Are we ready for urban warfare

Written by Huma Siddiqui | New Delhi | Updated: Nov 30 2008, 07:47am hrs
Are there more attacks in the offing Will a federal agency to tackle terrorism help The coming days India in general, and urban areas in particular, may well have to brace up for more deadly terrorist attacks, opine security experts. Unless some out-of-box surgical response is worked out, the urban areas may be heading for further terrorist attacks, they point out. And the concept of warfare has changed in the 21st century. Large-scale battles between neighboring countries will happen much less, because these might degenerate into the use of nuclear weapons.

According to Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, research fellow at Center for Land Warfare Studies, This is our first taste of urban terrorism. In Mumbai, NSG, Marcos and the forces carried out complex operations as they had to go floor by floor carefully, in the rescue and clear-up operations. He stresses that we need to tighten our laws, better coordination and be better organised.

Recently, army chief General Deepak Kapoor said the Indian Armys involvement in the countrys internal security is more than normal. Notwithstanding its multi-front obligations, the Army is being called in to tackle many issues ranging from law and order to providing aid during natural or manmade disasters. Due to external abetment, the Indian Army is involved in internal security functions on a relatively larger scale than is normal, said Kapoor.

On the issue of more funds, research fellow Ajay Lele at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) says, What India really needs at this time is a federal agency, and coordination among all the intelligence agencies across the country. Right now, the way it seems these agencies dont want to share much with the other. There is no interaction, neither horizontally nor vertically, between these agencies. This has to change.

Agreeing with him, former deputy director of IDSA C Uday Bhaskar says, It is really a policy issue. There has to be a proper coordinated agency to tackle this menace. In fact, our security system has been deteriorating over the period. Our agencies failed to respond the way they should have. The government should do stock taking and study all the police and intelligence reports and then take quick action, he adds.

According to Kanwal, there will be indirect losses, though there has been considerable loss in this attack, Mumbai and India will spring back and recuperate.

There is a scope for modern surveillance devices, weaponry and systems. We were not prepared for such an attack. We did not have any idea about the depth of the operations, that led to the loss of our best officersOur reaction was slow. There was no coordinated effort, everybody was doing their bit, until they realised how well equipped the terrorists were, said a senior security officer on conditions of anonymity.

Security analyst Maroof Raza voices similar thoughts. We are not only ill equipped, we are inept to deal with such a situation. India must draw a line on governance and leave the security to those who know their jobs. India is strategically located in relation to both continental Asia as well as the Indian Ocean region. Indias geographical and topographical diversity, especially on its borders, poses unique challenges to our armed forces in terms of both equipment and training.

Peninsular India is adjacent to one of the most vital sea-lanes stretching from the Suez canal and Persian Gulf to the Straits of Malacca through which much of the oil from the Gulf region transits. This area has attracted superpower rivalries in the past and continues to be a region of heightened activity by extra regional navies on account of current global security concerns, say experts. Indias size, strategic location, trade interests and a security environment that extends from the Persian Gulf in the west to the Straits of Malacca in the east and from the Central Asian Republics in the north to near the equator in the south, underpin Indias security response. In view of this strategic spread, it is essential for the country to maintain a credible land, air and maritime force to safeguard its security interests.