Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai Attacks : A Complete Intelligence Failure

ONE of the major counter-terrorism concerns about the attacks in Mumbai is the failure of intelligence they represent. India tends to be defensive about not anticipating terrorist incidents in India; the usual fall-back position is to blame Pakistan, rather than acknowledge major domestic national security intelligence deficiencies.
The security intelligence system in India is dependent on collection by police state-based "special branches" and the regional offices of the Intelligence Bureau, India's ASIO equivalent. Often, information collected in one police jurisdiction that may affect another jurisdiction will not be passed on, while the sprawling bureau is understaffed, under-equipped and ineffective. The Intelligence Bureau has two "fusion centres", but the reality is there is very little information sharing between agencies. This makes it difficult to develop a national picture of terrorist organisations such as the Indian Mujahidin or the Students Islamic Movement of India. Pakistan is an easy fall guy because it does indeed provide covert support to Pakistani Islamist extremists operating in Kashmir and India, as well as to Indian Islamist extremists. Pakistan's aim is to keep political pressure on India over Kashmir. Pakistan now occupies the northern third, called Azad Kashmir, while India occupies most of the rest. China occupies an eastern rump. UN Resolution 47 (1948) required India to hold a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the Kashmiri population, but it has not done so. India fears Muslim-majority Kashmir may choose to become independent or, worse still, join Pakistan. As long as the Kashmir issue is unresolved, Pakistan will continue to provide Kashmir-related "freedom fighters" with bases, training and sanctuary. The organisation that has claimed responsibility for the latest Mumbai attacks is the Deccan Mujahidin, which we may reasonably assume is a regional affiliate of the relatively new terrorist organisation, Indian Mujahidin. The "Indian" in its title is intended to underline its national commitment to all Indian Muslims. It has been operationally active since November last year and has been responsible for multiple bombings. It is believed to comprise elements from the Students Islamic Movement of India and Indian members of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar e-Toiba (Army of the Pure), which was responsible for the Mumbai-like attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. Reports from Mumbai emphasise the youth of the attackers. This suggests the assaults may have been undertaken by a younger, more extreme element of the Indian Mujahidin. The apparent focus - American and British passport holders - may indicate a desire to link the attacks to American and British military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq, in line with al-Qaida's call for attacks on countries occupying Muslim lands. Australia also has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the low numbers may not have attracted attention in India or Pakistan. If it proves to be the case that Pakistan was directly involved in the Mumbai attacks, it will lead to a severe breakdown in the warming relations between these two nuclear states. If the Pakistan connection proves to be indirect, it will produce less political fallout.
Whatever the outcome, Pakistan is likely to attract more international opprobrium for its support of Islamist extremists than India for its intelligence failure, or for not addressing Hindu discrimination against Indian Muslims. If the attacks prove to be related to Western military activities in Afghanistan, we need to be concerned about Australia's deployment appearing on the extremists' radar. This could have implications for Australians in India. If the intent was a general attack on infidel foreigners, that also has implications for Australians.

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