Mumbai: Before & After – I

01 Dec


I’ve been sitting here trying to think of something clever to say, something that would set the tone for this post and the ones that will follow and I can’t. There are so many things running through my mind all at once that my primary concern right now is coherence.

Equally prominent is a fear that talking, or rather writing, about these things is an inherently selfish and self-absorbed thing to do. I am not an opinionmaker or a policymaker, I pull nobody’s strings and I have just about as much power as the average citizen of my country – i.e. I have the power of my vote and I am fully entitled to get on my soapbox but that’s about it. I am not a billionaire businessman, I am not a celebrity, I am not a journalist, I am not a (direct) victim of the latest attack on Mumbai, I am highly unlikely to appear on your television. I am, in a word, irrelevant to the whole debate. And I do not wish to cheapen it by talking about the breadth and depth of issues that occur to me right now in a manner that suggests I know something more than you.

Because I don’t. However, I am a 27 year old Indian woman and I feel there are things that I need to say today and in the days to come because talking back to my TV and arguing with my newspaper isn’t doing anything for my sanity. And as I noted a while back, keeping quiet under the assumption that everybody must share my feelings is just woolly-headed.

So today, in the first of a series of (rambling) posts, I’d like to talk about the Mumbai terror attacks and Pakistan.

Everyone from The Economist to the BBC to US officials have used the phrase “we’re all in the same boat” and have pointed out Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s extremely positive overtures to India, in the past few weeks as well as in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, in particular while stressing on the importance of the peace process.

Let me say first up that I believe President Zardari when he says his government had nothing to do with this attack. I believe him when he assures India of his full support. I believe him when he says he and his country are in the same position today as India.

In fact, I believe him to the point where he kind of scares me. I don’t know what they did to him in prison but everytime I see him on TV, he has this fanatical gleam in his eye when he starts talking about democracy and terrorism and all the rest of it. This is a man who isn’t just parroting idle lines on a prompter. I get the feeling that this is a man who is more in tune with the fear and pain suffered by ordinary Mumbaikars than any Indian politician I have yet seen talking about the recent events.

The problem is that I don’t think either he or his government is in charge.

You can put it down to my Indianness if you like – Blind Prejudice Keeps Misguided Indian From Trusting Honest Pakistanis – but I really have trouble believing that the present civil government in Pakistan is anything more than merely tolerated by the Pakistani Army. Right now the Army, with a belligerent United States camped on its western border and hedged in by India on the eastern front, with Islamic militancy on the rise inside its borders and one deeply unpopular army dictator pushed out, isn’t inclined to take away the civilians’ toys. Which is not to say that they don’t have the power or that any one of these factors can stop the Army from once again taking power out in the open if it feels like it.

And I have reasons, both historical and current, for that belief. For example, it’s hard not to remember how powerless Benazir Bhutto felt as the Prime Minister. A powerlessness that ended by her earning the sobriquet “the Mother of Taliban”, in her own words. When plugged into the larger context what it boils down to is this: as long as civilian governments toe the line and leave the Army to its own devices, it’ll let you maintain the polite fiction that you’re in charge. Try and push the line even an inch, and you’ll go the Nawaz Sharif way if not the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto way.

Much more recently, when the present civilian government was in the process of finding its feet, it tried to bring the ISI under its control. And received a one finger salute in response. The Prime Minister quickly backtracked. So it’s not hard to imagine President Zardari rashly promising India all the help it needs upto and including a visit from the ISI chief, only to be met with a cold response from the chief himself.

Now I’m a private citizen and perhaps I’m missing some crucial nuance that only Pakistanis can understand so feel free to discount my views. But it’s important to state that this is also the view of the Indian establishment. National Security Advisor MK Narayanan, for example, said it as plain as possible that “the single most important entity in Pakistan remains the army and the ISI”.

So the challenge before the Pakistani government is not to convince India that it is a victim of terrorism. We can see that for ourselves. The challenge is to convince the Indians that the Pakistani civilian government is the entity actually calling the shots.

Then there is the question of public sentiment.

If you were to listen to some of the more inflammatory comments running through the streets, you’d be convinced that the average Indian would like nothing better than for war to be declared immediately against Pakistan – a view that the local (television) media seems only too eager to embrace going by some of the coverage I’ve suffered through. And given the utterly hapless nature of this execrable Congress-led government (good luck winning the general election, chumps!), Western pundits are rightly worried that Indo-Pak relations are headed for an all time low because this is a government that belies the Machiavellian reputation of its diplomats. They’re blundering about in the dark, trying to save what face they can and I absolutely don’t rule out some bone-headed move like troop escalation on the border.

