vast majority of voters, a personal
experience of terrorism is an exceedingly low probability event whereas personal crime, while
rare, occurs more frequently than terrorism. Moreover, the second order effects of terrorism
on commerce and foreign direct investment and the like is less likely to affect the most typical
Indian voter, the majority of whom reside in rural areas and who are employed in the
agricultural sector. This, according to Saez and Sinha, explains their analytical results that
agriculture accounts for the largest sector of expenditure. They find that public officials use
agriculture expenditures to respond both to economic distress as well as to satisfy their
primary constituents, farmers, who play a major role in elections at the sub-national level.86
As discussed above, part of the initial moves to revamp internal security at the federal
level, was driven by business interests that were deeply affected by the tragedy of Mumbai.
Persons and organizations with vested interest in this issue also fear future attacks. However, at
the sub-national level, these are not the interests that matter in elections. Unless there are
broader demands for internal security reform at the state and national levels, there will be
inadequate costs imposed upon politicians to make reforms who benefit enormously from the
status quo.

85

Arkadipta Ghosh, Electoral Cycles in Crime In a Developing Country: Evidence from the Indian States, (June 18,
2006). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=910054
86
Lawrence Saez and Aseema Sinha, Political Cycles, Political Institutions and Public Expenditures in India, 19802000, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2009), pp. 111.

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Conclusions and Implications

India will remain a target of externally supported as well as domestic terrorism and
insurgency both due to its ongoing rivalry with Pakistan as well as domestic challenges
confronting the Indian state. India has few options with respect to Pakistan and is still
struggling to devise policies to undermine the support for and participation in the various
violent non-state actors who are motivated by indigenous concerns rather than external
support and agitation. This suggests India needs to invest much more heavily in defensive
measures such as law enforcement at all levels and investigative agencies given its abject lack
of offensive options.
Critically, reforming the state police will remain a daunting task due to the nature of
policing as a states subject; the structural problems that discourage states from cooperating
amongst themselves horizontally; and the enduring difficulty in coordinating vertically between
federal and state agencies. India is not alone in this regard. Even in the United States, state
and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies routinely have disagreements over
which entity has the appropriate jurisdiction despite reforms made since 9/11.
However, there is an even bigger problem that will hinder state-level and federal
internal security reforms: the structure of Indias politics. India, as noted above, at both federal
and state levels is characterized as a patronage-driven political system with strong distributive
coalitions and interests groups which influence politicians at state and federal levels to

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manipulate the ways in which collective goods are provided.87 While Mumbai galvanized
enough public outrage for the Indian government at the center to begin reforms, internal
security and other aspects of national security are not core subjects for Indias national and
state electorates. Unless and until this becomes an issue that mobilizes Indias largely rural
electorate, there will be few pressures for more meaningful reform.
Whether or not states and the politicians who run them can be persuaded to
embrace the importance of security and to prioritize such investments over other parochial
interests in the absence of such electoral pressure remain to be seen. This will surely be a test
for Indias polity, civil society and even the quality of the democracy in which Indians can
expect to live.

87

Lawrence Saez and Aseema Sinha, Political Cycles, Political Institutions and Public Expenditures in India, 19802000, British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 40, No. 1 (2009), pp. 91-113.

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