Mumbai: Why are we getting it wrong again?

The usual and the expected have happened. India is cutting off air and rail links with Pakistan, and suspending the peace process effectively. Pakistan is threatening to shift 100,000 men to the borders with India, from the Afghan borders where they are currently stationed.

So, terrorists have won.

That's exactly what they came for, didn't they? They wanted International Media coverage and they got it. They wanted India and Pakistan face off each other yet again and release the pressure on Afghan border - they are going to get it. They wanted India to threaten Pakistan again, and millions of decent Pakistanis to feel threatened by India and betrayed by America - which is going to happen. They wanted to weaken the Pakistani state, which is going to happen. They will possibly even be successful, in the next few days, in triggering off a riot and undermine the Indian state even further.

This operation will be hailed as a great success in the annals of terrorism and many more operations like this will be planned now.

Someone was talking to me yesterday that Indians want IOP - India Occupied Pakistan. That is the extent of delusion that the novo-rich, confident Indian middle class lives with. In this day and age, you don't occupy another country. Much less a nuclear capable country. Much less a country like India, which has its own problems to solve, can afford it. I asked him whether he is ready to pay a 50% income tax to cover the costs of waging such a war. He said - India's problems lie with people like me, the NRIs, who do not understand the pain.

Yes, I am third party, but I understand the pain. I sat in front of TV sets for three days. I have lost a friend too, in this battle. I do think it is war - war on India, war on civilized behaviour. But I don't think that this can be stopped by grandstanding, politicking, by pointing fingers, by losing sense. The only way we can save ourselves, and our future generations, by being imaginative now.

Let me ask: what is the point in mobilizing armies on the Pakistan border? Who bears the cost? What will it achieve? Do we reasonably believe that we shall go into a war? Can we go into a war? Why do we have to show nuclear brinkmanship once again, proving to the world clearly that we are not responsible with our power and realistic about our ability?

I read the The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, and it tells you the story what will happen. Nothing. Pakistan will bleed financially at this time, and its people will be even more impoverished. Its civilian government will be even more discredited. And, then, either we shall see another military coup which will bring in an authoritarian regime, or, worse, we shall see a popular revolt, leading to anarchy and chaos, as we saw in the last days of the Musharraf regime. Does this help anyone? Would this make Indians in Mumbai feel secure? I doubt.

I strongly believe that Pakistan is a failed state, one that is completely outside the control of its government. True, the terrorists may have called Pakistan, but they surely did not call its Prime Minister. True, may be ISI is involved - but they will only get what they want if we resume hostilities now. Our only choice is a measured response, for once, and acceptance of the offer the Government of Pakistan has made on this one. India can now seek assistance from Scotland Yard and even the CIA, and the Israelis, because this was an international event. This may help us long term - even this may help us capture Dawood Ibrahim and make him walk the gallows - and secure our cities.

For me, I don't want to see troops mobilized on the border. I want to see more police on the streets, more investment in intelligence gathering, more efforts to curb corruption. I want to see Mafia being routed out of Mumbai. I want to see better maritime security. I want to see investments in urban schools and job creation, that helps people out of poverty and despair. More than anything, I want to see a leader who treats us as intelligent people and talks to us as one.

Bollywood learnt this lesson some time back. There used to be dumb formula movies, with same story, similar songs, because 'Indian public did not want anything else'. But once some directors started making movies outside the formula, with innovative story and sometimes, without a song, and those films became widely successful, the stereotype broke down. In fact, formula movies are out of fashion these days - Indian public has proved themselves to be intelligent and matured.

When would our politicians learn this?


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