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Dawood Ibrahim: When the South Africans offered help

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New Delhi, May 19: It has become a norm to discuss Dawood Ibrahim every year and then forget about it. With claims being made by various persons about how close they came to nabbing the don, it is interesting now to note that the Union Home Ministry has started listing out his properties in a bid to choke his finances.

There was a time when Dawood Ibrahim visited South Africa several times with 18 different passports to further his Mandrax smuggling. Mandrax was a huge draw among the addicts and Dawood's empire in South Africa thrived heavily on the same.

Dawood was never a priority: Official

V Balachandran, former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and also member of the High Level Committee which enquired into the police performance during 26/11 Mumbai attacks tells OneIndia that South Africa had showed him a list of Dawood's 18 passports and sought assistance to nab him.

"I came back to Delhi and submitted a report, but then the files were tossed around only to make it to heap of the several pending files, " Balachandran also says.

The 1994 meeting at Pretoria

Balachandran says that he was asked to fly to Pretoria in the month of December 1994. "I was to meet with senior South African Intelligence officials to discuss the security for Nelson Madela who was to visit India in January 1995," he said.

South Africa had told India that they wanted a senior intelligence official to meet them since they feared white supremacist attacks on him in India.

"During one of the meetings in South Africa, I was given a presentation regarding the mandrax smuggling by Dawood Ibrahim.

They told me that the entire African continent was used by Dawood and his syndicate for mandrax smuggling. He had local help and Africa had become the destination and transit point for smuggling of drugs meant to land up in Europe and America." Balachandran also says.

The need for an operational plan

"Dawood had visited Africa several times. I was shown the 18 different passports which were used by Dawood Ibrahim. Not only did he use different names, but also different nationalities too. However all the information that came by was only after his departure from Africa."

At that time the South African intelligence was undergoing a major overhaul. They sought India's assistance in giving them information about his movements. They also sought advance information on his movements so that they could nab him when he landed in their country, the former official also informed.

"I told them that I would have to return to New Delhi and seek an approval. On my arrival at New Delhi, I prepared a report and gave to the Indian government. I had mentioned that this is for the first time that a foreign country is extending cooperation in nabbing Dawood Ibrahim."

However nothing came out of this report. I tried to pursue my report and ensure that it was acted upon. However the report was moved and tossed around and finally landed in a heap of pending files, Balachandran says.

"I could not offer the South Africans composite intelligence of my own as there were other departments involved. By that time the intelligence in South Africa too was split into the National Intelligence Agency and the South African Secret Service. I retired on June 30 1995."

Dawood was never priority number one

"The proposals to capture Dawood has become a yearly routine. Since the 1993 Bombay blasts, has any government in New Delhi put our intelligence agencies on notice that they have to get the location of Dawood?

I know for certain that New Delhi had never made this as their top priority. Since 1993 many of our retired intelligence chiefs have been rewarded with plum post-retirement postings for their good performance. Was Dawood ever placed as "Priority No 1" for such chiefs to judge their performance while in service?"

We need tightly coordinated efforts not only within our national intelligence agencies but also among the Customs, police and narcotics intelligence wings for getting accurate intelligence on him. This was perhaps difficult before we had set up our National Security Council in 1998.

However the question is, have our NSC and the powerful NSAs since 1998 ever tasked any intelligence agency that this issue should be priority No: 1 for the country? If not, why this charade?"

Mere briefing is not enough

Merely briefing the top political leadership on intelligence is not enough as they have no time for performance review. India has not even thought of codifying the role and activities of our intelligence agencies.

Our successive leadership of security bureaucracy had shied away from this attempt for fear that outside scrutiny would "expose" their "operations". Our political leadership is also ignorant on the utility of such a measure.

The former UPA government took no action when their own MP, Manish Tewari, introduced a private bill ("The Intelligence Services-Powers and Regulation-Bill 2011") trying to codify oversight on our three major intelligence agencies (RAW, IB and NTRO) on the same lines as the British laws.

The draft bill provided fairly clear charter for each agency. Like the UK's Intelligence and Security Committee whose reports are available publicly it was proposed to have a "National Intelligence and Security Oversight Committee" under the Chairmanship of our Vice-President.

Their annual reports were to be tabled in the Parliament. Unless we do something like this, we shall hear only ritualistic promises, Balachandran says.

OneIndia News

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