India, Pakistan and a Cancer called Terrorism

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If there is one question which is almost impossible to answer even with a few answer choices, some lifelines and a more than helpful quiz master, it would be this – What to do with Pakistan? As on date, it is easily one of the most perplexing problems in world politics. And while everyone seems to have an opinion on it, no one really knows the answer. With its crippled economy, a fragile political system and strong fundamentalist following, Pakistan, owing to its nuclear arsenal, is in many ways akin to a capricious suicide bomber who could self destruct any minute, taking with him everyone in his vicinity. And while those not in close proximity choose to sit back and watch, as its immediate neighbour, that is one luxury we can ill afford. Terrorism today has made erstwhile serious issues such as drug abuse and prostitution look like nothing.


In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, suggestions to deal with Pakistan and pre-empt any such incidents in the future came in thick and fast from both civilians and defence experts. These included military action, diplomatic pressure, sanctions and other similar measures to further damage its already ailing economy. With Pakistan denying any involvement in the Mumbai attacks and claiming that the evidence provided by India is ‘insufficient’, these opinions have become stronger and the antipathy towards it has increased manifold.


But, truth be told, I was not at all surprised that Pakistan washed its hands off of the entire incident. Why? They did not have a choice. Let me explain. First and foremost, it is imperative to understand that Pakistan’s situation is infinitely complex. Just recently, Pakistan itself suffered a terrorist attack on its soil, assassinations are not uncommon, talk of nexus between the ISI, military and terrorist groups is rife. What does all this tell you? It is not a question of choice. It is simply a matter of competency. The Pakistan government is incompetent. Period.


If they accepted responsibility, they would be forced to act against the perpetrators; something they simply are not capable of doing for fear of an insurrection, for fear of their own life. So, while economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure may have a mild effect, it is unlikely to bring about a metamorphosis because the state of the economy will matter little to the militants who in any case receive funds from the Middle East


We are then left with only one other actionable option, that of war. The problem with war, however, is that we live in a day and age where we cannot inflict pain on our enemy without suffering some of it ourselves. Hence, while that might be an option, it is certainly not a very wise one. So, is there absolutely nothing else that we can do?


Yes, there is one other thing. You may not be able to cure your mad neighbour of his insanity, but nothing stops you from locking your door and ensuring that he doesn’t enter your house. It is irrefutable that no terrorist attack can be carried out by an organization, without some sort of domestic assistance. Without a shadow of a doubt, we need to beef up our homeland security. This is precisely what the US did post 9/11 and it has paid rich dividends. India would be well advised to take a leaf out of USA’s book in this regard. But this is just about Pakistan; what about the bigger picture? What about terrorism as a threat to humanity as a whole? I believe history may have the answers.


The world is analogous to a human body, with each body part representing a separate nation and terrorism is a cancer afflicting this body. The Cancer, although pervasive, is concentrated more in certain ‘parts’ of the body, less in certain others and is yet to reach the rest. So, while the affected ‘body parts’ are crying out in pain and fighting the disease, those that are for the time being safe, are turning a blind eye and playing by ear. Sooner or later, the disease will permeate through each and every part and, if left unchecked, it is only a matter of time before the entire body falls prey to this cancer.


So, the only way to cure the body of the disease is to fight it in unison. Every nation in the world has to wake up and acknowledge the truth. Every nation has to fight it. Either we all win or we all lose, because terrorism is not a regional, religious or a cultural problem. It is an ideological problem. We are at war against a demon who has many fathers – poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and many others we might not even be aware of. We are going to need more than just weapons to kill this demon.


While guns and missiles may prove to be the shield, it will be education and development that will be the sword. The last time the world saw something similar was during the Second World War, when Adolf Hitler decided to annihilate the Jews. Terrorism could annihilate humanity. Fortunately for our ancestors, Hitler was just one lone mortal dictator. Terrorism is a demon with many names, many faces and many nationalities. There is a popular theory doing the rounds that we are nearing doomsday, that the end is imminent and while scientists are busy uncovering possible threats, it is quite strange that no one has looked seriously at the threat of terrorism, for the greatest threat to mankind may not come from outer space or emanate from tectonic plates, it may well be a cancerous demon called terrorism.


Arvind Arun

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