Sunday, December 21, 2008

Lessons we can draw from 26/11

November 26th happened and we witnessed three days of vicious battle. It also united the country like no other incident in recent memory has. Public anger bubbled over and there was savage criticism of the government in general and the political class in specific. The government of the day was forced to make changes and hopefully something concrete emerges out of it.

I was analyzing the entire episode from a very dispassionate angle and read with great interest all material available on all the planning that went behind this operation. At the end of it, what emerged was an absolute professional approach to the task at hand.

Let me issue a disclaimer here. This is not a post to glorify the terrorist nor does it seek to justify their objective or their actions. This is a dispassionate attempt to understand the approach and the lessons it holds for us.

When I look at what happened and the background information that emerged subsequently, a sequence of activities becomes clear. I will not repeat the activities but look at it from a management perspective.

  1. Complete clarity of objective,
  2. Multiple teams in place,
  3. Thorough information gathering,
  4. Detailed planning right down to the brass-tacks,
  5. Rigorous and professional training,
  6. High levels of motivation and passion,
  7. Complete unanimity in the execution team,
  8. Complete clarity of each team member’s role,
  9. Constant communication with central point,
  10. Real time alignment depending on ground situation,
  11. Ruthless and professional execution.

When you mull on these points, it becomes clear that any top notch world class management would have had the same approach.

I just wondered if we in India had imbibed these principles in our nation building efforts, we would have been an economic and military superpower by now. It is important that our recent efforts at revamping our security apparatus are carried through carefully and with a degree of thoroughness that has not been visible till now, more so as the opponent has a highly focused, organized and ruthless approach.

It also highlights that anything done as a job with little or no interest results in poor output and in times of emergency a complete rout. We need to inject passion and enthusiasm in many of our efforts and the tenacity to stick through. May this shock jolt us from our deep slumber and prod us on to meaningful action.


Sahaja said...

Very true! Agreed that if we keep the same effort and planning India could be way too far

somehow, I feel its just not seen only in india but its alarming in India! ....I certainly feel the same planning and management is there in our daily life too [unnoticed though]....and if something so sad could happen...something seriously should change!!
When I said this...many ask me what change how and when??
U may also ask the same question!
My answer is...a change wherein we the people of india [that includes u me, evryone including politicians and media!] should be responsible citizens first before expecting someone to do something for us! We should form the rules and also follow them....we should never give chance for someone to loot us , to betray us and to be disunite us! And when? Now, from this moment!
And Where? from our ghar ka kachra to electing our govt!

And even this change should be as planned and executed like the one u said above!

But its possible is it not??

And such simple changes are not just easy to speak but easy to follow at individual level! Only Herculian task seems making people realise the need for the change and the importance for it!

Somehow I feel its high time and its alarming!!

manju said...

Mavin, it is true that the terrorists carried out their task in a highly professional and efficient manner.

It is also true that this is why they were successful.

We would certainly benefit from a more efficient attitude in almost all areas, personal, professional and national.

However we must not forget that human lives had absolutely no value for the masterminds behind the attacks.

All the 'team members' were 'programmed' to die once their task was completed.

It was only owing to the courage of Sub-Inspector Ombale that one terrorist was captured alive.

That is one aspect we should not emulate!

Gopinath's "Artickles" said...

Mavin, you have so accurately listed out the ingredients that went into the meticulously planned and immaculately executed operation by rogue elements. The missionary zeal with which they are fired to deliver results is noteworthy. IMHO it was the clarity of roles and knowing who called the shots that strikingly contrasts their operations vis-a-vis the counter operations carried out by our forces. We have a leadership crisis and one wonders whether after all this talk, whether these multiple agencies will coordinate better or whether we will know who calls the shots after all. Other matters will get sorted out once this one's done with.

Mavin said...

Hello Sahaja...

How true...

It is possible for each one of us to set small things right in our life. If each one of us worked on very basic matters, it can become a tidal wave at the national level.

The power of collective effort is tremendous, believe me.

The best part is you do not need external motivation. It lies within us to wake up and act. It does not matter that others join, we should take the first step and soon it will impact the whole society.

Mavin said...

