Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Securing India day and night


India Above All
Cyber Age The Statesman
ND Batra
As soon as he assumed his new role as a terrorist czar, Mr Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s new home minister, assured the people that “we will respond with determination and resolve to the grave threat posed to the Indian nation”. We have heard such bluster, such clenched-fist promises of dealing with the enemy myriad times before.
The painful truth is that India has no well-thought-out and planned strategy for apprehending terrorists and pre-empting them before they strike. Unlike the US and several European countries, which have learned from their own lapses and tragedies, India has failed to establish a dynamic national structure that responds not only to knowable threats but is also capable of anticipating the unknowable. For example, it was a lackadaisical attitude that prevented the authorities from apprehending the possibility that a terrorist attack could be launched from the Arabian Sea. Only a few days before the terrorists struck Mumbai, the Indian Navy had boasted of destroying a Somali pirate mother ship off the Gulf of Aden. Yet no one knew what was happening near India’s own coastal waters.

Where will the next attack come from? That is an unknowable at present but an early awareness system could show emerging possibilities before they become actualities. India has to establish a powerful central agency on the lines of US Homeland Security buttressed by a powerful tool such as Patriot Act and recruit and train a new kind of police force of well educated and intelligent people.It is shocking that the attacks on the famous Taj Mahal Palace, Oberoi-Trident and the Jewish centre that killed more than 190 people lasted so long ~ three days of running battles between India’s elite commandos and the gunmen before the sites were brought under control. Nothing of this kind has happened anywhere; in other places terrorists simply blow up their targets and themselves. In Mumbai they came to kill, kill, kill, as long as they could. Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country “would itself take action against the miscreants if there is any evidence against a Pakistani national”, warning at the same time that a “blame game should be avoided at all costs”.
Because otherwise the growing relations between the two countries could be adversely affected.If pushed to a corner, Pakistan will divert troops from its frontier badlands to the India-Pak border, an apparent blackmailing tactic against the US.Pakistan has the backing of its all-weather friend China, after all.

Syed Irfan Raza wrote in Dawn: “China has also assured Pakistan of moral, financial and material support in tackling the Mumbai fallout. In a message, the Chinese government said that it would assist Pakistan in any situation to overcome problems and challenges...(the) Chinese leadership was in constant touch with Pakistan to know the nature of assistance the latter requires and ensure its immediate availability.”Unlike the US, China is not persuading Pakistan to cooperate with India. Pakistan won’t hand over Dawood Ibrahim, the boss of the Mumbai underworld reputed to have networked with Bollywood bigwigs to Islamic militants; and Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of the banned Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was once jailed in India, and let out after the 2000 December hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu.

How the relationship between India and Pakistan will change because of terrorist acts after a few years of positive development is difficult to say because at present there is tremendous anger in India and official denial in Pakistan. What the new US administration should be looking at is to see that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons do not fall into terrorists’ hands.
If rogue elements in the ISI and other state and non-state actors, who do not want India and Pakistan settling down as peaceful neighbours and solving their problems, including Kashmir, get access either to nuclear weapons or technology, there could be a serious problem.

Regarding any possible involvement of the Pakistani government, including its intelligence services, India should not depend upon mere intuition but on solid evidence. At present India has evidence of only one terrorist who disclosed that Lashkar-e-Toiba-trained terrorists were involved. But they could not have been done without the support of the ISI and the D-Company, the crime and smuggling syndicate run by Dawood Ibrahim from Karachi.

At the conclusion of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said, “We are looking at this as an opportunity and I intend to do everything in my power.” But how much power does he have? Who listens to him?
The Pakistani Army is the most powerful institution, which controls the ISI, which in turn controls the shadow jihadi organisations that train terrorists. Most Pakistanis trust the army rather than politicians who have little credibility. The army is more or less an absolute syndicate with criminal and terrorist proxy organisations, and one might say, of which Mr Zardari is a nothing but an apologist. He knows who killed his wife Benazir Bhutto, doesn’t he?
Mr Michael Moran, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations has told Newsweek: “So what you have in Pakistan is, in relative terms, a strong and dominant national institution in the army and a relatively weaker civilian political leadership that is only in the very early stages of trying to balance out the influence and sort of come to any kind of command relationship over the military.” I am very sceptical that the army will ever relinquish its political and cultural dominance in Pakistan; nor its historical enmity against India, for which it will always need the ISI and its lethal proxies with variable names.

So what is India’s choice? India must strike a new balance between civil liberties and national security. Within the framework of optimum civil liberties and the rule of law, India should establish a total surveillance system, a vast and comprehensive human and technological intelligence system that is capable of capturing unheard sounds of unborn events. But intelligence without action is meaningless.You cannot save India unless you love India totally and absolutely with all your heart ~ India above all.

(ND Batra is professor of communicationsat Norwich University)

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