To which I have to say two things:

1. Indians feel this strongly about Pakistan and its possible involvement in these attacks for a valid reason. For decades, terrorism was an openly acknowledged (if officially denied) part of Pakistan’s foreign policy when it came to India. Combine this with the fact that most of us have never met a Pakistani even though they live right next door and the emotional baggage older Indians carry due to Partition, and you don’t even need to delve into the 700-year history of Hindu-Muslim relations on the subcontinent the way so many Westerners feel compelled to do to see why this is a rare witch’s broth.

If at all we know more about them these days, it is because many more of us have travelled abroad and had a chance to meet our neighbors in neutral venues like the United States and the U.K. and have been pleasantly surprised to see in them perfectly reasonably human beings albeit with viewpoints that differ from our own on regional politics. Add to this the effect of the internet and the arts on our populations (and subtract the role of the local media), and things are considerably better than they used to be. And yes, it is true that we are all now in the same boat as far as terrorism is concerned and that builds a certain bond between us.

What drives Indians absolutely insane however is when people start talking about the situation as though we ought to simply get over our painful history because our current shared pain has somehow made it irrelevant. While I’m not in favor of obsessing over past wrongs, it is beyond idiotic to suggest that decades-long suspicion and resentment should or will be swept aside in a moment because “we are all in the same boat”.

Everytime we look at the damn boat, it is a reminder of events past. And you’ll have to forgive us if we like to vent about it when that happens because we’ve been on that stupid boat for a lot longer than our co-passengers these days. And it doesn’t help matters any when we remember how long and how loudly we protested the existence of that boat while the world insisted it was all just our paranoia talking… until it landed on their shores.

I’m certainly not one of those who believe that India has never stepped out of line or its role is purely that of a victim (intelligence agencies are required to be up to no good except that of their home country. That’s why they’re secretive, see? I think the RAW is inept and inefficient but nobody could be that bad. Could they?), but there’s a qualitative difference between the work of the ISI and the militants it so lovingly fostered until they turned rabid, and anything India could hurl at Pakistan. Look at our Hindu terrorists, for example – the first rule of terrorism is to get the other guy yet the dumb clucks went straight to bombing their own country. Even our terrorists are stupid, and they’re supposed to be the ones with all the innovative ideas these days!

So all those talking heads on TV and so-called “experts” on South Asia? You can just shut it because the more you talk about our silly little ways over here in brownie-land, the more we feel inclined to bomb each other out of existence.

2. Breaking off the peace talks, suspending the cricket matches, building up the troops, sabre-rattling… we’re being played like a banjo. if India really wants to up its game, what it needs to do is to embrace the Pakistani government with open arms, take President Zardari up on his no-first strike nuke agreement and do everything to take the peace talks forward.

And then call up the Americans, tell them how we’re all in this boat together and Afghanistan could do with a little Indian help. This would accomplish quite a few things:

One, given the Pakistani government’s position, it’d be interesting to see the Army’s reaction. Two, if al-Qaeda’s motive was to escalate Indo-Pak tensions to divert the attention of Pakistani troops committed to helping the Americans along the Pak-Afghan border, then this would be major egg on their face. Three, it would send out a strong message that India is no longer willing to sit back and play defense. Four, it would tamp down on anti-Pakistan rhetoric inside India because the government will be seen as taking action rather than indulging in more talk. And (perhaps most importantly) five, we really don’t want the Taliban back in Afghanistan, especially now that they’ve got an eye on Pakistan, and we should be out there doing everything we can to stop that from happening.


Posted by on December 1, 2008 in Life, Personal, Politics


39 responses to “Mumbai: Before & After – I

  1. Sujatha

    December 1, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I sort of like where this is going, because I’m in “the same boat as you”. Will go back and read the entire post now.

  2. Sujatha

    December 1, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    First off, the entire second paragraph is me. Don’t know if any of this will make any difference. That said, I’m beginning to believe that political will to address this issue is either non-existent or inadequate. This is not a little silly and not a little naive, but I honestly believe that the long-term answer to the problem of terrorism lies in the people, in a popular movement. Of what sort, I don’t know.