Hi Manju,

You are so right. We need to change in a small measure first in our personal lives. This should impact our social and professional life and eventually the impact will be seen at the national level.

Further, it was necessary to make it amply clear through the disclaimer that we must not emulate their actions and hatred.

Mavin said...

Hi Gopi,

That's right. We had a serius leadership crisis and every body seemed eager to brief the press and appear in the limelight.

Somewhere, we behave as if we are starved of appreciation and are desperately seeking it through any means.

It is not just the leadership crisis, there is much to set right.

We collectively as a nation have to set it right.

Mavin said...

Hi Gopi,

That's right. We had a serius leadership crisis and every body seemed eager to brief the press and appear in the limelight.

Somewhere, we behave as if we are starved of appreciation and are desperately seeking it through any means.

It is not just the leadership crisis, there is much to set right.

We collectively as a nation have to set it right.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Mavin, that was a wonderful analysis of what went into execution of Mumbai 11/26. In fact that is the template which accurately describes what is going into the whole terror infrastructure that Pakistan has built assiduously over the years. Add missionery zeal ++ to the mixture, and you get an accurate idea of what India is really up against.

The disturbing part is that those in the know have known this for a long time. Yet they have failed to develop an effective response. As you have rightly observed, here people are doing everything "as a job" with little or no interest in the outcome...the interest has been focused on using the situation to build cadre empires within the government.

Will 11/26 jolt us and make us do what we need to do? I am still skeptical. Cosmetic changes will be pushed through, dysfunctional empires will engage in power struggles, and the net response will remain inadequate. I don't want to sound like a prophet of doom but a dispassionate view will tell anyone that many more 11/26s are will happen before those in the government and in the security apparatus wake up.

swaps said...

Vinod is right. India-the-elephant will need many many such jolts....hopefully, they are on the way. I welcome them for they are our only hope to flush out the rot that has set in over centuries.

prerna said...

Excellent analysis Mavin.
The first step towards prevention of attacks like these in future is police reforms. As long as our intelligence agencies and police are controlled by politicians they cannot be effective. No police officer is interested in joining the intelligence agencies because it is not the place where you can make money or enjoy power. The result is that we don't have bright people in the intelligence agencies.

Smitha said...

Great Analysis Mavin, Yes if only we had that degree of professionalism. We cannot just blame our leaders - the lack of professionalism is evident everywhere in India - the 'Chalta Hai' attitude. As long as we have that - it is an uphill battle.
As Vinod has mentioned. we need more than cosmetic changes - we need an attitude change, a real will to make a difference.

Mavin said...


The current wrangling does make one feel very sceptical about our willingness and ability to revamp the structure.

As anger subsides and we get pre-occupied wih other things, these urgent and important matters could be left unattended.

A few more jolts would be a great tragedy.

It requires just one strong person to change everything. Who will that person be???


Our thinking has become despondent.

Only a serious crisis can unite India and silence the political rubbish.

Mavin said...

Hi Prerna,

Yes! the entire security apparatus has to be revamped. All arms will have to be literally recreated and trained.

When you have the police officials bidding for lucrative posts and police zones, you cannot accept the same structure to reform itself. This is a tricky task but it has to be done.

Hello Smitha,

Chalta hai has become the bane of India.

This can be curbed only if each one of us puts in effort to change oneself.

Many would respond saying one person cannot achieve anything. I say that just one person is enough to change things.

Does'nt one stone create ripples in the entire pond.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Mavin, a few more jolts will be a tragedy indeed. But have no illusions, they are coming and they are going to be bigger than we think.
Why? Because we continue to refuse to get out of our state of denial and stop making it easy for the attackers to do whatever they want to with total ease.

Swaps is not wrong to welcome those jolts. They will keep coming till...

swaps said...

The problem isn't Pakistan or anyone .
The Problem is our reluctance to make necessary sacrifices.

Smitha said...

@swaps - I totally agree - The problem is within us - We, our system needs a lot more shocks before it wakes up to reality

Sahaja said...

Somehow I cannot see the fact that such jolts are necessary!

I do agree that repeated efforts [be it negative or positive] brings in atleast some impact but I feel this is not somewhere where we should give such a chance!

