Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tackling terror

The English media in India was unhappy that the Manmohan Singh government did not take a tough stance against Pakistan after the Mumbai blasts of July 11. The media have gotten used to the kneejerk response of the Vajpayee government. Every time there was a terrorist attack, prime minister Vajpayee and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) colleagues would rant against Pakistan's involvement, and appeal to Washington to do something. Of course, Americans did not do much because of their strategic dependence on Pakistan in fighting the war in Afghanistan. Then, the Indian media turned into peaceniks, and ever since they have been indulging in propaganda of India-Pakistan bonhomie.

But there are simple home truths they forget. The Pakistan Establishment hates Congress because of the historical baggage. Before Indepndence, the Muslim League considered Congress to be the main political enemy, which stood in the way of realising the dream of a Muslim homeland in south Asia. On the other hand, the Pakistan hardliners love the BJP because hardliners love each other. That is why, the peaceniks loved Vajpayee and argued that Vajpayee could win an election from Pakistan! So, there is no need for Congress to prove its credentials of being tough with Pakistan. The Congress had always been tough with Pakistan, without intending to be so. And Pakistan Establishment has not been much confortable with a Congress government in Delhi.

The real issue is not how tough you are in your postures against Pakistan. How is one to deal with terrorism, in which radical Islamic groups are involved. There is need for a strategy to fight terrorism propagated by the Islamic groups. The BJP used it as a good pretext to fight Muslims in the guise of fighting the Islamic extremists. The Congress is making the opposite mistake of believing that if you nail an Islamic terrorist group you are alienating the Muslims at large.

There is need to fight the Islamic terror groups and their distorted ideology of an intolerant Islam. There is need for a propaganda war against the ideology of the Muslim fanatics, and India needs to take a lead in it. This will help the ordinary Muslim to realise that he is not alone when he or she disapproves of the extremists. The liberal Muslim intelligentsia is on a weak ground because though it says that it is against the terrorists, it is not able to argue its point convincingly enough.

The reason is that many liberals do believe that the Palsetinian problem is a major cause of Islamic terrorism. This is just a pretext. Muslims of the world do not much care for the plight of the Palestinians. This is the sad truth.

The roots of Islamic terrorism are psychological rather than political.

How should India deal with this situation? The Indian Muslim leaders should create a posiitve intelectual image of the religion at the cultural and philosophical level. The intelligentsia in the Arab and Iranian worlds have failed to rise to the challenge. It is for India to take the lead in restoring the image of Islam as a paceful and sublime religion. India has the intellectual capacity to undertake this task.

The Indian security experts have also failed to understand the problem of Islamic terrorism correctly. They feel that being tough with Pakistan is the only way to handle it. It is not a practicable solution. Pakistan will play the truant because the United States is backing it fully. India cannot go to war with Pakistan, which is the only way of dismantling the terrorist infrastructure across the border.

The Indian security exprts are so blinkered that they do not understand that even Israel has failed to deal with Hamas in Palestine. The use of maximum force is neither an efficient nor a viable solution.

The need of the hour is cool thinking which will lead to clear and subtle strategies.

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