Shocking lapses

Investigations into the activities of American Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley and his Canadian accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana have revealed shocking details of the ease with which foreigners with terrorist links are able to enter and operate in India. Reports in the media have drawn attention to the way in which Headley struck up friendships with people, whose social standing provided his activities with cover. He stayed in top hotels and apartments and travelled widely across India on reconnaissance missions. And he was able to do so without providing vital personal details in forms filled at hotels or registering at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO), as required under visa rules.
  But more shocking than the duo’s activities in India is the manner in which Indian authorities violated rules and facilitated their operations in the country. Rana and his wife were issued multiple entry visas under the discretion of the consulate general in Chicago in clear violation of rules that require their visa application to be cleared by the Union home ministry. They were exempted from having to register with the local police as Pakistani citizens travelling in India are required to. Headley and Rana seem to have befriended prominent personalities too like Rahul Bhatt, son of film director Mahesh Bhatt, and other members of the film fraternity. It raises serious questions on the role that Indian officials and ordinary citizens are playing, unwittingly or otherwise, in ignoring basic security issues.

If it were not for the FBI’s arrest of the duo in Chicago, Indian intelligence and security agencies would have remained in the dark about their well-established network. The Headley-Rana saga indicates that serious loopholes remain in India’s intelligence gathering and security apparatus. It is well known that people with influence or the right contacts can get away with almost anything in this country, including brazen violation of rules that apply to ordinary people. It is this culture that Headley and Rana exploited to the hilt to play the roles they did in terrorist attacks in India. This culture of rules not applying to people with influence and money must end if our security measures against terrorism should be water-tight.  Funds allocated for internal security for 2009-2010 have been raised substantially. But this will be of little use, if terrorists can get their friends in various positions of power to facilitate their activities in this country.

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