Without the follies of our own people this attack was not possible. Foremost is the United Progressive Alliance government's policy. The scrapping of anti-terror laws signalled the government's resolve to treat terrorists with kid gloves.
Essentially, in the last four-and-a-half years India has been without a leader. The consequence of that has been the mushrooming of violence in all corners of the country. With no policy, no leadership and demoralised police forces, the country of one billion people is rudderless. This is the prime and basic cause of encouraging the terrorists from across the border who saw a golden opportunity to fulfil their dream of breaking up India.
In addition to this is the Raj Thackeray-led mayhem in Mumbai and the obsession with the Malegaon bomb blast investigation. Raj Thackeray's infamy has spread from Kashmir (where I was last month) to Kanyakumari and Porbunder to Mizoram (where I was last week -- on a study mission again). Thanks to the exposure in the media, he is even well-known internationally. What this did was to convince the jihadis in Pakistan that Mumbai was at war with itself and ripe for an attack.
During my visit to Pakistan a few years ago I noticed the interest that an average Pakistani takes in events taking place in Mumbai in particular and India in general. Raj Thackeray prepared the ground in a sense for this jihadi attack on Mumbai. All this while the attention of the Mumbai police was focussed on bar girls and such 'important' issues.
The sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Ahbhinav Bharat episode in which a serving lieutenant colonel from army intelligence, Srikant Purohit, was allegedly involved in the Malegaon bomb blast is indeed a very serious matter. Instead of letting it take its due course, a chorus was mounted to create an image of 'Hindu terror'. Thus in one stroke, the politicians and media elevated an individual aberration. This was good vote bank politics that played havoc with the armed forces's morale and made their job extremely difficult.
It gave a handle to Pakistan to fish in troubled waters and an opening to create a chasm between the Indian Army and the minorities. The late Hemant Karkare, the Mumbai Anti-Terrorism Squad chief, was on record saying that 70 percent of his time was being spent on the Malegaon investigation at the cost of many other cases like the horrific train bombing of 2006 for which no information exists even after two years. Who pressured the ATS to concentrate on Malegaon alone at the cost of everything else?
Though a digression, it needs to be reiterated that Indian Army has an unblemished record as far dealing with communal violence is concerned. Never has anyone levelled an allegation of bias in its conduct. I have personal experience of many riot-control missions and can vouch for that.
Even in Gujarat during the 2002 riots, the Muslims have always welcomed the army with flowers and regard it as their saviour. I had the opportunity to share the dais with Qutubuddin Ansari, a tailor from Ahmedabad, who became the 'face' of that agony, on August 15, 2002 at Pune at a function at which both Hindu and Muslim victims of the riots shared their grief and urged peace. Ansari told me that it was the army's timely arrival that saved him and his family.
The cavalier fashion in which the electronic and other media went about destroying the army's credibility will mark a new low in media irresponsibility. But what can one expect from a media that makes a love affair of a Patna college teacher with one of his students as 'breaking news'. It is this media that played its role in creating a situation where the jihadis saw a golden opportunity to strike India.
What can India do?
There has been a clamour for an attack on Pakistani territory to take out the 'terror-training camps'. This is asinine. Does anyone think that the camps will still be there? In any case, these are just some makeshift buildings; empty of all terrorists by now. The terrorists may well have abandoned it already. It will have no effect other than give the golden opportunity to the Pakistan army to disengage from the Afghan border and move east. This will pressure NATO and the US who will then breathe down our necks and not that of the Pakistanis.
It is by now very clear that our target ought to be the rogue Pakistan army. Yes, I use the word rogue with full responsibility. Remember, it was this very army that killed over 300,000 Bangladeshis in March 1971, according to the Hamidur Rehaman Commission report ordered by the Pakistani government itself. It was the biggest genocide since the Second World War and yet being the pet dog of the US, it escaped all consequences of this.
If India wants peace, it has to target the Pakistan army, not Pakistan. How to do it is not a matter for public debate and is best left that way.
This will liberate the long suffering Pakistani citizenry from tyranny. With its nukes, Pakistan is safe from military aggression from India. A cut down military is in the best interest of the whole world.
Colonel Athale is the Chhattrapati Shivaji Fellow at the United Services Institute, New Delhi, working on a project on internal security. He is also coordinator of the Pune-based think-tank Inpad.