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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mumbai attack: the way ahead

It took more than 60 hours to get over the mayhem caused by fidayeen attack in Mumbai on 26th November, popularly termed as India’s “9/11”. Nearly two hundred innocents lost their lives, two luxury hotels, including the iconic Taj Mahal Palace, identified by many as the very essence of India, have suffered such destruction that it will take billions of dollars to restore them.

The wanton killing and destruction, from all available evidences exported from Pakistan, the universally acknowledged “epicentre of terror”, had no credible cause. Yet none, including even the United States, has been able to stop the periodical carnage inflicted from there. Quite beyond its capability to stop them, India has to treat such attacks as something which it has to live with. The country had set much store by Pakistan’s democratically elected government. Predictably, however, it has drawn a blank. No help will ever be forthcoming from it as the formidable terror outfits in Pakistan are, virtually, integral to its polity. Even the US acknowledges them. CIA, reportedly, channellises funds to them through the ISI.

Hence, the talk of having a resolution passed by the Security Council against Pakistan for harbouring terror outfits along with their training camps is futile. The same would seem to be true of a proposal to bring collective pressure of the international community on Pakistan. Terror attacks on India are India’s problems. No country is going to come to its help. It is a jungle out there in the arena of international politics where everyone looks after one’s own interests. It is, therefore, the government and the people of the country who will have to rise as one man to forestall such attacks in the future.
The country has to put its act together, which, unfortunately, it has failed to do during the past sixty years. Its land borders continue to remain porous. The government has failed to seal them to make them impenetrable. The maritime security around the extensive coastline has gaping holes. Over the years the land and sea borders have been facilely breached and yet no lessons were learnt. In 1993 RDX was landed via the sea route as a prelude to the serial blasts in Mumbai. And, yet, in 2006 the investigative staff of an English language news channel, out to test the route the terrorists had taken in 1993, came across none of the checks and controls that were claimed to have been installed. In the pervasive indifference “26/11” was just waiting to happen.

Besides, percolating from the top, the endemic corruption has made the administration moth-eaten and listless. People in the government and its agencies suffer from a severe lack of commitment to the country and its interests. While the primary goal of politicians is capturing and retaining power, generally, to plunder public resources, the huge creaky and corrupt bureaucracy, collectively and individually, is committed to none but itself. Public institutions are politicised vitiating the entire administrative machinery. There is hardly any governance and the elaborate systems designed for delivery of public good have been oriented mostly to benefit the politicians, their lackeys and hangers-on. The anger that “26/11” has aroused among the people against the politicians is, therefore, nothing but welling up of their long-simmering discontent.

In such a situation the need is not of new institutions which the government is thinking of establishing. The country is already suffering from surfeit of them – mostly politicised and rendered ineffective. The need, apparently, is of giving a new direction to the existing ones and to make them functional for public good and not for the good of the politicians and political parties in power. The need is also of infusing into them a sense of purpose and commitment and of achieving among them an ambience of harmony with the singular objective of jointly making the country strong, secure and prosperous. It is needless to emphasise the imperative to develop economic and military muscles.
For all this to happen, however, the initiative has to come from the very top – the politicians at various levels, who are the rulers in our kind of democracy. Shunning political chicanery, corruption and nepotism, it is they who will have to be seen to be working for the country. Giving up the politics of “vote banks”, they will have to work up to the slogan of “Country first” that was so prominently visible during the recent American Presidential primaries. They will have to rework the approach to their job and devote themselves, as during the freedom struggle, to the good of the country and its people. With enemies lurking in the neighbourhood, they will have to inspire the security and other establishments as also the people to eternal vigilance against saboteurs within and marauders from abroad. Only then, perhaps, an impression will filter out that the country cannot be messed around with.
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