  3. sagarone

    December 1, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I never for a moment take anything Zardari says at face value, because he is just the international face that Pakistan puts forward at the moment. It is the good guy, bad guy routine, where they say something while the actual powers in their country are planning on doing something else. I have been writing about this on my blog as well. I agree with being more active in Afghanistan and having our troops there. We can help in taking out terrorist hideouts and training camps in the Pak-Afghan border areas and the FATA agency, and thus reduce the Taliban threat. This is for our own good because this is our war as well.

  4. عمار - aMmAr

    December 1, 2008 at 7:36 pm


    Finally a voice of reason from the other side of the border. I am sure you are not the only one who is thinking on these lines. I grew up in the city of Karachi, which is almost the Mumbai of Pakistan excluding Bollywood 🙂

    If you look back at the recent history of both Karachi and Pakistan. You will find out that we have suffered a lot and believe me we blame our selves and ourselves the most. Because we allowed Zia and Musharraf to rule us. And they are mostly responsible for the mess in our country today. I was stuck in my office for 3 days with very little food, water and hope. Even now if your surf the news you will find chaos and mayhem in my city.

    But despite the ugly past that we shared together. The past few years were surprisingly amazing, who would have believed that Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhter will play in SRK’s team and Sohail Tanveer will win the purple cap by playing for Rajhistan Royals. The point I am trying to make here is that we have come a long way, so my request to the sane ppl of this continent is to value logic, dont fall for false propaganda in the name of patriotism, cuz media, politicians and military establishment are white collar terrorists. None of them will make any money if peace will prevail in the region.

  5. عمار - aMmAr

    December 1, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    *I was stuck in my office for 3 days with very little food, water and hope when Bhutto was assassinated.

    Amrita please add this line to the para. thank you

  6. عمار - aMmAr

    December 1, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    where did my comment go? u moderated the other one.

  7. naren

    December 2, 2008 at 2:19 am

    Far from rambling, this is the wisest post on this issue I have read in a long time. It is very easy, indeed, immensely tempting, for the powers that be to rattle sabres and mount an offensive against Pakistan. That will absolve it of all its little sins like the alleged politics happening in the RAW, agencies not following up on intelligence inputs, equipment not ordered despite being requisitioned and so on. Lots of inconvenient things pointing to bumbling incompetence will be forgotten if we go to war. Then, everyone will be in patriotic mode. And when the war is over, it will be back to normal till another attack happens.

    The war has to be fought, no doubt about it, but it has to be fought with the mind, not with troops. We have to turn the heat on the Pakistan government, lobby with the Americans, get China to commit its stand, whatever. And we MUST make sure that the bumbling incompetence is punished.

    Now I’m rambling.

  8. Ron

    December 2, 2008 at 3:12 am

    The whole blame game and pointing of fingers at Pakistan is a well thought out political strategy of diverting public attention from the main issue at hand, absymal Intellegence and security failures on India’s part. The country is furious right now and looking to someone to blame. Though I’m not sure if this time this ploy will work, public anger seems to be directed at our own government more than Pakistan.

  9. Rada

    December 2, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Very interesting post and some very sensible observations.

    I hope your future posts on the subject will also touch upon the plight of the average Indian Muslim, who is caught between a rock and a hard place, plauged by poverty and poor education, betrayed by the politicians as well as their own religious leadership!

  10. Ravi Nair

    December 2, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Very easy to say that Pakistan is not involved etc. The government in Pakistan means nothing and the ISI means everything and they are the ultimate government in Pakistan.

    Do you think Islamists will try this stuff in China? NO. Now ask yourself, why that is so. It is because they know that their brutality will be matched and exceeded by the Chinese government.

    To get people like Dawood Ibrahim etc back here is the solution-be like the Mossad-tell him that his daughter who lives in London with Javed Miandad’s son-will be killed-see how soon he runs back to India then.

    Be honest and stop all this Islamic coddling once and for all. In Cochin, in the old school where my wife used to teach at, Muslims have withdrawn their kids because singing the Indian National Anthem is anti Islamic :-). Are you Indian or are you Islamic? Where is your allegiance? This is being done in the 21st century.

    Finally, grow some guts India and have some self respect like Israel and the USA. You may find fault with our president Bush, but since 9/11, he has kept us safe. Indian politicians will say and do anything to get Muslim votes.

