As the world remembers the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai from five years ago, Indian government sources recently explained how RAW still faces a concerning shortage of both language and technology experts considered essential to intelligence agencies today.
A fiery Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Overall personnel deficits are estimated at approximately 40%. RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) traditionally recruits young professionals directly from the Indian Police Service—and since IPS’ own shortcomings and struggles have grown in recent years, local states have little impetus to flow their best team members to serve elsewhere.
But even back in 2008, RAW seemed ill-prepared for a waterborne terrorist attack they knew was coming, according to a senior US government official at the time. On the second day of the attack, India quietly arranged assistance from the CIA, FBI, and Britain’s Scotland Yard. The US team set up their base inside Mumbai’s Four Seasons Hotel where they established a US satellite communications link while coordinating with a counterterrorism official who arrived from Delhi. After ten days of successful data collection and analysis, the Americans were on their way back home.
Though 26/11 ultimately resulted from the volatile political relations between India and Pakistan, the context was extremely international as Mumbai’s top hotels (the Taj and Oberoi) were main targets. The terrorists also zeroed in on a popular cafe, a women and children hospital, a college, and the city’s Jewish community center, among others. Over 300 were injured and of the 166 who were killed, 19 were foreigners. 20 security personnel as well as nine terrorists also perished in the attacks. The lone terrorist survivor was finally hanged in Pune last November.
Entering the Colaba Defence Station in Colaba, Mumbai
During a recent visit to Mumbai earlier this year we were fortunate to receive a surreal overview of the attacks. The memories of the tragedy are still fresh in the minds of Mumbaikars, but the issues between India’s intelligence agencies seem to continue. Whether the problems are inherently systemic or perhaps also due to severe corruption, which many claim, remains a thorny and risky issue in this part of the region.