The only answer that seems to come to me for many questions is - EDUCATE/AWARENESS - education not as in literacy but as in removal of ignorance! create an awareness...

We are in a CHAOS and its not coz we are incapable of setting order but coz we are not aware we need order..we are not aware we are in CHAOS ....

This is justified and not a single system/person/entity's fault coz,
how can one appreciate the idea of change to set order if he is not aware of the need of one!

Sahaja said...

and when I said we....we as in majority of us!

There are really few people who know, about this...but they might not have the power to do that! even if they have - as its already obvious - they are minority and democracy accepts majority !

So what We need to do is, try making this minority a majority! and try in a reasonable period of time!

Mavin said...

Vinod - Swaps - Smitha

You three belong to that school of thought which believes that more jolts are necessary to make this slumbering elephant wake up to the harsh reality around the neighbourhood.

What I am saying is that whether jolts come or not is not under our control. It is likely that with so much international pressure they may just lie low for the moment.

However, why should e suffer more attacks, loss of life, the monetary losses and intangible costs just to spur us into action.

I believe that is a collective political and social failure.

Does that mean we have become scared or apathetic or unconcerned to such an extent that nothing else matters......????

Mavin said...


We need a combination of many strategies.

Some will have to be actioned immediately and we must see the results.

There will be some where we will see resultsin the medium term and teh balance can make a difference only in the long term.

Yes - awareness is omportant but equally important is the participation and co-operation of people. That will be a huge help and morale booster.

Smitha said...

Mavin, We certainly do not want to face 'more attacks, loss of life, the monetary losses and intangible costs just to spur us into action.', but unless there is a collective movement - it will take time. As you have mentioned ' And such simple changes are not just easy to speak but easy to follow at individual level! Only Herculian task seems making people realise the need for the change and the importance for it!'.

As Sahaja says, we do need to create awareness and for that education is a must. We can see a difference in any society - even within India where eductation levels are higher. As the awareness increases, participation and co-operation will do so as well.

Krishnan said...

Mavin: Yes terrorists indeed were highly motivated and cutthroat pros when it came to executing their gory mission. We in India tend to neglect details and generally revel in indiscipline.

Nita said...

You have analysed this in a systematic and logical way Mavin. I also think one more thing needs to be done...India needs to project itself as a strong state. I am not saying war rhetoric, but simply aggressive coercive diplomacy. I think our neighbour knows that India is weak and corrupt. They do not respect us.

swaps said...

Dear friends,
What will be, will be.

When a neighbour kills your people, and all you can do is hold parleys, you are DONE.

I had read how Europe went into denial-mode before I see it here.
I am beside myself with anticipation.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Will someone listen to the wise words of Swaps or are we condemned to repeat history?

swaps said...

Thanks Vinod.
I wonder if you have read "Himalayan Blunder" is the most well written book I have read.

Mavin said...

Smitha - You are so right there....

Krish - Need to achieve self - discipline first...

Nita - Yes....We must be seen as an aggressive state. No one dare attack us for the fear of instant reprisals.

But we have cultivated this image of weak, divided, confused, cowardly and corrupt state.....

Will take a long time getting over this image.

Mavin said...

Swaps and Vinod....

You are two hawks and rightly so.

However, I feel differently. We are not ready for war...

Further, I feel you cannot wait till Pak re-deploys army on Indian cannot keep warning them and then expect to launch limited surgical strikes without escalating into an all theatre conflict.

I think this may be a good idea for the next post and we can have heated discussions........

Re: WWII is against the background of a defeated, hurt and humiliated Germany. Rest of Europe never thought that Germany would rearm itself and be militarily so aggressive. We can have a separate discussion on this.

Please note USA entered WWII only when it was attacked by Japan....till then kept itself away from war

swaps said...

"USA entered WWII only when it was attacked by Japan....till then kept itself away from war"

But we, how long can we play ostrich?? Until a nuclear attack? God, we need one.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Not Hawk Mavin, just a realist. As Swaps says, the moment you stop playing ostrich, the picture that emerges is quite clear.

Swaps. yes, I have read the book...little has changed so many years down the line.

