The Chilling Prospects of Nuclear Devices at Large


Vice Admiral (Retd.) Vijay Shankar

Keywords: US and USSR Nuclear Stockpiles, China, Nuclear Safeguards, Nuclear Proliferation, WMD technology and delivery systems, Nuclear Financial Conduits

This article was first published in the author’s monthly column on the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies website on 12 May 2014

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union produced over one thousand tons of weapon grade Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium. By 1986 its stockpile numbered 45,000 warheads[i]; it was poorly inventoried; spread across the Republics with fissionable material salted away as reserve in shoddily secured warehouses (remembering that it was the nation that was secured). The post break-up Russian governments of Yeltsin and Putin through the nineties and into the new millennium managed to locate and harvest close to 99.9 percent of the stash leaving 0.1 percent unaccounted for, which translates to one thousand kilograms of weapon-grade fissile matter somewhere in limbo[ii]; adequate material to put together over one hundred, 20 kiloton yield explosive devices. It is not entirely clear what magnitude of unaccounted weapon-grade fissile matter is adrift from the US and NATO stockpile for at the height of the Cold War, they too had amassed a stockpile of over 30,000[iii] warheads and an indefinite number of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) deployed on the European front; and they are not telling. After all in the sample year of 1957 three US nuclear weapons were lost in the North Atlantic Ocean whilst ferrying them across in transport Aircrafts and remain so to date[iv].

In the meantime, China’s Premier Deng Xiaoping through the 1980s into the 1990s promoted and executed an aggressive policy of direct transfer, of nuclear weapon technology and launch vectors to reprobate States (Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia) using North Korea as a clearing house for the deals. The policy has been continued by his successors unrelentingly[v].

The reasons for this profligate orientation are a matter of conjecture and may have originally reflected balance of power logic in the sub continental context; to offset and contain Indian comprehensive superiority. While in North Korea’s case to keep the USA and the Pacific allies embroiled in a snare of insecurities. In the Islamic world the motivations have a far more sinister purpose and perilous fallout.

Radical Islamic terrorists see the possession of a nuclear weapon not just as a symbol of power and an instrument of deterrence but as a means to destroy and dislocate an order that has so willfully kept the faithful under political, economic and spiritual subjugation. In this frame of reference, nations that have been singled out for retribution are the USA, India and Israel. It is here in these countries that the iniquitous probability of a nuclear device being detonated by radical Islamists looms large. Such an event gives to the non-state perpetuators an amorphous form that can neither be destroyed in armed retaliation nor their credo obliterated from the world of beliefs. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq stand in stark testimony to how rooted dogmas have a conviction of their own that deny change through force of arms. Rhetoric such as ‘rogue states’, ‘war on terror’ and ‘failed states’ raise more problems than provide solutions, for any rational interpretation of the terms will invariably indict the very nations that seek to drag out and drub.

Inquiry exposes the real enemy to be states and non-state actors that proliferate nuclear technologies with no other predisposition than to put the status-quo in disarray or driven by avarice. Global double standards and persistent tendentious views that exist on the subject has already brought selective legitimacy of such transactions and taken the world another step closer to a maverick nuclear detonation. Not only do current policies and attitudes to proliferation generate exceptionably high risks of a nuclear attack but there is an inevitability that is emerging if fissionable materials are globally not secured, retrieved and accounted.

Our narrative thus far has suggested that global clashes have moved beyond State to State conflict into a realm where the real threat of apocalypse comes from nuclear weapons in the hands of anarchic groups. These amorphous factions are driven by an ideology that seeks the destruction of what it considers antagonistic to its beliefs. The Nation State, on the other hand, is rationally driven by the will to survive. Perpetuation of the State is a national interest that is held supreme even if it means compromises that may cause profound changes. Radical Islam and its insurgents do not operate under such existential constraints; to them it the constancy of an abstract idea, that of their interpretation of the Koran.

