Thursday, March 5, 2009

the opportunity in terrorism

When India is going through one of its toughest phases, both economically and militarily, PM is taken ill – not with a fever or sprain – but with the urgent need to do a bypass surgery, his second one, in fact. Acute stress is most probably the main reason, and Dr. Singh, not known to have ‘relaxing’ habits like alcohol or poetry, had definite risks. But what about his age? This September he will turn 77. My father is 73, and seeing his daily challenges, I feel like screaming to Sonia, “Give him a break.”
But what a joke that will be. Next in line is our current acting PM, who turns 74 this December.
And if we scream to Rajnath Singh, he will show you their Shadow PM, who turns a glorious 82 this November.
In India, it is as though you have to have 70 years of experience, before you will be entrusted with anything serious. This, in a country, whose only real strength is its mega youthful workforce, made possible by a birth-rate that refuses to fall to the absurd levels of the West. Yet, in a West plagued by a dangerously low youth population, we see a 47-year old Obama becoming the President, and George W Bush and Tony Blair calling it a day before they turned 63 and 55 respectively.
Again, we scream, where are our youth leaders? Oh, then comes images of Rahul & Omar. Better we stick with our septuagenarians and octogenarians. At least they don’t have Spain or England to run away when the going gets tough.
Let us patiently wait for our Obama. But by the time we find one, will the original flop in US? God forbid.
Anyway, India is lost. We don’t have a clue on what to do with 26/11. Extremists (including me) wanted an attack on Pakistan. But now, moderates (including me) don’t want war. The lessons from Afghanistan, Iraq, & Gaza are difficult to ignore.
But if we ignore Mumbai, what will be next? Most probably a cyber-terrorist attack that will down most of our computers, crippling our IT industry.
India is running from pillar to post, trying to garner support for its cause. It is getting plenty. But support against Pakistan? Aah, that is another story altogether.
As India is realising gradually and painfully, US, UK, & China still have plenty of use left with Pakistan. France on the other hand has never bought our story on Kashmir. Yes, even after 26/11. That leaves only Russia from the Mighty-Five, but they have lately developed a total disinterest in everything unRussian.
They all will learn, but it will take time and momentous events. US by another 9/11 maybe, UK by another 7/7, China when it loses its Xinjiang province to jihad, and even Pakistan will learn after losing a couple more Benazirs and being overrun by Taliban who already control the Swat Valley.
But can we wait till then, is the pertinent question.
We know we can’t, but solutions still elude us. There is nothing to turn to, except may be some feel-good pop psychology like from the ‘Alchemist’. Why don’t we look for the treasure within, for a change?
Border wars are something like feuding brothers or fighting couples pre-empting divorce for the sake of their kids. Each side hopes the other would change drastically. But it doesn’t happen, coexistence continues, and so does the fight. The only sensible thing then is protecting oneself or one’s family fully, and desisting from doing harm to the other. If you are magnanimous, extending unexpected help occasionally too won’t hurt.
But putting one’s own house in order should be the top priority. There is so much we can do internally.
Just because our police didn’t have the US-style SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) Teams, we had to call in the Army’s NSG. There is a world of difference in how Police and Army units tackle the same issue. Army is not designed to discriminate between good and bad or arrest the bad; they are trained to just finish off the bad. In the process we squandered the possibility of displaying a dozen Pakis before the world, and giving them a great trial.
Another missing facility is a centralised and distributed IT system to integrate terrorist data and intelligence inputs. After 9/11, one of the first things that US did was establish the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN), which automatically collects, updates, and alerts all federal, state, & regional security agencies and administrations in real time. Even ordinary US citizens can provide input and avail services from the system. HSIN is largely credited with averting another 9/11.
Why can’t India do the same with all its IT prowess? It is any day more honourable than working for Satyam and the Satyams now in sheep’s clothing.
The beauty of the crisis is that it can be a huge economic opportunity too. If we are the unfortunate leaders in receiving terrorism, can’t we be the deliberate and fortunate leaders in providing counterterrorism infrastructure? IT systems, weapons, training, bullet-proofs, material sciences, gas masks, first aid kits – any diversified conglomerate’s mouth should be salivating at the opportunity. Nations will be our clients.
Don’t discard this as a pie-in-the-sky idea. If soldiers from more than a dozen countries including US & Singapore come to our Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) at Mizoram regularly, what is not possible for India in defence business?
But going to war with Pakistan with a command structure that includes Pratibha Patil as Supreme Commander of Armed Forces and AK Antony as Defence Chief, should be thought at least ten times. Their counterparts, Asif Ali Zardari & Ahmad Mukhtar look menacing. Though Gilani looks even more menacing, Dr. Singh is definitely more sophisticated and capable.
Not all of us can defend the country with bullets, but a chance to do so with ballots is fast approaching. Parties which placed people like Patil & Antony to mission-critical posts, and parties that orchestrated blunders like Babri Masjid demolition & Gujarat carnage should get your feedback.
The graveness of 26/11 and the impending elections hint that India might still spring a surprise surgical attack on PoK training camps. But will it be any more effective than calling them ‘Porkistan’ on blogs, is the riddle.

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