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India's response to terror
In the clamor for the Pakistani government to take decisive action against the terrorist organizations in that country and shut down their camps, we forget one thing. The civilian government in Pakistan is probably simply not in a position to do what we expect from it.
It is well known that the military and ISI in Pakistan are quite independent of the civilian government. The terrorists function quite independently too - sometimes with the overt and at other times covert support of the military and the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the famed ISI. In fact, the situation is such in Pakistan that probably none of the players is in a position to dictate terms to another.
How may we expect any coordinated action in this anarchy? The best course of action for the Indian government would be to seek to strengthen the civilian democratic government of Pakistan and not see it as its adversary. Only when the civilians government and the civil society will have any say in running the affairs of the Pakistani society can we hope for order there.
The military and intelligence cannot have an upper hand in any civilized society and definitely the terrorists have no place. That is easier said than done. The Pakistani society has to cope with its problems. But the least we can do is to encourage the elements in there to help restore normalcy and democracy.
In the aftermath of the terrorist incidents in Mumbai it was easiest thing to have put the entire blame on Pakistan, treating it as a monolith. Thus people's anger was channelized away just like in the US after the September 11 attacks, in which the blame was put on Al-Quaida. For, if the blame had not been put on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, people would have started asking very inconvenient questions.
First and foremost is, we've yet to know who exactly was responsible for the security lapses and why are they not being held accountable? The Home Minister and the Chief Minister or his deputy were only the tip of the iceberg. What about people below who were more directly responsible for day-to-day security and intelligence? It is humanly not possible to launch the kind of attack that we saw over three days by 10 Pakistani citizens coming from outside through the sea route without any inside help. Are we completely denying it? Or have we begun the process of identifying the insiders, in or outside the government-administrative-security apparatus, who might have helped the aggressors?
Why has nobody raised the last piece of information that Hemant Karkare's investigations had begun to reveal before his unfortunate death -- the links between The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the National Volunteers Organization, a Hindu nationalist group in India and the ISI? Why were Bal Thakeray and Raj Thakeray silent during those three days? Have we forgotten that Bal Thakarey had offered to the then PM Vajpayee to send his Shiv Sainiks to fight the Pakistanis during the last buildup at the border? This time the enemy obliged by coming to his doorsteps. But why did the Shiv Sainiks, or for that matter any group of combatants or non-combatants, not storm the Taj or the Oberoi to end the ordeal sooner? Is it possible for a Class IV educated daily wage labourer from Pakistan to operate sophisticated electronic devices during the attack? Was the letter written by Ajmal Kasab, the single surviving terrorist from the Mumbai attacks, to the Pakistani High Commissioner asking for legal help actually written by him or like in a plethora of other cases police got him to sign what they wanted to be written?
The Indian Express carried a front page story soon after the attack about the European and US connection to the attack by disclosing that two SIMs used in the mobile phones carried by the terrorists were bought in Vienna and New Jersey. Was there or was there not any European and US connection?
If we start seeking answers to the question like the abovementioned ones, skeletons might start tumbling out of our own cupboard. We are so obsessed as a nation with nailing down Pakistan that we are losing objectivity. A.R. Antulay, who has raised repeated controversies over conspiracy theories connected not just with the Mumai attacks but others as well, is looked at condescendingly when he raises a question. We can reach the truth only when we explore all possibilities of how things might have happened.
The response of the Indian government amidst a frenzy demanding action to gear up its laws and beef up the security, possibly with US and Israeli help, is ignoring the basic issues. What laws and security have been able to stop people on suicide mission? If the terrorists in Mumbai were given another chance would they care for a stricter Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the newly created National Investigative Agency or better equipped Indian security forces?
We did not face such terrorist threats when we were a non-aligned nation. The problems for India began with the demolition of Babri Masjid. The first bomb blasts took place in Mumbai soon thereafter. With India going nuclear and the right-wing Indian government unilaterally declaring after the September 11 attacks that India would join US in the 'war against terror,' the terrorist incidents in India have increased.
As we went closer to US and Israel we began losing friends in the Muslim world. It will be in our interest to reverse this entire process.
Actually, to feel secure from Pakistan there is only one option: to end the animosity with Pakistan. All outstanding issues must be taken up with the government of Pakistan and amicably resolved once and for all. The nuclear weapons possessed by India and Pakistan are the biggest threat to the people of South Asia. People giving a war cry in moments such as after the Mumbai incident forget the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. True security can prevail only when there is disarmament and withdrawal of the military from both sides of the border.
But for this to happen a conducive situation must exist in Pakistan . The democratic government must assert its control over the military, ISI and the terrorist outfits. This is not going to happen overnight and will require lot of effort. Are we prepared for the long haul? It is almost like rebuilding the Taj, Oberoi and the Nariman House as the best response to the terror attacks. We need to build friendship and peace with Pakistan and not create further enmity.
Sandeep Panday heads the National Alliance of People's Movements. He taught at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur before devoting his life to strengthening people's movements. He can be contacted at: email@example.com, www.ashaparivar.org)