Line of control

Written by Vikram Sood | Updated: Dec 1 2008, 05:06am hrs
The horror of Mumbai may be go off the screens in a few days and there may be reason for us to rejoice especially for those who survived the ordeal. But the long term crisis for this entire episode has revealed that terrorism is ruthless and a determined gang of terrorist scan hold a world to ransom. It should also be a time for honest introspection.

It has revealed our pre-event weaknesses and vulnerabilities the fact that we have been unable to find a remedy despite years of terrorism in the country. Nor have we learnt from the experience of others. The weaknesses are all pervasive and it is premature to exult about the triumph of the civil society. A strong and vibrant civil society helps post-event recovery. It does not prevent another attack. Terrorism succeeds incrementally not through one major battle.

Mercifully it has also shown us that there are still valiant men like Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar and Sandeep Unnikrishnan and scores of others who are willing to die for their country. And being Indians, we will soon forget our heroes and their sacrifices. In Raj Thackerays warped book Sandeep was an outsider who died fighting while his eminence was holed up somewhere safe and far.

It has revealed how slow our initial responses were and also the prevailing state of confusion. If the NSG seemed to have taken a while to get to the scene many were disappointed that that they did not storm the bastions in true Hollywood style. There was no Bruce Willis among the NSG but they seemed to have gone about their task systematically without being pushed by politicians as it normally happens in our country. We must remember that the terrorists had been living in the Taj for days and, unlike the commandoes, had a clear idea of its lay out.

Our media came out with a mixed result. We still need to learn to distinguish between what to report and what not to report. Self-restraint is a must before the authorities impose blanket bans. The yard stick is quite simple really. No glorification of the terrorist, no revelations that would aid the terrorist or hinder the operation, and no blame game at least not when the operation is on. Maybe we could take a leaf from the US media and their coverage of 9/11. Maybe we could take a leaf from the excellent film A Wednesday and understand that the media has a role beyond mere reporting. We were very generous in giving the visiting Pakistan Foreign Minister prime time to prove his countrys innocence.

At moments like this, the State must appear to be doing something. Inviting the ISI chief was not the brightest of ideas. Anyone would have known that he would decline as PM Geelanis assurance does not carry weight in Pakistan. It is General Kayani who matters. And if he did come he would bring with him a dossier of our so-called involvement in Balochistan and Afghanistan something the Pak press and other India-baiters (of which there is no shortage in Pakistan) have been talking about endlessly. Were we going to give the either you are with us or against us line and if he had said against you then what would we do Or if there is an incident of this kind in Pakistan would our intelligence chiefs be summoned to Islamabad

The most important lesson is that this can happen again. There are so many vulnerable national assets all over the country and we are ill-prepared to protect them. Terrorists used aircraft in New York, trains and buses in London, trains in Mumbai and Madrid and they came by sea to Mumbai. They could target many of our national iconic sites like Vishakapatnam, Jamshedpur, Rourkela or Bhilai. They could target the IT industry in Bengaluru which has already seen what one might call trial runs. Damage to them would hurt our national pride and cause economic loss and lives but these are recoverable assets.

The boats or trawlers that brought in the terrorists to the Gateway of India also could have headed to Bombay High or Jamnagar where we have our gigantic hydrocarbon/petroleum complexes. Jamnagar represents investments over 150000 lakh crore rupees and contributes 6% of direct tax to the country. Any breakdown of this would be a total non-recoverable loss. Surely their protection is of vital national importance. We need to work on the premise that another dramatic terrorist attack could be repeated in the future. We have to be able to find out where and when. There is therefore so much to do and so little time.

The writer is former Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing