The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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All’s well, except traffic jam

New Delhi, Sept. 29: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today gave the NDA government and the internal security agencies he is heading a pat on the back for the “good work” in combating terrorism but added that intelligence wings must focus on specifics.

Advani chose a meeting of top intelligence and police officers to tom-tom the government’s achievements and held up the response to the Gujarat temple attack as an example of the “good work”.

However, he disclosed there was a delay of around 45 minutes due to a “traffic jam” in the air-lifting of National Security Guard commandos from Delhi to Gandhinagar when the militants had stormed the temple. “There was a delay of about 45 minutes because of a traffic jam in Delhi. There should be some ways to deal with such situations. May be this time nothing much happened. But there may be a time when such delays will make a difference,” Advani said.

But, he said, Gujarat police had reached the spot 15 minutes after being alerted. “What is notable is that almost all their (the militants’) acts of depredation took place before the state police arrived on the scene,” he added.

After the NSG commandos arrived on the scene, “all that the two terrorists could do was to try to save their lives or to escape — an attempt in which they predictably failed’’.

Advani added that the lack of specific inputs is standing in the way of rapid action.

“Our intelligence is reasonably good and we get good general inputs. But till specifics are not known, it becomes difficult to take action on them,” he said.

“There is all-round appreciation for the success of the police and the security forces in their operation at Akshardham,’’ Advani said. He also congratulated the intelligence agencies for the quick “breakthrough” in the case.

Indian intelligence has identified the two slain terrorists as Pakistani nationals but have so far not given any details about the outfit they belonged to. Advani had hinted they are members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Despite the public praise, the home ministry has done little till now to remove a perception that it has no hard evidence on the identity of those behind the attack or whether there was only two militants inside the complex when the massacre took place.

The fear of a communal backlash is weighing heavily on the deputy Prime Minister’s mind. He has been repeatedly appealing for restraint ever since the Tuesday attack, saying the best way to defeat the plans of “the enemy’’ was by keeping the peace.

Today, too, Advani said the motive of the temple strike was to trigger a communal flare-up. “The attackers, their accomplices and their mastermind had hatched a conspiracy to incite communal violence in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country,’’ he said.

Advani identified the “terrorism fuelled by religious extremism” as the greatest threat to India’s security.

The deputy Prime Minister strayed from the self-congratulatory path for a brief while to appeal to the media to be “responsible and restrained” while reporting sensitive events.

He seemed particularly peeved about the frequent references in the media to intelligence failure and felt that such comments demoralised the intelligence agencies. Advani dubbed such reports “uninformed and sometimes motivated”.

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