    Are Indians safe? NO. In the end without a sense of safety, nothing will get done and when you have such an uninspiring Prime Minister the job gets even tougher. Who is to be held responsible for our soldiers and Police not even having the correct equipment. People like myself who have now lived I the USA for the past 22 years can only laugh, when we think we are a Super Power. A Super Power does not hesitate to take action. All India is now, is a bunch of Eunuchs at the top, making a lot of noise that is a cacophony.

  11. shal247

    December 2, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Amrita, excellent post! I’ve been a loyal reader for quite sometime now, but this is my first comment.

    We needed this post after all the emotional outpouring (most necessary) the blogosphere has seen. People so quagmired in mindless grief that it stops us from looking ahead.

    the time for a passive wait-and-watch strategy is so over. But I honestly don’t believe like your earlier commenter that the “proactive” American approach is the way. Sure, the USA hasn’t been attacked – but gee! haven’t things been just peachy in Iraq? We need a policy that is a bit more sophisticated that a refined version of pinning the tail on the donkey.

    p.s. blogrolling you and linking up this article if thats ok?

  12. M

    December 2, 2008 at 11:52 am


    Excellent post. I’d say though, that embracing Zardari’s statements at this time, and going ahead with the peace talks would NOT be seen as progress. I think we might need more than that – yes, certainly appear to take his statements at face value, but also do some stronger tactics are needed – what those tactics should be, I have no idea. Frighteningly, I’m afraid no-one in India does!

    What I’d like to see is some beefing up of resources for the ATS/Police etc. – Those responsible for the day to day handling of such incidents – better intelligence dissemination – that seems to have been the bottleneck – all the warnings stayed mere warnings, with noone in power taking preventive action.


  13. Ravi Nair

    December 2, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Pat Buchanan speaks the truth. He is on the Extreme Right here in the USA and has constantly been an admirer and supporter of India, no matter what his other faults are.

    Europe by nature presently, is full of cowardly nations with no guts and we in the USA are lucky, to have a government that believes in protecting us. Obama, will learn soon enough, that coddling islamists will not work. Give them an arm and they will then take away your eyes and legs!

    Question is when the Eunuch Indian nation will stand up and fight back, instead of listening to useless Pakistani rhetoric. To the Muslims of India, YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US. Choose your path and stop blaming others for your poverty and ignorance.

    If you send your child to a Islamic Madrassa, then that is your choice and the Qu’ran cannot teach you anything practical, but useless garbage, which in turn does not give you the tools to survive in the world.

    The Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, Jains, Christians etc of India should not and will not bear the burden for Islamic stupidity.

  14. sachita

    December 2, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    This has pretty much my thinking as well except I do have few issues with what you have to say.
    1. I don’t see how finding the Pakistani civilians tolerant will extend to their military’s/ terrorists good will towards us!
    2. Embracing Pakistan’s peace treaties isn’t going to help us, as India has been backstabbed several times before right at the juncture of peace treaties. Pakistani Military renders it useless.

    Pakistan can’t seem to contain the terrorism, India isn’t going to get enough access to do it either, War against Pakistan is only going to trigger more of this terrorism for us.
    US entering Pakistan seems to be the only solution, except that isn’t a good solution either as US has never ever done good to a Nation it has stepped into. Obama has even suggested it during his Campaign.

    Moron Bush should have finished his job properly in Afghanistan!

    To Ravi above, are you ready to take up responsibility for all the Hindu extremist attack, killing as you are a Hindu too? If not, don’t put that blame on all Muslims of India either. Don’t question their loyalties.

  15. Vikram

    December 2, 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Ammar, the things you mentioned like Tanveer playing in SRK’s team etc. dont mean a lot in the context of the general perception of the Indian public.

    From the surveys and my own observations, I can tell you that in general the Indian public has very negative views of Pakistan and this is not something that can be changed easily. These views probably range from ignorance in states like Tamil Nadu and Assam to downright hostile in Gujarat and Maharashtra. But I cant think of a single state where people would have any kind of positive attitude towards Pakistan.

    Like Amritha mentioned in the post most Indians know next to nothing about Pakistan.

    I dont see how being in the same boat of facing terror (mostly homegrown in both cases) can heal old wounds.

  16. Vikram

    December 2, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Basically what I am trying to say is that any kind of strong (non-military) overture towards Pakistan by our present government will be political suicide, and elections are only a few months away.

  17. sachita

    December 2, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    After two days of we didn’t do it rant, they have gone back to their ways, refusing to even admit the terrorists are from Pakistan. If they continue to provide refuge for each one of our wanted criminals from Dawood to LeT & just mouth peace lines, what good does it do?

