New Delhi, Nov 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday announced setting up of a Federal Investigating Agency and measures to strengthen maritime and air security in the wake of the terrorist savagery in the country's financial capital Mumbai.
"In the face of this national threat and in the aftermath of this national tragedy, all of us from different political parties must rise above narrow political considerations and stand united. We should work together in the interest of the country at this critical juncture," he said in his opening remarks at an all-party meeting here.
Manmohan Singh convened the meeting to take stock of the security situation and ways to strengthen the intelligence machinery in the country following three days and three nights of Mumbai terror that killed 183 lives and injured over 300.
While noting that "several measures are already in place to deal with the situation", he underlined that much more needed to be done "and we are determined to take all necessary measures to overhaul the system".
"We are further strengthening maritime and air security for which measures have been initiated. This will involve the navy, the Coast Guard and the coastal police, as well as the air force and the civil aviation ministry.
"The anti-terrorist forces of the country will be further strengthened and streamlined. The National Security Guard (NSG), the principal anti-terrorist force of the country, will be given additional facilities and the size of the force is being augmented. Steps have also been initiated to establish another four NSG hubs in different parts of the country. Additionally, the special forces at the disposal of the centre would be appropriately utilised in counter-insurgency operations."
NSG commandos fought pitched battles against the terrorists, who India says came from Pakistan, after the heavily armed gunmen took control of two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre, killed many in cold blood and took many more hostages. Two NSG commandos died in the operation.
The government has also finalised a set of legal measures based on the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission which includes the setting up of a Federal Investigating Agency, the Prime Minister told some 20 political leaders from the treasury and opposition benches.
Manmohan Singh said that unlike the recent terrorist attacks across the country, the Mumbai nightmare was different in several aspects.
"It was an attack by highly trained and well-armed terrorists targeting our largest city. They came with the explicit aim of killing large numbers of innocent civilians, including foreign visitors. They sought to destroy some of the best known symbols of our commercial capital.
"The ordeal at Mumbai, which occupied the attention of the entire nation, has finally come to an end. All of us share the grief of those who have lost their loved ones in this dastardly and brutal attack and also the pain and anguish of those grievously wounded.
"We cannot lessen their grief. But we will do all we can to alleviate their suffering. I give you my solemn assurance that we will look after the needs of those who survive this horrible tragedy."
Saluting the bravery of the security forces who fought the terrorists in "exceptionally difficult circumstances" and freed hostages from three places, Manmohan Singh noted: "They tried their utmost to save innocent lives at great personal risk. Twenty officers and men made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives. The entire nation owes a debt of gratitude to these men that we can never repay."
He hoped that the discussions at the meeting would lead to a consensus on steps required to be taken.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders V K Malhotra and Jaswant Singh were among those attending the meeting at the Prime Minister's residence.
Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat, and D Raja and A B Bardhan of the Communist Party of India also attended the meeting.
Whereas BJP Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani and party chief Rajnath Singh skipped the
all-party meeting, as they were campaigning for the assembly polls in Rajasthan.
Expressing his inability to attend the meeting, Advani
called up the Prime Minister to say he was busy campaigning in
Rajasthan and would meet him on the issue soon after returning
to Delhi, BJP sources said.
BJP's Deputy Leader in Lok Sabha V K Malhotra and Deputy
Leader in Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh represented the party at
"Their programme was fixed much earlier and could not be
cancelled," Malhotra said when asked why Advani and Rajnath
Singh did not attend the important meeting.
Advani told Singh that BJP would stand with the
government in any tough decision it takes for effectively
tackling terrorism, the sources said.
Meanwhile Shiv Sena also skipped the
all-party meeting convened by PM, saying the meeting will
not serve any "fruitful" purpose.
The meeting took place barely hours after Shivraj Patil resigned as Home Minister taking moral responsibility for the terrorist attack.
First Published: Sunday, November 30, 2008, 00:00