Speaking in the capital, Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said "12 or 13 potential terrorist attacks" have been foiled in 2009. And, that any one of them could have led to a repeat of last November's siege of Mumbai, blamed on Pakistani militants, in which more than 160 people died.
"It could have become one," Chidambaram said. "But we were able to neutralize it and thwart it. But, as I've said, we have to be lucky every time. And, so, let's put it to both luck and better intelligence and better intelligence sharing and better coordination."
But the home minister says India still has a long way to go to improve such coordination, noting that different agencies still cannot share critical information in their respective data bases. He also is stressing that a single agency needs to be the coordinator and that such an entity, the National Counter-Terrorism Center, should be in place by the end of 2010. He is calling for the center to have sweeping powers to respond to terror attacks.
During a lecture on intelligence matters Wednesday, Chidambaram said the United States established such a center within 36 months of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The home minister says "India cannot afford to wait" that long.
Chidambaram says his own ministry needs to be "bifurcated" so that whoever holds the top position is not distracted by less critical duties.
"The home minister should devote the whole of his or her time and energy to matters relating to security," Chidambaram said.
At present, the Ministry of Home Affairs has a sweeping mandate, in addition to internal security. This include relations between the states and the central government, overseeing the police and legislative aspects of laws, handling human rights, issuing visas to foreigners, supervising the country's international borders and disaster management.