  18. Sunil

    December 3, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Hmm. Had typed up a more coherent remark which has been mercilessly swallowed by the ether. So bear with me for any mistakes.

    Was interesting reading the post and the reactions. Basically I’m sampling the various Indian mind frames as a response to terrorism and I must say this is a fairly reasonable one but I am afraid it does overlook some of the important aspects of the problem:

    1. Though I think the point about Zardari being innocent and an ally ( not in as many words) is fair, attributing all of this to the territorial limits of Pakistan alone is flawed thinking. For all the talk, funding, as often in such cases would have come from elsewhere, mostly Gulf. Pakistan just offers an easy operational hub for the sentiments. The problems is far more global than expressed in this post.

    2. I don’t know what is the purpose being implied in siding with Zardari. For all the embraces we exchange we cant be sure if he would be alive around next summer. That you happen to ‘believe’ someone is not how foreign policies are made. And frankly, India I think, has believed Pakistan quite too often. Here what essentially the post implies is for India, in spite of being attacked on a regular basis, to build a nation on behalf of Pakistan which they could not themselves for sixty years. I notice a comment from A Pakistani above saying ‘ they allowed Musharraf , Zia, et al to rule’.

    Precisely, they did. Not us.

    So what is the basis of the expectation that India has to ( wait or aid) put the neighbouring house in order? Or hope and pray that some miracle accidentally strikes or messiah shall wave a wand ? I am an accomplished scoundrel so don’t mistake me for a patriot. But I find it both hilarious and intensely irritating when voices from across the border accuse Indians of ‘lacking in reason and sanity’. It is about time for Pakistan to look into itself for its own sake. Apart from winning a cricket world cup and having a nuclear capability I cant associate Pakistan with any single achievement or contribution to the world. All they have done is to convert their nation into a real time video game where people get elected, leaders come and go, get killed, get blown away and wars, seiges and offensives here and there.
    The reality is Pakistan is a failed state and an average cricket team.

    3. So what can India do ? I don’t have to state that the world cant afford a military confrontation between India and Pakistan. So if Zardari cant control his state , then, given the situation, he should authorise a joint Indian American covert ops to take out the top brass of the terrorist organisations operating from within his country. Akin Operation bayonet post Munich 1972. Even assuming that he shall not resist such a proposal ( with American icing on top) , he surely shall be persuaded against it, because, the ‘sane voices’ of the country shall regard it as a direct attack on ISLAM. So, though I too am inclined to believe him , I shall not put my mortgage on him.

    4. That leaves us with a not so unfamiliar situation during cold war where failing or weak states were threatened by possible communist take over. CIA dealt with a dozen such scenarios in many continents by successfully managing covert ops and coups. So the current problem and the solution is already out there in history.

    5. But I reckon India would struggle with such an operation right now because of
    a. Poor RAW structure in Pakistan ( Thanks to Gujral).
    b. Dynamics of UPA
    c. Elections in 6 months.

    So I don’t think there is an immediate answer in near future than to make statements, police reforms and strengthen local intelligence.

    In any case as I have been writing and following terrorism for a while now, we have just about a decade and at the most a decade and a half before a full blown JIHAD vs. Rest of world scenario emerges. So make sure to watch all the movies, have all the beer, and as much sex and do all the shopping.


  19. pitu

    December 3, 2008 at 6:57 am

    The brain has finally started to work. The city is still quite depressed. I (and most others) vacillate between Heck Yeah, Bomb their asses! and No wait, what’s that Zardari chap saying?

    I keep remembering a stupid joke someone told me in Std V. God gives a lecture on Earth to an angel and points out how stingy he was when granting gifts to various nations. He points out India and waxes lyrical. The angel is shocked. It doesn’t seem fair to give all these goodies (culture, arts, intellect, history,) to India!! God answers with a wry smile- take a look at the neighbors I have her…


  20. pitu

    December 3, 2008 at 6:58 am

    *given* her.

  21. Ravi Nair

    December 3, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Sachita, in answer to your question anyone found guilty of any kind of terror attack be they Hindu etc should be punished. Nothing of this sort should be tolerated from anyone. Ever heard of Timothy McVeigh?

    BTW, o Indian should take responsibility for uneducated or madrassa educated Muslims. That is their choice, not ours.

