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House declares war on terror
Lump in his throat, home minister P. Chidambaram resolves to strengthen coastline, NSG, intelligence
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 11
Parliament today stood out as a symbol of national unity in the fight against terror. It was an exceptional day when emotions reigned supreme in the House normally used to chaos, and when opposing political forces walked the same path and voiced the same urge.

By the end of the day, the message from the House was loud and clear, as expressed both by leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee and leader of the opposition L.K. Advani: “Today we stand here to tell the world that we are one against terror; that the territorial integrity of India cannot be played with; that no one should dare to attack us.”

The tone for the draft resolution moved this evening by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and unanimously adopted by the House was set earlier by home minister P. Chidambaram, who made a statement today in Lok Sabha. New to the ministry, he clarified at the outset that given the nature of the threat, India could not go back to business as usual. “We will take hard decisions in the future and prepare the country to face the threat of terrorism,” said a firm home minister. Seconds later, he had a lump in his throat when saluting the memory of Mumbai police constable Tukaram Ombale.

“I ask you to remember the extraordinary courage of ASI Ombale who grabbed the barrel of the gun and took all bullets in his chest to enable his fellow policemen to overpower Mohd Ajmal Amir…,” said a sobered Chidambaram, admitting that there was a tendency in India to treat some intelligence inputs that are not specific as not actionable. He was referring to evidence in the Mumbai attacks and the gaps in sharing, and was quick to admit that while basic intelligence structure was sound, intelligence gathering and sharing needed to be more effective and result oriented.

While telling Parliament that the finger of suspicion in the Mumbai attacks unmistakably pointed to Pakistan and South Asia was in the eye of a storm of terror perpetrated from across the border, Chidambaram informed members that all aspects concerning intelligence were under his examination. He promised to equip and station NSG better.

“The NSG is our best trained force to counter a terrorist attack. But they are hampered by the distance between the headquarters and the airport; the absence of a dedicated aircraft and poor logistics in the theatre of operations,” said Chidambaram, who has decided to deploy NSG in a few regional hubs and draw upon the commando units of armed forces to create more regional hubs.

Admitting further to the vulnerability of India’s 7500 km-long coastline, the home minister said there was a need to strengthen the coastal security scheme approved in January 2005. A coastal command for overall supervision of the coastline would soon be set up along with a National Investigation Agency. That apart, the government plans to introduce a series of bills in Parliament this time to counter terror, fill up vacancies in the intelligence department, raise India Reserve Battalions and set up 20 anti-terrorism schools.

About evidence in the Mumbai attacks, the home minister said it was valuable and origins of 10 terrorists who entered India had been established conclusively. There is also abundant evidence gathered from the inflatable rubber dinghy, the fishing vessel and the bodies of terrorists that has enabled investigators to reconstruct the sequence of events. The evidence was, however, not made public in the interest of investigations.



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