The country's coastal security is much better and intelligence sharing has improved, but the police-population ratio remains inadequate, intelligence gathering needs to be beefed up and more anti-terror mock drills need to be held across the country, the experts said.
Former Punjab director general of police K.P.S. Gill, who is credited with ending the Punjab militancy of the 1980s, feels that India is better prepared today to handle a terror attack.
"The coastal security is much better and people in different branches of the security system are more alert and sensitive to intelligence inputs," Gill told IANS.
But he said that as a nation, "we have not learnt any lessons".
"It is good to talk about metros, but such things (attacks) can happen even in the countryside," said Gill.
Noting that "the police systems are breaking down", Gill said there should be "no political interference" in transfers and postings of police officers.
Ten heavily armed Pakistani terrorists stealthily slipped into Mumbai from the sea on Nov 26, 2008, and unleashed a brutal attack on several key locations, including Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Taj Mahal Hotel, Chabad House and Leopold Cafe. The terror assault ended three days later when security forces killed nine of the gunmen. One of the attackers, Ajmal Kasab, had been captured soon after the assault began. He was hanged a year ago after a trial.
According to former union home secretary G.K. Pillai, efforts should continue towards better analysis of intelligence inputs and more mock anti-terror drills should be conducted in schools and shopping malls.
"We are short of practice... There should be proper coordination so that everyone knows what to do," Pillai told IANS.
He said in the five years since the attack India has been able to strengthen its intelligence network. More hubs of the elite National Security Guards (NSG) have been set up and many countries are now sharing intelligence with India, he added.
"Even if terrorists infiltrate, the response should be fast enough," he opined.
Sounding a note of caution, Pillai said terrorists tend to pick new targets. "This time the attack may be quite different. It could be major schools, malls. We have to be prepared for that," he emphasised.
On the option of targeting terror training camps on foreign soil, Pillai said that will have to be a policy decision.
Former Intelligence Bureau director Arun Bhagat said while India's security system has improved, intelligence gathering and processing remain a formidable challenge.
"Local police should be involved more," Bhagat told IANS.
Given the challenge of policing in a large country like India, he said no "security system can be fool-proof."
According to Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management, huge gaps still exist in India's security system since the 26/11 attack.
"It is like a house with 200 broken windows. You may repair five or seven, but you need to repair all. The deficit (in security architecture) is so great," Sahni told IANS.
The low police to population ratio in India is a problem area, he said.
"There are around 500 police personnel per 100,000 population in some developed countries...In India it has improved - from 128 policemen per 100,000 population in 2008 to 138 in 2012," he said.
Sahni said the number of personnel gathering field intelligence was also inadequate.
"There are less than 5,000 staff in the field though India's population needs a much bigger number," he said.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Prashant Sood can be contacted at email@example.com)
--IANS (Posted on 23-11-2013)