Thursday, May 15, 2008

WAR ON TERROR: INDIA REMAINS PARALYSED

It was on November 23, 2007 that a terrorist outfit calling itself the Indian Mujahideen first claimed responsibility for a series of blasts in various UP courts which claimed 15 lives. The same outfit now claims that it is behind the seven blasts that ripped through the heart of Jaipur, killing 62 innocent Indians on May 13, 2008. Getting bolder and bolder, the outfit has taunted the Indian state for failing to nab the terrorists responsible for other attacks and has also declared ‘open war’ against India, threatening to slaughter Indians, which to them means Hindus, on the streets of all major cities of this country.

Their aim? To establish an Islamic state in India, just as it has been in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc, and just like some of them hope to do in the US too through similar acts.

What is the response of the about-to-become super power? The same pathetic petty political mud-slinging which seems to suggest that defeating political rivals in TV studios is far more important to India’s leaders than any focused, professional response to take on and destroy this dangerous menace which has been claiming lives for nearly two decades now.

The media are squarely to blame for this unbecoming spectacle because they simply are not able to do anything more creative and substantial than getting the same two or three politicians to trade charges against each other under active provocation from the anchors, and make the nation a laughing stock globally ad nauseum. What this also does it that is absolves everybody of the responsibility for doing anything to meet the challenge that the nation faces, and everything continues the way it is till the next round of such disgraceful ‘debates’ after another series of blasts. In fact, these politicians seem to be eagerly looking forward to the next opportunity to put their political opponents down right over the dead bodies of fellow Indians, their sole aim being to exploit the attacks to secure their existing vote banks and acquire some more.

What is the kind of political leadership tasked to look after the challenging internal security situation that the country faces? Union Home Minister Patil is a ghost like figure, rarely seen and heard. And, when he does open his mouth, you immediately know that he can do no better than put his foot there, so clueless is he about his job and the developments that are taking place right under his very nose. Minister of State for Home Jaiswal, on the other equally confused hand, sounds like an uneducated villager sitting under a peepul tree in a village, smoking a hookah and discussing the happenings with equally uninformed, illiterate villagers.

Obviously, these gentlemen have been given these crucial jobs solely on the strength of their blind, brainless loyalty to 10 Janpath. The nation is clearly not even in the frame.

Net result? The Home Ministry is run completely by ministry hopping generalist career bureaucrats of the IAS, guys who have neither any stake nor any expertise to meet the challenge posed by religious terrorism as well as other threats that India faces. And, this is the vital bit, they are so obsessed with maintaining their cadre supremacy that they will just not allow any other centre of power to emerge to professionally manage the situation with direct access to the political leadership. The New Empire established by the Indian avatar of the 19th century colonial tool has to be protected above all else. No matter what happens to the nation.

That is why even after so many years of terrorism, absolutely no worthwhile organisational, intelligence gathering, regulatory, legal or functional change has been made to respond to this unprecedented problem. The US State Department and the UN have repeatedly highlighted this abysmal state of affairs, to no avail. In fact there really has been no pro-active response at all. The paralysis that gripped the state years ago seems to be getting worse.

If there is any one organisation in the world that has successfully altered the meaning of time to make it virtually redundant in decision making – forget the headlines – it is India’s archaic, unresponsive, hopelessly inefficient and almost wholly unaccountable bureaucracy. The worst part is that those in the system are possibly not even aware that time is not stretchable. And, their political masters don’t know any better and couldn't care less.

Only a paradigm shift in, and professionalization of, the administrative and anti-terrorist police force apparatus will bring about desired results. But that cannot happen, given the choking stranglehold that the IAS has over the complete government machinery.

Those who do not believe that the bureaucracy is the real unseen power that is responsible in great measure for the mess that the nation is in, will be left with no doubts whatsoever if some of the leading news channels can get a few retired Home and Defence Secretaries to take part in studio debates on terrorism, and internal and external security threats, instead of politicians who can only fight with each other. Getting some retired senior police officers will also be equally illuminating. In fact, these officials are the guys, the ‘professionals’, who should actually be facing the heat of the media all the time. Midget party spokesmen of the Congress and the BJP will only repeat what they have been saying for years, without addressing a single new substantive point.

Watch carefully as all of them will blame other agencies while fiercely and equally dishonestly protecting their own. And when they talk of solutions, they will never be able to make a single suggestion that does not enhance the power and eminence of their own cadres. The focus will never be on professionally finding a solution with intellectual integrity. It will be on Empire building.(That is why little is done. And that little seldom works). If a few respected international experts are also brought into the discussion, they will have virtually no place to hide. But, the problem is that even the media are businesses that have to survive in this environment. How can they bell such big, ferocious cats!

Let us take just one illustrative example. Armed Central Police Forces, also called para military forces, have grown exponentially since Independence. They have their own cadre at the officer and jawan levels. But what about their top leadership? It is of only IPS officers who come in for a couple of years at the IG and above levels! There is no integration or affinity between them and the junior leadership of these forces that they command as rank outsiders with experience mostly limited to ordinary law and order policing in states.

Why should IPS officers not come into these forces at the functional level as platoon and company commanders and work their way up as one with and in these forces. How can you have the desired professionalism in a fighting force when the top leaders are non-professional outsiders, the only commonality being the colour of the uniform?

Let us take this a step further. Since almost the whole country is now affected by terrorism, why not have just one common entry for all police officers who can alternate between central para military and state police duties so that professionalism as well as inter-operability between various police outfits is enhanced to acceptable levels? The colonial IPS is clearly antiquated, even dysfunctional, in the changed environment. But will anyone have the courage to take that call?

The collective paralysis that the Indian state has got into is not just against the corruption that CK Prahalad has spoken about. The paralysis is worse when it comes to facing up to external security threats and is almost terminal when meeting the internal security challenge that terrorism has thrown into the face of this nation. Prahalad warns India of having to face a volcano if it does not tackle corruption, the seemingly most harmless of the cancers that afflict India.

One shudders to think about what India will have to face if it does not jerk out of its paralytic response to the other two really malignant tumours that it has benignly been allowing to grow for decades now. The really bad news is that so far there is absolutely no sign that the paralysis is getting better.

In its war on terror, India remains as paralysed as it was two decades back when Rip Van Winkle went to sleep.
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Readers may also like to read the following posts:
Secular Indian Mujahideen
India losing war on terror: the Prithviraj Chauhan syndrome