The Somnath syndrome

India’s diffident strategic culture

Cmde Uday Bhaskar wrote this op-ed in the Indian Express last week. He has chosen his words carefully, but he makes the right points.

The immediate neighbourhood comprises regimes that are either unable, or unwilling, to quarantine the terrorist structures that target India. In the worst case scenario, they actually abet such constituencies. The Bangalore incident once again draws attention to the urgent need to evolve a national strategy to deal with the scourge of terrorism that will redress the existing inadequacies by way of legislation, security skills, investigation procedures and speedy convictions. An information strategy that is relevant to 24-hours news channels is also called for.

This gap in the Indian response matrix to terrorism is reflective of the nation’s diffident strategic culture which has the Somnath syndrome still embedded within it. Every attack or assault is dealt with reactively. But Bangalore symbolises a new and resurgent India. A strategic culture, in sync with the new reality, should evolve. Civil society has a very important role to play in combating terrorism, and the current wave of anger and frustration must be distilled into a steely national resolve, so that the terrorists in this case are tracked and brought to book speedily. [IE]

The Somnath analogy is apt. Analogies however, can be interpreted differently by different people. There is another perspective on Somnath — it’s phoenix-like ability to rise from its ashes.

7 thoughts on “The Somnath syndrome”

  1. Didn’t know there was this much history behind Somnath syndrome. I am surprised it was inaugurated again in 1995 – the secular brigade should have killed it. Thanks for the link.

    Civil societies are no help, at least until now, when it comes tracking and bring terrorists to justice. They are the ones who clamored for getting rid of POTA without address the civil rights issues and finding a decent replacement for law enforcement. I think Cmdr. Bhaskar is looking for the wrong group for help. The people who can tackle internal terror are law enforcement and the legal authority that they have. But these guys are political footballs.

    The comment about Bangladesh (in the original article) is important then it looks. While India concentrates all its energies on controlling Pakistanis in India and on Pakistan border, there are more than 10 million illegal Bangladeshis living in India (close to 10% of their population; just like Mexicans proportion in US) – most of them poor looking for work – and the border is porous. And then there is Nepal – another haven with porous border for Islamic terror groups to come together under the banner of secularism. There is no safe place until the source is dealt with.

    Nah, let’s just make peace with it – by giving the terror beast, that takes 1000s of Indian lives every year, parts of North and Northwest. May be then it’ll leave us alone. 1930s Hitler’s Europe peaceniks story replaying all over again! (Nitin, your previous opinion on spineless speeches and obvious government lies has lot of parallels with this period’s British history.)

  2. Nitin,

    Dont quite think the Somnath analogy is apt, whether with respect to rising like a Phoenix or on the strategic thinking part. One would require getting to the nadirs, and the other is pessimistic and an easy excuse.

  3. Prasanna,

    I believe he used it in the context of a diffident response to an hostile attack.

    Btw, he couldn’t be referring to this Somnath, could he? 🙂

  4. Nitin,

    That’s my point exactly. He’s giving an easy excuse for not acting tough. Its like saying “Asians are not racially/ socially suited for democracy”. It is a cop-out.

  5. Prasanna, I am not sure how one can read Somnath Syndrome as racial profiling? To me it deals with syndrome of repeated attacks on one the place, over a millennia, in order to destroy its cultural symbolism – very apt comparison to repeated targeting of Kashmiri pundits or places of worship or centers of excellence, bleeding by thousand cuts phenomena. I do agree with you that it does nothing to make one think strategically.

  6. Chandra,

    While I agree that the Somnath example can be used to show how Pakistan follows that “bleeding to death with a 1000 cuts” strategy.
    BUT, using it to explain our inaction in the face of terror is a cop-out.
    Sure, use it as an example to point out what Pakistan is doing, but not to say that we have been inactive at X,Y,Z points in history, and hence that explains our present inactivity. What is history but many such intonations of the present, some time down the line?

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