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Sleeping with the enemy

Sleeping with the enemy

Author: P R Ramesh
Publication: Economic Times
Dated: February 21, 2007
URL: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/P_R_Ramesh/Sleeping_with_the_enemy/articleshow/1647313.cms

Beginning shortly after midnight on Sunday, TV channels were kept busy airing images of burnt coaches of the Samjhauta Express, of charred bodies, of children searching for parents and of grown-ups looking for their near and dear ones. They and their families deserve our deepest sympathies.

Yet, the question begs: is the country and its leadership vigilant enough about the threat that terrorism poses to innocent people. What the citizen needs is not the "never again" declarations and the familiar prime ministerial promises to punish the guilty. What the citizen expects is a government that will display the stomach and stamina to protect them and tackle the enemy.

That such expectations will remain just that and nothing more was evident from the events that followed. There were the usual beeline for on-the-spot visits by the home minister and top bureaucrats, but much of the regime's energy was spent on proclaiming that the attack on the train will not affect the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan.

There was even a contrived effort to underplay that those 68 dead men, women and children were not casualties of the war with Islamic terror. The Manmohan Singh government has not yet admitted that it was a terror attack. And a section of the media aided such cynical efforts by refusing to acknowledge that it was another manifestation of the terror that exists both in organised and freelance forms.

Apart from being recklessly non-serious about national security, what numbs the senses even more is the contempt for common man's life. Dr Singh's chief concern appears to be his grand idea of friendship with Pakistan, and in his lust for legacy he is insensitive enough to ask people to make more sacrifices.

It would do him a world of good if he cares to check with the security establishment that functions under him. He will be told, for example, that he is in pursuit of a starry-eyed naivete. Prevez Musharraf is not known for making overnight shifts in his positions; he has not given up his country's claim on Kashmir; and he is in complete agreement with the "thousand cuts" theory.

Even his handlers in Washington are not sure whether Musharraf is with them or against them. The resurgence of the Taliban and incursions of terror merchants into Afghanistan are adding to their distrust of the General. You don't need a search engine to find the General's abject failure to dismantle the terror infrastructure.

Musharraf has only made a tactical pause in his approach towards India. He wants to first get the Indian security apparatus to lower its guard. Proposals like peace park in the Siachen Glacier, suggested by freelance peace hawks, have come in handy for the General. The prime minister is quietly walking into the trap ignoring the warnings from the men in uniform and neutral strategic experts. Columnists, including those belonging to the Wagah candle light brigade, have been advising the prime minister to push the decision without even a perfunctory discussion with political peers.

There is also no basis for Dr Singh's assumption that things would improve through a soft approach. Jehadis are not known to make compromises. On the contrary, among the first lessons that jehadi recruits are taught is that only the weak make compromises. With jehadis in the ascendancy, the RDX strapped, sulphur bomb carrying murderous frauds cannot be expected to stop their anti-India campaign. They are fighting to create a theocracy, a caliphate - a divinely inspired government administered by a Caliph. And their play books are all about the vision of the Islamic empire and not people-to-people contact. History also tells us that economic prosperity or democracy will not diminish appeal for jehad. In Indonesia, the jehadi movement is growing stronger; it's now deeply rooted in western Europe; and Asian democracies are experiencing the evil. This situation makes it all the more important for those in charge of the country's security to get real and put the cards on the table. And in this grim situation, where India-haters are lurking at our doorsteps, it is no time for tiptoeing around the word terrorism.

Dr Singh, however, appears to believe that people-to-people contact and frequent visits to and from Pakistan will solve the problem. In the process, what is on display is a disgraceful lack of clear and consistent policy. When terrorist attacks take place, the first response is to deny the source of the problem. And this is followed up by indulgence towards cop-bashers and liberals, who consider calls for national security a politically incorrect arrogance.

The government's bumbling approach on terrorism is pushing the country to a shameless state of surrender. Any delay in looking the problem in the eye will only mean one thing: that the security of the ordinary citizen is not among the priorities of the government. The electorate will, of course, get its chance when Dr Singh and his party approach them for renewing its lease over Delhi in the biggest people-to-people contact - election.

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