June 23, 2005

Fighting terror: the US and the Indian models

But will the US and India work together against radical Islam. ‘No’ say some thinkers in the US. Why? The US Christian establishment, which drives the Bush administration is keener to convert Hindu India to Christianity than fight terror partnering India! How then do we fight terror? Not by leaning on the US. This much seems clear. QED: ‘Engage’ the US, not rely on it. Thank the US if it does not side with or aid the terror merchant, Pakistan, its valued ally against terror, against us. That is all!


Friday June 24 2005

S Gurumurthy

In my two-week visit to the US, I keenly observed how the US and its people responded to Islamic terror post 9/11. The moment I landed I saw a different US. An America stressed, even insecure. The emigration officials were straining to ensure that those who they allow in were not Mohammed Attas who would bring down their World Trade Centres. Their tension was visible. Today it is no more the free US that I saw four years earlier. The queues for security in US airports are longer than in any of our airports. In the days that followed even as I observed how the US government fights terror, I recalled how the Indian people fight terror back at home.

In the US, fight against terror is almost entirely the government’s responsibility. Back here we see a contrast. The people, more than the Indian state, dare the terror in remote India. Terrorists warn of attacks on pilgrims to Amarnath or Vaishnodevi temples. But people dare them, go in greater numbers, year after year. The government restricts pilgrims to Amarnath, cuts the duration of the pilgrimage! More people go, for more number of days than the government thinks safe for them!

Officials tell the pilgrims that they are ‘at their own risk’. Still, daring the terrorists, thousands go. If they stop going to Amarnath or Vaishnodevi, or go less, the terrorists win. But when they go as they do, increasingly, they dare the terror and the terrorists lose. The terrorists cannot easily handle the masses who dare them. They can fight army and police. Not the people but.

See more. Recently, an Indian TV channel, I understand, telecast the hilarious incident of dozens of villagers from UP, including scores of women, ‘quietly’ making their way to terror-hit areas of Kashmir. What for? Believe it, to sight-see -- yes, sight-see -- how the terrorists shoot! They said that they have been hearing news that the terrorists shoot and scoot and so they thought of an excursion to see how the terrorists managed to do that! This incident came to light when they were caught by the Indian Railway officials for travelling without tickets! Had they bought tickets the incident might not have come to light at all!

So the ordinary Indian even turns terror into a tourist attraction! Thousands travelling ticketless for terror tourism, that is, to sight-see terror in action, will unnerve the terrorists and undo terrorism far more effectively than hundreds of thousands of armed men shooting at them. The government should encourage ticketless travel of this kind than ticketless travel of hordes of people herded to attend rallies of political parties. Not just braving, the people of India even trivialise terror.

This is the hidden element in the Indian Government’s fight against terror. This is not widely recognised even in India, much less projected abroad. For any country to fight terror, its ordinary people must dare the terrorists. There is of course nothing sacred for Americans like Amarnath or Vaishnodevi is for Indians. Yes, US government frontally takes on the terror. But should terrorists threaten ordinary Americans will they dare them like the people of India do? This is indeed doubtful. Unless ordinary Americans dare the terror like ordinary Indians do the US war on terror will be only Bush’s war, not the American people’s war. The US thinktanks will do well to study the ordinary Indians’ response to terror and inform the Americans. The US has to prepare its people to fight terror, something which it has not done as yet.

But, can the US be trusted to fight terror to the finish? The past record does not encourage such trust. We do not know when the US will fatigue and call for ‘engaging’ the terror rather than ‘confronting’ it! In diplomatic language ‘engaging’ means dialoguing with the terrorists, ‘confronting’ means daring them. Already the Americans are tired of Iraq misadventure. The terrorists, in contrast, never fatigue. They await their target to fatigue, to strike! Again, is the US-led global alliance against terror solid? Doubtful! Europe is conscious that it is not blessed with geographic isolation from Islam which the US enjoys. So they would want a deal, not war, with Islam. The US too knows about it. So Europe is not a happy partner in the anti-terror alliance.

More importantly, in philosophic and real terms, terrorism is a war by those who do not care to die. Those who terrified of death cannot face it. Only a philosophy that positions death in life and life after death can promote the psychology to face terror. This is what makes the Amarnath pilgrim to dare terror. A US-based psychiatrist tells that even ageing Americans are terrified of death. So America will have to be re-engineered on more counts than one to battle terror. But will the US and India work together against radical Islam. ‘No’ say some thinkers in the US. Why? The US Christian establishment, which drives the Bush administration is keener to convert Hindu India to Christianity than fight terror partnering India! How then do we fight terror? Not by leaning on the US. This much seems clear. QED: ‘Engage’ the US, not rely on it. Thank the US if it does not side with or aid the terror merchant, Pakistan, its valued ally against terror, against us. That is all!

Writer’s email: comment@gurumurthy.net

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