Now that the 60-hour terrorist nightmare?hopefully?is over, it is time to look back into the past and draw some conclusions. One fact clearly stands out: there was no intelligence failure. An attack had long been foreseen and Mumbai police officials had held several talks with city business houses and hotel managers and warned them of impending attacks, which, alas, were largely ignored. Even as late as two days prior to the barbarous attack on The Taj and Oberoid-Trident hotels, United States intelligence had similarly apprised authorities in Mumbai of the need to be alert. So it makes no sense to criticise either the Indian Intelligence Bureau or Mumbai'spolice of lack of awareness.
What is apparent is that neither the Government in New Delhi nor in Mumbai took the warnings seriously, nor, one suspects did the hoteliers of both the Taj and the Oberoi. What, obviously, they failed to appreciate in the warnings was the sheer organisationally-structured assault likely to be mounted on them, and which took them by surprise and horror. Reportedly, among the list of targets that the terrorists had in mind were the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus and even The Times of India, not to mention Hotel Leela Kempinski in Bandra. That the terrorists should want to kill Jewish residents in a two-storeyed apartment house in Colaba raises questions about the terrorists? ultimate aim, which also included specifically identified British and American tourists.
Full details of all the planning that the Lashkar-e-Taiba went through over months have long been known and they are mind-boggling. Having said all this, the question arises: where do we go from here? Is the Government of Pakistan and its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) involved in the attack? Pakistan'sPresident Asaf Ali Zardari swears that he has been as deeply hurt as all Indians, that he is appalled and is bleeding and that he empathises with the people of Mumbai and his heart goes out of them.
Pakistan'sForeign Minister, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi asserts that his country'shands are clean and that his government attaches ?the highest importance to good neighbourly relations with India? leaving one to wonder who is telling the truth and who is brazenly lying. But listening and watching them both gives the impression that they may be sincere. Just may be. How is one to know? And it is also evident that both are mightily scared lest India mount an attack on their country by way of revenge even as stories, subsequently denied, did the round that India was sending more forces towards the Indo-Pakistan border.
It is necessary to remind all that the United States has no compunction in using Pakistani territory to bomb tribal areas which are allegedly giving shelter to Al Qaida and Taliban activists. If the US can take the law into their own hands, why shouldn'tIndia, which has been suffering grievously for years now, and has a just reason to be arbitrary, take similar action? What is permissible to the United States should also be permissible to India and with greater justification. The trouble seems to be that the Pakistan Government is in no position to control the terrorists and other, fundamentalist organisations, no matter how many of them have been black-listed. The Lashkar-e-Taiba has merely changed its name and its leader, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has been openly making challenging speeches without being afraid to speak out in the most violent language. In any democratic country he would have been arrested and imprisoned. Messers Zardari and Qureshi may mean well but they seem to be as much toothless as the UPA Government here in New Delhi.
The latter'sdisinclination to implement a Supreme Court ruling that decreed that Afzal Guru, charged with the attack on Parliament should be hanged has yet to be implemented. The Lashkar-e-Taiba must have taken it to mean the government'sfear of terrorists. The best way to send a correct message to the Lashkar-e-Taiba is to carry out the Supreme Court order immediately and without any further hesitation. Yet another way to convince the terrorists that we mean business is to start work on the building of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
For years we have lived a life of fear under the umbrella of secularism. It has only brought us Islamic fundamentalists? disdain. We have shown ourselves to be a nation without a backbone, a people perennially afraid of being called communal, and have gone out of our way to appease the so-called minorities without the slightest justification. We have become the laughing stock of Islamic terrorists. They think that that can inflict any amount of damage on our economic and social life without inviting retaliation. Addressing a gathering of his top functionaries in Lahore as recently as October, the Lashkar-e-Taiba's chief, Saeed, has been quoted as saying that ?the only language India understands is that of force and that must be the language it must be talked to in? Implicit in it is the arrogance and contempt that these brainless jehadi fundamentalists have for Indians.
We are too civilised; otherwise, in a tit-for-tat reply, India should have bombed terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir in a measured manner to convince the Islamists that we don'ttake anything lying down. Even now, India can do so, if Zardari doesn'tmove fast to close all known and suspected terrorist camps in his country. It will be a lesson for Pakistan long to remember. At every turn of the game, our leaders show both with their utterances and their body language that they are weak-kneed and even worse, confused and mindless. Even the speech delivered by Dr Manmohan Singh following the fidayeen attack on the Taj Hotel showed no sense of anger or determination, let alone daring. He was literally droning.
We need a strong Prime Minster who is willing to take action without delay to carry the message to the terrorists next door that they have a neighbour who cannot be taken lightly. But what India simultaneously needs is the dismissal of the UPA government. It has proved itself as effete, and unfit to continue in power. It has betrayed the people as no previous government ever has, to the shame of the country and the pain of Mumbai'scitizens.