26/11 anniversary series: V Balachandran speaks about 26/11 and post-26/11 preparedness

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It will be six years tomorrow since India witnessed one of the most audacious attacks on its soil. There have been many measures that have been taken since 26/11 to ensure that such an attack does not take place once again. How prepared are we today and what measures have been taken, has the local link to the 26/11 attack been dealt with properly?

We at OneIndia will present a series of reports on the 26/11 attacks. In the first part of the series we spoke to V Balachandran, former officer with the Research and Analysis Wing who was also part of the high level Pradhan Committee which was appointed to look into the response by the police durng the 26/11 attack.

Also read: 26/11 probe series: Tough investigation conducted but several ques remain unanswered

26/11: Interview with V Balachandran

Balachandran in this exclusive interview to OneIndia speaks about a range of issues pertaining to the attack. However he very importantly states that nothing can be done by any government to extradite David Coleman Headley.

How much has changed since 26/11? Are we better prepared today in the event of such an attack?

We (Police & Public) are certainly better prepared in terms of the psychological resistance capability. Earlier both the police and public could not envisage what a commando attack would be since from 1993 onwards they had experienced only IEDs where the police/public were first surprised with the explosion, had to maintain law and order, had to remove injured to the hospitals and investigate the cases.

Only the Jammu and Kashmir police had that experience. But 26/11 was a live situation in which the police and public had to dodge the bullets, save others, and also fight back. Now we are aware how they will come (In case they come by sea), what type of targets they will attack, how the public could dodge etc.

Having said all that, the terrorists would never repeat their tactics. In Mumbai alone when the terrorists struck again in 2011 ( 13/7) they went back to their conventional method. (Bombing in opera House, Zaveri Bazar and Dadar which killed 26).

They knew that we cannot guard all such spots. It is impossible to guard every nook and corner of Mumbai. Every street or every bus/train is a potential target. So if such type of attack comes we would not be able to protect all such vulnerable spots where the public congregate.

Do you feel the investigation has been conclusive or did we make a mess out of it?

Yes- Investigation was conclusive. We did a commendable investigation.

How has the government dealt with the Pradhan committee report?

We still don't know. The government of Maharashtra has not told us. In fact there is no need for the Government to tell us what they had done.

But from the media we realize that one important recommendation, ie., cutting out unnecessary bureaucratic delays by having an "Empowered Committee" which could sit across the table and clear all Police requests for weapons and equipment has not been followed.

We hear frequently that projects are delayed. However the new Maharashtra Chief Minister has sanctioned Rs. 192 crores for police modernization ( Asian Age 24 Nov 2014). This is a good development.

Why does the government continue to avoid probing the local angle to the attack?

They had probed local angle and charge sheeted Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed Shaikh for supplying maps to LeT operatives in Nepal.

But they were acquitted by the Court. The Mumbai Crime Branch came to know about the Headley affair much later. As far as I know even the FBI officers who deposed before the Court did not mention anything about him. Now the NIA is pursuing it.

Do you think the new government in Delhi will do anything different on the David Headley issue?

In law nothing more can be done by any government. The previous UPA government was at fault in misleading our public that all attempts would be made to put Headley on trial. They should have told us that Headley's "Plea bargain" agreement which was legally executed in Court had 3 conditions: (1) He will not be extradited to India (2) He will not be extradited to Denmark and (3) He will not be granted death penalty.

According to my understanding, none, not even US president can alter these conditions. So we will have to wait for 35 years to get him to India after he finishes his term of prison sentence which was awarded to him on Jan 24, 2013. Even then we will have to take the US court orders for waiving the "Plea Bargain' terms.

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