Global spotlight on intelligence failure, politics of terror in India


New Delhi : The ‘India Rising’ story, a favourite of papers around the world, may have taken a knock after the Nov 26 terror strike paralysed business capital Mumbai and killed more than 150 people as the international media turned a critical gaze on India’s partisan politics and intelligence failure in dealing with terrorism.

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No other terror strike in India has been analysed in such detail as the audacious terror strikes in Mumbai that saw the death of 14 foreigners – three Germans, two Americans, two French, an Australian, a Briton, a Canadian, an Italian, a Japanese, a Singaporean and a Thai – and over 130 Indians.

Leading international dailies were unsparing in their criticism of partisan politics and “squabbling leaders” in India that thwart concerted counter-terror efforts and the country’s hopelessly inadequate infrastructure that makes it a soft target for terrorists.

Concerns about India’s attractiveness as a business hub were also aired liberally in international media, putting in question the country’s rising global profile.

Many publications were critical of India’s habit of blaming Pakistan for every attack and referred to the growth of home-grown radical Islamic militancy in the country. With India again blaming elements in Pakistan for the audacious terror strikes, global anxieties about a renewed confrontation between the two countries are back in circulation.

“One of the major counter-terrorism concerns about the attacks in Mumbai is the failure of intelligence they represent,” said Prof Clive Williams of the Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism at Macquarie University, in an article in Melbourne Herald Sun, an Australian daily.

“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,” he wrote in the article.

James also blamed the architecture of India’s security intelligence system which, he alleges, were dependent on collection by police state-based “special branches.”

The point was also raised by the Wall Street Journal, which said India’s intelligence units are “understaffed and lack resources. Coordination among the country’s 28 state police forces is poor. The country’s anti-terror legal architecture is also inadequate,” it said, blaming a “lack of political leadership’ for it.

In a report headlined “Violence Clouds India’s Economic Future”, The New York Times quoted economists and investors and concluded that the terrorist siege in Mumbai “is likely to threaten India’s already murky economic future and thwart plans to transform the city into a regional financial centre.”

An article in Britain’s The Guardian said that the Mumbai attacks demolished the myth of the absence of any home-grown al-Qaeda threat. “But this week’s attack in Mumbai is the latest in a series of incidents that have forced the Indian government to acknowledge privately that there may be Islamist militant groups within its borders,” it said.

France’s left-leaning Liberation flaunted front-page story headlined “The Terrorist Escalation.” The editorial in the daily spoke ominously of “an arc of crisis that stretches across South Asia, the most dangerous region in the world.”

Spain’s top-selling El Pais daily wrote about home-grown Islamic extremism in India. The daily also said while it was tempting for India to blame its arch rival Pakistan for “its worst nightmare”, the attacks appeared to be symptomatic of a wider malaise in the region.

“Everything suggests that India, which is used to fighting local separatists and guerrillas, is facing its own Islamic terrorism,” said the Spanish daily.

Japan’s leading newspapers aired anxieties about the risks of doing business with India in the wake of terror attacks. The Yomiuri Shimbun even went to the extent of voicing concern that the bloodshed in the Indian business capital could strain Japan’s relations with India.

Security concerns could “block investment of foreign capital and slow down the Indian economy further,” said the Nikkei business daily.

The left-leaning German daily Die Tageszeitung said: “The intention is clear: to destroy the image of India as a dynamic and secure centre of business and as an exotic tourist destination.”

Most major Chinese dailies carried the Mumbai attacks on their front pages. In a commentary, The Beijing News blamed the Indian government for being slow to react to events. “Faced with the growing menace of terrorism, India’s anti-terrorism measures are lagging behind,” the commentary said.

The Australian, however, warned against capitulating to the designs of terrorists and asked the world “to stand shoulder to shoulder with India.” “They (the terrorists) will also be gratified if their handiwork should trigger sectarian violence between Hindus and Muslims, and as India heads for national elections in the first half of next year the scope for political polarisation is obvious,” it said.

“India has demonstrated in the past a capacity for restraint in the face of extreme provocation. It deserves our strong support in this difficult time”, the paper added.