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One Week After Attack, India Evaluates Security, Pakistan’s Role

December 3, 2008 at 6:35 PM EDT
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One week after terrorists waged a deadly siege on Mumbai, India's navy and coastguard have yet to make security improvements along India's coastlines. Simon Marks reports from Mumbai on remaining vulnerabilities and events during a high profile visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

SIMON MARKS, NewsHour Special Correspondent: It’s been one week to the day since 10 terrorists sailed into Indian waters at the start of a journey that would bring murder to the streets of Mumbai.

After commandeering a fishing trawler a touch larger than the one we rented today, they allegedly murdered the captain and then made landfall in a handful of rubber dinghies.

One week on, the Indian authorities have now revealed that the terrorists were briefly stopped on their journey through Indian waters by the coast guard for a routine check of paperwork. But as the fishermen who took us out today confirmed, coast guard checks here are few and far between and invariably cursory in nature.

KAMLAGAR MATRI, Fisherman (through translator): I don’t remember the last time we were checked. Sometimes it happens. Occasionally the coast guards come to see what’s happening on the boats.

SIMON MARKS: The coast guard and the Indian navy have an enormous task to accomplish. The navy is responsible for patrolling two million square miles of ocean. And in these waters alone, more than 50,000 fishing trawlers ply the seas each day; they’re the economic lifeblood of coastal communities.

The head of the Indian navy has now admitted that systemic failures allowed the terrorists to slip into these waters and onto Indian soil. What frightens so many people in Mumbai now is that, one week on, the coastline remains highly vulnerable, and effective security is still a distant goal.

Rear Admiral Mahindra Pal Taneja retired from the Indian navy two-and-a-half years ago after 36 years of service. He says securing the coastline will always be a huge geo-strategic challenge.

REAR ADM. M.P. TANEJA (Ret.), Indian Navy: If you realize what is the expanse of the sea, it’s huge. It’s massive. If you’ve been to sea yourself, you will realize that it’s absolutely something which is hard to control. You can’t have so many vessels that they will check out each ship, each boat, anything that flies on the water.

Security vulnerabilities remain

Milind Deora
Member of Parliament, India
The kind of anger and rage that we're seeing today against the entire political class, this is something that is unprecedented.

SIMON MARKS: So as things stand tonight, you think that this coastline is as vulnerable as it was one week ago?

REAR ADM. M.P. TANEJA: Let's just say people are a lot more alert than they were, but the coastline is, yes, if I have -- I have to concede that it is probably as vulnerable as it was before.

SIMON MARKS: The rear admiral told us that, in his estimation, the coast guard is only operating at 50 percent of its needed capacity. It doesn't have enough ships, speedboats, surveillance equipment or manpower to perform its tasks adequately and would benefit from far greater coordination between the various forces and agencies tasked with securing the nation.

But one of the politicians tasked with representing the people of Mumbai insists improvements have been made over the last seven days. Milind Deora is the member of parliament for South Mumbai, the exact district where the terrorists struck.

MILIND DEORA, Member of Parliament, India: The coast guard has already been put on high alert. The coast guard has already -- they have already set up a mechanism for the coast guard, the navy, the army, and the local police to coordinate and to work together and share any leads that they have.

So is the coast more secure today than it was one week ago? Definitely.

SIMON MARKS: If that is the case, the news hasn't reached many of the people of Mumbai. They took to the streets in enormous numbers tonight to participate in what was supposed to be a candlelit vigil in memory of those who lost their lives, but turned into a protest in which anger was expressed in equal measure toward both Pakistan -- from where the terrorists may have come -- and India's politicians.

MILIND DEORA: The kind of anger and rage that we're seeing today against the entire political class, this is something that is unprecedented. And I think it's important for all of us as a political class, across all political parties in India, to try and restore people's faith in politicians in the government. And I think that will happen.

SIMON MARKS: Tonight, there was yet more news to shake people's faith in the government's ability to protect them: A bomb was defused at the train station attacked by the terrorists last week. It had been there seven full days in a bag abandoned by one of the terrorists that then got mixed up with passengers' luggage.

It's just one more reason why emotions continue to run so high in Mumbai, a city that is still reeling from last week's assault by terrorists that revealed to the world India's vulnerability.

Calls for a crackdown in Pakistan

Simon Marks
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
The Indians told me tonight that they were extremely pleased with what they heard from the secretary of state during her visit to Delhi, namely that she wants Pakistan to play a more responsible role.

JIM LEHRER: Ray Suarez talked with Simon after he prepared that report.