The awkward irony is that the militant Islamist is financed by the same ungoverned trade that has made billionaires out of dubious entrepreneurs. The case of the Glencore Uranium Mining Corporation in Kitwe Zambia is a case in point. The sole owners of Glencore are the Marc Rich family now settled in Zug, Switzerland; the same Mr. Rich who was indicted for illicit Uranium trading with Iran, Israel and, one can only speculate, with which other entities. He also received a full and well funded Presidential pardon on Clinton’s last morning in office.[vi] The upshot is that the transfer of illicit wealth whether it is through the drug trade, uncontrolled resource access, sale of prohibited materials and technologies, illegal arms trade or as a deliberate policy eventually, in part, funnels its way to the nurturing of radical organisations. What we today stand witness to is the convergence of a parallel source of wealth and diffusing technologies together in the quest for weapon grade fissile materials. The means to dislocate and put in disarray the evolving world order is at hand.

We have noted that the trio of the USA, India and Israel have been declared by Radical Islam as primary targets for reprisal and therefore it may be inferred for special nuclear treatment. Counter action must, for this reason alone, be spearheaded by the troika. Four concrete measures are suggested:

  • Fissile Material. All fissile material globally must be retrieved, inventoried and secured. This must be an obligatory international effort despite the current situation in the Ukraine. Scientists and technicians involved in nuclear weapon design and fabrication must be profiled and political control by respective nations exercised over there movements and affiliations.
  • Inspection and Safeguards. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970 along with the Additional Protocol, which gave the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) greater proliferation monitoring powers, was the designated instrument for safeguards. However the treaty has over the years been compromised by the inequities it represented, the discrimination that it promoted and the selective biases that it propagated. What it lacks is teeth to impartially enforce punitive measures against proliferators irrespective of nation. What is suggested is a retooling of the Treaty to make the IAEA the nodal proliferation control agency with mandatory surveillance, intelligence provisions and realistic controls on the production of fissionable material and movement of nuclear weapon technologies.
  • Choking the Money Conduits. Intelligence sharing and coordinated action to shut down ungoverned trade and illicit financial transfers is the key to starving radical organisations. Financial institutions must be obliged to collaborate in the matter.
  • China. As noted earlier, China has been the leading proliferator of nuclear weapon technologies and delivery systems. It has over the years transferred nuclear weapons design, provided testing facilities, passed on ballistic missiles along with production facilities and provided material, intellectual, logistic and doctrinal back up to client state nuclear weapon programmes. To some in Beijing the detonation of a nuclear device by Radical Islamists may even be seen as an effective route to upsetting the status-quo and opening the future to its hegemonic designs.

Thus far, as a global community, we have been blind to the dangers of untrammelled nuclear proliferation particularly by China as it supplies ready-to-use WMD technology along with delivery systems to States that are in the tightening grip of Radical Islamists. The manner in which Pakistan received a nuclear weapon design package and material support to build nuclear weapons which was then conveyed to Iran, Libya and others is suggestive of a pattern that seeks to deliberately provoke a  nuclear incident that can only serve China’s interests. The time is nigh when the trio of USA, India and Israel which have been designated as primary targets of Radical Islam to band together to enforce a Nuclear Non Proliferation regime that reigns in China.


End Notes

[i] Wikimedia Commons, US and USSR nuclear stockpiles.

[ii] Reed and Stillman. The Nuclear Express, Zenith Press Minneapolis 2009, pg 320

[iii] Wikimedia Commons, US and USSR nuclear stockpiles.

[iv] The Nuclear Express, 349.

[v] In 1982 Deng’s government began the deliberate direct/proxy proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missile technologies into the Islamic and Marxist worlds. China signed a covert nuclear reactor deal with Algeria; provided to North Korea comprehensive material and technological support to their nuclear weapons programme; sold CSS-2 missiles to Saudi Arabia and gave logistic, material, technological, intellectual assistance and doctrinal sustenance to the Pakistan nuclear weapons programme to ‘redress’ the nuclear imbalance on the sub-continent. See Proliferation: Threat and Response, Office of the US Secretary for Defence January 2001.

[vi] Reed and Stillman, The Nuclear Express, Zenith Press Minneapolis 2009, 310-311.

