Thursday, July 19, 2012




According to reports from Pakistan, Chaudhury Habib-ur-Rehman, who constitutes the one-man  Anti-Terrorism Special Court trying seven members of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) for conspiring to carry out the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, has accepted the objections of the LET conspirators to the admissibility of the report submitted by a Pakistani commission that had visited Mumbai in March to record the statements of some Indian witnesses.

2.The lawyers of the LET conspirators had objected to the admissibility of the commission’s report on the ground that the Government of India did not allow the Pakistani lawyers assisting the commission to cross-examine the Indian witnesses.

3.The Judge has accepted the contention of the LET lawyers and declared the report of the commission as inadmissible in the pending case. However, he has kept open the possibility of admitting in evidence the report of any new commission that might be sent to Mumbai by the Pakistan Government if its lawyers are allowed to cross-examine the witnesses by the Government of India.

4.India’s efforts to seek the co-operation of the State of Pakistan for the effective prosecution of the Pakistan-based conspirators including Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed , the head of the LET, have thus reached a dead-end. It is futile to hope for any forward movement in this direction.

5.While India should continue to keep the spotlight on Pakistan to demonstrate to the international community its machinations to avoid action against the conspirators, it should at the same time unilaterally initiate other options against Sayeed.

6.It should have Sayeed declared as a proclaimed and absconding offender in the case and offer a huge reward for anyone who could help in his capture and prosecution before the Mumbai court. The reward should be made applicable to individuals as well as organisations, so that organisations of Baloch freedom-fighters, Sindhi nationalists and Pakistani Shia fighters who are interested in availing of the reward could do so by helping in the capture of Sayeed and his being brought to India for trial.

7. Simultaneously, a special cell should be created in the R&AW for bringing Sayeed to justice in India.  (20-7-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )


 I have been in receipt of the following comment on my article on Prejudieces Against Minorities from a US-based Indian.I would like to add that the retired Muslim Major of the Army seems to have had an unpleasant experience not with the CISF, which is responsible for airport security, but with some members of the security staff of Spicejet--B.Raman

A personal incident: Couple of years ago while travelling
between two major metros in India by air I was stopped by the airport security right after the
x-ray machine scanned my handbag. The CISF officer requested me to open the bag which I
followed duly. I could see from his name tag that he belonged to a minority community.
Certainly he did his job professionally, and gave me a smile back after checking my handbag. It
was a collection of about 25 old audio cassettes neatly stacked which might have looked
like a bullet belt on the screening monitor. Before departing the security area I smiled
at him and asked him where he was from. "Kashmir" - came the pat reply. I had a pleasant
emotion. We hear all the news about violence in Kashmir, and some Kashmiris' perceived
disloyalty to the Indian state, but here is a security officer from that place taking
the air security so seriously. But I imagined that some of my close friends, who are over sensitive
on religious matters, could have misconstrued my personal incident in a completely different
way, and would have given it a communal tone. Because those twenty five old cassettes contained
spiritual/devotional songs.     It takes a little patience, a little tolerance and a little
clarity of mind from all sides to overcome communal misunderstanding which may spin out of control. I am sure every airline in India recruits people from all communities and treats them
equally. Sometimes some passengers as well as ground staff behave rudely, arrogantly
and/or insensitively which triggers misunderstandings. Often, while flying between Kolkata
and Delhi, I see people belonging to minority communities in large numbers as my
copassengers, but haven't seen or heard any discriminatory incident. Even if there is
any stray incident I hope the sane minds of all communities will come together to diffuse
such tensions.



( To be read in continuation of my article of November 20,2008, titled Rules Of Engagement In Maritime Counter-Terrorism & Counter-Piracy at )

On the  evening of July 16,2012, an Indian fisherman  was killed and three others  were injured when naval personnel on board USNS Rappahannock, a fuel re-supply ship of the US Navy, opened fire on a small motor vessel near Jebel Ali port off Dubai.

2.The US fleet later issued a statement saying that the USNS Rappahannock attacked the small motorboat near the Dubai port of Jebel Ali, because the small vessel "ignored the warnings and came too close".

3."The US crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel's operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun," the statement said.

4.ABC News quoting an unnamed UAE official said the fishing boat had four Indians and two Emirate nationals on board when the incident took place in Jabel Ali, a frequent docking point for American naval vessels about 30 miles southwest of Dubai.

