What is the true import and long term implications of the attack on Mumbai (26.11.2008) ? I view this on two fronts: domestic as well as foreign.
Domestic: What protection does the man-in-the-street deserve ?
Indians of every hue have reacted to the failure of the Indian government and the intelligence agencies. Lakhan Bhai, Khan Bhai, Peter Bhai, and Kuldeep Bhai have all spoken out. To this extent, the demos- part of our democracy works.
The government now appears to be trying to fix some of the institutional problems.
But, what can Lakhan Bhai, Khan Bhai, Peter Bhai, and Kuldeep Bhai expect ?
They (we) should expect the government to:
1. improve preparedness of each security/intelligence agency, and improve co-ordination between agencies (this includes stuff like getting real bullet proof vests instead of fakes).
2. verify and monitor response capability. (Use mock-attack drills, as reported to be undertaken after Mumbai attacks, in China and later in Indonesia.)
3. tighten laws as necessary (bring back POTA?)… but, at the same timem monitor that there is no abuse of draconian laws.
4. and, during the next terror attack, demonstrate rapid response.
External Impact: Intelligence and Foreign Policy
Meera Bai, Mumtaz Bai, Lily Bai and Karamjeet Kaur should also expect our government to conduct proper foreign policy to guarantee the viability and security of India as a nation, not for just the next 5 years, but beyond.
We should expect the government to:
1. Do the right thing with respect to foreign policy and international relationships with:
a) India’s self-interest as the primary and non-negotiable motive,
b) India’s enlightened self-interest as the secondary motive
c) The region‘s (including Pakistan) security and development as the third motive, and
d) The world’s security and development as the fourth motive.
To be crystal-clear:
** India should stop monopolizing the role of the “world saint” always offering the other cheek to be slapped. There are no canonizations for nations and no awards to be won for masochism.
** Nor should India try to take over the unenviable job of the “world policeman” (currently held by the USA).
That is how we may build the super-power, if ever.
Yes, Indians can run call centres for a thousand multi-national companies, Indians can work as CEOs for PepsiCo’s and CitiBanks. But these things do not make India a super-power. Only chain emails saying “Did you know ? One in every three … employees is an Indian!” proclaim otherwise.
Now, for the silver streaks on the storm cloud: many indications that India will move along a path towards enlightened self-interest, are visible in this excellent analysis by M. K. Bhadrakumar, humbly titled : India, Russia regain elan of friendship. It is a lengthy read, but highly recommended.
2. Build up strong CAC (Covert Action Capability). Today, India’s CAC is close to zero, zilch, null, nix, nothing. Whatever existed in RAW was disbanded by I.K. Gujral to win brownie points from foreign hands. (He did not win the Nobel Prize for Peace for it, unfortunately). It is a national shame that we Indians are always willing to sell the nation for a few bread crumbs. But, there are voices calling out for India to allocate 2% of our GDP to root out terror.
How should India regain / develop its CAC ?
It is fine to learn CAC tactics or strategies from any willing teacher, including Israel (as reported). But remember, I said “teacher“… not “master”!
We have to be wise about the nature of all relationships. Our CAC should never become a tool in the hands of any foreign power. Pakistan’s ISI may do CIA’s bidding, and receive protection in return, but that is Pakistan’s choice (or lack of choice). Whether that is an enviable situation to be in, or not, depends on which ISI or ex-ISI generals you ask. So:
India’s CAC capability should be built in such a way that it will only act in the sovereign interest of the country, and not become any other foreign power’s tool.
That, when the time comes for India to be a super-power, will give the world a responsible super-power.