The Pune Germany Bakery blast which has tragically claimed nine innocent lives has broken the lull of past many months with the last terror attack in the hinterland in India in Mumbai on 26/11. We hear familiar voices of how such strikes are impossible to avoid, but the Pune police have no excuses when there was a clear warning that Osho Ashram, Chabad House and German Bakery were on the target list with Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley having the surveyed the same. What more Rehman Makki, deputy leader of the Jamaat ud Dawahad warned on 5 February that, “Delhi, Pune and Kanpur” were targets. This information was published by the Hindu as reported by their Islamabad correspondent.
It was all a question of joining the dots which unfortunately no one in the entire hierarchy in New Delhi or in Maharashtra did busy as they were in handling the stand off between the Shiv Sena and Shah Rukh Khan’s block bluster, “My Name is Khan”.
The location of the blast the German bakery and next to the Chabad house as well as the Osho Ashram all favored by foreigners was obviously meant to target a larger community and send message not just of the dangers for tourism and travel in India but also that of the overall network and capability of the terrorist groups to strike at will despite the claims being made by the government. This is a significant event in many ways for the following reasons:
- Breaks the 14 months lull in which there was no attack and also government claims particularly of the Home Minister that India had become safer.
- Comes in the wake of declaration of Indo Pak talks to be held on 25 February.
- Pune was an easy target with the police and the Chief Minister focused on the release of the film by Shah Rukh Khan, obviously the guard had been lowered.
- The location had been close to a spot where the Lashkar operative Headley had stayed in Pune.
- Jamaat ud Dawa had warned a few days back in Pakistan that Delhi, Pune and Kanpur were also to be targeted in the so called, “jihad”.
The intelligence and reporting infrastructure created over the past one year or so failed to analyze these inputs and identify the targets, while Pune police clearly failed to take preventive measures despite being aware of the likely targets. Sensitizing people in these locations was necessary and police presence in the area could have deterred the would be attacker. So it is back to square one for the Home Ministry despite the many improvements made by Mr Chidambaram, results seem to be elusive.
The Home Minister could be well advised to take a more proactive approach in handling the police hierarchy in weak states as Maharashtra by sacking those who are responsible for this lapse. He has to ensure that the intelligence organization that has been set up is more result oriented and that the intelligence inputs are not reporting briefs for top leaders but are converted into actionable intelligence down the chain. This has to be systemized and police at the grass roots made more accountable. It is only then that we can find some relief from the terror infrastructure which is state supported from Islamabad as acknowledged by no less a person than the Foreign Secretary recently.
The only succor is a difference in approach of the government this time as it has readily accepted that this is a terror attack and issued advisory where as in 2008 there would be much confusion before there was any acceptance of a failure, this gives hope that effective measures would be taken to avoid a repeat in the days ahead.
The other issue is related to Indo Pakistan talks. The familiar refrain after the blast in Pune is now being heard of possible involvement of Pakistan based terrorists in the strike and thus suspension of dialogue process. While it was clear that the dialogue process would be interrupted by just such events, the government would have to take a call on this issue holistically.
There are strong reasons to go ahead with the talks despite calls to suspend the same for there is a need to divide the fundamentalist opinion on both sides of the International border rather than that dividing the liberals. Thus the dialogue process should and possibly will go on despite the terror attack. The need for the government is to persevere with upgrading security within the country as it had been for the past one year when there was no terror attack.
With important events coming up in the country such as the Hockey World Cup and the Commonwealth Games demonstration of resolve to deter such attacks has to be translated into capacity at the grass roots.