For India’s to issue a befitting response to the Pulwama terror attack, we must exercise patience and inflict maximum damage at the most appropriate time
February 14, 2019, will go down in history as a day marred by the horrific images of a cowardly act of terror where more than 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers were killed in Pulwama. The suicide bomber, Adil Ahmad Dar, who has been identified as the culprit of this dastardly act, detonated close to 60 kilos of explosives near a convoy of CRPF soldiers. The Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has claimed responsibility for this act of terror and it has been widely reported that the JeM has been supported and enabled by the Government of Pakistan. There is no denying the fact that this was a day of mourning for India but it is crucial that this incident also becomes an inflection point where India provides a befitting reply to its enemies and emerges stronger than before.
India then stands at the crossroads. While every Indian, I am sure, agrees that such acts of terror must not go unpunished and should be avenged, the question for us as Indians is: What constitutes a befitting reply? Is it a reply that is ill-thought out, reactionary and detrimental to India’s interests and values in the long-term or is it one where we emerge stronger and show the enemies of our country that while its enemies will try creating a divide through cowardly acts of terror, our country will continue to stand unafraid and unmoved. We must refuse to give up those values, which distinguish us from failed states that have long ago given up the ideals of a prosperous and democratic society.
I am just as angry and livid at the attack as any patriot but at a time like this, it is important to remember the words of Aristotle, who had said, “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” In this week’s column, I will attempt to show how India can show its enemies that not only is the country capable of taking hard decisions and demonstrate that these acts of terror will not be taken lying down but also that it will emerge stronger because of them.
Establish a Commission after such acts of terror: In the aftermath of 9/11, the US instituted the 9/11 Commission, which was an independent, bipartisan body consisting of not only Republicans and Democrats but also staff members, who were experts in various fields. The Commission was charged with preparing a complete report of the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The report examined the preparedness of the US and also provided recommendations to guard against such future attacks. It is imperative that with acts of terror such as the recent one in Pulwama, India responds similarly. As part of the 9/11 Commission report, the body examined the chronology of events on September 11, 2001, right from early 1999, when the hijackers prepared for the attack while living in Germany till the point when the planes had been hijacked by the terrorists. At each point in the chronology of events, the Commission submitted expert suggestions on how to plug each and every lapse that led to the 9/11 attacks. It is imperative that India draws a similar approach by constituting a commission of experts, which examines the chronology of events that ultimately led to the February 14 attack and debate this report in Parliament. Ultimately, this report should be made public since such a step will help heap public pressure and prevent such lapses in the future.
Strength from within first, then without: Terrorism’s short-term objective is to inflict pain and sorrow through violence, and while horrific, its long-term aim of creating an environment that thrives on hate and suspicion in the country is much more frightening and harmful. This terrorist attack seeks to achieve the same goal. We, as Indians, must not succumb.
While understandably, there is a lot of anger in our country over these attacks, some of the reactions to it are questionable and are, in fact, aiding our enemies. The first type of reaction is one that demands an all-out war against another nuclear power. Unsurprisingly, a number of these calls are from individuals, who have the luxury to opine without the threat of consequence. The more rational voices on the subject are typically from soldiers and members of the armed forces, who understand the cost of war and, perhaps, more significantly, the cost of rashness in a battlefield.
For example, if India does execute its response without adequate preparedness and at an inopportune time, it will run the huge risk of losing more brave soldiers, not because of an act of terror but due to brashness. Such an outcome is unacceptable. While desire for revenge is normal, it cannot be at the cost of reckless disregard for an Indian life. That outcome, in my opinion, is unacceptable. While there are always casualties in war, it is difficult to justify such casualties if they are a result of aggression.
The other type of reaction we have seen is the targeting of Kashmiris across India. This, too, is a response that cannot be justified and must be condemned. First, from a humane perspective, we must recognise that the minute we take out our anger on an entire community due to our pain over terrorist attacks, we lose humanity, something that distinguishes us from the cowardly terrorists, who attack India and what it stands for.
All of us, including all political parties, must come out clearly and unequivocally against this behaviour. We must recognise that such a reaction is what the forces, that seek to divide India, actually hope to achieve. Creating divides within the country so that we turn on each other makes any future acts of terror easier for our enemies. We must not allow the enemies of the country inflict that sort of irreparable damage.
An examination of acts of terror throughout the world shows that rarely if ever are acts of terror random acts of violence. Instead, they are thoroughly planned and ruthlessly executed. Therefore, in order to be truly effective, our response must also demonstrate our ability to be patient and cause maximum damage at the most appropriate time. While it may be easy to give in to our more basic demands for immediate revenge, I think we can demand better from ourselves and emerge stronger as a result of it.
(The writer is Jharkhand PCC president, former MP and IPS officer. Views are personal)
Writer: Ajoy Kumar