Nuclear Security Summit 2014: The Penitent Preachers


Vice Admiral (retd) Vijay Shankar

 This article was first published in the author’s monthly column on the Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies website

Keywords: Nuclear Security Summit 2014, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540, Nuclear Black Market, Prague Declaration

The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) has a singular sweeping aim: to prevent nuclear terrorism around the globe. The third of the series, which began in 2010 as a sequel to President Obama’s 2009 Prague declaration, has proclaimed an incontestable three- pronged strategy:

  • Reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material around the world.
  • Improve security of all nuclear material and radio active sources.
  • Improve international cooperation.

Since nuclear terrorism is largely related to the ready and, at times, willing sale of nuclear material, it is ironic that the Netherlands, which is the venue for the third and penultimate summit, is also the nation that was at the centre of the nuclear black market for the closing three decades of the last century. The Dutch nuclear industry was the font of the AQ Khan illicit nuclear bazaar. The fact that the metallurgist Henk Slebos, considered the most notorious of Khan’s confederates, was charged and convicted for smuggling nuclear material and technologies to Pakistan served only four months in jail is suggestive of gravitas attached to the initiative and indeed the conviction to fight nuclear terrorism (see IISS strategic dossier on nuclear black markets, 2007). The light sentence given to other collaborating entities and personnel in Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Japan, Malaysia and Turkey hardly constitutes a credible deterrent to future networks.

Pakistan is no exception, for, observing that Khan’s foreign accomplices remain free and the nuclear world having placed commerce above security, he on political grounds remains free too. The ambivalent approach that has so far been apparent on nuclear proliferation has prompted some cynics to even suggest that the policy to set-a-thief-to-catch-one does not quite work! But this would trivialize the dangers that nuclear terrorism actually present, which President Obama, in his now celebrated Prague speech, so eloquently beseeched the world to recognize, as the “most immediate and extreme threat posed to global security”. He announced an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material and vowed to break up international nuclear black markets, detect and intercept unlawful nuclear material in transit and to use financial tools to disrupt illicit nuclear trade. This declaration translated to the Nuclear Security Summit.

The first summit of 2010 held in Washington formulated the “Washington Work Plan” which proposed that the participating states make a commitment to voluntarily implement the Plan consistent with and without prejudice to national laws. It took a non-binding, volitional and uncompelling approach. The Plan tendered the following twelve proposals before the 43 participating states and three organisations:

  •       Reaffirm the fundamental responsibility of States, consistent with their respective       international obligations.
  •       Call on States to work cooperatively.
  •       Recognize that highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium require special       precautions.
  •       Endeavour to fully implement all existing nuclear security commitments and work       toward acceding to those not yet joined.
  •       Support the objectives of international nuclear security instruments.
  •       Reaffirm the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the                 international nuclear security framework.
  •       Recognize the role and contributions of the United Nations.
  •       Acknowledge the need for capacity building for nuclear security and cooperation      at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
  •       Recognize the need for cooperation among States to effectively prevent and               respond to incidents of illicit nuclear trafficking.
  •       Recognize the continuing role of nuclear industry in nuclear security.
  •       Support the implementation of strong nuclear security practices.
  •       Recognize that measures contributing to nuclear material security have value in         relation to the security of radioactive substances also.

The second edition of the Summit was held in Seoul, South Korea. 53 heads of State attended along with four other international organisations. It built on the objectives of the Washington Work Plan and concentrated on Cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, protection of nuclear materials and related facilities and prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. It set about defining specific actions to be taken by states on a non mandatory basis. Three issues stand out in the joint communiqué that was released at the end of the Summit:

  •       Time lines were put out for progressing nuclear security objectives.
  •       Nuclear security and safety were to be managed without prejudice or jeopardy         to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  •       Radiological terrorism was to be the subject of more rigorous preventive                     measures.

Clearly, while the outcome of the Washington Summit was long on hope and a little economical on precision which Seoul sought to remedy, neither summit could obligate conformance to the declarations.

