Isn’t it time that the Indian government decided that enough is enough?
It’s the latest episode of a morbid soap opera which started soon after then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made his way to Islamabad and kick-started the ‘peace process’ with Pakistan. The principal objective of the Pakistani ISI-Dawood-jihadi nexus became one of undermining India’s stability and development. This was to be achieved by hitting at India’s perceived Achilles’ heel—religious and communal harmony. Al-Qaeda attacks in the West involve targets that are either spectacular or cause a large number of casualties or both. The terrorist attacks in India involve targets that are either places and times with religious connotations. The attack on Hyderabad, through the bombing of Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers, fits right into this scheme of things.
Just a week ago, Praveen Swami wrote that the Lashkar-e-Taiba might have been forced to lay off attacking targets outside of Jammu & Kashmir, due to the constraints Gen Musharraf and the ISI have placed on it. Now, Swami is among the most perspicacious commentators on national security matters, but he too put too much stock in the theory of changed intentions. Changes in intention do matter, but by themselves are too impermanent to be taken as credible. What the Hyderabad blasts bring to sharp relief is that the most important issue in India’s relations with Pakistan, and not least the ‘peace process’, remains the oldest one—closing down the jihadi establishment and decommissioning of Dawood Ibrahim & Co. It should rank as a matter of supreme irony that the Indian government has forgotten about this at a time when the Pakistani people are up in arms against Musharraf’s surrender to the jihadis.
Like after previous attacks, India has defeated the terrorists this time—by not allowing the bombings to spark off large-scale communal violence. Despite some irresponsible and diversionary commentary, the national media has helped matters by doing a “Salaam Hyderabad“. While it is important feel good about the fact that communal harmony has held, it is equally important to understand that it may not do so every time.
In his column today, Swami helps connect the dots—the disaffected local youth, the training in Pakistan, the links with organised crime syndicates and the sanctuaries in Bangladesh to the Mecca Masjid bombings.
Quite obviously, there is a need to tackle the disaffection among the Muslim youth. It’s a complex exercise certainly, but one too easily interpreted to mean pandering to demands made by parochial politicians and intolerant clerics. Even as there is a need to address the genuine causes of disaffection among the Muslim community—usually the same ones as in any community, except given an different identity—there is also a need to address the channels through which the disaffection spreads. Unfortunately, both the UPA government in New Delhi and the Congress government in Hyderabad are committed not to do exactly that.
What of the international angle, then? Well, there is that India-Pakistan joint mechanism on fighting terrorism. But even before that mechanism got a chance to kick in the Pakistani foreign office performed its “baseless allegations” routine. We’ll probably hear from the Indian government that given Gen Musharraf’s precarious situation, this is not a good time to remember people like Dawood Ibrahim. As for Bangladesh, we don’t even know why the Indian government does nothing more than ask the government in Dhaka to take action.