May 6, 2006Security

Survival by a thousand bandages

Fighting terrorism or/by not fighting it

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

This op-ed by Brahma Chellaney (courtesy Amit Varma) reminded me of an interesting conversation in Bombay last week. Terrorism, the argument went, claims far fewer lives than say, traffic accidents. So why should fighting terrorism be a priority?

Not only is there no political will, the Indian system has also become so effete that the state instruments are unable to deliver results even on the odd occasion when the leadership displays a spine.

India’s stoic, forbearing approach is now embedded in the national psyche. It is as if the Indian republic has come to accept terrorist strikes as the products of its unalterable geography or destiny. That may help explain why India’s laconic response to the Pakistan-based jihadist groups’ strategy to inflict death by a thousand cuts has been survival by a thousand bandages. Just as India has come to accept a high level of political corruption, it is starting to live with a high incidence of terrorism. Turning this abysmal situation around demands a new mindset that will not allow India to be continually gored. That means a readiness to do whatever is necessary to end the terrorist siege of India. [Brahma Chellaney/WSJ]So apart from a relatively small number of people who take it upon themselves to bother about defeating terrorism, are ordinary Indians sufficiently concerned about the matter at all? If not, paradoxically, isn’t terrorism itself a useless tactic?

It is evident that terrorism directed against even fairly large numbers of ordinary citizens won’t trigger the government to do anything more than making those buoyant speeches. But there is an exception — terrorism directed against politicians and parliament will evoke a response. Here’s a way to motivate India’s leaders to take counter-terrorism seriously. How about deep cuts in the expenditure on the private security of those VVIPs?

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