Terror attacks: the real failure
by Virendra Parekh on 05 Dec 2008 3 Comments

When the defence minister shouts from the rooftop that India is considering all options including military action against Pakistan, it means only one thing: India is not going to attack Pakistan. No country invades another after warning it of an attack in as many words - the US is the sole exception. It is no surprise therefore, that Pranab Mukherji’s tough talk turned out to be just that - talk.

Having done nothing for years to nab hardcore criminals, having released dreaded criminals with state honour, India is now asking Pakistan to hand over a score of fugitives living in Pakistan. Islamabad, as expected, gives an evasive reply. Was it a perfect tango choreographed by the US state department? At another level, it was an ‘astute’ move to take the wind out of the BJP’s sail. The Government may bungle, hundreds may die, but the opposition parties must not be allowed to make any gain out of it. That is priority No. 1. Everything else can wait.

Such is the depth to which the country has fallen that even after the biggest terrorist attack in the country’s history its leaders just do not know how to react. A couple of Patils resign, a minister blows hot and cold, the PM assures the nation the umpteenth time that no one would be spared. What more can people want? There seems to be no bottom to the abyss in which India has fallen.

The UPA Government has so quickly converted a great opportunity into a fiasco. When the world and the nation waited for the Prime Minister to act, when Pakistan was shaking in its shoes for fear of reprisals, all that the Indian Prime Minister did was to invite (OK summon) the Inter-Services Intelligence Director-General to India to show him evidence of Pakistani complicity. The idea is so stupid that it does not deserve any comment. The tragedy is that neither the rulers nor those expected to replace them have shown any determination to root out the terrorism.

If you mean business, where is the need to implore US, engage Pakistan or issue hollow threats of inflicting ‘costs’? We can and must pay Pakistan back in its own coin: playing havoc without losing plausible deniability. There are not more than 200 persons masterminding and guiding terror operations in India. Some are on our soil, some on Pakistan’s. Why not devote just 1 per cent of our defence budget (of Rs. 105,600 crore) solely to their liquidation within a year? Pakistani terrorists have been aiming at soft targets; surely India can aim at strategic targets inside the enemy territory? Ditto Bangladesh.

But when our politicians do think the unthinkable, they do so in the opposite direction. A worthy politician, no doubt enjoying heavy-duty security at taxpayers’ expense, is reported to have opined that the terror attack in Mumbai was a miserable failure: while the terrorists had set themselves a target of killing 5000 people, they could, poor fellows, actually kill only 200!

Did we hear someone saying “with leaders like we have, the country needs no enemies”? In fact, many people are now convinced that our politicians pose a bigger threat to the country than terrorists. Terrorists bring out the best in us as we respond to their depredations; politicians would destroy what is left of our nationhood.

Much has been said about the unforgivable delay of nine and a half hours in the arrival of NSG commandos from Delhi to Mumbai, politicians enjoying massage in Kerala health centres when the terrorists struck in Mumbai, ministers changing dresses and donning make-up when victims of terror attacks were being taken to hospitals, home ministers considering dance bars as the questions of life and death while dismissing the bloodiest terror attack in the history of India as a “small incident”, security men guarding hardcore criminals, TV channels conveying every move of the security forces on a real-time basis to everyone including the terrorists and their handlers, and leaders abdicating their responsibility by congratulating people for their guts and denouncing terrorists as cowards!

The question is why things have come to such a pass. The failure of intelligence, of strategy and tactics, has been widely and rightly commented upon.

However, these failures are but symptoms of a deeper, more fundamental failure: the failure of perception, the failure of ideology.

Ideologues in the ruling dispensation have convinced themselves and the rulers that acts of terror in India and elsewhere are a natural consequence of the failure of the ‘majority community’ (the word Hindu is a taboo in official speak) to win ‘hearts and minds’ of the minority community at home and in the neighbourhood. Unless and until that battle for the hearts and minds is won by addressing the ‘root causes of terror’, the battle against terror cannot be won. 

There are countless subscribers to this woolly idealism, even in unsuspected quarters. As per a report in the Wall Street Journal, the US-based new-age guru Deepak Chopra, a 'faithful adherent of the root-causes theory' spoke to CNN about the need for a Marshall Plan for Muslims. The reporter Dorothy Rabinowitz added that '...nowhere was there any mention of Islamic fundamentalism... nor did we hear any particular expression of sorrow from the New Delhi-born Dr Chopra for the anguish of Mumbai's victims.' Dr Chopra went on to add that '...this is the moment where India has to stop blaming Pakistan and actually ask Pakistan for help.'

Dr Chopra, who had been watching the Mumbai attacks on television, told rediff.com he never doubted that the Indian commandos would overpower and disable the terrorists. What concerns him most is the possibility of a retaliatory attack against Muslims in any part of India. Even the finger pointing to Pakistan can be counterproductive, he feels, adding that terrorism is a cancer that is attacking both countries.

There have been, mercifully, no retaliatory attacks on Muslims in India. But that is not the point. The point is the unethical (yes, unethical), sloppy and uninformed thinking on the life and death issue of terrorism.

According to this view, the victims of terrorism have an open-ended obligation to discover and remove the ‘root causes’ of terror; the mass murderers need to be understood and placated, rather than punished. There is no recognition of the religious roots of terrorism, not even a pretence of understanding the real nature of jihad - an unprovoked declaration of war on neighbours of different faith. There is no realisation that the price of ‘hearts and minds’ will go on increasing in direct proportion to the effort mounted to win them. We have traversed this path in the decades preceding Independence and discovered that the more we offered, even more was asked. Grievance-mongering has been allowed to develop into an evergreen, sunrise industry and the price is being paid now.

The late Sita Ram Goel used to say that where the Brahmin is blind, the Kshatriya is crippled. Our soldiers can take on the world, it is our intellectuals who have confused our thinking and paralysed our will. Behind the failure of the might of the State lies the failure of the Intellect, failure to recognise the nature and potency of the enemy and devise an appropriate response.   

We have had enough leaders to hanker after peace with a neighbour that is an international security risk. We now need a leader who can lead us to victory through a war.

The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai

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