The 11 September 2001 strike on twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon at the heart of the US was an epochal event that rewrote the world order, bringing a sea change in global security rules, encouraging copycat attacks and altering political dynamics between and within countries. The terrorist attack also ushered in an era of revolution and pro-democracy protests that challenged authoritarian regimes in Arab countries. An altered global socio-cultural scenario led to racial profiling, largely due to enhanced security measures, and encouraged stereotypes, while also inspiring cinema and literature across the world to reflect the changing social, economic and political dynamics.
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The attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon not only shook the world but also led to much higher levels of security at airports, hotels, railway stations, markets, malls and other public places. Establishments were required to increase their expenditure on security, which, at times, became intrusive. Travelling to the West became tougher with the issue of visas slumping. The business of security in India surged at a time when the country was already among those most affected by terrorist and insurgent activities.
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The 9/11 suicide hijacks marked the beginning of a spate of terrorist attacks across the world by various outfits. Most followed the pattern of bombings in busy public spaces or in public transport at peak hours aimed at causing maximum damage to life and property. Among the most lethal of these were the 2002 bombings in Bali, Indonesia; the 2004 explosions in commuter trains in Madrid; the July 2005 blasts in London; multiple blasts in markets in Delhi in the same year and the November 2008 coordinated terror strike in Mumbai. The 9/11 attack also started the trend of terrorist incidents being named after the date—7/7 (London), 26/11 (Mumbai), 7/11 (Mumbai).
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Pro-democracy and civil rights protests have swept across the Middle East since December, spreading to Libya, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Oman and Bahrain, among other nations. Sporadic protests have also taken place in Saudi Arabia. The prodemocracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year led to the overthrow of long-standing dictatorships. Hosni Mubarak was deposed in Egypt as was Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. The rebel-led Transitional National Council took over in Libya, ending the 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi. Fighting, however, hasn’t ended after the fall of Gadhafi’s regime.
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GROWING PROXIMITY: INDIA AND US
The relationship between the US and India, the world’s oldest and the largest democracies, have warmed since September 2001. That’s in contrast with the Cold War closeness between India and the erstwhile Soviet Union and the US tilt towards Pakistan. American presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have visited India after the attacks with the former signing the landmark US-India civilian nuclear agreement in 2008. While counter-terrorism cooperation has been a recurring theme between the US and India, America’s relationship with Pakistan has become strained. This was evident during the visit of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in July when she made clear that the US was not willing to give a “pass” to any terrorist operating out of Pakistan. Apart from this, Pakistan didn’t know about the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his hideout near Islamabad until after it was over.
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An aspect of enhanced security, especially while travelling, has meant greater discomfort at airports for Asian travellers, especially Muslims. Such profiling has applied across the spectrum. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was detained at Newark airport in 2009 while former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was searched before he boarded a Continental Airlines flight to the US. Even senior Indian government officials have not been spared. India’s United Nations envoy Hardeep Puri was asked to remove his turban at an airport in Houston, Texas, last December. Former Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar was frisked last year after which the Indian government took up the matter with US authorities.
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INFLUENCE ON POP CULTURE
The impact of the 9/11 attacks was reflected in cinema and literature. These included films such as ‘My Name is Khan’ (Hindi), ‘Tere Bin Laden’ (Hindi), ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ (Urdu), ‘Kurbaan’ (Hindi), ‘New York’ (Hindi), ‘Rendition’ (English), ‘Syriana’ (English), ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ (documentary). Some of the more well-known books include ‘Descent into Chaos’ by Ahmed Rashid, ‘Inside Al Qaeda’ by Rohan Gunaratna, ‘9-11’ by Noam Chomsky and ‘Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace’ by Gore Vidal.