Originally Published 2006-07-14 09:35:55 Published on Jul 14, 2006
150 innocent lives have been lost in the serial blasts set-off by terrorists in Mumbai on July 11, 2006; the death toll is likely to mount. The blasts, sadly, are a chilling reminder that terrorist can strike with impunity and at will, secure in the comfort that they cannot be touched. If the 1993 Bomb blasts in Mumbai had a fig leaf of an excuse (the demolition of the Babri mosque), the current blasts have none.
How many wake up calls do we need?
150 innocent lives have been lost in the serial blasts set-off by terrorists in Mumbai on July 11, 2006; the death toll is likely to mount. The blasts, sadly, are a chilling reminder that terrorist can strike with impunity and at will, secure in the comfort that they cannot be touched. If the 1993 Bomb blasts in Mumbai had a fig leaf of an excuse (the demolition of the Babri mosque), the current blasts have none. The objective of the July 11 blasts is clear -- to cock a snook at the Indian state and send a message to its people that they live at the mercy of the terrorists. This is clearly unacceptable to a self-respecting nation. <br /> <br /> For the first time, the assassination of Lala Jagat Narain in Punjab in 1980 brought India face to face with the scourge of terrorism. 26 years have lapsed since then and the country is yet to frame a national policy on combating terrorism. Meanwhile, two Prime Ministers have been assassinated, while hundreds of public figures and thousands of men in uniform, and at least one lakh innocent people have fallen victims to the depredations of terrorists. <br /> <br /> Our entire approach to terrorism smacks of a succession of knee-jerk reactions, while the only constant element in the approach is its striking inconsistency. The then Home Minister of India granted freedom to imprisoned terrorists for the safe return of his abducted daughter in 1990; the Foreign Minister of India personally escorted terrorists to Kandahar in 1999 and swapped them with passengers of the hijacked IC-814 Indian Airlines plane; on the other hand, the terrorists repaid by orchestrating an attack on the J&amp;K Assembly and the Indian Parliament. The attack on Parliament was followed-up by an unprecedented mobilization of Indian Armed Forces during Operation Parakaram, which ended in a feeble whimper. It does not take a rocket scientist to realize that, in a nuclearised South Asia with the power balance frozen in perpetuity, even limited war could lead extremely dangerous consequences; hot pursuit is, thus, just not possible. Evidently, these and myriad other policy waffles benchmark India's whole approach to combating terrorism.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> A distinguished analyst of South Asian Affairs was asked by the Pakistani government for his considered opinion on India's intentions in the wake of the attack on the Indian Parliament. He advised the Pakistani's not to worry because India would do nothing. He offered simple logic -- 'India does not react to the loss of people's lives; there are just too many. India reacts only to loss of territory'.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> There is an irony in this logic. Remember the national hysteria over Kargil and rightly so- however contrast that with our behavior as a people to a terrorist outrage. Exactly four days after the bomb blasts in New Delhi on October 29, 2005, which killed hundreds of innocent people, we celebrated Diwali as if there was no tomorrow. Parliament had time during the winter session to discuss every other innocuous issue but could not find time to have a serious discussion on National Security. On the other hand, it would be instructive to recollect the manner in which the U.S.&amp; U.K. reacted both as a nation and a people to 9/11 and 7/7 respectively.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Maybe 26 years of terrorism has made us both weary and fatalistic of terrorism. Whenever somebody punches us we just get up, wipe the blood and carry on with our lives. We try and rationalize our actions by telling ourselves that terrorists want to destroy our way of life and the best response is to carry on as if nothing has happened. Maybe that too is important, but it is also equally important that people demand a coherent response from the political and security establishments. <br /> <br /> India's battle with terrorism especially in the North West can be divided into two phases: 1980-2001 when the world never took notice of our protests that India is being subjected to a low-cost, high-intensity proxy war supported organized and executed by Pakistan. After 9/11, when the 'global war on terror' commenced, it changed a number of things for a lot of people around the globe. <br /> <br /> It changed things for India, too, in terms of the fact that we at least started getting lip sympathy from the countries of the West. The irony, however, remains. The fountainhead of terrorism insofar as India is concerned was co-opted by the U.S as a frontline ally in the battle against terrorism. The U.S has candidly announced that its interests are primary and therefore they have no reasons to be apologetic in having one approach to terrorism on Pakistan's western border and a completely different approach on the Eastern border.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It is high time India realized that it would get no help in this fight against terrorism from any country. It has to fight its own battle, and alone, if it wants to survive as a nation and preserve its political and territorial integrity. With the situation in Kashmir deteriorating, the North East continuing to simmer, and Naxalism entrenching itself in the heart of India, we need to speedily evolve a coherent strategy to combat the various challenges to National Security. <br /> <br /> The nation has to be mentally prepared to lend a firm support to the government over a long period of time, as the war against terror will be long-drawn and bloody. This issue has to be divorced from partisan party politics. If some civil rights get curtailed in the process, we have to learn to live with it.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> The government, in turn needs, to follow the example of Israel and Russia. A well trained and appropriately armed elite anti-terrorist force has to be created. Backed by top-notch intelligence and appropriate legal immunity, it must be mandated to operate across state and national boundaries against the enemies of the Indian state. <br /> <br /> It must be tasked with the responsibility of hunting down and bringing to justice or eliminating all those, (however high they maybe placed even in the official hierarchies of some governments) who plan and execute terrorist operations against India. <br /> <br /> In this context, it might be useful to recollect the abduction of Eichmann from Argentina by Mossad and his subsequent trial and conviction for his role in the Holocaust. The rescue of Israeli passengers from Entebee, is another instance. Yet another is the tracking down and elimination of the Black September terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympic massacre. Also, the Russian Special Forces eliminated yesterday, July 11, 2006, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev who masterminded the 2004 Belsen school massacre. <br /> <br /> The apex leadership of these terrorist organizations needs to be made aware that they would have to pay disproportionately high price for their actions, irrespective of whether they live in Karachi, Dubai, Dhaka, in the mountains of Afghanistan or the low lands of Myanmar. They must be made to realize that the world is equally unsafe for them. Legal processes also need to be fast-tracked so that trials do not carry on unendingly for decades, as in the Mumbai 1993 Bomb blast case.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It is extremely important to declare at this juncture our stand on terrorism, rather than vacillate any further. Let the terrorists and their masters know that India can give as hard as it gets. If we are serious about playing a meaningful role in global affairs we need to rid ourselves of this 'weakling image' as a nation and let the world know that we are capable of taking care of ourselves. <br /> <br /> <br /> </font> <font size="2" class="greytext1"> <em>(The author, a Supreme Court lawyer and an AICC Secretary, is on the ORF Advisory Council.) <br /> </em> <br /> <br /> <em>* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.</em> <br />
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