Hafiz Saeed walking around free is like an open sore for India; 26/11 must not be forgotten
When one walks into the lobby of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba, Mumbai, a decade after one of the most traumatic events in the city’s history, everything seems to have reverted to normal. But this iconic structure was indeed the bloody playground for jihadi terrorists from across the border. And that, in essence, captures the tragic story of India — whenever disaster strikes, whether it is man-made or an act of God, we move on like nothing has happened and forget the lessons we learnt at such a high price. While one hopes the Indian deep state has not forgotten the lessons of November 11, 2008, for most Indians obsessed with the here and now and with little sense of even recent history, 26/11 is unfortunately a long-forgotten memory even though the names of martyrs like Sandeep Unnikrishnan should be on the tips of every Indian child’s tongue. The reality is that it’s most unlikely very many remember his name even if asked for it in the general knowledge section of a Government job selection examination which our co-citizens are so focussed on.
Many leaders across the world praised India’s patience in the aftermath of 26/11 because the political leadership did not bomb Pakistan into oblivion or launch even a proportionate counter-attack. Many bleeding hearts in India shed crocodile tears when India’s justice delivery system tried, convicted and sent the sole surviving terrorist Ajmal Kasab to the gallows and some even naively argued in favour of re-starting cricketing ties with Pakistan after a suitable interval. But Hafiz Saeed still roams free on the streets of Pakistan, advocating the destruction of India and it appears that he will likely die of old age rather than as a result of covert ops by Indian security forces or, indeed, in a drone strike launched by those simpatico to New Delhi’s position, including the Americans.
We did not retaliate after 26/11, though we should have, and deliberately disproportionately at that. As any soldier will tell you, s/he is the last person who wants a war, but if there is to be one, it ought to be waged with clear tactical and strategic aims. In this case, that would mean raising the cost for the Pakistani establishment in its strategy of using non-state actors to kill innocents on our soil to a level where it becomes unfeasible for them. For far too long, India has been trapped in the vicious grip of the non-violence, some would say Gandhian, fallacy in geo-strategic terms. To the extent of ignoring the historical fact that it was the collapse of the British economy and the loss of confidence in Indian soldiery by our erstwhile colonial masters that led to the Union Jack being hauled down and the Tricolour being hoisted in 1947. India has allowed the problem called Pakistan to fester for years on end and while one wishes for peaceful ties with our western neighbour, much like global warming being inevitable despite all humankind’s efforts, so is confrontation with Pakistan because it shows no signs of changing its ways.
But while it is easy to argue for drastic measures, this is not the time for even a limited military engagement. Capacity-building and strategic fine-tuning are still works in progress despite our tactical readiness. If an inevitable future war is to be avoided, however, and that should always be the first choice, it requires the elimination of Hafiz Saeed and his cronies as well as an acceptance by Beijing, which has nurtured Pakistan like a snake-charmer nurtures a cobra, that unlike the snake in the basket, this one has not been de-fanged and it will bite China hard too. Mercifully, for all his domestic often offensive grandstanding, US President Donald J Trump speaks the truth about Pakistan and by gradually attacking China’s economy as well as Pakistan’s duplicity, he may well be doing India a favour albeit indirectly. But India should never forget those who died on 26/11, the policemen, the commandos, the hotel guests and countless other innocents at the railway terminus. If we believe that their lives were not lost in vain, then we as a people have to find the courage to say ‘never again’. And the Indian state, regardless of which political party controls its instrumentalities at any stage, must do all that it takes to bring this sentiment to fruition.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer