Wednesday, November 16, 2005

It's a war on the IE newsdesk

Readers of IE would agree that almost every other day, one comes across totally differing points of view on the Indo-Pak scenario in the main edits, and that only indicates the democratic nature of the desk. On Nov 14, Saubhik Chakrabarty wrote a biting piece on the Delhi blasts questioning the government's tame attitude in tackling terror. The piece is well-timed, what with the Salem arrest and the steady moving forward on the Delhi blasts. On the night of Nov 13, we also witnessed the mayhem unleashed by Naxals in Jehanabad. The piece made some pertinent points, raising doubts on the traditional liberal versus conservative straitjacketing:

Those who are forever arguing that we must search for the roots of terrorism and not search and destroy the perpetrators of terror forget, or don’t care, or don’t know, that the state’s moral and practical incapacity in the face of thugs-with-a-cause is symptomatic of a greater failing: The state doesn’t respect citizens, it doesn’t respect their liberties.

If the state that governs us doesn’t deeply care if we die because of a terrorist bomb, how can it care if in our lives so many rights are circumscribed. Think about the callousness you have encountered from so many representatives of the governing class. Think about the boorish cop, the arrogant bureaucrat and the venal politician. Almost none of them subscribe to the foundational principle of a civilised society — that every individual and his rights count. That is why a state that is soft in its response to terrorism is not liberal, if we take liberalism to principally mean the recognition of the individual.

That is also why the state’s responses to natural disasters are so horrendously ineffectual in India. We are not a sub-Saharan basket case with meagre resources and zero institutional capacity. The Indian state doesn’t do as much as it easily can because the people are on its radar screen as an undifferentiated mass. Two thousand killed in an earthquake, 20 killed in a terrorist bomb and two killed in a hell hole of a public hospital — they are all, in the most dreadfully apt meaning of the word, statistics.

Hard-hitting stuff there. The very next day, Nov 15, C. Rajamohan writes on the need to forge a brave diplomatic frontier and overlook the irritants to initiate a new era in the dialogue process, fully utilizing the rather meanly termed "earthquake diplomacy":

After that, it just took one brutal act of terrorism in the Capital to take the chutzpah out of India’s quake diplomacy with Pakistan. Although India held its peace and did not blame Pakistan for the bombings, and went ahead with the talks on opening the Line of Control in J&K, Delhi’s quake diplomacy has begun to lose steam.

Given the bitter past in Kashmir, the opening of five new points of contact between India and Pakistan along the LoC looks revolutionary on the face of it; at the functional level, however, it is in the danger becoming a trivial pursuit.

Concerns about terrorists taking advantage have prevented India from accepting an easy movement of people across the Line of Control. By insisting that lists of people have to exchanged and their bonafides verified before letting them cross the LoC, India has left desperate relatives on both sides of the divide deeply disappointed.

Worse still, quake diplomacy appears to be losing its strategic and tactical purpose — to affect a fundamental change in the ground reality in Kashmir over the longer term and win influence on the other side in the short term.

It was India which initiated the quake diplomacy. It compelled Musharraf under pressure at home for inept relief operations to respond. Yet when Musharraf finally came around to accepting the Indian proposals on making the LoC irrelevant, it is India that is holding back.

My predilection lies with Mr. Chakrabarti on this one. The Indian state has gone way too far in its magnanimity and must make its stance firmer. There can be no compromise on the security of the Indian citizen regardless of the movement on Pakistan. Let us not crawl when asked to bend. Crawling does come naturally to our political class, but on this issue, let there be no compromise.

Mr. Chakrabarti's piece here and Mr. Rajmohan's here.

1 comment:

aparna said...

we have tried the chakrabarty doctrine several times over.let's give earthquake diplomacy a chance, what say?