Saturday, January 16, 2010


The more things change in India's corridors of power, the more they remain the same. If all those hours of live reporting of 26/11 and the thousands of candles lit by ordinary citizens have not been able to move India's rulers, what do you think will be the effect on the promoters of terror in Pakistan? Or on China?

The only politician at the Centre who was held accountable for 26/11, primarily because of his abysmal failure to do anything at all for nearly five years, was Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Remember how after every terror attack he used to blame Pakistan and the ISI, and consider his job done? Remember how he used to deflect attention from his unacceptable incompetence and incomprehension of the challenges of his job by saying that he had the "blessings of his leader" (Sonia Gandhi)? Remember how even as serial bomb blasts were rocking Delhi minutes away from him, he found time to change his clothes thrice in an hour? Remember how he tried justify not hanging Indian national Afzal Guru by linking it with India's request to Pakistan to not hang Indian national Sarabjit Singh?

Now that 26/11 has been completely forgotten and elections in Maharashtra won by the Congress, this gentleman has been rewarded for his loyalty to his leader with the plum post of Governor of Punjab so that he can spend his remaining years on this planet unrepentant and in luxury at the expense of the aam admi.

The other guilty man who should have himself resigned on moral grounds after 26/11 is National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. He did virtually nothing as India's NSA but waffle through his years on the job. Yes, the one thing that he did commit to doing on TV - and perhaps did - was carrying out a thorough review of Rahul Gandhi's security after three terrorists, who the nation was told planned to kidnap him, were arrested in Lucknow. Perhaps due to his age he was unable to remember that his primary job was to carry out such a review for India. This former Director of the IB should have been the best man to revamp India's virtually non-existent intelligence machinery. But, despite numerous trips to the US on state expense, things only got worse and accountability never, ever came into the equation. On the contrary, even though he was a stand-out non-performer at such a difficult time, not only did he not lose his job then, but has now been chosen to do in West Bengal what Patil is going to in Punjab.

The failures of these two top men responsible for India's security would have remained undiscovered had P Chidambaram not taken over as Home Minister and got down to the task with a focus, purpose, pace, intelligence and professionalism that has changed the dynamics almost completely in a year. It is he who is now trying to put together, among many other desperately needed changes, the much needed National Counter Terrorism Centre that these two gentlemen did not even think of for over five years. Though much remains to be done, no one is in any doubt any longer that the Patil and Narayanan were guilty of criminal neglect and incompetence of an order that would not have gone unpunished in any other responsible nation.

Since there has been no terror attack, except in Kashmir, for over a year now, it is easy to forget that India is at war. As Chidambaram said a few days back, the one thing we cannot afford is complacence. He is evidently the lone warrior out there in the government who understands what India is up against, and is doing something about it too. As per reports, the new NSA is likely to be either Shiv Shankar Menon, India's former Foreign Secretary of Sharm-el-Sheikh fame, or Shyam Sharan, another one from the same stable. Look at the joke. These guys know it in their bones that they are not qualified for the job. So, they are going to fit the job to suit them; the NSA will be now less about security, even though that is his precise job, and will act as the PM's think tank on foreign policy. MEA extension counter in a new office.

Does India have no one beyond the mentally static circle of career bureaucrats who have nothing new at all to bring to the table in this challenging job? Or does loyalty to individuals outweigh real, professional considerations that determine selection of persons to such posts in countries like the USA that place the nation first?

The Pakistanis are watching with glee. Not only have the guilty men of 26/11 and more been rewarded for their sycophancy, even the one who does not know how to draft a few lines properly is likely to be elevated. Worse, not a single official across the lower rungs of the hierarchy in various departments and organisations has been held accountable and penalised. How can they be when politicians, police officers and bureaucrats at the very top are actually being rewarded for failing the nation?

This is the perfect recipe for pushing a nation down the self-defeating and confidence-sapping slope of resigned acceptance that the only way to meet any threat to it is meek surrender. We may not understand what this mindset has done already and will do in future, but the Pakistanis and the Chinese smelled blood long back. That is why they have been chipping away wherever they can, for years. They know that a nation that is run like this will one day simply cave in behind a cloud of fraudulent but lofty and moralistic words. It is only a question of time. Unless they miscalculate and wake it up prematurely, like Laden did on 9/11. Let us pray they do, for there is little hope that anything less will.