Let's Not Lose the Battle of the Mind to Pakistan
The terror in Mumbai is our national shame. There can be no doubt about it. How could a group of 10 brazen men hold an entire nation to ransom for almost four days, making Mumbai their killing fields? They stepped out of the sea and walked about the city with the sort of contempt that a marauding horde reserves for the weakling.
Many questions come to mind. Why is it that none among the hundreds of people inside the two hotels challenged them? What if BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Centre) or the Bombay High is the target the next time?
There is also the counter thought that haunts one over and over again. Can a group of 10 young Indians do something similar in Karachi or Lahore? Quite frankly I doubt it. I don't doubt the valor of our youth, but I am certain that India would be the first to disown them. It would be quick to condemn it as a crime against humanity. Perhaps it might even sabotage their plan before it has any chance of success. Still, if such a plan were to succeed, and if by some miracle they were to return home, they would be arrested immediately and incarcerated in jail under the anti-terror law. This is how a civilized society should react.
Unfortunately, that is not how our neighbor to the West acts. For close to three decades now it has been bleeding India.
Evidence suggests that unlike our squabbling politicians, the terror masters are a determined lot. They remain focused as they prepare for the next even more horrendous strike. Their game plan clearly is to raise the bar of audacity with every strike, and to maximize terror. In the past few years, there were an average of two major terrorist strikes annually. This year there have been eight already, and the year is not yet over.
It is a historical fact that nations that get ravaged never rise to greatness. But a nation that has been brutalized repeatedly is at least expected to learn from its mistakes. Unfortunately, our response remains accidental.
After every fresh terror strike our intelligence agencies look bewildered, wondering how could it happen again? The security agencies take time to gird up and join the battle. And having joined it, some like the marine commandoes hold boastful press-conferences even as terrorists continue their mayhem.
We live in a tough neighborhood and that physical reality is getting grimmer by the day. Pakistan is staring into the abyss. Its economy is as perilous as its security situation. The intentions of those who govern Pakistan; the ISI and its Islamic puppets are clear. They want to drag India down into the same morass.
The terror strike in Mumbai was meant to clang shut the Gateway of democratic India. It was not a stray suicide attack; the strike was meant to maim the financial system with the special aim of killing foreigners. The objective was to hit at the decision makers of the financial world.
The terrorists have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. For the first time they have also brought India's response to international scrutiny. And the world may well begin to wonder if under sustained attack India might become an example of democracy that failed.
So far our response has been haphazard.
Inviting the ISI chief to assist in investigations can only be termed a blunder. It is like asking the main suspect in a murder case to join in the police investigations.
Similarly, while it may be procedurally correct to hand over the list of the fugitives to Pakistan demanding for the umpteenth time that they be handed over, it will be nothing short of a miracle if it were to actually hand over someone like Dawood. ISI is just too intricately linked with most of those on the list to risk placing them in Indian hands, where they and their misdeeds would be open to international inspection and intense media gaze.
All this does not give much hope for a nation that expects results now.
The public mood is surly, but the government has yet to form a clear strategy. It has yet to convince the population that it is thinking seriously along operationally executable lines.
Here, the record of NDA is no better than that of UPA. It postured impotently after the attack on parliament, wasting thousands of crores and exposing our military strategy when it lined up our troops for well over six months on the international border. Nor did NDA cover itself with glory in the Kandhar episode. And it was Clinton's goodwill that saved us during Kargil.
A basic point that we must honestly concede is that we have consistently lost the battle of minds to Pakistan. In the media of the global world, speed is of essence. Unfortunately, in our Brahminical anxiety to present the absolute and verifiable truth we lose out to the quick and straight faced lies by the other side.
From now on we would have to be much quicker off the mark. Second, we must be seen to be proactive rather than posturing angrily. Third, we must speak with one voice at every level. We must not have the sorry spectacle of a senior service chief embarrassing, and inadvertently exposing, the other branches of the government. And we must be conscious that we are essentially alone in this fight, other countries would safeguard their interest first. Moreover, we must not rush into an ill prepared venture because that could be disastrous.
Still, we are not without options. We could for instance suspend trade, or hold in abeyance the bus or the train links. There is also the option of closing the diplomatic missions, which would hurt the Pakistanis much more because of the access in the society they enjoy here. But, whatever we decide, it is important for us to take at least one concrete step.
Finally, we must recognise that we can not succeed in preventing terrorism by cluttering ourselves shut. A determined terrorist, backed by the state apparatus of Pakistan, will easily breach those walls. We can defeat this menace only when we are prepared to cut off its roots.
(Rajiv Dogra is a former ambassador and the last Indian consul general in Karachi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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