WASHINGTON DIARY: Decaying societies —Dr Manzur Ejaz

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Societies in the subcontinent have changed very rapidly. Traditional set-ups have been dismantled, and in the absence of a new social order, societies have become anarchic. Militant groups are an outgrowth of these socio-economic conditions

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, motivated by electioneering, Indian leaders are well aware of the limits of blaming Pakistan or taking any concrete action against its long-time rival. The international economic crisis and the ongoing war against insurgents do not permit any Indian adventure. India can cloak its security lapses by raising the threat level, but ultimately it has to acknowledge that militants can mount sophisticated attacks on Indian soil without any foreign state agency’s help.

The Mumbai blasts have occurred at a time when elections are being contested in a few Indian states. General elections are just a year away. The ruling Congress party has nothing to show for its tenure with a deepening economic crisis and rising poverty. The Mumbai blasts have added another negative for the ruling party: failure to provide security to the general public. In this backdrop, blaming Pakistan was the only palatable manoeuvre that could divert public rage and silence its main rival, the BJP.

Indian leadership will find it extremely difficult to take any direct action against Pakistan even if it helps its electoral politics. India cannot have a flare up with Pakistan and at the same time present itself as a safe place for international investors. The last time India was intent on starting a war with Pakistan, the US just issued a travel advisory to its citizens, resulting in suspension of business travel between the US and India. Hundreds of US corporations outsourcing their back office jobs to India started shutting down. Consequently, India suffered significant economic losses, forcing it to ease its aggressive posture.

Presently, the situation is even worse. Taliban influence, and in many areas geographical control, has been extended to settled Pakistani areas. NATO forces and the Pakistan army are fully engaged in combating this insurgency. In such conditions, the US can hardly afford a shift in Pakistan’s focus from western border with Afghanistan to the eastern border with India. India is well aware of American sensitivities and is also aware of the leverage the US can use to put economic pressure.

At present, world opinion is not supportive of India’s blame game and its stated aggressive stance. Pakistan has been the victim of many such attacks and it is not in the remote past that a Pakistani five-star hotel was destroyed by suicide bombers. If such attacks are only planned and coordinated by large state agencies, then the Marriott blast must have been organised by some agency abroad. Was it India, and has Pakistan paid it back in the same coin? We don’t think so, because either government does not gain anything from such foolish things.

The fact of the matter is that both India and Pakistan are infested with militant groups of varying religious denominations. Besides notorious Islamic militant groups, Hindu extremist outfits are spreading their influence in the region. In addition, Maoist guerrillas are threatening the Indian state’s writ in many eastern states. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has admitted the state’s incapacity to root out the Maoist insurgency. There are several militant groups adhering to ideologies, including Maoism, Islam, Hinduism and caste interests. Therefore, India’s security situation can be threatened by any of these groups. Unfortunately, neither Indian nor Pakistani state apparatus is equipped to deal with increasing militancy.

According to eyewitnesses, while the militants were showering bullets at people at the railway station in Mumbai, the police were mere spectators and did not move to counter the terrorists even when they were asked to. Similarly, Rattan Tata, owner of the Taj, pointed out that the state had failed in providing security. Even the commandos were not adequately equipped to take on the attackers at the Taj. Pakistani security agencies have also failed time and again to stop such attacks or combat them effectively.

The security apparatus is so poor in both countries that any militant group can organise anywhere and attack. It may be true that the Mumbai attackers had come from Pakistan, but that does not mean that the Pakistani state planned it or knew about it. IF it is proven beyond doubt that these attackers came from Pakistan, it will merely highlight that the Pakistani state is in such disarray that it is not even aware of what is happening under its nose. Those in India that are blaming the Pakistani state are giving it too much credit: the Pakistani state and its security agencies are as primitive as those in India.

Societies in the subcontinent have changed very rapidly. Traditional set-ups have been dismantled, and in the absence of a new social order, societies have become anarchic. Militant groups are just an outgrowth of these socio-economic conditions.

On the contrary, the state structures in both India and Pakistan are primitive, and not capable of dealing with these new social realities. Therefore, militant organisations emerging from these new societies are more sophisticated than state agencies. Furthermore, economic growth has benefited the upper levels of society and the expense of the rest, and thus the lower strata do not have any stakes in safeguarding the system. Most of the security personnel come from struggling families and do not feel that they have any interest in saving this system. The problem of militancy is far more complex than the simplistic blame game being played out at the moment.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

Reproduced by permission of DT



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