*Warning: Longish post *
It’s been a month since the Bombay blasts. We’ve had the time to let it sink and now that we have some distance from the incident itself, we are in a better position to really understand the problem. Not try and suggest solutions but first look at the problem.
Everyone’s either advocating military action, skillful diplomacy, better intelligence & homeland security or applying international pressure on Pakistan, among other options. But, if we don’t want another 26/11 to happen, we need to approach the problem totally differently.
For starters, recognize the real problems in Pakistan. From this article –
“…These topics also fill most news broadcasts and top the headlines in every Pakistani newspaper. Pakistanis talk about these issues on the streets, in the markets, and at the masjids. These issues – the economy, the electricity load sharing, the water shortage, and the political instability – cut across social class, gender, and geography. Hardly anyone talks about extremism. You might catch a mention of extremist actions in the last few minutes of a news broadcast – if you have electricity to watch the news, that is.”
And this chilling line from The Hindu about the village from which Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone captured terrorist, hails from – “Some locals have claimed that Faridkot, and another poor village nearby called Tara Singh, are a recruitment hotbed for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group accused of carrying out the Mumbai attack.”
This is exactly what is happening in Pakistan. Their economy is in shambles and millions of poor people have no idea where to turn. And then, a LeT leader shows up at their doorstep and promises them some cash if they let their son Ajmal Amir Kasab “work” for them. The young impressionable kids are shown clips of Narendra Modi and how certain parts of India are wallowing in luxury while Pakistan is suffering. And voila! a “terrorist” is born.
The implication for us – As long as Pakistan continues to sink deeper into poverty, there is no possibility of peace in India.
Now, lets look at our own country. 46% of the nation’s income is accounted for by the top one-fifth of its people. How unbelievable is that?? Granted – the top one-fifth made their money through honest means. They pay their taxes. And do some charity work. But is that all? If a small section of the country is absorbing half the wealth, that pretty much leaves the other four-fifths battling for scraps. Or indulging in crime. Or taking up terrorism.
It is true that Pakistan asked for a separate state. And on current evidence, they have clearly failed. But if we let them go down the tube, there will be more 26-11s. Make no mistake about that.
So let me toss a suggestion – how about we HELP Pakistan? Not just lip service or any half-hearted gestures, but actually HELP them. For two reasons:
1) Pure selfishness. We don’t want the LeT recruiting more adolescents by throwing some cash at their parents.
2) Out of a sense of humanity. An old man dying of cold and hunger in Pakistan is no different to one dying on our side of Punjab.
World Public Opinion recently did an extensive survey in Pakistan and believe it or not, the US presence in the region is viewed by a significant majority of Pakistanis as a bigger threat than India. Almost three in four—72 percent—call the US military presence in Asia a critical threat. There has never been a better time to get ourselves on the side of the people of Pakistan.
Again, I know this is radical, but nothing else will work. We have millions of poor Muslims in Pakistan, and just as significantly, millions of poor Muslims in India. Sure, we can bomb certain areas in Pakistan / secure our borders / establish a federal investigative agency etc. But the poor sections of the 300 million Muslims in India are extremely vulnerable to being tapped up by the LeT or Al Qaeda or Jaish-e-Mohammad. Can we “protect” ourselves from all of them? We would be living in a constant state of fear in spite of all the security measures we may implement. If either the US or India bomb Pakistan and generate more anger and disillusionment, those feelings will find an outlet in India, given our proximity and history. The LeT will just find more Kasab’s lining up at their doors.
If India, as a predominantly Hindu state, helps Pakistan out, I don’t see why the Muslim community should carry on with their hatred of Indians. I don’t think this is being too naive. The only reason the LeT or a JeM still exist is because the people they represent are poor (and mostly illiterate) and they can use religion as leverage to exploit the anger / frustration. The rapid growth and proliferation of religious fundamentalism is a direct consequence of the cold exploitation of certain societies in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America by the US, and to a lesser extent, the USSR in the post WW-II period. (This topic deserves a separate post).
An Ajmal Amir Kasab going on a shooting spree is unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is humanity turning a blind eye towards the masses struggling with poverty, disease and illiteracy. In Africa. In South America. In Pakistan. Ajmal Amir Kasab mirrors our own attitude towards him – indifference. The world, and by implication India, were indifferent to his family’s misery, and he will show no remorse in gunning us down. Given his philosophy, firmly entrenched in the belief that Indians don’t care about his people, his acts are justified. In the bigger scheme of things, we’ve all collectively created living conditions where large sections of humanity are forced to live in appalling circumstances, leading to cynicism, anger, frustration and hopelessness – which then manifest in various acts of terrorism around the globe. When we are analyzing terrorism and exploring options to “solve” the problem, it would be a huge mistake to look at some terrorist attack in isolation. When we look a little deeper, it emerges that all attack is a call for help.
In the context of 26-11, India should be responding differently. Especially after 26-11. Our hostile and belligerent stand with respect to Pakistan is understandable but it would only makes things worse. Instead, open up bilateral trade. Make efforts to stabilize and boost their plummeting economy. Provide them with aid – in terms of money, investments in civilian infrastructure, a public education system, hospitals etc. Stop all talk about military action. Resume cricketing ties. Do anything it takes to dissolve their cynicism. It’s of paramount importance that we change the image of India in the minds of Pakistani people. For our own sake. If we really want to put an end to terrorism. If an Ajmal Amir Kasab’s family is not living in abject poverty and can send their son to school, his father would not be “selling” him to militants for a few thousand rupees.
The real criminals are NOT the terrorists. It’s the First World countries and sections of their population that are hoarding the world’s resources. They are the real culprits. Just like the top one-fifth of India who account for almost half her wealth. Their violence is subtle, more passive and hard to detect. Ironically, they are always the ones taking the moral high ground on this issue. The world’s resources are limited and we are all playing a “zero-sum game”. In effect, any profit anybody makes is at the expense of another. This applies at the level of the individual, as well as countries. The more certain sections of the global population continue to hoard wealth and resources, the more they are directly encouraging the rest to take up violence and terrorism. If the GDP in the US, China and India is growing steadily over the last decade, other countries like Pakistan, Iran, Bolivia have to be left behind. This is inevitable. And the people in these countries will start embarking in jihad missions and revolutions. This is inevitable too.
Lastly, I am not advocating Communism. Both capitalism and communism represent extremes in political and economic ideologies. Communism is fine in principle – but the sharing should happen voluntarily. The state should not force / tax citizens out of their possessions. Else, the system won’t work in the long run, as demonstrated by the spectacular falling apart of the Soviet Bloc.
As long as we don’t recognize this and continue to blame the government or our intelligence agencies for not curbing terrorism, we are merely avoiding the real problem – our indifference to the suffering of other human beings. We have all the tools to eradicate the scourge of poverty from the world and yet we opt not to. That’s fine. But lets not get shocked / angered when more trains and buses get blown up in cities across the world. Because they will.