Tuesday, January 6, 2009

WAR ON TERROR: WILL IT TAKE GOD'S WRATH TO UNDO THE ROT?

"I hope, like Frederick the Great, I can throw Indians into a 7 year war that will recast our national character, dissolve petty differences in blood...so that we may become like a closed fist. That means undoing centuries of rot. Will God be so kind as to unleash His wrath on us." These powerful words hit me hard when I first read them, and they continue to echo disturbingly in my mind. This is the cry that gushed out spontaneously from the gut of Swaroop Kagli, a friend who lives in Mysore, more a month after the terror attack on Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

The helpless frustration born out of India's continued inability to unite and face up to and defeat the bloody war that has been unleashed on us by Pakistan has released this desperate shout to God to show us His wrath and bathe us for long years in blood. Only then will we, who "are worse than dead" according to Kagli, rise and free ourselves of the rot of meek acceptance and cowardice that has eaten into our very souls.

Is this an overreaction of one Indian to that one attack or does it voice the revolt of many against the almost fatal weakness that has got our nation in a vice-like grip and rendered it completely incapable of doing what it must? Is it merely an emotional outcry or a justified expression of the revulsion that many of us share at the shamelessly helpless and inexplicably unprepared response of our leaders to the repeated assaults on this nation? What has drained our dignity and strength? Why do we run to other nations to literally beg them to do for us what we must do ourselves to redeem our honour?

Many Indians had wrongly thought that Mumbai 11/26 would, at long last, compel the government to make Pakistan pay for the Indian blood that its proxy war, camouflaged as jehad, had been spilling for decades. The time for excuses and bail-outs was over, many thought, and the time for meting out justice to that rogue state, that curse, that blot on all of mankind had come.

The initial noises did suggest that our leaders had at last made up their minds to hold Pakistan accountable in the only language it understands. But, after more than a month, Pakistan has once again been bailed out by a government that knows it unpardonably lacks the military punch needed to deliver a devastating blow, helped by a collaborative section of the society that is more interested in protecting its good life and "democracy" rather than the dignity of a billion people.

After all the shouting, all that has been done is that a dossier containing 'clinching evidence' of the involvement of at least some elements of the state of Pakistan in the Mumbai attack has been sent to Pakistan and some other countries. Pakistan has known of its involvement for decades; what is new that it is being told now? Is there any doubt that it will still deny what it has been denying till now, even if this time it has to hand over one or two heaven-bound jehadis to the US? Will that stop Pakistan from using its terror machinery against India in future?

" A war is not going to stop terrorists; wars only create problems." How often have we heard this excuse of the coward? How can anyone be blind to the stark fact that throughout history, wars have often decisively shaped history and will continue to do so as long as man fights man for whatever reason? How can anyone forget that the most significant developments in India's short history as an independent country have been shaped by war? If a part of Kashmir is with India today it is because India waged war in 1947 to win it and is waging one to keep it; Bangladesh was created by the war that India fought to evict Pakistanis from there; China settled the issue of Tibet decisively in its favour and put a scared India into place for good by routing it humiliatingly in the 1962 war. Pakistan has been using this very instrument to change the map of the sub-continent again, chipping relentlessly almost anonymously only because it does not have the might to settle it in one dramatic shot.

What has gone wrong with the national character of this nation that it refuses to respond to war with war? Pakistan has nuclear weapons but so do we. Why does that fact frighten us but not that country? War will put India back economically by 10 years; it will probably put Pakistan out of business. The fear is paralysing us but not that country. We need to strengthen democracy in Pakistan, some people say. How does it make a difference who is in charge in Pakistan? That is going to have no impact on its state policy. The latest in this cowardly stream of excuses, articulated by Bharat Karnad, is that India has 15 crore Muslims! Are India's Muslims going to go against their nation just because it goes to war to protect its interest? Is that statement not typecasting Muslims and questioning their allegiance to this nation? Were they not there in 1971 when Pakistan was dismembered?

Are terror attacks going to stop just like that? Even as India was sending the Mumbai dossier to Pakistan, its Prime Minister YR Gilani was telling the US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher that peace was impossible without resolving outstanding issues. Is any one in the government under any illusion about how Pakistan wants to 'resolve' Kashmir? Is there anyone who believes that if Pakistan achieves a notional 'victory' in Kashmir thanks to its jehadi tactics, peace will prevail and that Pakistan will give up its policy of bleeding India to death by inflicting on it a thousand cuts? Will such a 'resolution', in fact, not be just the divine tonic that Pakistan and its jehadis need to escalate their ideological war in the rest of India?

Are we really "worse than dead"? Despite decades of terrorism, Kargil 1999 and Parliament 2001, why have we not taken any steps whatsoever to develop our conventional military capability to make it so asymmetrical that Pakistan has no hope in hell of mounting a realistic response should India decide to use force to exercise its right of self defence? Why have we done nothing to make our nuclear capability similarly asymmetrical so that Pakistan cannot even dream of a nuclear riposte without facing total annihilation in response? Is not exactly that what China has done to us, though we are not much smaller?

Why have we shown criminal neglect and allowed a really small and almost bankrupt country to hold us to military blackmail while it continues to fearlessly bleed us and mock at us?

When a former Foreign Secretary of the country straightaway dismisses war saying that it is "no solution", unrealistically expects other nations to do India's job by using economic and military levers against Pakistan, and has fantasies about converting the Line of Control into "a border of peace and tranquility", you cannot shake the feeling that something is seriously lacking in our national character. Romesh Bhandari is not alone in espousing this schoolboy response that is completely out of touch with the harsh realities that the country has been facing for decades. It is obvious that apart from bleeding-heart romantics and naive candle worshipers, the generalist officials who have packed the National Security apparatus are similarly inclined.

How can a nation ever develop the response without which it cannot defeat a treacherous, lying enemy, if those who are charged with preparing a deliberate and decisive response keep wetting their pants faster than toddlers do, and do not have the courage to take the medicine needed to cure the debilitating disease? How can a nation have any confidence in them if they spend more time and effort in deluding their own countrymen about the dangers they face rather than destroying those who are responsible for creating those dangers?

May be we do need the blessing of the wrath of God to undo the rot that has got into our every pore. May be Mumbai 11/26 was just a small first glimpse of that. May be there is no other way to recast our national character than by dissolving our petty differences and more in blood.
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Readers may also read:
1. Had Ajmal Kasab not been captured alive
2. Mumbai 11/26: wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning
3. Why war and at what cost? by Sagarone