    Finally, I’ll take the so called moron “BUSH” over Indian leaders anyday. At least he has kept us in the USA safe, unlike the Italian lady who pulls the strings in India.

  22. Amrita

    December 3, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Hey everybody, thank you all for commenting and I apologize if your comments disappeared or were held up – WP has been off for the past couple of weeks, probably because they’re updating their system and spam is getting through while legit comments are being moderated.

    Some of the stuff you guys have commented on are the subjects of upcoming posts so I hope to discuss those topics with you on those. On the rest:

    Suj – if we could somehow come up with a democratic revolution? As in if all the people who wanted to do something but thought all the present political parties were rubbish got together and ran for office, then that would be a people’s movement I could believe in. However that idea is going to live only in my wishful thinking.

    Sagar – I pretty much agree with you.

    Ammar – WP is screwing with us, that’s why. I have comment moderation for links but its been moderating comments even without them for some reason as and when it likes.
    And I have to agree with you in that any progress made between our nations is entirely due to our people and IN SPITE OF the people who run our countries.

    Naren – if we got a government who could do all that, then we’d be an entirely different nation. I’m trying hard to keep my cynicism in check in case this attack really was a wake up call but looking at the dumb moves this govt keeps making, I can feel my hopes oozing out of me.

    Ron – that’s one of the things I hope to discuss at length. 🙂

    Rada – the second post is coming up. 🙂

    Ravi – Sachita isn’t asking whether you condemn Hindu terrorists, she’s asking if you feel personally responsible for their actions the way you seem to believe the average Muslim is responsible for that of Islamic terrorists.
    It’s interesting you bring up China because AFAIK China is a big supporter of Pakistan and the last time it bothered to actually go to war, it was India it defeated. And frankly, neither India nor America is going to go the Chinese way because we like having things like rights and in the case of India especially what you’re asking us to do is to reward the lousy work of the Indian govt by handing them even more power. Not gonna happen.
    And as far as Bush making America safer – as the events in Mumbai have proven, he’s basically painted a target on the backs of Americans when they leave their shores and according to this congressional report has upped the chances of a domestic attack.
    As for Pat Buchanan… hahahahah! words fail me. Alex Massie (and bruce Schneier who actually knows these things) have a different opinion that might interest you.

    Shal – hi there! You’re right that we don’t have to go off in all directions the way the Bushies did but I honestly believe Afghanistan will make a difference.

    M – post coming up in a few days 🙂

    Sachita – but didn’t you see this coming? Even if they arrest those people, did you honestly think they would hand them over to India to be interrogated? Allow the Israelis and the FBI to sit in on those interrogations? If I was in their position, I’d insist on the same things and if push came to shove, I’d stage a nice little encounter and hand over the body if India wanted it. Re:
    1. Common cause between the people of these two countries means nothing at all of course politically speaking. But we can hope that this shared feeling will one day lead to our children being able to look past the BS of the past and make somehting out of their present. By then we’ll all probably be dead though. Cheery!
    2. Diplomacy isn’t always about getting hard results. Indo-Pak diplomacy in particular is more about image control than anything else. It’s a dumb game but its one of the things that keeps the world going, I guess. This is why I’d like more hard action.

    Vikram – as far as elections are concerned, the Congress is dead and buried. LK Advani and Modi would have to stage a mass murder of babies on the steps of Parliament before the Congress wins the general elections next year.

    Pitu – lord, yes. But if these are going to be our playmates, then we need to learn the rules of the game. Sitting it out isn’t an option anymore.

    Sunil – that’s happening a lot round here these days, I’m afraid. I think it might be related to WP updating their system. Re: the points you make –
    1. I don’t quibble with the global funding angle, but this post was specifically about Pakistan. I do have thoughts about the former but it’s pretty extensive. Maybe I’ll add it to the list.
    2. I quite realize that foreign policy can’t be determined on a gut feeling (ha!), but the problem is that we really don’t have an option other than to deal with the Pakistani govt. We can’t insist on going straight to their Army, we can’t cut off diplomatic ties, we live right next door so we can’t take our cricket bat and ball and march off home either. Like it or not, this is the neighborhood we live in and moving is not an option so we have to deal. The trick is to influence reality on the ground (army in control) by talking to the reality on the surface (govt in control). And by aggressively embracing the Pakistanis, we land the ball squarely in their court.
    3. Zardari isn’t going to do squat. And he sure as hell isn’t going to authorize an Indo-US venture. In fact I’m constantly amazed by the things Americans think they can do in this region and one of the posts is going to be about that. But it’s important that we don’t ignore him because he’s a part of the puzzle.
    4. I really do think we could take steps as soon as January (when Obama swears in) if we’re ready to move into Afghanistan. Of course, this would have to work in tandem with other efforts.
    I think global terror is already a reality. I can’t think of many countries where the terrorists haven’t made their presence felt. So I’m already shopping till I drop and getting drunk, lol.

