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Communal riots would be precisely what the terrorists want

By Colonel Anil Athale (retd)
Last updated on: July 12, 2006 12:16 IST
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Having just returned from a 'Peace Delegation' visit from Karachi, one had a sense of foreboding about coming events. Exploding population, rampant religious fundamentalism, spiralling prices, unemployment, a money order economy, violence in Baluchistan and the iron grip of a disliked army, all cry out towards an 'imploding' Pakistan.

With their back to the wall and the real prospects of losing power and pelf, what would the Pakistan army do other than resurrect the 'India bogey' and along with that foment communal trouble in India so that frightened Pakistanis flock back under the army's umbrella? A scenario visualised and also conveyed to the Indian government. But frankly one did not expect it to happen so quickly.

The Indian political establishment is indirectly responsible for the Mumbai carnage by the terrorists. For after every terrorist outrage, our political leadership (of both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party) has been vociferous in stressing that the peace process with Pakistan will continue and not be derailed by terrorist violence. Thus, the terrorists, both from across the border and their henchmen in India, have been testing the limits of Indian patience and tolerance.

The handlers of local terrorists from across the border know well that India has failed to fashion a response to the strategy of 'a thousand cuts to bleed India for a thousand years.' The empty threat of Operation Parakram and the defensive response during the Kargil war have proved to the Pakistanis that Indian rage is impotent.

We lack the military muscle and the wherewithal to launch the kind of strikes that Israel has just launched to save a single soldier. This is the second failing of the Indian government, starving the Indian security forces of funds and equipment for decades.

'The masterminds are not in India'


It is time India links peace, not just the peace process and confidence building measures, firmly with Pakistani compliance with Indian demands on the terrorism front. It is Pakistan that is in greater need of peace than India. There is a section in the Pakistan establishment that believes that terrorist acts are a useful pressure point over India. Unless we disabuse the Pakistanis of this notion or force the moderates (that include President Pervez Musharraf) to act, we might as well settle for a long, long night of Cold War in the sub-continent.

But we cannot deal with terrorism unless we tackle the domestic roots of this menace. Let us not kid ourselves and accept that all these terrorist acts are possible without local support and sympathy. One would not be surprised that while the tools for the blasts may have come from Pakistan, the actual act may well have been carried out by locals.

The Mumbai Blasts: Complete coverage

But a Gujarat-like reaction and communal riots would be precisely what the terrorists want. It would be foolish if Indians react that way. As rediff readers may recall, I had clearly stated in an earlier article that 90% of Indian Muslims are patriotic, peace loving and hard working citizens of this country. But even 10 percent amounts to close to 15 million or 1.5 crore supporters and sympathisers of terrorists. This a huge number and no government can really control them.

It is the 90% of the community that has to become pro-active and hunt these sympathisers of terrorism down. This is the only way that terrorism can be controlled. Like fish without water, terrorists cannot operate without popular support. Consideration of faith should not come in the way of citizens doing their duty. This apathy would be a monumental folly on part of the community.

On a personal note, the Mumbai blasts have convinced me to disassociate myself from any peace process and Indo-Pak dialogue. I would not like to lend support to a charade of friendship while the Lashkar-e-Tayiba based in Muridke near Lahore plots more killings of my fellow Indians.

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Colonel Anil Athale (retd)