Now what of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 which was adopted in 2004 and is universal in scope, mandatory in application and recognises non-state proliferation as a threat to global peace and obliges states to modify their internal legislation? Resolution 1540 was adopted by the UNSCR not just in response to the discovery of the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network but also with the aim of preventing the acquisition of nuclear, biological, chemical and radiological weapons by terrorist groups and non-state actors. Besides, it is obligatory for all UN members, whether or not they support its aims. The Resolution is a significant evolution in the history of the UN for it attempted to reconcile individual sovereignty with the needs of global security. It has faced considerable flak because many states have criticised the resolution for being cumbersome and ill-adapted to their situations. The objection is to interference by the UN in individual states’ national sovereignty, in that it obliges member states to make internal legislative changes. Opposition is also to the belief that the 15 member Council had a mandate to usurp control and stewardship of global proliferation. And yet it is abundantly clear that if action is to be taken to combat nuclear terrorism then global coordination and regulation is necessary and the only entity that is acceptable and best positioned to undertake it is the UN.

The question that now begs an answer is why then the Nuclear Security Summit? Is it not duplicating, diluting and eroding the efforts of UNSCR 1540? In balance the Summit; a one Man’s vision which has gained some traction because of its non-obligatory appeal to the ‘enlightened self interest’ of its participants (measures such as creating particularised centres of excellence and internal regulatory bodies) and yet unattractive to some due to its origins, badgering nature and without a conviction of longevity (the next summit in 2016 is the last of the series almost as if a deadline has been drawn). On the other hand is UNSCR 1540 which addresses the same issues of the Summit and has similar if enlarged objectives; in addition it is mandatory and has international legality but lacks popularity because it is seen to imply a compact with America’s war on terror. The awkward paradox is that both Summit and UNSCR 1540 are in the same boat but wearing out each others exertions!

Perhaps ‘Penitent Preachers’ will find the endeavour far more focussed and rewarding if the Summit made support to and promotion of UNSCR 1540 the single point in the agenda for its final edition in 2016.

Coastal Security: To Keep the Homeland out of Harm’s Way


Vice Admiral (retd) Vijay Shankar


Coastal Security is a harmonious extension of state policy whose purpose is protection against ingress of inimical man and material. Its progression is managed by unified control driven by global sharing of information, surveillance and a comprehensive interdiction system. The litmus test to ascertain credibility of the system lies firstly, in the extent to which we have a cohesive unified strategy in place and developed a joint surveillance and pre-emption capability; and secondly, whether we have made the local seas present an insuperable obstacle to every foe that seeks to penetrate. The Fortress of Murud Janjira did precisely so.

Keywords: Coastal Security, 26/11 Mumbai Terror Attacks, Nuclear Trafficking, Anti-terror legislation, Operational plans and communication, Murud Janjira.

Download full article here: Shankar_Coastal Security  


The Legend of Murud Janjeera

A little more than a nautical mile west of the coastal fishing village of Rajapuri in the Raigad district of Maharashtra stands the imposing Island fortress of Murud Janjeera. Built in 1490 by the local fishing community to ward off pirates, captured and enlarged by the Siddi mercenary Commander of the Ahmadnagar kings, the now brooding stone citadel was amongst the largest of that era. Repeatedly laid siege to by the Dutch, Portuguese, Marathas and the East India Company; its 19 bastions, 572 cannons and forty feet walls remained defiant and impregnable through history.[i] It was not till 1776, when the now independent Siddi’s led by Siddi Sat were defeated by the Marathas led by Chimnaji the brother of Peshwa Baji Rao I in the Battle of Riwas, that the unassailable fortress lost its doughty distinction. As a part of the battle reparations the Siddis were confined to this citadel. The immediate up shot was that the strategic significance of the fortress was annulled and the balance of sea power in the region disrupted. The legend will not be complete without deducing a theoretical abstraction that “the Fort, its eminence abroad and the resolve within had made the local seas present an insuperable physical obstacle to every foe that sought to penetrate”.

