Saturday, July 22, 2006

Indian response to Mumbai terror attacks

I really did not want to write what might be just another post on how India should respond to the Mumbai blasts, but I get the feeling the incident is slipping out of public memory. We need to remember the incident as if it happened yesterday so that we can force through the required changes that are needed in our security and such.

Much has been made about how India should respond to the terror attacks. A few people have called for us to attack Pakistan to show we mean business. Others, including me, have criticized the pseudo-resilience of the Mumbaikars, which is more akin to helplessness rather a show of strength.

As for our response itself, the Prime Minister delivered an insipid speech that would have done wonders to the confidence of the terrorists! There seems to be no move to improve our preparedness either. So much for a kick up our backsides! BongoP'o'ndit has a summary of the Indian response so far.

Our long term response to the terror attacks is not as simple as it sounds. It is not simply about improving our preparedness in case of future attacks, or simply about boosting our intelligence network, or about holding Pakistan accountable for the attacks. It is, of course, all of these, but also more.

While Pakistan does deserve a response, that is not the end of it all. India must stop playing the blame game. It merely shifts the focus to Pakistan, while ensuring that India does nothing about its own position as far as the attacks are concerned. The evidence is mounting that the actual attacks were carried out by Indian muslims, and this is cause for real concern. This means there is something fundamentally wrong in the state of the country. A highly cathartic self-introspection is needed as to why things are going wrong. This is a time when the country must stay united and not split into several distinct communities each pointing the finger at each other.

First and foremost, we have to accept the bombings as a jihadi attack ([1], [2], [3]). In fact, Maloy Krishna Dhar, has likened the terror attacks to an all out invasion of India. This is a very serious statement, and it deserves our full attention. The notion of misguided youths does not hold water any longer. Misguided or not, they are causing serious damage to the nation and we must spare no efforts in stopping it. For this, our intelligence network needs a massive and urgent upgrade. Our response system needs to be revamped to standards that the western nations follow. And importantly, the government needs to stop playing its minority politics, which while alienating the minorities from the mainstreem, also drives through the right-wing ideology that creates anti-minority policies. Again, the country desperately needs to stay united.

Secondly, India has to stop expecting the western powers to do something about this. This is our own problem, no matter how intricately it is tied in with the global jihad, and we must learn to solve our own problems. If for no other reason except that the US cannot be trusted to do anything (and by extension, the western world). The ToI claims that India does have proof that Pakistan was behind the terror attacks. India must now show some spine in its diplomacy with Pakistan. Peace process be damned; when Pakistan is not at all serious about the peace process, India is living in an illusion if it expects anything positive out of it.

India must take up a strict stance wrt to the terror camps operating in Pakistan. It does, after all, have every right to expect Pakistan to do something about them, failing which, to take matters into its own hands. While operations mounted at the terror camps would be welcome, attacking Pakistan itself is not a good idea. The moment India attacks Pakistan, the entire middle-east will be against us. Expect bombings all over the country on a daily basis. Coupled with the war itself, India's already thin emergency resources will be highly stretched. Even if the military manages to gobble up Pakistan, it will not be the end of it all. Expect the war to escalate to global proportions. Not a situation anyone except the arms companies will be pleased with.

Finally, India must ensure that through all this, the civil rights of its citizens are not violated. While this seems like a trivial point, any small attempt at restricting the liberties of the citizens does nothing except divert the focus away towards less important events. Which is in fact what is happening right now! Amidst all the hullabaloo about the banning of blogs, let us not forget that eight bombs exploded in Mumbai on the 11th of July, 2006. Let us not allow the government to snooze back on its job.

(Cross-posted on www.desicritics.org)

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