Six months after terrorists from Pakistan attacked Mumbai, it is a combination of good luck and Pakistan’s preoccupation with other matters that has resulted in some respite from terrorism in India. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has taken few, if any, proactive steps to counter the menace that the country continues to confront.
Also See 26/11: Six Months On (PDF)
The changes that came in the wake of 26/11 were cosmetic at best. There was a half-hearted attempt to give some teeth to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. There were some efforts at streamlining intelligence gathering and sharing (after P. Chidambaram became home minister in the last UPA government). But that was about all. The more serious and difficult business of confronting Pakistan for its deeds, which predate the 26/11 atrocity, was never carried out. The UPA simply did not pursue a muscular foreign policy that would have delivered lasting results. Given that Pakistan believes the Taliban and other assorted terrorist groups are a strategic asset, future terror attacks cannot be ruled out.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Given the dynamics of cross-border terrorism, there are two factors at work that militate against arresting terrorism. Internally, the complexion of the UPA government is such that it is very sensitive to charges of being insensitive to minorities. That rules out tough steps needed to create an intelligence network and detain suspects for a longer time without charging them. In general, there is an air of permissiveness born out of confusion. Being tough on terrorists does not mean that a government is “anti-Muslim”. But the UPA believes that that is the case. Then, there are electoral and political calculations that rule out tough choices.
Externally, it is now well-nigh impossible to confront Pakistan. The Barack Obama administration is clearly biased in favour of Pakistan. It is making serious policymaking errors in the “Af-Pak” (Afghanistan-Pakistan) region. In fact, it wants to “re-hyphenate” India and Pakistan after India has moved leagues ahead of Pakistan and is more concerned about the economic prosperity of its citizens than any other matter. Under the circumstances, any attempt by India to confront Pakistan is likely to be frowned upon by the US.
Despite the mistakes the US is making in the region, India cannot say that it did not have a chance to meet the Pakistani challenge. There was a window of opportunity in the dying days of the Bush administration and the early months of the Obama regime to confront Pakistan. This was roughly the four-month period from December to March. That chance was frittered away.
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