NDAs prime ministerial candidate L K Advani on Saturday organised an unprecedented meeting of over 25 top experts from defence,Intelligence and the civil service to discuss the widening gap between the threat to national security and the response of the state,especially in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack. Those who attended the three-hour-long meeting,held at Advanis residence,strongly felt the need for an integrated response instead of piecemeal measures to fight terror.
One of the experts present later told The Sunday Express that the tenor of the meeting had been set up by Advanis letter to them wherein he had stressed on a non-partisan approach on the issue of national security. While one of the participants cited a recent Rand Corporation study saying that the absence of a firm Indian response after Mumbai reflected a lack of Indian resolve,the issue of unspent funds earmarked for Defence and Intelligence wings,highlighted by The Indian Express recently,was also discussed. A one-command structure was also suggested for quick reaction against attacks like 26/11 before the Crisis Management Group takes over.
While many participants said that India didnt respond like an emerging nation in the wake of the Mumbai attack,Advani called for addressing the issue regardless of vote-bank compulsions. The BJP will incorporate most of the recommendations into its charter of good governance for the coming elections.
Former Air Chiefs A Y Tipnis,S P Tyagi,S Krishnaswamy,former Naval Chief Arun Prakash as well as J F R Jacob and Vinod Patni were among the former defence personnel present at the meeting with former Intelligence officials Ajit Doval,B Raman,K P Singh and C D Sahay. Brahma Chellani,K P S Gill,Prakash Singh and M J Akbar were also present at the meeting,which was attended by Rajnath Singh,Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie from the BJP. It may be noted that Tipnis is all set to join the BJP and may even contest the coming Lok Sabha elections.
The meeting demanded immediate implementation of the 350-odd recommendations on intelligence,higher defence management,internal security and border management,all part of the blueprint for security reforms prepared by Advani during his term as Union Home Minister in 2001. The meeting also demanded enhanced budgetary allocations for defence from the present 1.98 per cent of GDP.
Later,talking to mediapersons,Jaitley said those present felt Indias policy towards Pakistan was soft. Efforts are being made to have the terms of collaborations with the US so modified that Pakistan secures concessions on issues not germane to the war against terror, Jaitley alleged,referring to the meeting where there was a general feeling that Pakistan was trying to manipulate the post-Mumbai situation to its advantage.