Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The blasts will happen again – So how should we respond???

After all the anger and feelings of deja vu have died down, a few truths will emerge. First, and most ghastly though it is, the truth is that these blasts will happen again. And again. They will happen all around. In Delhi and Pune and in every major business and power center of India. It’s far easier to plant one bomb than it is to intercept all the terrorists. Second, this is not a political issue, but it will almost certainly become one. I can imagine the BJP salivating and the news channels dying to earn their TRPs back from the GECs and the Sports channels. Third – and I believe the most important truth – is that the country has to respond smartly. For starters, it has to strengthen the NIA – National Investigative Agency – with more funds, more officers, more intelligence, more technology, more partnerships globally.....this last truth is the only one that will give us relief over a longer period of time. The first two are useless factoids of today’s disturbed world.

The NIA was set up after the 2008 Bombay blasts. The reason to have a “federal” outfit like the NIA is that Law & Order is generally a state subject under the Indian Constitution. As a result, different states have different police forces; hardly any of them have any access to good technology; hardly do they talk to each other; and hardly do they occupy the kind of high position they should in a society which is besieged by terrorism. Most cops at the state level are happy to take their “hafta” from hapless citizens for minor violations of traffic etc.....none of them is motivated enough to take a determined stand against terrorism. That’s why the NIA was set up to look into all acts of terror that the country faced. The NIA has been modeled on the FBI in the US or the MI5 in the UK. Its mandate is limited to acts of terror against the country – either physical attacks like we saw yesterday – or the more devious kinds – fake currency, drugs, etc.

It’s clear that India lives in a troubled neighborhood. We are surrounded by countries which are hotbeds of terrorism. Pakistan obviously is the global headquarters of terrorism. The unsolved Kashmir problem is like honey for the terrorists from Pakistan. Till the time the Kashmir problem is solved, it is unlikely that the terrorist attacks against India will stop. But Kashmir is a huge issue. It’s an emotive issue for both Pakistan and India. Neither side has visionary leaders who can find a middle ground that will eliminate the problem. Neither country is ready for a middle ground. Both want to keep the entire cake for themselves. Neither wants to realize that the cake has got spoilt (in a manner of speaking) and is harming both of them. But such is the world of conflicts. It takes decades....sometimes resolve outstanding issues. It’s been 64 years since the Kashmir conflict started......Till the Kashmir problem is solved – and let’s be ready that it won’t be solved for another 60 years – we need to prepare ourselves to face the attacks that emerge as a byproduct of the issue. The LeT, the IM, the HuM and the several others Pakistan and India based terror outfits are bound to thrive. No matter what we do, we cannot kill them completely. The “junoon” that exists amongst their members is bound to create many more soldiers from amongst the dead. We cannot solve the terror problem.....we can only mitigate it.

It’s no different anywhere else in the world. The Christian world’s fight with the Muslims goes back centuries. Theirs is a much more ideological fight not related to one or two geographies or incidents. Their fight in many ways goes back to the birth of both the time of Isaac and Ishmael – both sons of Abraham (but with different mothers). Theirs is a much more difficult, much longer lasting struggle. And no Christian country is safe for the next several centuries. Worse, with every occupation that the US does of the Arabic lands, the resolve of the Muslims to battle the Christians only grows. The Western nations however are far better prepared to handle the fallout of this battle. They have set up strong intelligence units; they co-ordinate their actions; and they have prepared their institutions (hospitals, police forces, emergency services) and their people to face challenges when they come.

We need to do the following:
1)      Recognize that terror attacks will continue for a long long period of time. There is no need to agonize about them. Or to give sermons and lectures in the media.
2)      Strengthen the NIA. Give it all the money that it needs. Tie-up global relationships. Give it the best resources. Give it a clear mandate to fight terrorism and nothing else.
3)      Simultaneously upgrade the police forces in each state. This is a thought which needs more discussion – should internal security be made a central subject? We’ve seen the need for this in our fight against the Naxalites also. We’ve see how each and every state government responds differently to the same problems – making it a highly inefficient style. It’s definitely worth a discussion.
4)      Prepare our institutions to be attack-ready. Procedures need to be defined when terror strikes. Why should injured people file an FIR before being treated at hospitals? Why should hospitals not have the capacity to admit the injured? Why should our administration not know how to communicate with our people? Why should our transport system break down? Why should we be confused about whose responsibility it is to take over?
5)      Most importantly, prepare our people to be ready for war. What should they keep their eye on? Today, we look for unidentified suitcases.....but terrorists have gone far ahead. Do we need to be trained in schools and colleges to spot signs of terror? I think so.
6)      And lastly, let’s behave responsibly as a nation. Let politicians not squabble. Let the media not report irresponsibly. The papers today have stuck to reporting the tomorrow, I can bet they will be full of politics. Let’s please understand that the situation will be no different if a different party rules India. It’s not about politics. The attack is on the concept called India.

The real truth is that in spite of all the feelings of gloom today, I think we can fight terrorism. We have the resilience to stand united and fight. What we want now is a strong leadership. And an even stronger determination. Let’s not get demoralized.....

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