  23. Sunil

    December 3, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    Hi I am not picking on you here but I am responding in a hope that you would help me udnerstand your thoughts better:

    Okay we agree. Zardari doent have the control over aspects of his government or populations. We agree that Its these aspects which are trouble. Then how do you expect us – to use your words- The trick is to influence reality on the ground (army in control) by talking to the reality on the surface (govt in control). And by aggressively embracing the Pakistanis, we land the ball squarely in their court..
    Pray tell me what is this aggressively embracing Pakistan, which is so different now than all these years?

    About 3 I dont know your thoughts on America and its influence on Pakistan but I believe if it ahdnt been for America with all the fallacies it brings to the table , Pakistan would have turned into a Congo a decade back. Now Imagine a congo with a few Nuclear warheads.

  24. ravi nair

    December 3, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Pakistan by doing this (ISI) etc, stateless actor crap, has ensured one thing. It will be declawed sooner or later.

    No matter what Bush has been good for India and hopefully Obama will also be good. Many moons ago, when I became a US citizen (in 1994), the good judge asked us jokingly to carry our Indian (original) passports as a joke. Of course as the law dictates, I mailed mine back to the Indian Consulate.

    American is made up of people like myself. Proud to be an American in every way and if by proudly carrying a US passport makes me a target, so be it. I am not scared to die. I owe this great country a lot. Much more than anyone can imagine.

    As for Sachita’s question, no I do not feel personally responsible if a Hindu commits an act of terror because, that is such a rare occurrence. Can the same be said of islam? How many instances can one quote Indian Muslim leaders who make anti Indian statements. Ask the head honcho of the Delhi Jama Masjid where his allegiance lies along with his Father. I grew up in Bombay and used to see how Muslims burst firecrackers and distributed sweets when Pakistan beat India in cricket matches. Tough to swallow.

    Pat Buchanan is a great commentator and is very insightful and of late, he has always come down hard on India’s side. Trust me the man is brilliant.

    I have lost one family friend in this carnage and the LEOPOLD restaurant is owned by a old friend’s husband. When I go to Bombay, in April of 2009 I will go to the TAJ and the LEOPOLD with a heavy heart.

    Finally, my Indian friends in the USA all tell me one thing now. That they feel that I have been right all these years and one does not ever negotiate with terrorists or nations like Pakistan, who are state sponsors of terror. Time will tell what happens further. Given a choice, I wish I was a Indian soldier :-).

  25. Vikram

    December 3, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Amritha, I am afraid your presumption that the Congress will be ‘buried’ in the next election because of these attacks is way off the mark, let me just quote,

    “This ‘votes will be lost’ theory is a cruel joke constructed by our chattering class, mostly upon itself. It is the promised vengeance of a lot of people who don’t themselves vote, but claim to understand the motivations and biases that bring others to the voting booth every few years.”

    This is from an editorial from one of the best sources of news in rural India. Even if urban Indians do vote, it wont matter much because 70 % of the population is rural.

    And this was precisely what I was trying to say before, if the government doesnt do much, it will not have much impact on rural voters. But any overtures towards Pakistan will not be liked in the rural part of any state.

  26. WSW

    December 5, 2008 at 5:23 am


    I agree, if the Govt doesnt return to power it wont be because of its inaction in the terror attacks but because of multiple failure in its away-with-poverty manifesto last election.
    BJP is a symbol of how India didnt shine enough for the rural junta.

