More than three years ago, when this columnist warned of the UPA government being pressured by Sonia Maino to give unprecedented concessions to Pakistan, few took notice. However, even if delayed, ?Satyameva Jayate?, and former senior figures in the Musharraf administration have confirmed on television that the two sides were indeed ?close to an agreement? that would have the Kashmir Valley to unchecked infiltration from the other side, and handed over the only interdiction post for the Karakoram Highway, Siachen. Such concessions would have enabled Wahabbi fanatics to settle down in the Kashmir Valley, possibly by taking over properties vacated by members of the minority community during 1990-94, the peak years of the ISI'sKashmir jehad.
Although resistance by the armed forces and a section of the Indian security establishment prevented Sonia and Manmohan from gifting these concessions to the Pakistan military, since 2004, significant damage has been done to the national interest by a radical deepening of the policy of appeasement of the Pakistan military, which was first adopted in 1997 and continued by every successive government.
The first UPA-created vulnerability in the security network has been an increase in the NDA-period liberalisation of visas given to
citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh. So far, a total of nearly two million citizens from both these countries have visited India since
2004, of which an estimated nine per cent are hardcore Wahabbis, intent on setting up networks of sympathisers across India. These deadly visitors (many of whom have disappeared) have ensured that support networks for terrorists have been set up in Kolkatta, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai, Lucknow, Jaipur and several other cities. It was not until the policy of 100 per cent tolerance to extremism began to get implemented by the early months of 2005 that there were any Indian citizens outside Kashmir active in the jehad international. Today, an estimated 800 are being trained within Pakistan and Bangladesh for worldwide terror operations, while the pool of jehadis within India is growing by the day. The objective of the ISI is to ensure that an Indian passport gets regarded with the same level of suspicion as a Pakistani and now, (courtesy the Pakistan-dominated Khaleda Zia) a Bangladeshi travel document. Should India get identified as a cesspool of terrorism the way Pakistan has been since the 1990s, the country'sviability as an economic success story would get impaired.
The nightmare of the ISI (as well as certain agencies in other neighbouring countries) is an India that is experiencing double-digit growth. Commercial and other ties between India and the US and the EU in particular need to get disrupted, and this the ISI hopes to achieve by using Indian recruits to carry out terrorist attacks across North America and Europe.
Within India, jehadis nurtured by the post-2005 networks have proved their capabilities within India. Almost all the ISI trainers came to India not by making the difficult crossing over the frontier in Kashmir but on visas issued by the Government of India, which has also been responsible for giving a flood of visas to Bangladeshis, disregarding the control that the ISI exercises on Khaleda Zia (now Leader of the Opposition) and significant sections of the Bangladesh Rifles and the regular army. After the Indian military demolished its Pakistani counterpart in Bangladesh in 1971, Indira Gandhi refused to allow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to hold war crimes trials, even though Lt-Gen AAK Niazi and other generals had butchered more than a million people, especially those unfortunate enough to be either Muslim moderates or any kind of Hindu in what was then East Pakistan. A War Crimes Trial would have exposed the complicity of the Pakistan army?including its Bengali cohort?in the East Pakistan genocide, but this was never held. Instead, charmed by Z A Bhutto, Indira Gandhi unconditionally freed the 93,000 occupation troops captured during the brief conflict, without allowing even a single officer to face retribution for his crimes against an innocent people. Subsequently, no effort was made to ensure that the remnants of the Pakistan army that was Bengali-speaking be disbanded, even though this group had functioned as slaves of the West Pakistanis. The result of such negligence on the part of Indira Gandhi was the coup against Mujibur Rahman, and the evolution of the Bangladesh military as the most vicious anti-India force in the new country. A force that allowed itself to once again become slaves to their masters in what was left of Pakistan after 1971.
Sadly, even though the militaries in both Pakistan as well as Bangladesh are viscerally anti-India, they have always been treated with undeserved honour and consideration. Appeasement seeped into every aspect of subcontinental policy. It took the death of several foreign nationals in Mumbai during the November 26-28, 2008 siege to ensure that the National Security Adviser, the Home Ministry and the Ministry of External Affairs were finally able to convince Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his adherence to an ultra-conciliatory policy towards Pakistan was proving to he severely detrimental to his Oath of Office.
However, much damage has already been done, and in view of the fact that a lot of the policy framework of appeasement of the Pakistan generals is still UPA policy, very little has been done even since November 26-28, 2008 to ensure that the ISI be prevented from setting up havens in India, the way it has done in Nepal and Bangladesh.
The response to the Mumbai terror attack was a textbook example of how not to fight terror. Apart from the negligence involved in (a) disregarding the specific warnings about an attack from the sea and on luxury hotels; (b) allowing the terrorists to disembark in Mumbai and jump into (obviously waiting) vehicles towards their target, what was unforgivable was the way the primitive way in which the attackers were tackled that fateful night, when the image of India as a safe destination was destroyed.
In order to protect a negligent authority from public anger, the nearly ten hours of closed-circuit television images of the terrorists moving around the Taj Hotel and the (somewhat less detailed) footage from the Oberoi Trident, have been hidden from the public, apart from a few tiny segments. This footage shows the way in which every move of the terrorists was choreographed from Pakistan. They had been given performance-inducing drugs, which made them dependent on the ingestion of sugar at regular intervals. At one stage, they asked their ISI handler what ?a black liquid in a bottle? was. On being asked if the word ?Coca Cola? was on the bottle, and getting an affirmative answer, the handler told them to drink the liquid ?as it has a lot of sugar?.
The terrorists robotically consulted their masters, who gave them instructions to identify and kill foreigners, rather than waste too many bullets on Indians. The terrorists used advanced explosive techniques, such as gas canisters, to wreak havoc on their victims. Against them, for the whole night and much of the next morning, the only challengers were a few policemen armed with primitive rifles and handguns. Small wonder that these under-equipped individuals were often chary of giving chase, aware that their lack of equipment and lack of knowledge of the topography of the hotel made them sitting ducks. What is extraordinary is that the authorities in Mumbai were apparently not able to ensure that forces adequarely armed were sent in during that first night, or that they and the NSG were patched through to individuals with as comprehensive a knowledge of the topography of the Taj, the Trident and Nariman House as was possessed by their handlers in Pakistan.
When the NSG commandos arrived after an exhausting 10-hour journey from Haryana, they had no clue as to the geography of the Taj Mahal hotel, unlike the terrorists, who were in constant touch with Pakistan-based controllers, who clearly had maps of the hotel in front of them. Who prepared these maps? Surprisingly, the Maharashtra Government does not even want to look into the possibility of local help. Why? Is it because they are nervous that some leads may result in certain political contacts getting exposed? It was only a lucky chance?when the four terrorists congregated by chance in a ground floor restaurant in the Taj on the third day?that the NSG commandoes were able to kill them by the use of thermal explosives. That it took more than a hundred police and NSG commandos three days to subdue just four attackers is a reflection on the efficacy or otherwise of the country'scounter-terrorism machinery. And because of the 100 per cent tolerance displayed by the UPA (in practice, though not in words) towards ISI terror, it is clear that the next strike may not be long in coming.
(The writer is a former editor of TOI and renowned columnist.)