Recurring Decimals…..

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Our response

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Soon after the Mumbai train bombings, speculations began on the Indian response (both of the common people and the government) to these terrorist attacks. In the immediate aftermath, there was worry about communal violence erupting – especially given the mindless riots by the Shiv-Sena and the lynching of policemen in a Muslim neighborhood earlier in the week. Personally I felt that after such a carnage, the common people are too busy picking up their lives to be going about killing each others. Additionally, as Confused points out, historically there has not been any communal incidents following such terrorist acts.

Thankfully, nothing of the sort did take place and with a sense of deja vu, the city of Mumbai went back to business (although my local source in the city tells me that the trains are a little less crowded). Some bloggers have rightly criticized this resilience, calling it equivalent to apathy. As Sailesh Ganesh points out:

….I cannot help feel that this same resilience allows the government and concerned officials to relax, to not even put a token effort in trying to come up with measures that will help the city in case of a repeat occurrence.

Seems to be that is what’s happening. The official government response so far has been underwhelming to say the least.

Let us summarize some of the steps the government has taken so far:

1. Providing leadership: Absolute lack of it from the top. Our honorable Prime Minister made an uninspiring three minute appearance on national TV, looking ‘wishy-washy‘ and delivering an insipid message. This holds very little hope for the Indian population.

Back in the late 80’s, when the VP Singh-led coalition government was in trouble, the man VP Singh would appear nightly on TV, look up at the ceiling and mumble something about peace and understanding, making it appear as if he was at some poetry convention rather than addressing a troubled nation. By all accounts Manmohan Singh has outclassed VP Singh in spinelessness.

2. Showing toughness and delivering a strong message: Again, a weak-kneed response pointing a polite finger to those guys across the border.

We are also certain that these terror modules are instigated, inspired and supported by elements across the border, without which they cannot act with such devastating effect.

Reminds me of Hindi films till the 80’s, where the villains would usually be shown to be of English or (but why?) Portuguese origin or from some unknown country desperate to take over or destroy India (remember Mogambo ?). Roja was the first film that bucked the trend and even then there was only mention of terrorists from ‘across the border’ – no mention of any country.

Its high time they call Pakistan for what it is.

3. Constructive steps towards curbing terrorism: Ah – now this is where our government has outperformed itself. Since our nation is in the imminent danger of being attacked – and its population instigated – by a horde of angry bloggers, they have asked Indian ISPs to block access to blogspot and typepad blogs. As the GreatBong says:

The government is engaged in a war with “common sense”. No I do not say that figuratively. According to Shivam, one of the blogspot blogs that reportedly made it onto the government’s list is The said blog, whose title is the somewhat apt “Common Sense for Dummies” has only post, dated May 20, 2004 that says:

Why commonense?
“Common-sense” and “common sense”, the common-sense alternatives for a common-sense blog, are already taken.

Deeply subversive—-after all, as we all know, common sense can bring the government down.

Sigh !

My own feeling is that as a country we have mainly failed at a diplomatic front. Israel is attacking Lebanon for a far lesser infraction with impunity. Of course, Israel has strong US support for obvious reasons. But I cannot believe that we have failed to impress upon US and other allies, the gravity of state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Pakistan. In spite of the noises being made at the G-8 summit regarding the US and the world’s solidarity with India against terrorism, I am yet to see any strong condemnation of Pakistan. We need to deliver an ultimatum to Pakistan – stop your support (moral, political or whatever) and deliver the terrorists to us or we go in. But that is not possible without some tacit support from other world powers.

Btw, while googling for a news-story for this blog-post, I came across this opinion piece in a Louisville, KY daily. It is an absolute piece of gem – not to be missed. The writer tries to show he is unbiased, but its pretty much the FoxNews kind of ‘fair & balanced’. Here is a selection:

It is surprising that the Indian leaders have taken no notice of the public pledge of President Musharraf of Pakistan to help India with investigations of the Bombay blasts (the best way to test Musharraf’s sincerity is to take him up on his offer). I suppose, they are too busy exacting political capital from a tragedy to pay attention to a reasonable offer. I am sure Pakistani leaders fully understand what their Indian counterparts are doing, and why.

(Emphasis mine)

Written by BongoP'o'ndit

July 18, 2006 at 12:41 pm

8 Responses

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  1. […] Bongo Pondit at Recurring Decimals compiles an excellent roundup of ‘response to terror attacks’ and highlight the different media biases around the world. In conclusion, I still don’t think we are on our way to formulating an effective response that would deter future attacks. Should India pull an ‘Israel’ for a change and see how it goes? […]

  2. In response to the Louisville opinion: Lord, how irritating! The amazing thing is that the same writer probably didn’t find the UN offer of investigating WMDs in Iraq pre-war “reasonable”.

