If any good has come out of 26/11 it has been the government’s announcement in principle to have a federal agency on terror (though I believe that similar ideas have been floated before and then consigned to the dustheap of public memory). Now the only thing that remains to be seen is how this federal agency is staffed, what kind of counter-terrorism equipment provided, how much political interference the agency has to put with and the extent to which the powers provided to this agency will be misused to settle personal scores and spy on political opponents.
The most important thing in the way forward is how India handles the issue of Pakistan and its role in 26/11. The wrong way to go about things is to get into a press battle with Pakistan by making public statements hinting at having conclusive proof of “foreign involvement” and leaving it at that. Unfortunately this is exactly what India has done. To be honest, India will always find it tough to win the international media war despite being the victim because 1) the Indian government does not invest in lobbying as much as Pakistan does. Which is why you will see Pakistani diplomats on CNN and not their Indian counterparts and 2) Indian expatriates, despite being a wealthy constituent of US society and a significant source of campaign cash for both parties, lack the patriotic enthusiasm of the Cuban or the Chinese diaspora when it comes to using their financial might for the homeland.
So the way forward for India is to take the evidence inside—-direct to Israel and to the US. The taking it to Israel cannot be public because it is politically incendiary (hurts the minorities). To India’s advantage, this time the terrorists didn’t just massacre Hindus (whom nobody in the world cares for) but they marked out Westerners and inflicted unspoken tortures on Jewish hostages.Which means Israel will definitely be interested. This means that they will exert pressure on the US to take action and there is no other country that has the US’s ears as much as Israel.
India’s case to Israel and the US has to be simple. Direct involvement of Pakistani authorities will be tough to prove and should not be attempted. What however can easily be established is 1) this attack has been caused by non-state actors based in Pakistan 2) these non-state actors are well known and yet operate with impunity in Pakistan. This implies 3) Pakistan is unable or unwilling to reign in these non-state actors. In this respect, the Pakistan administration is like the Taliban which was not ready to take any kind of action against Al Qaeda. If Pakistan wishes to demonstrate that it is not rogue (yeah right !) and it is sincere in its war on terror (double yeah right !), it has to hand over high-value terrorists like Daewood whose involvement in the events of 26/11 are suspected.
Now some of you may be saying why are we even bothered about the US. Well the sorry truth is that we have to. We are not Israel that we can unilaterally send two missiles thundering into POK and flatten terrorist camps and then get away with it internationally. For one, Pakistan is not Palestine which has zero strategic influence inside the US. In addition, not only does India have none of Israel’s international clout, it is in itself not as united as Israel is in terms of policy. Yes posturing India may do by moving troops around and possibly will. But that’s about it. Everybody knows this is all a bluff. Worse, the very exercise of India building up troops along the border would be used by Pakistan to exert reverse-pressure on America (” US uncle, US uncle we have to stop our bogus war on terror to deal with India’s troop buildup”) which in turn will lead to India being the one under pressure. This is why India should not even bother with the “going to war” rhetoric unless as a very final, very risky gambit if it feels the US is not interested in exerting any kind of pressure on Pakistan (which I do not think is going to happen). Militarily also, the effort that would be expended in launching a full-frontal strike would be better spent in shoring up our national defense which as we can all see is virtually non-existant.
Not that India should not take unilateral steps against Pakistan. But these steps have to be less symbolic (like severing of rail and air traffic) and more strategic. Like canceling bilateral cricket series which considering the fact that no team wants to tour Pakistan is going to bring their Board to their knees financially. Not that this gesture is going to give Zardari sleepless nights, but India has to take advantage of every opportunity of not cooperating with Pakistan if it refuses to cooperate with us and actions like severing cricket links will have tangible financial implications for Pakistan.
And finally an unrelated sidelight. Among the assorted horrors that we as a nation have been subject to over the past few days, one more was added as Ram Gopal Verma, Riteish Deshmukh (son of the Chief Minister) and Chief Minister were given a guided tour through the wreck of what used to be the Taj hotel. So let me get this straight. What is essentially still a crime scene has now been officially transformed into a “house of horrors” where VIPs can take their sons and influential filmi people for guided tours so that they may enjoy the vicarious chills that the glimpse of human misery gives some (the same macabre pleasure that people exhibit when they stop to watch trainwrecks). Combine this with the fact that deputy RR Patil channels Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge to say that small things happen in big places and one realizes, in addition to being monumentally incompetent, how bereft of any shred of humanity our politicians are.