5.Sections of the media have quoted Lt-Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the head of the Dubai Police, as saying that according to the injured fishermen  the boat was  not warned to move away by the US naval ship. According to the local “Khaleej Times”, the injured fishermen reportedly  told the police that they did not move towards the ship and instead attempted to avoid it. The Dubai Police chief has been quoted as saying:   "According to our findings and testimonies of the injured, I believe that they told the truth."

6.”The Hindu” of July 18,2012, has reported that while US officials claimed that the incident occurred in international waters, the UAE officials said  it took place within their waters. Considerable emotions and anger have been aroused in India over the incident, which is under enquiry. “The Hindu” has called the incident “Murder In Mid-Sea”.

7.The incident needs to be analysed objectively and without emotions before jumping to conclusions on the culpability of the US naval personnel involved. Some journalists have sought to analyse the incident in the context of the running tensions between the US and Iranian navies in the Gulf.

8.A more appropriate comparison would be with the past activities of Al Qaeda in the Gulf area and the current activities of the Somali pirates both of whom operate from small boats, which pose a difficulty to naval personnel of all countries, including India, in determining whether a boat cited in  the sea is a friend or foe.

9.If there is no way of communicating with the inmates of a boat or physically verifying its contents to look for hidden explosives, naval personnel have to act on the basis of their instant assessment as to whether an approaching boat could be a friend or foe. If their instant assessment that led to a fatal firing subsequently proves to be wrong, they cannot be blamed and accused of murder.

10.Before October,2000, when neither Al Qaeda nor the Somali pirates were active in that area, the rules of engagement provided that US naval personnel should open fire on a suspicious-looking boat approaching a naval ship only if the boat opened fire first.

11.On October 12, 2000, a boat filled with explosives with a suicide bomber of Al Qaeda rammed against a US destroyer named USS Cole in the Aden harbour. In the resulting explosion, 17   US naval personnel were killed and the ship was severely damaged. A subsequent enquiry brought out that a US naval officer on watch duty on the deck of USS Cole had seen the boat approaching USS Cole at high speed, but he did not fire on it and sink it.

12.The rules of engagement of the US Navy then in force reportedly provided that US naval personnel should fire upon a suspect boat inside a harbour only if fired at. Since the Al Qaeda boat did not open fire, it was not fired at and sunk before it could ram against USS Cole. In justification of the seeming inaction of the officer on watch duty, it was stated during the enquiry that inside busy harbours such as that of Aden, many small boats operated by the harbour management keep moving around for providing logistics. It would have been difficult to assess the hostile intent of an approaching boat inside a harbour.

13.Al Qaeda’s use of small boats carrying explosives for acts of suicide terrorism in emulation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) made  the navies of many countries to  undertake an exercise to revise and update the rules of engagement when confronted with a possible maritime terrorism situation. Two possible scenarios received special attention:

    SCENARIO NO 1: An unidentified boat approaches a naval ship in or near a harbor. The revised rules of engagement reportedly provide for immediate neutralisation of such a boat before it could come within ramming or boarding distance of the ship without waiting to verify the intention of the boat. Action can be initiated even at the risk of casualties of innocent civilians.

    SCENARIO NO.2: A naval ship moving or patrolling in high seas encounters an unidentified ship or boat moving around in suspicious circumstances or which seems to be coming towards the naval ship. This scenario gives some window for verification. The revised rules of engagement provide for opening fire if the suspicious ship or boat resists attempts at verification or opens fire or seems to be planning to open fire on the naval ship. Appropriately judging the situation and acting is left to the discretion of the naval personnel depending on the circumstances of the case.

14.One understands that many navies have further refined their rules of engagement in recent years keeping in view the modus operandi adopted by the Somali pirates who operate in high seas from small boats launched from mother ships.

15. The rules of engagement have to be robust enough to allow the security personnel on board to make an instant threat assessment as to whether an approaching boat or a suspect boat in the vicinity is friend or foe. The situation can become very tricky when there is no way of communicating with the suspect boat and no means of making a physical verification.

16.Under such circumstances, the judgement of the naval security personnel should be final. All that one could insist upon is that the resulting force used on the basis of an instant threat assessment should be reasonable and appropriate to the assessment and not excessive.

17.India should deal with the incident in a logical, reasonable, professional and responsible way keeping in view the possibility that one day one of our naval ships on anti-terrorism and anti-piracy patrol might find itself in a similar situation.

18. By whipping up emotions and by making unreasonable demands on the US Navy, we should not unwittingly tie the hands of our own navy in an unpredictable situation.  (19-7-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-Mail: . Twitter: @SORBONNE75 )