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Thursday, Dec 09, 2021
Outlook.com
Outlook.com
Opinion

Political Myopia

National security and foreign policy are being influenced by considerations of domestic vote banks. Establishing 'secular credentials' does not mean ignoring the ISI's role in radicalizing Indian Muslim youths, or the root-causes - Ayodhya 1992 and G

Political Myopia
Political Myopia
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

If there is one thing that is clear about the policies and strategies of our present government, it is that this government has no clearly defined policies or strategies to deal with terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and Bangladesh from across our borders. On January 6, 2004 President Musharraf assured Prime Minster Vajpayee that he would not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorist activities. This assurance was followed by a reduction in infiltration and terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir and by an end to terrorist attacks on civilians.

As normalcy returned to Jammu and Kashmir and tourist traffic to the state grew rapidly, the security establishment in the government developed a sense of complacency, with the Prime Minister proclaiming that his dialogue process with Pakistan was "irreversible" and that he could trust and do business with General Musharraf. This false sense of security went so far that the Prime Minister wanted to implement "out of the box" proposals to pull our troops out of Siachen, even without ironclad guarantees that Pakistan would not move in and vacate areas occupied by us.

Anyone studying international terrorism would have noted that in July 2005 there was marked change in Pakistan's approach to international terrorism. The London Bomb attack was carried out by young men of Pakistani origin trained in camps of the Lashkar e Toiba in Pakistan. This was followed by the terrorist attack in Ayodhya, the Delhi bomb blasts on the eve of Diwali, the attack on scientists in Bangalore, the attack on the temple in Varanasi and finally by the July 11 bomb blasts in Mumbai. At the same time, President Karzai bitterly complained to President Bush that Pakistan was arming and training the Taliban in Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province.

Ignoring all these developments preceding the Mumbai Bomb Blasts, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh blandly went ahead with the "peace process" with plans to even visit Pakistan. In the meantime proposals to revamp and modernize the intelligence agencies, the defence ministry and armed forces establishment that were put forward following the Kargil conflict were not processed, with the files gathering dust in the National Security Council Secretariat and the defence ministry. It is no secret that even as vast resources are expended for "political intelligence" there is no similar effort to gear up to deal with terrorism.

In political terms the government went into overdrive to establish its "secular" credentials by choosing to ignore the fact that sections on Muslim youth in India were getting radicalized and associating with groups like the SIMI and the Lashkar e Toiba. The implications of the growing sense of insecurity in the minority community following the Babri Masjid destruction in 1992 and the communal violence unleashed in Gujarat after the Godhra massacre were not studied. Every political party sought to use these developments merely to develop vote banks rather that tackle the issues involved transparently and with the participation of those affected.

Sadly, national security and foreign policy are today being influenced by considerations of domestic vote banks. The nation is today paying the price for this political shortsightedness. The ISI has established modules comprising its agents and radicalized Indian Muslim youths across India -- modules that have links with terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and with ISI agents in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. This is a challenge we cannot ignore.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the military establishment in Pakistan is determined to destabilize India and weaken India by exploiting communal differences. The first and foremost need is to recognize this problem clearly and then fashion our domestic and foreign policy responses. Domestically the intelligence machinery needs to be modernized and made more professional. Military modernization has to go hand in hand with this. India should retain a decisive qualitative edge by its armed forces in its neighbourhood. Diplomatically we need to engage Pakistan bilaterally in a firm but reasonable and transparent manner, once the dialogue process recommences.

Finally, we should spare no effort to mobilize world public opinion about the fact that Pakistan is today the epicenter of global terrorism. But this necessarily has to be combined with strengthening our covert intelligence capabilities to raise the costs for Pakistan, if it persists with its present policies.


This article originally appeared in Outlook Sapthahik, July 31.

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