RAY SUAREZ: Simon, you're reporting from Mumbai on the day of a very high-level visit from the United States to India. What did Secretary Rice have to say to the Indian government and people? And how was it received?

SIMON MARKS: Well, Ray, she said that she was here to express solidarity with the Indian government over the loss of so many lives a week ago, but the visit was about more than just that.

It was also about talking to the Indians about what has become an increasingly tense situation between Delhi and Islamabad, as the Indian government has blamed the government of Pakistan for essentially sponsoring this terrorist strike on Indian soil.

And the Indians told me tonight that they were extremely pleased with what they heard from the secretary of state during her visit to Delhi, namely that she wants Pakistan to play a more responsible role in dealing with the aftermath of this attack, and particularly when it comes to dealing with the activities of what everybody here is now referring to as non-state actors, that is, diplomatic speak for the fighters who belong to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Kashmiri separatist group that the Indians are now blaming for this attack.

It operates from Pakistani soil. And Condoleezza Rice, in his joint appearance with the Indian foreign minister, said tonight that non-state actors at times operate within the confines of the state and that non-state actors are still a matter of responsibility for states on whose soil they operate.

The Indians are interpreting that as a very strong message being sent to Pakistan that Pakistan now needs to take some action.

RAY SUAREZ: Simon, is this the toughest public call yet from an American official on Pakistan to crack down?

SIMON MARKS: I think that, if you view what Condoleezza Rice said in Delhi with what Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was saying in Islamabad simultaneously, which is that Pakistan now needs to begin a broader fight against some of these militants operating on Pakistani soil, one can certainly see a sort of diplomatic pincer movement taking place on the part of the United States, as far as this relatively new, relatively young government in Pakistan is concerned.

The Indians, certainly, wanted to push that to its limits and certainly, in all of their public pronouncements here over the last few hours, they have been very much pointing up the notion that the United States, from their perspective, swung itself entirely behind India on this matter.

I think American diplomats might seek to try and talk that down a little bit, but certainly that is the way it's being interpreted here in India tonight.

Political changes in India

Simon Marks
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
This is not a good city right now to be an Indian politician. And as I say, a week on, there's really no sign that that anger, that rage, that bitterness is beginning to dissipate in any way.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you say the way it's being interpreted in India. Is the Indian-American relationship fundamentally changed from the days of the Cold War when Pakistan was America's closest ally in that region?

SIMON MARKS: It totally is, and we've witnessed that several times this week. I mean, first of all, it's important to remember, Ray, that this is still a country in which you can travel to Delhi and, in one of the largest public parks in the city, you can see a statue memorializing the leader of the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Lenin. That is how close the relationship between Moscow and Delhi used to be.

Today, the closeness in the relationship is between Delhi and Washington. Earlier in the week, we saw fevered activity taking place at the police headquarters here in Mumbai, an enormous number of Indian television cameramen running around, newspaper photographers running around. It was almost like the Hollywood paparazzi chasing their quarry.

We stopped to find out what was going on. What was occurring? They had heard that the five-member FBI team in town to probe the attacks was inside the building.

There was breathless coverage on television today of Condoleezza Rice's visit to Delhi, breathless coverage on television yesterday here of a congressional visit headed by Sen. John McCain.

They really value this new relationship with the United States, a relationship that has been forged in part out of the amazing business development and economic development that has taken place between Mumbai and the United States over the course of the last 10 to 15 years.

RAY SUAREZ: I was interested in your reporting from the demonstration today in Mumbai. What struck you about what people had to say and the sentiments they expressed out on the march?

SIMON MARKS: Ray, the first thing that struck us was just the sheer size of this demonstration. I couldn't even begin to estimate the number of people that showed up. My colleagues and I were just carried along in a sea of people.

At times, it was, frankly, a little unnerving, there were so many people crowding to try and pay their respects to those who died in last week's attacks, but also give vent to their anger, anger that is still not dissipating here, and anger that is being directed in two directions with equal measure, first of all in the direction of Pakistan, lots of people chanting, "Down with Pakistan," some people chanting that India should go to war with Pakistan over this.

But virtually everyone at the demonstration expressing grave discomfort not just with the government here, but with the entire political class. You could hear people shouting, "Down with Congress," the ruling party here, "Down with BJP," the major opposition party here.

This is not a good city right now to be an Indian politician. And as I say, a week on, there's really no sign that that anger, that rage, that bitterness is beginning to dissipate in any way.

RAY SUAREZ: Simon Marks joining us from Mumbai. Simon, good to talk to you.

SIMON MARKS: Thanks, Ray.