'Indian hospitality' outsells security

'Indian hospitality' outsells security

'Indian hospitality' outsells security

In the long run we are all dead”, so truly said John Maynard Keynes, the economist par excellence, probably foretelling a world a century later - full of nuclear arms for assured mutual destruction; an insecure world craving for more  security from within and outside.
How much of security makes a civilian secure? The state surveillance - thousands of police, omnipresent cameras, deep data-mining, nano-second biometric identification, and drone aircraft patrolling. What next? And yet one David Headley shuttles in and out unintercepted, turns job provider, a socialite and a “good friend” to many happening men and women in India’s major metropolises. Why have we failed?   


Application of technology cannot replace human element in internal security. After all a disconnect between the internal security apparatus and the personnel manning it neutralises the advantages otherwise obtained by the use of sophisticated equipment, careful computer documented “criminal profiling” or use of biometrics for error proof identification.

Why was Headley, 49, caught in the USA and not in India, where he came to lay the foundations for future destruction?  The concept of security in India is still in rudimentary form, “uncomfortably  interspersed” with sophisticated technologies. Headley is not the first case and would not be the last, given the  chain of command and the  disconnect between ultimate aim and the people manning it.

Soon after the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts, another US citizen Kenneth Haywood, from whose Internet Protocol address a terror e-mail threat was sent out just before the blasts were triggered, left India “undetected” from the Delhi airport. The Mumbai Anti-terrorist Squad had issued a look-out notice against him  on July 30, 2008, a month before he coolly flew to his country, “unsuspected, undetected.”

For this major faux pas, all fingers point to Delhi officials, including the Foreigners’ Regional Registration. If only technology could speak!

After the incident, Parambir Singh, Additional Commissioner, ATS, Mumbai, was quoted as saying: “What has happened should not have happened. Such a thing has never happened in my experience.” Without being too judgmental, one can still say “there has to be a first, a second and a third... for everything in our country. Even if it concerns grave matters of internal security.”

Headley visited India at least seven times between November 2006 and July 2008 but, thanks to Indian visa rules, never registered with the immigration authorities. Registration with the security agencies was not a must under his visa category.

Exhaustive computerised criminal profiling and use of biometric identification would help only in countries where security “knows no trust”. The hue and cry raised in India by some central ministers about the questioning of film star Sharukh Khan at the US airport, spoke volumes about our callous attitude towards security issues. In contrast, the country where Headley and his accomplice were caught, largely works on a different set of security ethics. The application of  biometrics -- the science of identification via facial shape, fingerprints and retinal or iris patterns – as well as electronic intercepts for instant intelligence, satellite imagery and the use of classified data banks in computers, finally stop at the door of the two-legged species. Headley and Haywood had obvious “Indian advantages”.

Why we fail?

“Intelligence  apart, it is the first response which is critical - that is the khakhi-clad policeman or security guard nearest to the terrorist. The man is the weapon,” asserts Brig B K Ponwar, counterinsurgency expert, who combatises policemen, including IPS officers, at the only Counter-Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College, Kanker.

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