WITH ITS current maritime and coastal security structure, “India is no more a soft target” for terror attacks, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday, adding that Pakistan-based terrorists will have to think “100 times” before making such a move.
Singh was the chief guest at the fourth edition of the 26/11 Stories of Strength event, hosted by The Indian Express at the Gateway of India on Tuesday to mark the 11th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.
“We have dismantled terror infrastructure and are now trying to target its financial network. If Pakistan does not stop sponsoring terrorism, it will be blacklisted. In the face of recession, blacklisting of Pakistan by FATF may prove to be the final nail in the coffin,” said Singh.
He said besides upgrading maritime security and the Coast Guard, India has also strengthened its cyber security. “For security at sea, we are preparing a fleet of 1,000 boats… This fleet will not only monitor coastal areas, but also act as a force multiplier. Keeping coastal security in mind, we have established a maritime domain awareness system to alert agencies on movement at sea,” Singh said.
The Defence Minister said that post-26/11, all agencies are working in coordination under the Joint Operation Centre. He said that during his previous term as Home Minister, the ministry had started a counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation project. “Ab Don ko pakadna mushkil nahi, aasan ho gaya hai (It is not difficult, but easy, to catch the don),” he said.
Singh said India is capable of surgical and air strikes now. “In the next five years, I can assure that outside of Kashmir, there will be no terror attacks,” he said.
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, who was guest of honour at the event, said the deaths of officers like Hemant Karkare (former Maharashtra ATS chief) and others must not be forgotten. He said India must have the power to protect its citizens.
“We have never attempted to grab another country’s land. We never attack, but when someone attacks us, one must have power to retaliate,” Gadkari said. “Koi galti se tedi aankh se dekhta hai, to usko jawab dene ki sajjan shakti bhi honi chahiye, nahi to sajjan zinda nahi rahege (If someone casts an evil eye on us, we must have the soft power to retaliate, or else the innocent cannot be saved).”
The event began with a performance by the Maharashtra Police Pipe Band, followed by the Indian Navy Band. Two short documentaries featuring actors Vicky Kaushal and Radhika Apte — on how staffers of the Cama & Albless Hospital helped a pregnant woman deliver a baby during the attack, and of Havildar Gajendra Singh Bisht’s daughter Preeti Bisht’s first visit to Nariman House where he was killed — were also shown. The documentaries were directed by filmmaker Anand Tiwari.
The event ended with a powerful performance by actor Amitabh Bachchan, who has been an ambassador for the Stories of Strength initiative since 2016.
“Events such as 26/11 make us angry because when innocents die, it seems that hate is defeating love. We have — for four years now — been inviting you to the Gateway of India to evaluate your view on the power of love and of hate. And to provoke a dialogue between the humanist and the extremist inside each one of us,” said Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express Group.
He praised the Maharashtra ATS for its counter-radicalisation programme in the state. “The programme today boasts of 120 youth successfully de-radicalised without firing a bullet,” he said.
A book written by Karkare’s daughter, Jui Karkare Navare, was released at the event. “The loss of both my parents within a short span of time has been difficult. I could still look at life with a positive outlook only because of the values my parents instilled in me,” she said.
While Samir Kochhar anchored the event, there were performances by Dr L Subramaniam, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Zane Dalal and the Symphony Orchestra of India, Rekha Bharadwaj, Mahesh Kale, Harshdeep Kaur, Divya Kumar, Shilpa Rao and Shiamak Davar Dance Company.
The event was attended by Vice Admiral Ajit Kumar P, Colonel Nitesh Kumar (NSG), Group Captain Captain A Shreedhar (IAF), IGP Krishna Prakash, municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, and Mumbai Port Trust chairman Sanjay Bhatia.
Among the others who were present were businessman Niraj Bajaj, Facebook’s Shelley Thakral, businessman Pranav Adani, IIFL Investment’s Karan Bhagat and Yatin Shah, Niranjan Hiranandani of the Hiranandani Group, BJP’s Ashish Shelar, Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, film director Naresh Malhotra, Wizcraft’s Viraf Sarkari and Sabbas Joseph, and columnist Shobha De.
Presented by the Bajaj Group, the event is powered by Hindustan Unilever, Facebook and Adani Group with Star as broadcast partner. The memorial event will also be broadcast exclusively on Star Plus and Hotstar on Saturday, November 30, at 9.30 pm.