  27. Amrita

    December 5, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Sunil – I didn’t think you were picking on me 🙂 If people don’t discuss, then how will they know anything?
    I think there’s a difference between cautiously approaching someone while being convinced that they’re about to kick us in the nuts at any minute (which is what we’ve been doing thus far in the peace process) and jumping on someone’s neck and saying “you’re my brother, come let’s kick this thing together!”
    The way I would have done it (if I had something more than a blog to back me up) would be simple: make the same demands India has already made (return Dawood, hand over this one and that one, shut that stuf down, etc) but made it the request of a country that wants to be Pakistan’s BFF. We’d still have been turned down by the Army but the difference between a request made by a friend and an angry enemy is that there really is no real justification to turn down appeals made by your friends while you can always justify turning down requests made by antagonists. It removes your political cover. And then I’d use the Americans and the army camped on their doorstep to really drive the point home. Some of which would no doubt be illegal but would be very easy with the Americans situated where they are on the ground. But it would need major cajones and a willingess to be the bad guy.
    I have very mixed feelings about America and South Asia which I need to explore at length. it’ll be a post, I promise.

    Vikram and WSW – Thanks for the link, but even if terrorism isn’t the push button issue, inflation and the utter mismanagement of the agricultural sector should take the Congress out imo. I can’t think of a single area wherein they have done well.

  28. ravi nair

    December 5, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Amrita-This is a great piece from a Pakistani journalist who lives in Australia. It is from the DAWN newspapers, Pakistans main English Newspaper.

    BTW a madrassa is just a school, issue is no matter what anyone says, Islamic madrassas, do not produce any good graduates :-).

  29. Vikram

    December 5, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    I am sorry Amritha, I dont mean this as a personal attack. But your response further exposes your lack of understanding of the issues the vast majority of your countrymen face. Sadly, this is the case for most of our urban population, which is a small fraction of the nation but aside from some token gestures thinks it is the only India out there.

    I dont want to get into a debate as to whether the UPA government has done well or not but just want you to think about whether farmer suicides are at the top of your priority when you vote. They have taken many more lives than the terror attacks. I want you to think about why there are no protests when there are riots, no solidarity marches for the suffering farmers, no anger at the daily oppression millions of Dalit have to face ….

  30. harini calamur

    December 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Like you I feel sorry for the average Pakistani. I am sorry that they are in a state that cannot protect them, i am sorry that they live in a State the whole world blames for the spurt in terror, and I am sorry that they are not in charge of their state.
    I am also sorry that they live under the threat of war, from not only the Taliban, but also their allies – the Americans, and their neighbors – us.

    I am sorry that 60 years of independence has not yielded a mass that can keep a check on goverment.

    I am sorry that 60 years of being a Republic, has not created a Pakistani identity that is stronger than the regional/tribal identity.

    I am not sure that banning cultural/sporting and economic relations will help, because it will most those people that want better ties with India.

    But, I am not sure if doing nothing is an option anymore. for anyone.

  31. Sasi

    December 7, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Ravi Nair writes
    BTW, no Indian should take responsibility for uneducated or madrassa educated Muslims. That is their choice, not ours.

    Well, Ravi. We consider millions of Muslims living in India to be Indians. There is no “their and our”. From your post I understand that you are one of those who have voted with your feet and is safely ensconed in the US. So admire and follow Bush and Pat Buchnan by all means. But leave us poor Hndus and Muslims alone. We will work things out somehow.


  32. Sasi

    December 7, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    And Ravi, you further write
    In Cochin, in the old school where my wife used to teach at, Muslims have withdrawn their kids because singing the Indian National Anthem is anti Islamic

    I am from Cochin and I know quite a few schools there. What is so remarkable these days is the passion that Muslims in Kerala have for education. They are not going to withdraw their kids from one school just because national anthem is being sung there, because national anthem is sung in all schools.
    Maybe the real reason was your wife’s ‘teaching at’. They were probably too polite to give the real reason.

  33. Amrita

    December 7, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Vikram – Oh I don’t know, you might want to stick around, i might yet surprise you. But with all due respect, the issue is not whether I feel their pain or whether you believe I feel their pain (although we can have that discussion too, maybe on the post on Naxalism that I keep postponing). The issue is whether they’ll vote the Congress back in. We may have different hot button topics in the rural areas and in the urban areas, but they all point one way – the Congress sucks. Well… actually it means they ALL suck but the Congress is in power right now so that’s who they’ll kick out. I’m not saying this change will result in something miraculous, my post today should make that clear.

    Harini – my sentiments exactly.

    Ravi – thanks for the link. Here’s what I was afraid would happen and I see it’s happening:

    Sasi – Thanks for the info. this is why I don’t think we should be treating Muslims like some monolith that acts and behaves in just one way.

  34. Dileep

    December 9, 2008 at 11:51 am

  35. Amrita

    December 9, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks Dileep!

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