A Theory for Coastal Security           

As with any endeavour before we start upon an enquiry into coastal security in India, we seek a road map which will indicate to us at a glance what exactly are the waters we have to cover and what are its leading characteristics which determine its nature and general form so as to arrive at practical conclusions. The maritime domain is of such complexity that beyond the territorial waters of a state,[ii] only conventions exist to regulate, seize, search or even monitor the activities of vessels.[iii] Measures taken to sequester or impose control in international waters are normally unilateral and, predictably, run contrary to partisan interpretations of these conventions. Put pithily, what works on the high seas is that “might gives right”. Within the territorial seas what prevails are the laws of the State, to be put into operation by a plethora of disparate yet distinct agencies of government. But the predicament is that the medium that pervades does not tolerate distinction; both the high seas and the coast are washed by the same waters. So it scarcely needs saying that a segregated approach to providing comprehensive security across a fused medium is condemned to failure.

The second insidious feature that dominates the coastal arena is the effects of globalization and its hand-maidens the free flow of ideas, material and personnel. In addition to releasing entrepreneurial creativity and generating wealth it confers upon small groups’ disproportionate destructive and disruptive power. Access to this power and mobilizing it across the waters for illicit use involves exploiting the malgovernance of the High Seas and the fragmented nature of control within the Territorial Sea. A modus operandi which leaves frustratingly tiny footprints. The narrative of the assault on Mumbai on 26 November 2008 (26/11) and its chronology is well documented. What is not so well known is the evolution of the operational plan and the tell-tales that this process may have left for a discerning unified establishment to perceive and act upon.

Coastal security is firstly, about protection of the State from terrorists, non state actors and other dangerous people with violent intent (hereafter collectively referred to as terrorists) gaining access to the mainland using the sea route; and secondly, preventing the ingress of illicit hazardous material across territorial seas on to our shores. The fortifying process essentially begins with access to global information webs, establishment of wide area surveillance and intelligence networks and a three dimensional air-sea-land interdiction system. A pre requisite is for Command and Control of the entire process and the forces involved coming under a unified head irrespective of the Ministry of origin or the administrative department to which assets belong. Pursuits of diplomacy are obliged at all times be in harmony with the process.

So we arrive at our theory that Coastal Security is a harmonious extension of state policy whose purpose is protection against ingress of inimical man and material and its progression is managed by unified control driven by global sharing of information, surveillance and a comprehensive interdiction system. The American PATRIOT Act of 2001 provides a prototypical expansion of the Theory.[iv]

Sculpting the Approach: 26/11 as the Paradigm

Having now come upon a theory, it will be appropriate to fashion an exemplar and establish fundamental precepts that go into developing a counter to infiltration, penetration or assault plan in order to validate our theory. The events leading up to 26/11 provides a prime example of what could have gone into the planning and preparation of the assault founded on facts that are today available in the public domain. For it is out of such an analysis, that will emerge an approach to protect the State from the seaward ingress of inimical forces and illicit materials. It will also throw the spotlight on footprints and tell tales that our own intelligence and surveillance must stalk, and so also help define a strategy in order to defend and respond as we deter.

At the outset three assumptions are necessary. Firstly, for hostile ingress of any nature there are five essential steps that would have to be gone through by the perpetrators:

  • Planning and Reconnaissance
  •  Generation of an Operational Plan and Communications
  •  Logistics and Preparation
  •  Recruitment and Training
  •  Execution

Based on the extent to which the run up to the event can be reconstructed, experience tells us that these five steps, which may be called the Hostile Ingress and Terrorist Strike Process (HITSP), could be spaced over anywhere up to 18 months with Reconnaissance and the Provision of Logistics taking the bulk of time. Also, Planning is an individualistic activity restricted to a few and maybe conducted at a location distant from the target. The Second assumption is that between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ targets, there are no surprise targets and the Third assumption is that ‘wild cat’ unplanned assaults do not give the desired destructive benefit to the assailants.

A Footprint Matrix has been constructed below (Figure 1) with the 5-step HITSP as augments marked by red stars (Planning and Reconnaissance have been separated). On the X-axis the ‘Persistence’ of a footprint is graded on a scale of 1 to 5, while on the Y-axis, ‘Detectability’ is also graded on the same scale. The notional size of the footprint is determined in terms of these two factors, both of which are more cognitive than absolute. The smallest footprint is the least detectable and of least persistence, graded at (1, 1) and the most prominent at (5, 5).

