India needs to arrest the narrative, break the cycle.
Familiar tragedy befell the city of Mumbai last night — three coordinated bomb blasts killed 21 innocent civilians and injured over 100. My colleague over at Pragmatic Euphony puts across some important questions that deserve answers. At the time of writing this blogpost, no one is yet to claim responsibility. And while there were indications that some lessons had been learned by the government since the 26/11 attacks, the two terror incidents can hardly be equated. The attacks of 7/13 have an unfortunately familiar signature to previous attacks in India — Bombay, 1992; Delhi, 2005; Mumbai 2006; Jaipur, 2008 and Guwahati, 2008.
Had this been a fidayeen attack or a commando-style assault resulting in a hostage situation (like 26/11), we’re not sure what the government’s response might have been. What we do know from previous incidents is that the nature of the attacks in Mumbai align with the modus operendi of two groups — the underworld, and local, but Pakistan-affiliated groups such as the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
India’s track record in bringing to book those responsible for terror attacks on its soil is troubling. In The Hindu, Praveen Swami points out that despite multi-million dollar investments, India’s investigation into terror attacks since 26/11 have proven inconclusive. Indeed, despite home minister P. Chidambaram’s claims that our counter-terrorism capabilities have been significantly enhanced since 26/11, we appear unable to even identify where persons on our so-called list of “most wanted” currently live.
It should be troubling to the state and to its citizens that on every occasion where innocent civilians are murdered in India, the narrative of preserving India-Pakistan peace is resurrected from slumber in the Western media. This is a narrative that India needs to arrest. Like the need for India to talk to Pakistan ranks considerably higher than the value of the lives of innocent men, women and children who have died. Let there be no “knee-jerk” reaction, they say. But there’s already been a knee-jerk reaction. And several.
But beyond merely identifying those responsible for the heinous attacks on India, what is the government’s capability to deliver justice to victims? What is to dissuade those hostile to India from carrying out further attacks in other large metropolitan cities? If these attacks end up being traced to Pakistan, like 26/11 was, will justice ever be served?
This blog has repeatedly articulated the need for capacity to challenge terror infrastructure where it stood. If the attack is traced to Pakistan, India has two options — pursuing the matter through political channels, which invariably leads to a cul-de-sac, or military, which appears infeasible given sufficient plausible deniability and international pressure. Now, India certainly has options available that don’t involve either the political or military to put it across to the perpetrators that their actions will not go unpunished. The question is if India has the political will to deliver justice to victims of terror, by whatever means necessary.
Both within India and outside, those that have conspired against the state continue to act with impunity. Until the government can demonstrate that it can act decisively against those that wage war against it, this unfortunate cycle will continue.
India needs no new ideas. The thinking that needs to be done has already been done. No new whitepapers are needed. This country needs doers.