Friday, December 12, 2008

Still waiting...

Nearly two weeks after the worst terrorist attack on Indian soil, our Government is still trying to decide on an appropriate response to the attack. After the initial shock wore off, our leaders realized that the public’s anger demand some sort of response. What that response should be no one seems to know. So what has the Government/political class done so far? 
We’ve had the worst type political opportunism from the likes of Narendra Modi. Others have come up with statements condemning the attacks, and depending on their political inclination, blaming or pledging support to the Government. The usual statements blaming Pakistan have been issued, only this time they are a bit more nuanced and do not directly blame the Government there.  As usual, our leaders have turned to the US to fight our battles for us, supposedly as part of a diplomatic initiative. And finally, the United Nations has been approached, purportedly to involve the global community in our fight against terror. 
Contrary to claims by the new Home Minister that this time it wont be “business as usual”, none of these moves will do anything to make us any safer. However, there have been unprecedented responses which need to be mentioned. The PM has apologized to the nation for his Government’s failure to prevent the attacks, though this is more a testament to Manmohan Singh’s innate decency than any admission of guilt by the establishment. Also, Parliament has issued a unanimous resolution condemning the attacks and pledging to do all that is necessary to protect us. The last time our leaders were so united, was when they voted to give themselves a raise and added perks.
So what else can our Government do under these circumstances? Definitely any escalation of tensions at the border with Pakistan should be avoided and to fall into that trap would only add to sense of victory that those behind the attacks feel right now. However, calls from the American government and media for restraint from India is ridiculously hypocritical. Expecting the US to help us put pressure on Pakistan is simply being na├»ve. We should know from past experiences that the Americans do anything at all keeping only their national interests in mind. And right now their interest lies in keeping Pakistani troops involved along the Afghanistan border. So aside from strong statements condemning terror and supporting the people of India from President Bush and Secretary Rice, which make for good headlines, we cannot expect anything from the US.  The UN is the other big part of our Government’s grand diplomatic initiative. The last decade has shown the United Nations to be a toothless organization where leaders meet to talk and play to galleries back home. With its distorted power structure and dependency on western countries for funding, the UN in its current state is hardly relevant in the global scheme of things. Besides, we still haven’t recovered from the fallout of our last approach to the UN for help. That was in 1948 and the issue was Kashmir. 
The government should ideally be pushing the US and all other global institutions to cut aid to Pakistan and to ensure that whatever aid does go is not diverted to the military/ISI apparatus. Seeing that President Zardari’s government already has its hands tied behind its back. Such a move might provide the necessary stimulus to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan. But again all of these moves do not make us any safer in our cities or towns. The government has been deafeningly silent on the promised overhaul of our intelligence gathering apparatus, our disaster response strategy or our police force. What we as citizens demand of our Government is greater transparency and accountability in its response to this tragedy. As a start maybe the government can drastically cut down on the number of police and NSG personnel currently guarding VIPs and divert those forces to the more important job of protecting society at large. But would that be expecting too much of our netas? The nation is waiting and watching.

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