    While I largely agree with you, that the Indian response to the blasts has been disappointingly tepid and meek…After this week’s bombings of Lebanon, I can’t help but be gratified by the restrain shown by the Indian government. It wouldn’t have been useful or meaningful to go and bomb Pakistan. It’s hardly the answer. And while I don’t claim to be the Buddha, I know better than to ignore our history. Something I wish our world leaders were better at remembering.


    July 18, 2006 at 10:26 pm

  3. Very well written piece but I tend to agree with sonia’s comment above. I am not sure what we as the people expect from India and would agree to be a fitting response. I mean going to war doesn’t really solve the issue does it? Look at the US and all its attempts in fighting terror with terror and violence. That does not solve the root of the problem and ends up with more angry budding terrorists seeking revenge. I’ve always been proud of the diplomacy that India has maintained and feel greater pride when I think how well different cultures, religion and people are integrated in the mainstream Indian population. We’ve been able to do that for centuries and survived. But looks like that coexistence is likely to be disrupted.


    July 19, 2006 at 2:31 pm

  4. Bongo,

    Kudos! e.t.c…Thanks for the cite.

    Now, if only someone would explain what should we do with Pakistan if not go for wa direct military action. Diplomacy? Has it ever worked?


    July 19, 2006 at 3:41 pm

  5. Israel has been bombing every country around it for the last 58 years. Has it reduced the terror attacks? I am as enraged at the Indian Government’s spinelessness as anyone else, but really, will bombing Pakistan make anything better? It is obvious that diplomacy will not work either. A better route might be to infiltrate these terrorist cells and break them from within. This will be very hard to do, but RAW and IB have done this in the past, and they need to do similar stuff again, as described in this article

    Israel’s approach has earned it the hatred of every Islamic country in the world, and that is something India could do without, since we have historically had good ties with most countries (besides, we do still need gas from Iran and oil from Saudi :))


    July 19, 2006 at 5:56 pm

  6. @ sonia, m and Ravi: Sorry about the late response. I do share your concern about using an all-out millitary response like Israel. Like you, I am ambivalent about war.

    But the question is – where has our so-called diplomacy got us either ? Doing nothing or appearing to do nothing is taken as a sign of weakness by the enemy. Besides, our national leaderships has often failed at good diplomacy. We have not been able to get people like Dawood Ibrahim or Abu Salem extradited to India for standing trials. Till a few years ago, our lobbying power in the US was laughable. I remember the difference in response from the American govt when Pokhran-II happened – it was so sympathetic to Pakistan, whose ‘hands were forced’ in order to ‘balance’ things in South Asia.

    We need not be as belligerent as Israel – especially the way they have gone after Lebanon this time – but perhaps it is necessary to flex your millitary muscles from time to time. I am not a millitary expert – but my question is – can’t we lead targeted attacks at terrorist training camps ? Can’t we get the US to share intelligence on such camps (since it is in their interest too) ?


    July 20, 2006 at 9:37 am

  7. The bit about resilience is interesting. Just as there is a” blessing in disguise”, the resilience has proved to be a “curse in disguise”. The basic issue is that despite all the info revolution and mass communication we are where our ancestors where- the govt can do anthing or not do anything when required and get away with it. The more things change, the more they remain the same.


    July 20, 2006 at 1:50 pm

  8. When you say US support is behind Israel I cannot help muttering that US(the current political GOD) helps them who helps themselves.US did not go and attack the terrorist organizations in Lebanon,because they do not have any economic or any other interests.But supported Israel who had political interestes in Lebanon.I also think that if India fired rocket at PoK camps atleast after Kargill the world would have been a mute spectator as it is now.I admit there is no point in going to a war because of Mumbai bomb blast,but the government inactivity is leading the terrorists to believe that they can bomb civil establishments with Pakistan’s help without getting punished.The least thing India should have done to severe all diplomatic relations to Pakistan.There should be some affirmative steps that should be taken by the govt to deal with the growing isolation of muslims.Since there has been no initiative from the muslim community itself it is time for the secular forces (a.k.a Congress,left) to implement social reform in their society.Hindus,christians,buddhists,jains,sikhs all of them had learnt to uphold national values first then the religious ones.Why not the muslims(at least the majority) cannot put religion after their country.


    July 21, 2006 at 4:26 am

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