Fig 1: The Detectability & Persistence Footprint Matrix[v] 

 Source: Author 


The matrix tells us the areas we need to concentrate on in order to achieve the elusive goal of deterring, defending and responding to terrorist acts. As will be noted, four zones have been established, these are the Opaque Zone, the Transitory Zone, the Transparent Zone and the Murky Zone. The Process has been assessed for Persistence and Detectability levels and plotted within the four zones, which to the planner provide areas of focus. Obviously, when we deal with the Transitory Zone and the Murky Zone, the returns for effort are extremely small yet they provide early warning. Often due to long gestation periods and a high false alarm probability, the difficulties associated with maintaining prolonged states of vigil may cause the guard to drop, and vital footprints to be lost in a mass of information. These, therefore, are Zones well suited for electronic surveillance and computer aided collation, analysis and dissemination.

The Transitory Zone provides opportunities that are not present in the other quadrants, primarily because the period of reconnaissance, while sporadic, has not only to be comprehensive but at some stage must involve the leading protagonists, some of whom maybe quite alien to the area of operation (Abu Ismail, of 26/11 notoriety, hailed from Dera Ismail Khan in the North West Frontier province is a case in point). The Reconnaissance stage is an activity conducted very early in the plan and as in any operational plan, the scope for errors are the maximum at this stage and therefore surveillance that is kept by way of civil measures would in all probabilities record  footprints. The fact that David Headley (alias Daood Gilani, a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) operative) had been a regular visitor to Mumbai since early 2008 is symptomatic of such tell-tales.

When confronted with the Murky Zone one sees a picture and a pattern that in hindsight is 6/6 and yet Persistence in the Murky Zone of the operational plan is most significant and therefore, had the fact that the Master of Kuber, Sri Amar Singh Solanki been profiled after his incarceration in Pakistan, so also the movements of Kuber kept track of, 26/11 could well have been nipped during the execution phase. Intelligence, however sketchy, provided on 18th November 2008, indicated the What, Where and When components (nautical parlance) that is, the position of the mother vessel and time; both parameters provided the basis for mounting scouting operations, yet this was not done on grounds that intelligence was not “actionable”. Consequently in the absence of deployed forces either at the point of divergence or convergence Kuber had a free run. Also, the most vulnerable period of movement from sea to shore observed by local fishermen at Colaba and reported to the police ought to have been given the due import that it deserved.

The Opaque Zone if exploited, gives us the maximum benefit for it not only deters attack but action in this zone is pre-emptive in nature; it demands comprehensive knowledge of, and information on man and material that potentially could be used for a strike. This must be backed by all-embracing intelligence networks, field operatives and most importantly, the will to take anticipatory action before a potential incident. Here we must also understand that such pre-emptive actions may have ramifications of an international nature and the State must be disposed to take that risk. Investments in the Opaque Zone will have to be based on steps initiated on a multilateral basis and through ruthless elimination of potential personnel who could pose a hazard. The complexities of operating in the Opaque Zone is there for a planner to see, it poses great challenges, it will demand heavy investments of both man and finances and will yield the best rewards.

Moving into the Transparent Zone, while both Persistence and Detectability are high, they necessitate an internal scheme that is not only comprehensive but transcends the travails of Centre-State relations, ill-defined demarcation between agencies and most significantly, the resolve to cut across boundaries that have been drawn for administrative rather than operational purposes. The movement of logistics, creation of safe havens, handling munitions and that too with great discretion is no simple task.  It is perhaps for this reason that the sea-route with back-up operating in international waters, can by the very nature of the medium, avoid check-posts and regulatory mechanisms that one finds on land. Of course the disadvantages are equally irksome since the environment is hostile, probability of failure due to a variety of reasons is ever present and movement from sea to shore is relatively slow and a vulnerable period. The Transparent Zone provides for not only early warning but exposes the militant operation over both space and time. Logistics and Preparation is neither momentary nor is it undetectable since it involves creation of safe havens, movement of munitions, hazardous material and hit personnel close to the target area. And yet their exposure is subject to the weakest link and least attended virtue of the defensive shield; that of municipal regulation, citizenry awareness and unrelenting deployment of patrols and scouts. The vulnerability of the execution phase lies in the fact that it conforms to a rigid plan; while in most terrorist strikes there is an element of flexibility, exercising the flexibility option would normally result in failure of the strike or marginal success. And therefore the very rigidity of the execution phase provides opportunity to detect and respond.

