July 20: When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today that responses to terrorism and the Naxalite movement have been “inadequate”, he might very well have taken up from where the cabinet meeting immediately after the Mumbai blasts had left off.
“We must recognise that past responses were inadequate in dealing with these problems,” he said, addressing chief secretaries of states.
Although the context of the statement was an appeal to state governments to improve police efficiency, since the Mumbai blasts, there has been growing concern in Delhi about the functioning of the country’s security structure.
This concern was expressed forcefully by various ministers at the cabinet meeting of July 13, two days after the blasts, picking national security adviser M.K. Narayanan as the target of criticism.
The meeting was almost entirely devoted to the blasts. Narayanan briefed the ministers on the intelligence aspects of the blasts, the background, the financial network of terrorists and indications the government had about an impending attack.
It has been reported that the Centre had indications about a possible strike but had no idea where it would occur.
Narayanan gave an exhaustive briefing but if he had hoped to satisfy the ministers, he seemed to have evoked the opposite effect.
Several ministers are believed to have launched a blistering attack on the former Intelligence Bureau boss for having kept them in the dark even when so much intelligence was available.
Sources said they accused Narayanan of operating much too secretively and centralising everything in the Prime Minister’s Office, not taking even members of the Cabinet Committee on Security into confidence.
After every such incident, there is a hunt to find someone to hang in the government and the ministers’ criticism of Narayanan must be seen in that context. They needed a responsible person to vent their anger on and the national security adviser was just the right target.
Some ministers suggested that because of Narayanan’s style of functioning, the entire intelligence apparatus and follow-up machinery sat on the information that could have prevented the attack, the sources added.
It is absurd to believe, however, that if Narayanan had that kind of specific information, he would have allowed so many people to be killed.
Still, the majority view in the cabinet was that the Mumbai blasts represented an intelligence failure, for which the ministers blamed Narayanan.
The Prime Minister tried to defend him but cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi, who could have come to Narayanan’s rescue, did not because of some private differences.