The title surely must ruffle up dozens of feathers. But take a moment to read the following except from the Acorn:
State government negotiates with terrorists. Terrorists pull out of peace process, and resume armed struggle. Top terrorist leaders from all over India gather for a ‘plenary’ in the jungle. Special police forces corner them. Terrorists call central and state government ministers. Ministers ask police to stand down. Terrorists escape. Terrorists express umbrage. ‘Concerned citizens’ too express umbrage — at the government’s attempt to capture terrorist leader! The government is apologetic.
Nitin Pai, in his inimitable style hauls up the Andhra Pradesh government for being lax with the Naxalite rebels. Replace state government with central government and the Central government with America or the UN, you can almost script a similar story for any national security crisis. Kargil conflict, Kandhar hijacking, and the Parliament attack are only the recent ones that have blown up in our faces. We present a tolerant face and excuse blatant atrocities that terrorist perpetuate on the Indian populace. Bombay moved on quickly after the infamous bomb blasts of 1993. Admittedly, it was a sensible public reaction but did it smack of apathy? Apathy can have dangerous consequences. Till date, the prime accused haven’t been brought to justice as they continue to lead a life of luxury in a foreign land. Periodically India demands that they be extradicted, but after “requests” from a larger power to “exercise restraint”, we mellow down and simply shrug our shoulders and postpone the need for a future begging plea.
Israel hounded each one of the terrorists suspected in the Munich assassinations; using diplomatic or covert means but in the end, they managed to avenge the deaths of their prized athletes and restore national dignity. A conspiracy theory floats around Washington that the fourth plane brought down by passengers on 9/11 was in fact shot down by U.S Air Force to prevent it from crashing into the White House. 24, the drama series on Fox shows an American President authorizing a missle strike against a terrorist hideout that is holding the Secretary of Defense hostage. Although exaggerated, it does subtly imply that everyone is dispensable if national honor is to be protected. An Indian Airlines plane is hijacked and the Foreign Minister ends up personally escorted a hardcore terrorist to his freedom. I am not justifying sacrificing the plane passengers but the negotiation battle was already lost through defeatist attitude of the government.
This attitude permeates across party lines. Nehru was naÃ¯ve in trusting the Chinese and even stupid in passing up India’s seat in the UN Security Council for China; China graciously thanked India by invading its already disputed territory and forming the biggest threat to its security — to this day. Pakistan, a fledging country, economically poor and politically brittle has managed to keep the Kashmir fires burning at the international level. We emphatically defeat Pakistan in 1971 (and in every World Cup cricket match) armed with more than 94,000 prisoners of war at the negotiating table and ended up giving them territory. They have the nerve to come back and ask for more. Surprisingly, we tell them that lets talk. They rub their hands with glee and secretly smuggle insurgents into the valley that indulge in not-so-secret ethnic cleansing. The peace talks, like our judiciary system drags on forever. With a nuclear smuggler posing as their national hero, Pakistan still emerges smelling like roses at the world stage. It boggles my mind; .how???
I am restraining myself (like any well-meaning, intelligent, and rational Indian) from making any jingoistic talk about just invading our dastardly neighbor and nuking them back to stone age. Our movies, except those that emerge from the RK Studio and Yashraj Films stable (why?), reflect this simmering discontent but it just remains within us after lustily cheering those “dushman ko maar daalo” scenes. Apart from shouting ourselves hoarse at teaside conversations, we do precious little. The mainstream media is content with its vague stories and is a willing bed partner with an equally complacent government. Remember the time when the Indian Army was massed along the border after the Parliament bombing? The people were apprehensive and nervous but proud that we were, at last, doing something substantial. But the Pakis called our bluff and we had to bow down to avoid compromising on the “other” War on Terror. Bullshit, I say. Our hesitation or willingness to listen to the US lost us the battle right there.
Amit Varma also cites Nitin, although in a different context, to highlight the diplomatic games China plays to alienate its arch-nemesis, Taiwan. Although their attempts are at best childish (I have seen animosity at a student level too in an American university), they play their cards well and don’t let Taiwan supersede them at any international level. Vir Sanghvi, as Nitin and Amit say, implores India to look beyond Pakistan while handling foreign affairs. That will give them the importance they deserve.
For all bad things that Bush stands for, he invaded Afghanistan in search of Bin Laden within a month of 9/11 shows absolute determination. Americans and the media would have buried him if he debated on his actions. Of course, he later messed up with Iraq but the world was with him on Afghanistan. You say, we are not as strong as America and a war would be expensive for us and cripple our economy? Well, it is not getting any less expensive and the umpteen resources that we invest in gritting our teeth in agitated patience are compensatory enough.
America and Europe noticed us after we dropped a few practice nukes and gave a damn about their sanctions. They noticed us after we took their jobs and streamlined their business backends, but did we consciously do that? I don’t think so. Indians are still considered a “gentle and patient” people. Not always is that a compliment.