In the absence of a general theory of terrorism on account of its many roots, motivations, manifestations and intent it is a priori impossible. However, at the heart of terrorist activity lie two critical characteristics; firstly a total disregard to legality of method and secondly it is inspired by a sustained programme of large scale planned and premeditated violence. Intelligence gathering and analysis targeting events related to these two characteristics consequently plays a pivotal role in putting in place counters. It is this relationship in the intelligence scheme that will discern actionable intelligence from a mass of information.



Our review of the current state of the coastal defence scheme and the security it provides would appear to project a disjointed image of a contrivance that depends more on a massed approach to security through the induction of numbers (in terms of human resources as well as surveillance means). While it is true that there is logic in numbers, yet the adversary is one who has perfected the art of visualising the cracks in the system. Obviously with more disparate elements involved, more cracks are there to slip in between. On 26/11, ten men with small arms came in two inflatable boats and held our financial capital to ransom for sixty hours.  The mayhem in terms of loss of lives apart, the Mumbai Stock Exchange closed down for the same period resulting in trading disruption of close to USD 9 billion per day. And this is the essence of the disproportionality that has been conferred. ‘Mass’ pitted against ‘Knowledge’ invariably results in victory to the latter.

The covenant between religion and the terrorist is a volatile one. It is neither appeased by bargains nor is it broken by modernity. Indeed it has fused the ideology that drives them with the source of their being (this may explain the suicide bomber). Under these conditions the only route that can succeed is the promise of failure for which, the answer lies in adopting a unified strategy both in form and content. The Footprint Matrix provides an instrument to channelize national effort. We concentrate on any one Zone at the peril of missing out on the others. Persistence is the key and adoption of large scale electronic means for profiling, surveilling, collating and analyses is a necessity.

The nuclear dimension is potentially, the most destructive present danger. While a nuclear strike may present a very complex planning task, our adversaries have shown themselves to be up to the most challenging, the most improbable and yes, the most diabolic. The establishments’ facility to deter, defend and respond will test its will to the extreme.

There appears to be an absence of a guiding national strategy and a coalescing doctrine which seeks to marshal all disparate resources controlled by State and Centre under integrated Command. If our primary strategic goal is to protect against dangerous people and the ingress of illicit hazardous material then this goal must serve to transform the existing organizational and material structures. The litmus test to ascertain credibility lies firstly, in the extent to which we have a cohesive unified strategy in place and developed a joint surveillance and pre-emption capability. And secondly, as the Fortress of Murud Janjira did, have we made the local seas present an insuperable obstacle to every foe that seeks to penetrate? Clearly the answers on both counts must remain in the negative.

End Notes

[i] Hoiberg, Dale & Ramchandani, Students’ Britannica India. Publishers Popular Prakashan 2000, p 403.

[ii] Territorial Seas were first defined in the 18th century as 3 nautical miles, the maximum range of a cannon shot. A workable formula was found by Cornelius Bynkershoek in his De dominio maris (1702), restricting maritime dominion to the actual distance within which cannon range could effectively protect it. This became universally adopted and developed into the three-mile limit.

[iii] See United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. The Convention on the High Seas is an international treaty created to codify the rules of international law relating to the high seas, otherwise known as international waters. The treaty was one of four treaties created at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS I). The treaty was signed 29 April 1958 and entered into force 30 September 1962. As of 2013, the treaty had been ratified by 63 states. Oceans, seas, and waters outside of national jurisdiction are also referred to as the high seas or, in Latin, mare liberum (meaning free seas).

[iv] A public law in the USA enacted in October 2001, Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT Act) to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes.

[v] The matrix was first presented by the Author at “The Seminar on Coastal Security” hosted by the National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi, in November 2009.