No redemption in the reaction

Diminishing returns for softness on terrorism

Ajit Doval, a former chief of the Intelligence Bureau writes that the Hyderabad blasts were allowed to happen as ‘a result of deliberate diversion’. The editors at the Indian Express have titled the column the need for “a war on error”. They seem to like the term they coined earlier this year. But it’s not at all about error. As Doval’s sub-title and the rest of the article makes clear—this is more about deliberate diversion. [See what Offstumped has dug up]

What is happening to India on the terrorist front is bad, but what is worse is the way we are reacting to it.

The worst reaction of a governmentto underplay it, divert the discourse from core issues to the peripherals. Asserting that all is well and nothing needs to be changed, emphasising maintenance of social harmony as the core concern, complimenting people for bravely suffering losses and returning to normal lives, talking about human rights and protection of minorities — these are all laudable objectives. No one disputes them, but they do not address the core issues.

In the face of a threat as serious as this, the national focus should be on: how serious is the threat; its long and short-term implications; our capacities to counter the threat, both in policy formulation and policy execution; and how to address the deficiencies…The right discourse should also centre on our policy options vis-à-vis countries and groups involved in terrorist incidents in India. This is not happening, and that’s the tragedy.

It is not happening because a basic requirement is missing: a political culture that can subordinate electoral and other political considerations to the nation’s supreme sovereign interests.

It is a myth that terrorists strike anywhere, any time and against any target. Had that been so, they would have caused havoc not just in India. Terrorists strike where their intentions and capabilities meet the opportunities. The success of counter-terrorism lies in degrading their capabilities, forcing them to change their intentions and denying them opportunities to strike. We appear to be failing on all three counts. [IE]

The march of terrorism in Indian cities, along with the government’s inability to prevent them, is on the verge of crossing the chasm and (rightly) becoming a electoral issue. The parties that fail to see it are quite likely to pay a price.

Related Link: Rediff’s Sheela Bhatt interviews Ajit Doval (2006)

3 thoughts on “No redemption in the reaction”

  1. Nitin – what makes you think that terrorism as an issue is about to cross the chasm? Ponder this – I saw the news channels for a good chunk of time a day after the explosions and not one channel mentioned that 19 more bombs were discovered and diffused in Hyderabad!

    In other words – only a minuscule percentage of population in India is aware that Hyderabad was target for the most sensational terror attack on India’s soil to date.

  2. @Manu: May be they did not want to create panic amongst public. After all, We have such a responsible media 😛


    “The success of counter-terrorism lies in degrading their capabilities, forcing them to change their intentions and denying them opportunities to strike.”

    We aren’t just failing, but seem to be abetting terrorism with our indifferent or pathetic political response after each act of mass murder.

  3. We’re not just failing in degrading their capabilities, forcing them to change their intentions and denying them opportunities to strike. That is a very simplistic way of looking at it. The 1993 Mumbai blasts case was solved in record time not because we lacked the capability. It is because we had the will.

    The major reason for our failure – I think – is that we have not developed a national consensus on the need to fight terrorism and eliminate it. Forget about the causes – no consensus about the need to fight and eliminate terrorism seems to exist!

    This is the main difference between all other democracies and India. All other democracies fighting terrorism – US, UK, Europe, Australia – are firm in their conviction that terrorism needs to be eliminated at any cost whatever the ideological differences about the ways to eliminate it. Though they are horribly divided on how to fight terrorism, none of their people – with exceptions – lacks the conviction that terrorism needs to be fought and eliminated.

    India is different in that it shows a peculiar lack of consensus or conviction that terrorism needs to be eliminated. Many actually think terrorism (and eveb Maosim) is a legitimate grievance and deplore (indirectly) any attempt to check terrorism. And people who hold such views are actually holding key positions in govt.

    Will power develops only when there’s conviction. India lacks the conviction and therefore, lacks the will. It is unlikely that this conviction will come any time soon. 9/11 was a blessing in disguise for the United States – it helped form an iron will to eliminate terrorism.

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