What has India done and What should India do!
1) It is strange that each one of us would be willing to be involved in some form of cathartic activity to demonstrate our opposition to terrorism. We suddenly had a spurt in the number of ‘I hate terrorism’ communities/groups on different social networks like Orkut and Facebook. It was as if we suddenly woke up to the fact that terrorists were scheming right across the border only from yesterday. Another form of highly visible but least efficient way of opposing terrorism is to hold candle rallies and signature campaigns. As far as I can remember, none of the above activities proved to be even as effective as a squirrel’s ass to prevent terrorism or for our politicians to make ‘Anti-terrorism’ a part of their party agenda.
2) Another extreme form of cathartic activity seems to be heavily arguing for bombing the hell out of Pakistan – smug with the feeling of ‘we are bigger and stronger than them and hence we’ll win’. There is no doubt that we would win but at what cost. The US might be willing to attack and bomb countries which are thousands of miles away from its soil. There is little cost in terms of human lives/development except for outrageous outflow of money. Would the US attack with same fervor, say Russia which is across the Alaskan border? Forget the fervor, would it even attempt to attack at all, say even with snow dinghies? Talking about winning is one thing, getting atleast 3 or 4 of our major cities bombed is another. The cost of human lives and to the corresponding development would be enormous.
3) My friend asked me a question the other day ‘Has India as a whole gone so aloof – why did some states let Congress win inspite of their non-performance and incompetence to tackle terrorism?’. Performance has never been a hallmark of any political party since our Independence. In fact, I would go so far to say that we have had this tremendous economic development, not because of the government but inspite of it. Secondly, looking back at history, India has always been a conglomeration of princely states. We never were one single country except under the aegis of Asoka and Akbar. Expecting the rest of India to be tuned and sensitive to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai is a far call. The rest of India might in turn ask difficult questions like ‘What are you doing about the Naxalite movement in Chattisgarh?’, ‘What are you doing about the ULFA in Assam and NE states?’, ‘What are you doing about the Gujarat riots?’. There is no one right answer to any of these questions. Finally, politics in India is and probably never will be based on one single issue (or any issue for that matter). Identity politics is rampant – and I particularly don’t see any immediate solution to move away from votes based on caste, creed and religion. Congress has won/BJP has won in those states purely based on anti-incumbency and not on any particular issue.
4) So, what can we do to prevent terrorism? Again, there is no one answer – rather the approach should be multi-pronged. The biggest and the greatest weapon we have is our education and favorable demographics – in other words, our economy. We need to get stronger and stronger in our economy, through entrepreneurship, investments and growth in general. It is an open secret that politics in the global world is nothing but managing the imbalances in economies. Given that state, we need to improve our economy multi-fold. Another approach would be to cripple Pakistan’s economy through tough economic measures (cutting off trade, holding off on bilateral talks etc) and probably getting it declared as a terrorist state. The present government is taking the right steps in that direction. This approach however, is fraught with risks as a unstable Pakistan with a crippling economy is a disaster to India (excessive immigration, legal or otherwise, more people resorting to terrorism due to hunger etc.) It is indeed a fine line between the two approaches – the question really is, do we have the leaders to lead us through the fine line? Honestly, I don’t know the answer.