On Ammonium Nitrate, Investigation, Intelligence failure and internal security framework
Counter-rant #1: Ammonium Nitrate is a fertiliser which is also used as an explosive, similar to petrol or LPG. Its usage tells you nothing about the sophistication or origin of the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The more critical components of an IED are the detonator, the initiating mechanism and the booster. So far, there is no official report about these three components. Use of Ammonium Nitrate could actually mean that military-grade high explosive was not easily available to them, or someone wanted to convey the impression that it was the handiwork of poorly-resourced locals. Basically, ammonium nitrate tells you nothing. Either way.
Counter-rant #2: Forensic and post-blast investigators can do a lot of technical analysis but these reports have limited value unless married with ground-investigation and intelligence teams. The best leads often come from parsing chatter on communication channels — both sound and data — before and after the event. Unusual spikes or drops in activity of monitored channels are often signs of an impending event. The progress of investigations will depend more on communication experts, local police and intelligence teams than technical analysis. Note that.
Counter-rant #3: Was this an intelligence failure? Yes, obviously so. Every terror strike is a failure of the internal security mechanisms of this country. Ideally, it should not happen. But ideally, there should be no traffic accidents, we should all always tell the truth, we should all vote, we should all live happily as a family, we should all score 100% in our exams, and so on and so forth. But a little bit of perspective will help. We can all expect and demand a perfect prediction, pre-emption and prevention report but is it realistic in an over-populated, under-policed country like India? It is a cliché but do remember that the bad guy has to succeed only once while the good guys have to succeed always and every time. Think first.
Counter-rant #4: If you are going to debate India’s internal security, just understand the basic formulation of internal security framework in India first. There are four elements of internal security in this country: political, administrative, intelligence and enforcement. These elements operate at three major levels: central, state and districts. This matrix will make your argument more cogent and incisive. Try it.
Bonus Fun fact: The United States was able to establish its National Counter Terrorism Centre from scratch within 36 months of the September 11 terror strike. In India, the proposal for establishing a NCTC is yet to be approved 31 months after it was proposed in the wake of November 2008 terror strike at Mumbai. C’est la vie.