Be like the French

Be like the French

By VIVEK GUMASTE | 28 November, 2015
Contrasted with the Paris attacks, India’s response to 26/11 flounders in limbo and is a compendium of ineptitude.
The diabolical terror assault that devastated Paris on the night of 13 November was eerily familiar: it was a ditto facsimile of the blitzkrieg of terror that ravaged Mumbai on 26 November 2008. In both instances, a small band of committed terrorists unleashed a vicious storm of terror across a bustling metropolis targeting multiple soft sites that included a random street-side restaurant, holding victims hostage and massacring hundreds of innocent civilians.
But that is where the similarity ends and the hiatus widens. The retribution for the Paris attack was swift, deadly and sweeping in terms of its geographical reach encompassing domestic terror dens, sleeper cells in neighbouring Belgium and the very epicentre in Syria. One week later, the mastermind lay dead, blown to smithereens by a massive police onslaught in a Parisian suburb and a strong message bristled through the air, warning the perpetrators that their brutal shenanigans will be countered with lethal force.
In contrast, the response to the Mumbai attack flounders in limbo and is a compendium of classical ineptitude; logistic wrangling between the security establishments saw a whole 12 hours elapse before commandos landed on the scene, seven years later the mastermind roams in plain sight spewing anti-India venom and after the initial outburst of rage all that emanated from India was a half-hearted whimper that exhibited neither conviction nor strength.
Post the Paris attack, a pet peeve doing the rounds in op-ed columns of Indian newspapers is diametrically opposite to the international reaction evoked by these two comparable acts of violence: while the Paris attack sanctioned instant reprisal with universal concurrence, the Mumbai attack was met with overwhelming calls for restraint.
However, this seemingly indefensible and inequitable argument for restraint cannot be interpreted in a vacuum. It has to be juxtaposed with our own faulty psyche; a cringing approval seeking attitude that stems from years of colonial servitude and which lends undue and magnified credence to external reckonings at the cost of one’s own convictions and self-interest. To quote Shakespeare: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars…But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
French President Francois Hollande did not wait for world leaders to weigh in on their opinions before he declared an all-out war on the terrorists; it was a categorical unilateral missive prompted by the non-negotiable contract to safeguard his nation; external opinions were inconsequential. France, and France alone, would be the master of its safety was the irrevocable message that was conveyed.
Our war on terror falters not because of international pressure. It stumbles primarily for a lack of will, both political and intellectual, whose roots lie in a befuddled psyche.
In this there is a lesson for India. World opinion, including that of the United States, can temper our actions, but only to a degree. In the final analysis, we and we alone are responsible for the safety of our citizens. As long as we kowtow to Western opinion we will continue to be sitting ducks for Pakistani inspired terrorists.
Compounding this ingratiating demeanour is a pathological hesitancy that precludes decisive action; another national failing, which is the bane of our defunct anti-terror strategy.
Moreover, world opinion changes with the vagaries of the tide. Had we promptly bombed terror camps in Pakistan after the Mumbai attack, these same calls for restraint would have morphed into a laudatory applause. Subservience and hesitancy are the twin traits that cement our failure.
Another drag is a warped ideological narrative that pervades our political terrain; one which seeks justification for these dastardly acts by invoking domestic communal violence and one which deliberately portrays it as a proxy war against India’ s minority community to garner political mileage. This malicious and counter intuitive obfuscation must cease.
Without demeaning the valiancy of our security personnel, we need to reassess our military competence and the depth of our intelligence to better our outcomes. Both the Kandahar hijacking and the Mumbai attack exposed chinks in our armory. Capitulation at Kandahar, which saw the safe return of hostages, could be rationalised as a strategic retreat had a follow-up covert intelligence operation resulted in decimation of the perpetrators. But that never happened.
Our war on terror falters not because of international pressure. It stumbles primarily for a lack of will, both political and intellectual, whose roots lie in a befuddled psyche.
Vivek Gumaste is a US based academic and political commentator.

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