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

you saying the terrorists managed it very well? You are very right and all this showed the lack of management skills in our civil society.

Archana said...

My point on USA was to highlight that USA can be a dangerously unreliable partner.

Even in WWII, they kept all lines open with Germany whilst giving lip sympathy to the Allies.

It entered the war only after it was attacked.

We are alone in bearing the cross....

Mavin said...

Welcome LVS!

We seem to be good servants but make a mess of things when we become masters of our destiny..

swaps said...

"...little has changed so many years down the line."

Vinod, that is exactly what I felt.

Gargi Dixit/Unpretentious_Diva said...

Let me try and recount some from an Indian perspective….

1. The stock market crashes in January and October has been a severe and traumatic experience. Millions of investors suffered large losses.

2. The commodity meltdown was unexpected, sharp, sudden and deep. This has hurt investors, companies and thousands of businesses. Large losses have meant businesses have become ultra cautious.

3. Hyper - Inflation in oil prices and its equally sudden and inexplicable fall has left deep scars on the Indian fiscal scenario. Food inflation has led to a piquant situation.

4. Series of terror acts climaxing with the Mumbai attacks have had such a deep impact on our collective psyche, that even a month later we are not too enthused on celebrating the onset of the New Year. The mood is somber and most have preferred to stay at home.

I am sorry Sir, But i just do not agree with you about those things being unexpected.
1>It was all very well expected.
With the croony/false capitalism of America, American economic meltdown was well expected, to assert that, i must explain the economic meltdown.
Even I am asserting that the common tides of inflation and recession will keep marring america and hence the whole world again and again as the recent bail out programs are all the cause of it.
For India, meltdown was well expected because India never tried to be rational and Indians never tried to be FREE.
India still holds dollars as its standard for the currency, while it should be Gold.
Here is the explanation of Indian Inflation The price of Rice, what caused it go so high?
The deflation of Indian rupee in commodity market was also a well-expected is the explanation in form of a simple enjoyable story The story of Money
and here is an explanation of "how to avert such "so-called"Black Swans.
Fiat Money Vs Gold Standard, Privatization of currency

About terrorist attacks, No government department can ever be efficient. Ifact most of the government and departments need to be bribed for doing simple works efficiently. Infact i will say make Govt. offices Efficient: Bribe them

So what I mean to say is, government police can never be efficient enough to protect citizens. Indians need to look for private security systems. Market forces will make security and justice department honest, free of corruption and malfunctioning and cheap, easily available with maximum efficiency possible.

But what was the reason of such a huge loss during these terrorist attacks?

I read a report by a news editor that if he had a Gun, he might have saved many lives.

So how justified it is, ?That there is no gun-right for Indians? How to safeguard oneself and what about self-defense?
Indian citizens need to wake up and start safeguarding themselves.

Because with American forces in the Indian Sub Continent, a rather fuzzy pakistan government, terrorist attacks are quite expected.Furthermore with the crook Obama now on US presidentship, and his plans to increase troops in afghanistan, such dilemmas are quite possible again.
But then, Democracy itself is an Impasse, Voting is not a soultion but it is a killer

Lol being a resident of Bhopal, how can i forget that this time BJP genuinely bought every vote it gained by the CM's funny programms of Rs 2 lakh fund for every first girl taking birth in a home of MP in 2008, or a bicycle donated, for every college going girl, or rice at Rs2/per killo. Who the heck gives the government this money which it wastes in such programs? We the tax payers. And then we shouts Inflation Inflation. When we even cannot care for our own hard earned money and want Government to use OUR money as politicians are better, more brainy and efficient than us, than what can be done. it is our fault not theirs. (And No I am not a congress of BSP supporter, I know No political party worth making a government in a state or country of India)

Anyways, above all a very happy New year to you.

I hope you won't mind my efforts of putting my voice, in your premises of "your voice" :)
Take care.

Mavin said...


Welcome to My Voice

You have posted your comment under a different blogpost. So took me a few days to spot it.

We seem to have completely opposite views.

I have focussed on the Indian scenario. I have no illusions on the hollowness of the American structure and their insufferable hypocrisy.

I still maintain that these were Black Swans and the impact has been severe and unexpected to a vast majority.