2008 was a bloody year. Literally as well. Carnage everywhere. The mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan continued undeterred, while the world continued to burn elsewhere as well. South Ossetia, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Tibet, Israel, Sri Lanka, India (all over - Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai, Guwahati) and now Palestine. The color of the flame however was the same - a violent yellow, with splashes of blood red everywhere.
I wrote a lot during the Mumbai carnage. A lot is an understatement. Well, when your manager asks you and your team to please work from home (since people are their most valuable capital), TV is on a terrorism overdrive, Gtalk conversations revolve only around the 'dastardly' acts of violence inflicted on Maximum city, anxious clients send emails asking us to be safe and please not worry about work deadlines and going out is ruled out, since for family, we are the only one of the kind, annnnnd, the only tool at your disposal to vent out the thoughts stacked up inside your mind is something.blogspot.com, you, tend to write. And write I did, like here.
The thoughts ranged from anger to frustration to outrageously enraged to plain stumped. Now that the dust has settled and the Mumbai terror attacks have formed the topic of discussion for Indian diplomats and foreign ones with an Indian interest, all that is left is retrospection and a push for urgent action.
Why do we need immediate action after Mumbai? India shining. Over the last decade, India was a glorious investment destination for people across the world. As recession began to hit the big boys of the world economy, many looked to the east for support. India-China. But soon, the hyphenation with Pakistan (India-Pakistan, a dreaded term from which India had managed to slowly but surely move away), sort of managed to preponderate over the hyphenation with China. I had an opportunity to speak to a person who invests in real estate in the US. With the real estate bubble bursting with disastrous effects in the US, he looked to invest in Indian housing. But one statement he made was, 'How can India expect investment in the country when the country's own peaceful existence is perennially threatened?' Ouch! On that score, our nefarious neighbors with hostile 'non-state actors' seem to have dealt a massive blow. A recent article in the economist underlined this fact, and this sorry event has effectively dented international confidence in India. Do I feel bad? Yes. Can I blame the international community? No. How many invest in Rwanda? Or Zimbabwe? Or Sudan? Unless India gets serious about internal security, we cannot aspire to become the world leaders, torch-bearers who can and will bring the world out of economic gloom. Also, India has historically been a patient nation. We have put up with multiple insurgencies by our neighbors (a whole post was dedicated to our 'honorable neighbors' here). But this time, with the terror attack reaching horrendously evil limits, everyone is scared. What happened in Mumbai can happen anywhere. Suspicion will abound, since every commuter with a big bag sitting next to me in a subway, will be looked at with a million thoughts and images in my mind. People are scared. Real scared. They are more disgusted with the failing system that failed to avert this attack, than with the terrorists.
What kind of action can be taken? US has imposed a 46 year trade embargo on Cuba, because Castro overthrew the America-backed dictator Batista. Can the world community do the same to Pak? Will that help? Well, for a country that has always been sending defence ammunition meant for a war on terror, to the perpetrators of terror, how long will it take to find another means of propping up the already failed economy? Like the filmy dialogues by our Hindi movie villains - 'I wasn't born a criminal, Samaj ne mujhe aise banaya', a trade embargo could perhaps send Pakistan further into the clutches of terror. When Mumbai happened, the youth urged for war. A surgical war even. That was the anger translated into a wish for immediate action. Look at Israel and Hamas. I for one feel that the Israel-Hamas conflict is akin to India-Pak. Nefarious, meddling neighbors, perpetrators of crime and terror, disturbing peace in the region, making the everyday man worry whether he'd be alive the next day. Too many similarities right? The recent conflict - Israel has launched an all out war against Hamas. Is Israel really to blame? Granted Hamas was elected to power in Gaza. But the elected government had resorted to trouble making. Rockets in the backyard everyday, killing a handful of Israelis almost daily. Israel, has historically never been a calm and patient country. But nevertheless they put up with the shelling and killing for a while. At one point, like the protagonist of a Premchand novel, one would want to just pick up a stick and hit back. And hit they did, BIG TIME! But what happens? A personal evil agenda, of a handful of terrorists (in this case Hamas) who operate from the cushy comforts of their safe havens kills hundreds. The retaliatory effect is disastrous. Is war, no matter how surgical, an answer? I think, No. Terror is a new enemy, and we need to think out of the box to cure this canker, before the 'eye for an eye' strategy renders the world blind.
India has chosen the diplomatic route against Pakistan. Piling pressure through US, UK, UN. This pressure has so far only resulted in eyewash. There are hints of imminent war. Only hints. Since only God knows the effect of war between two nuclear powered nations in a precarious place like the Asian sub-continent, whose Middle eastern part has been ravaged by war and violence for ages. But can Satyagraha help against barbarians? I don't know. I, for one have always felt that Gandhiji won independence for India, because the British were still civil and cultured. But this time, the enemy is evil, and barbaric. Another kind of a fight is needed here.
But one thing we ought to notice in this whole carnage story, is the fact that only Israel or USA or Russia can actually launch an all out offensive against another country. Why? They have the political and economic power in whatever way that may be, to face the world after their 'job' is done. So, like I'd written in one of my earlier posts, there are only two things that we can do, in the immediate future. Beef up internal security - cameras, spot checks, tight intelligence, civilian alertness, breed suspicion. Yup! Breed suspicion. It's better to be suspicious, than dead! Second, build the economy and the political system to a level of strength, so strong, that like the world fears action against Israel or China, for the numerous ills they may harbor, we Indians become a true force to reckon with, and we don't need the intercession of any other country into our 'personal affairs'.
Perhaps what happened in Mumbai, can actually influence the thinking millions in India and across the world to perhaps put on their thinking caps and find a solution that could really work and in Pranab Mukherjee's words produce 'tangible results'... What say?