Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lollipop Nation Wants Limited Offensive

जियें तो अपने बग़ीचे में गुलमोहर के तले
मरें तो ग़ैर की गलियों में गुलमोहर के लिये

It's remarkable that we have not forgotten Mumbai. The notoriously short public memory apparently isn't that short. But do not be too confident. This too shall pass. Mumbai 26/11 will eventually slip out of the front page and newspapers will mark its anniversary for the customary couple of years. Am I being too pessimistic? Well, if our past is any inkling of the future, this seems inevitable. We did forget Mumbai train blasts, Delhi blasts, Ahmedabad blasts and got back to our lives, each time, after a round of furious blame-game. Hindu hardliners blamed Islamic terror, Muslim hardliners blamed Hindu terror, conservatives blamed liberals, liberals blamed pinko-liberals, Arundhati Roy blamed India and India blamed Pakistan. Thank you very much, can we move on with our lives now?

So what has changed that we aren't moving on this time and insist on 'some action'? Some say that this is the first time terror came too close for the upper crust's comfort: Bombings in local trains were outrageous but South Bombay remained the heaven of fun. The rich could shift to five-star hotels if things got too hot in the suburbs. Now five-stars were not safe either. Hence, this outrage! This is too simplistic. The truer part is that Mumbai has shaken each one of us, irrespective of where we live. That is why this cry for action refuses to subside.

Nobody loves a war though everybody wants to teach Pakistan a lesson. Some people want it just to kill boredom. Some others say don't go for a full-scale war but go for a 'limited offensive', the latest entrant to our lexicon after the other side contributed 'non-state actors'. What if the 'limited' crosses the limit and turns into an all-out war? Few have answers to that because even God wouldn't want the so-called limited offensive to turn into the world's first nuclear war between two third world countries still struggling to feed over a billion hungry stomachs.

So it is better the limited stays limited. There is a chance of that happening. Take this scenario: India strikes at a few terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Those Lashkar loonies aren't that mad, they have left those camps by now. Some civilians and their goats are killed. Pakistan screams murder. We scream revenge. No harm done. Angry Indians are happy that something was done. The worried world pleads us to go back to the talks table. There is bonhomie of cricket matches and emotional speeches about how people of these two countries love each other and how politics is playing them against each other. Jhappis, pappis and candlelight vigils at the Wagah Border follow. So sugary sweet.

It doesn't last, however. Another series of blasts rips through the bonhomie. Another Mumbai, in another city. I do not believe the pop theory that Pakistani citizenry loves Indians and vice versa. I am equally wary of accepting that they want to kill and maim Indians and bleed us by a thousand cuts. The common man on both sides has no love lost for the one across the border. But he doesn't hate the 'enemy' common man either. The common man is busy building a better future for his family. It is the uncommon man, the military elite in Pakistan that has made hating us their business, the easy route to claim authority and share the booty in increased defence budgets and American billions. They also hold a grudge against us because they have had a bloody nose at least three times in the past. The ISI, part of the Army, hates us from the bottom of its gut, Kashmir-centric terror groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen have been at war with us and the Osama-inspired jehad factory would love to see us writhing in pain.

Zardari's non-state actors write the script in blood and stage it in Afghanistan and India and even inside Pakistan, while the Pakistani political class watches the dance of death from the gallery. In the event of a limited offensive from this side of the Radcliffe line, the real India-haters will not be harmed. The state actors will get hurt while non-state actors will get new excuses to fool the common Pakistani into justifying their war against India. A jobless and desperate young man like Ajmal Kasab will even take up arms on their behalf and come to die in India. Since Kasab has lived to sing, the next Kasab will come with explosives strapped to his body to make sure he dies before he kills. We will blame Pakistan and Pakistan will promptly deny. And we will go back to where we began.

Some Indians love the Bush strategy: There has been no terrorist attack in America since 9/11. It's true that the US took the war to the enemy's territory to keep its homeland safe. The phrase 'Bush Strategy' is part oxymoronic and the strategy plain moronic. The result of the strategy is that more Americans have died avenging 9/11 than those killed on 9/11. Americans continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan almost every day.

Does it mean we will never be safe in our own country? Not at all. It is time we gave our internal security apparatus a thorough overhaul. The Prime Minister has just met state leaders to overhaul the security infrastructure. Some policies, including a new law, have been announced. The National Investigation Agency has begun taking shape. But we have had laws and investigating agencies before this. The key is implementation on the ground, strict and unbiased. It's simpler than limited offensive but needs unlimited political will and constant vigil. Are we up to it?

1 comment:

सबकी कहानी said...

We are at such juncture, where we can't talk of war. we can hope that worse is over.