The Manmohan Singh government's response was confined to what was then branded as “coercive diplomacy” rather than military action against LeT.

by Shishir Gupta

The pusillanimous response of the UPA government to the 26/11 Mumbai massacre engineered by Pakistan was more a reflection on weak political leadership at that time rather than the then ineffectual military-civilian bureaucracy on November 26, 2008.

Cowering under the so-called nuclear flashpoint theory pandered by the Left-Liberal media at that time, the counter-terror response of the Manmohan Singh government was confined to what was then branded as “coercive diplomacy” rather than military action against Muridke-based perpetrator Lashkar-e-Taiba group, fearing the drummed up nuclear retaliation bogey from Islamabad.

What was more damning about the UPA’s counter-terror response was the fact that the US had shared the exact coordinates of the LeT’s intruding ship Al Husseini from K T Bandar near Karachi days before the attack with Indian RA&W led by Ashok Chaturvedi, who in turn shared the classified intelligence with Intelligence Bureau under P C Haldar for dissemination to the Mumbai Police under Hassan Ghafoor and Maharashtra Police under Anami Roy.

Under the supervision of the then National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, the actionable intel was shared with the Indian Navy under Admiral Sureesh Mehta and the Indian Coast Guard, who were at that time conducting the “Defence of Gujarat” exercise off the western seaboard. Yet, none of them could either intercept Al Husseini on the high seas or the hijacked M V Kuber off Porbandar or the commando boats that landed with Pakistani killers off Colaba in a crowded Mumbai. Despite clear-cut warnings and alerts, the Mumbai police was convinced that it was gang warfare when the first fire from Ak-47s cut down innocents at the Leopold Café in Nariman Point. The LeT killers tried to communally segregate victims at Leopold Café but then lost patience but this segregation was carried out in Oberoi Trident Hotel. Rest as they say is the history of indecisive and weak political responses, which emboldened the Pakistan-based groups to continue attacking India through jihadists with impunity at least till October 27, 2013, in Patna.

Pakistan first time felt the cost of its proxy war against India when the Indian Army’s special forces conducted cross-LoC strikes on September 26, 2016 in response to the Jaish-e-Mohammed strike against an Army camp in Uri on September 18, 2016. India under PM Narendra Modi stepped up the counter-terror campaign after IAF’s Mirage-2000 jets hit the JeM terror training camp at Balakot in the hinterland of Pakistan on February 26, 2019, in response to the February 14, 2019 Pulwama attack. India in fact turned the nuclear flashpoint theory on its head when Prithvi Missile batteries were deployed in the Rajasthan sector to deter Pakistan from harming captured IAF pilot Abhinandan. For the first time, it was Pakistan under macho PM Imran Khan that was seared by the Indian CT response. Back to 26/11.

After receiving mandatory certificates of condemnation of 26/11 from the global community with few calling out Pakistan by name, the UPA government took some diplomatic steps to convey its annoyance and hurt to incorrigible Pakistan leadership. Despite 166 innocents butchered by Pakistani jihadists under guidance and training from Rawalpindi GHQ, PM Manmohan Singh went back to the table with Pakistan at Sharm-El-Sheikh in Egypt seven months later and normalized relations with then PM Syed Y R Gilani, whose distant cousin Daood Gilani aka David Coleman Headley had conducted the recce of terror targets in Mumbai in 2008. Rather than hauling the Pakistani PM over burning coal, the Indian PM virtually conceded at the Egyptian resort that it was India that was responsible for unrest in Baluchistan. The joint statement was drafted by then Foreign Secretary and later NSA Shiv Shankar Menon as the then Joint Secretary (Pakistan) T C A Raghavan was inexplicably not part of the Indian delegation to Sharm-El-Sheikh. The sordid chapter of 26/11 must never be forgotten and Pakistan must never be forgiven for spilling the blood of innocents in Mumbai on that fateful day.