Today marks the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed and hundreds more injured.
Interestingly, much of the commentary is focusing on a sense that the Indian government has failed to make adequate progress in implementing measures to ensure that there’s no repeat.
Security analyst Maroof Raza catches the mood of frustration well in an opinion piece in the Times of India:
‘On the ground, our police force – whether in Mumbai or elsewhere — still remains ill equipped and unfit to battle terror. In an era when a terrorist carries an automatic AK-47, many of our policemen still carry the antique bolt action rifles. While a terrorist uses sat-phones and GPS navigational systems, our policemen and soldiers use VHF radio sets that cannot function in cities like Mumbai with high?rise buildings. And as lethal explosives are now a norm amongst terrorists — often referred to as improvised explosive devices or IEDs — our men need sensors, night vision devices, body heat detectors and regular rounds on training simulators, so essential to keep their skills in shape. In short, we have to equip the police to fight the terrorist like a terrorist.’
Any attack of this magnitude is, of course, deeply troubling. But what makes the attack on Mumbai especially so is that it highlights the virtual impossibility of preventing mass casualties if a group of like-minded attackers are determined to take lives. A significant number of the casualties (52 dead, more than100 hurt) came from the shootings at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. No planes, no bombs–just two men armed with rifles firing into crowds.
Indeed, one of the most worrying but under-reported security trends is the dramatic proliferation in recent decades of small arms, which claim far more lives globally every year than conventional weapons of war (perhaps not surprising considering the fact that there are 7 million commercial handguns and long guns produced annually, according to the International Action Network on Small Arms).