A row over neglecting Indian National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan s security on the opening-day of SAARC leaders summit at the BMICH, initially blamed on the host, has taken a new turn with the revelation that the official had arrived at the venue earlier in the company of Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and was expected to return the same way.
The Indian delegation had been staying at the Hotel Taj Samudra under a heavy security blanket. India brought nearly 300 bodyguards to reinforce Sri Lankan security services while two Destroyers were positioned outside Sri Lankan territorial waters for the duration of SAARC.
Since the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord in July 1987, India maintains a large security contingent in Sri Lanka.
Narayanan had travelled with Menon in the latter s motorcade, jointly escorted by Sri Lankan and Indian security services to the BMICH, informed sources said.
Menon s motorcade had left without Narayanan who arrived at the main entrance to the conference hall after the sessions were over, sources said.
During high level discussions between Sri Lankan and Indian security services to work out the entire range of security issues including motorcades, they hadn t allocated a specific vehicle for Narayanan, sources said. An authoritative official said that Narayanan had been present when the arrangements were finalised. According to him, the visiting Heads of State, Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries had been travelling in motorcades. We thought Narayanan would return to the Taj with Menon, he said.
The bottomline was that both Sri Lankan and Indian security services hadn t noticed Narayanan s absence until he turned up unescorted at the Taj in a vehicle belonging to the hotel, the official said.
Fielding questions, another official said the officers in charge of Menon s motorcade would have thought that Narayanan would be returning to Taj probably with the Indian Foreign Minister. Anyway the lapse should have been avoided, he said, adding that DIG S. M. Wickramasinghe, in charge of the Presidential Security Division (PSD), apologised on behalf of Sri Lankan security services to Narayanan.
But that wouldn t absolve the Indian security services of failing on their part, officials said. They stressed that every minute detail had been discussed with the Indian High Commission and measures jointly taken to ensure the safety and security of the visiting Indian delegation. During the recent visit to Colombo by the National Security Advisor in the company of the Foreign Secretary, their security was handled by the Indian High Commission, they said.
They said both Sri Lankan and Indian security services would have to review their procedures to thwart any third party from taking advantage of a similar lapse.
The Sri Lankan government has been embarrassed by the disappearance of an SSP assigned to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh s motorcade when the Indian leader left the Presidential Secretariat after meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The sources acknowledged that it was negligence on the part the officer concerned and the Sri Lankan security establishment.
A Foreign Ministry source regretted the two incidents. Both lapses could have been easily avoided, he said. According to him, Sri Lanka accommodated heavy Indian and Afghan security contingents as they anticipated severe threats to their leaders.