Stating that "India is no more a soft target" for terror attacks, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said an attack like 26/11 is impossible in the country with the present maritime and coastal security, and terrorists based Pakistan will think 100 times before launching an attack.
Singh was the chief guest on Tuesday at The Indian Express' fourth chapter of Stories of Strength at the Gateway of India to observe the 11th anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack. He said the 'spirit of Mumbai' remains even after losing 166 people in the attacks.
"We have dismantled terror infrastructures in the country. We are now trying to disrupt the financial network of terrorism... If Pakistan does not stop sponsoring of terrorism, it will be blacklisted. In face of recession, FATF already blacklisting Pakistan may prove as the final nail in the coffin," he said.
He said India has beefed up not just its maritime security and Coast Guard, but is also strengthening its cybersecurity. "For security in sea, we are preparing fleet of 1,000 boats 'Swagat Prahari Bal'. This fleet will not only monitor coastal area but also act as force multiplier," he said. "Keeping coastal security in mind, we have established a maritime domain awareness system to alert agencies on movement in sea," Singh said.
The defence minister further said, following the 26/11 attack, all agencies are also working in coordination under the Joint Operation Centre. He said a counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation project was also started by him when he was the home minister. "Don ko pakadna ab mushkil nahi par aasaan ho gaya hai (It is not difficult, infact easy to catch the don)," he said. He added that India is capable of surgical as well as air strikes now. "In the next five years, I can assure that outside Kashmir there will be no terror attack."
Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari, who was the guest of honour at the event, said martyrdom of officers like Hemant Karkare (former Maharashtra ATS chief) and innocents who lost their lives must not be forgotten. He said India should have the power, not to attack, but to protect its weak and innocent citizens. "We have never attempted to grab land of another country... We never attack, but when some one attacks us, one must have power to retaliate," he said. "Koi galti se tedhi aankh se dekhta hai to usko jawab dene ki sajjan shakti bhi honi chahiye, nahi to sajjan zinda nahi rahege (If someone casts an evil eye on us, we must have the wisdom to retaliate, else the innocents cannot be saved)."
Tuesday’s event started with the Mumbai police band and their bagpipers and drumrolls followed by the Indian Navy's mesmerising band performance. A short documentary on Cama & Albless Hospital staff and how they helped a pregnant woman deliver during crossfiring, and of martyred commando Havildar Gajendra Singh Bisht's daughter Preeti Bisht's first visit to Nariman House where he was killed, were also shown.
Actor Amitabh Bachchan brought a powerful end to the event with his performance.
"Events such as 26/11 make us angry because when innocents die, it seems that hate is defeating love," executive director of The Indian Express Group Anant Goenka said, adding that India needs to defend itself in presence of current neighbours. He credited the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) for its counter-radicalisation programme in the state that has deradicalised 120 youth. "It is a concentrated effort aimed at transforming extremist youth through patient counselling and training. The programme today boasts of 120 youth successfully deradicalised without firing one bullet," he said.
Jui Karkare Navare, the daughter of martyred former Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare who wrote a book on her father, said, "The loss of both my parents in a short span of time has been difficult. I could still look at life with a positive outlook only because of the values my parents instilled in me."
The event was attended by vice-admiral Ajit Kumar P, Colonel Nitesh Kumar (NSG), Group Captain A Shreedhar (Indian Air Force), IGP Krishna Prakash, municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi, and Mumbai Port Trust chairman Sanjay Bhatia.
Others who attended included Neeraj Bajaj, Shelley Thakral, Pranav Adani, Karan Bhagat, Yatin Shah, Niranjan Hiranandani, BJP's Ashish Shelar, Rabbi Israel Kozlovsky, Ashish Chauhan, Yogesh Lakhani, Arjun Bhati, Naresh Malhotra, Sabbas Joseph, Viraf Sarkari, and Shobha De.
The event also featured actor Vicky Kaushal and actress Radhika Apte in a documentary. Tisca Chopra, singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, violinist L Subramaniam, renowned conductor of Symphony Orchestra of India Zane Dalal, singers Rekha Bharadwaj, Harshdeep Kaur, Mahesh Kale, Shilpa Rao, Divya Kumar and choreographer Shiamak Davar were also present.
The short documentary was created by Anant Tiwari.