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A rising challenge

A rising challenge

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: July 16, 2005
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=74482

Introduction: The UPA government can ill-afford to appear irresolute on terrorism

The announcement of a breakthrough in the investigations in the Ayodhya attacks, with the arrest of two militants allegedly belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is welcome. It will hopefully yield invaluable information about those who were behind the fortunately foiled bid to storm the makeshift temple on July 5. But crucial as it is to connect the dots in this sensitive case, the government also has a larger task at hand: it must reassure the nation that it is pulling together purposefully in the face of what appears to be a gathering terrorist threat after a prolonged period of lull. Recent events - be it the attempted outrage in Ayodhya, the dramatic reappearance of the Babbar Khalsa in the news headlines, or the audacious infiltration bid from across the border in the Gurez mountains in J&K - have served up some pretty clear warnings about a mounting challenge. What remains inadequately clear is whether the government has a clear-sighted assessment of the threat or an unequivocal strategy to combat it.

On the issue of terrorism and other threats to national security, the UPA government is yet to demonstrate a convincing resolve. For the most part - be it in the ill thought out revocation of Pota, or the misguided courting of a dialogue with the Naxalites or indeed the letting down of guard vis a vis an intransigent ULFA - the message that may be going out is of a government in denial or one unwilling to take the threat head-on. Such an impression can encourage homegrown mischief-makers, it can embolden militants regrouping across the border. The government needs to urgently rework its message. It needs to take a few pointers from the British government, perhaps, which lost no time after the London blasts to embark on a systematic operation that is remarkably devoid of populist political posturing, but that has already taken on a coherence and larger sense of purpose as it pieces together evidence and frames a comprehensive response, legislative and otherwise.

No government can allow the response to terrorism to become a routinised or a fitful thing, easily diverted by political calculations. In times of spreading insecurity, it must assure the people of its unrelenting vigil and of its capacities to mount a coordinated response. There must be a systematic follow-through on evidence and an unfussy pursuit of culprits. But first of all, there must be a clear and unambiguous acknowledgement of the problem that stares us in the face.
 


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