OffStumped For All Things Right of Center, Bringing a Right of Centre Reality Check to Indian Politics, News Media Reporting and Opinion through Blogs and Podcasts.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Pakistan to walk the talk on terrorism. This follows the Mumbai police on Saturday saying they have cracked the terror plot that killed 188 Mumbaikars and injured more than 700 in the seven serial train blasts on July 11. The terrorist attack directly involved 11 Pakistanis, seven Indians and seven pressure cookers in which the bombs were concealed, the police said.  Mumbai police chief A N Roy laid out Pakistan’s role, along with that of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, by  blaming Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency for masterminding the series of train blasts. The allegation was immediately and summarily dismissed by Islamabad as baseless and unsubstantiated. Pakistan’s junior minister for information, Tariq Azim Khan, only complicated matters by suggesting that India must look inward to find out the reasons for “this growing insurgency at home”. Pakistan has said it would prefer not to hear about such allegations through the media. Pakistani Information Minister, Mohammad Ali Durrani, told the BBC that it would be much better if such issues were raised at the anti-terror joint mechanism.  

Toeing the Pakistan line, Siddhartha Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor with The Hindu newspaper, says the Mumbai police jumped the gun. They should have allowed the relevant authorities in Delhi to take up the issue with Islamabad rather than rushing to the press with the result of their investigations into the train blasts. Mr Varadarajan said the matter should still be discussed at the joint anti-terror mechanism next month when the foreign secretaries of the two countries are scheduled to meet.
The only high level reaction from India on the results of the investigation from Mumbai came from the new foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon who echoed Varadarajan in that the matter will be taken up with Pakistan next month. All of this while the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in South Africa maintaining an eerie silence, raises the serious question if the execution of India’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy has been left to the Ministry of External Affairs.

How else is one to explain this all round reaction to the findings from Mumbai. By suggesting that these findings be presented a month later at a routine foreign secretary level exchange, India is sending the signal to Pakistan and to the rest of the world that its response to acts of mass terrorism would be routine and on par with other territorial/diplomatic disputes. The Mumbai Police Commissioner A.N. Roy was very specific in his press conference on names and locations in Pakistan. By choosing to act on this specific information a month later, what exactly is the Indian Government expecting to achieve. Does it believe that the Terrorist Training Infrastructure in Bhawalpur Pakistan would still be intact for it to verify and for the Pakistan Government to acknowledge. On the other hand does it believe that Azam Cheema would still be around in Bhawalpur to allow himself to be detained and interrogated.

The Anti-Terrorism Institutional Mechanism may have its use in putting in place long term institutional measures to track, pre-empt and defeat terror, the other side obliging. But in the aftermath of specific incidents of mass terror, where an irrefutable body of evidence has been collected, there needs to be a clear strategy for how India will act on this evidence and that strategy needs to have a rapid time to act plan to ensure the strategy is executed upon in a time bound manner. From the silence emanating from the National Security Advisor, the Cabinet Ministers for Home and Defense Shivraj Patil, Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and most importantly the Prime Minister, it is all but clear that the Government is not seized of this issue. Hence it was left to the Foreign Secretary who is neither mandated to manage India’s National Security nor to execute on India’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy, to issue the only high level response from the Indian Government on how it plans to act on the results from Mumbai.

Offstumped expects the Indian Government to have first established a protocol with the investigation team in Mumbai to ensure that the Central Government was fully in the loop on who sponsored these acts of terror. It is unclear from the sequence of events that have unfolded over the weekend if such a protocol was established. Even if one were to give the Government the benefit of doubt, that indeed such a protocol existed, it is baffling how despite such a protocol it was left to the Mumbai Commissioner to discuss Pakistan’s role in the blasts. It is also baffling that despite such a protocol there was no official word from the Home Ministry on what the findings mean and what it intends to do with these findings. With the Prime Minister in South Africa, these sequence of events have exposed the vaccum in which the National Security Establishment operates. In this vaccum neither the Home Minister nor the Defense Minister or the National Security Advisor belives it is incumbent upon them to reveal what the plan of action was to act on the findings. The reason they don’t believe this is because the Indian Government has not institutionalized its response to acts of terrorism. Hence none of the 3 principal arms of National Security really knows what to do unless the Prime Minister was around. With the Prime Minister out of the country it was left to the foreign secretary who’s only brief is to meet with Pakistan next month to reduce India’s response to Pakistan Sponsored Terrorism to another round of talks along with other routine issues.

There is neither urgency nor a sense of purpose in the Manmohan Singh dispensation to deal with terrorism. If this indeed was the case not only would a protocol have been established upfront but an automatic mechanism would have been triggered requiring the National Security Establishment to lay out a sequence of steps that will be taken with clearly laid out deadlines. The fact neither a protocol was established upfront, nor an automatic mechanism was triggered and the fact that there is absolute silence from the National Security establishment, goes to further confirm there is no anti-terrorism strategy here, there is no framework here. All we have here is a Government which has spent more time worrying about Minority interests being hurt than on responding to acts of terrorism. This is business as usual unlike what the Prime Minister claimed on July 14th in Mumbai. This is not Zero Tolerance unlike what the Prime Minister demanded at the G-8 summit. This is pretty much the same as past responses which the Prime Minister found to be inadequate but did little to effect any changes.

The BJP President Rajnath Singh has called for India to review its ties with Pakistan. The Communist CPI-M and CPI have not even bothered to react to the news from Mumbai. This is the same communist party that has been exercised to no end on Israel’s military actions in Lebanon. Others like former U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Naresh Chandra have said there is no alternative but to move forward on the India Pakistan peace process. This divergence of opinion is a stark reflection on what little the Prime Minister has done to establish an Anti-Terrorism Doctrine, Strategy and Action Plan and to build a national consensus around it.

Offstumped Bottomline: By reducing India’s Anti-Terrorism strategy to a mere line item in the India Pakistan dialogue the Manmohan Singh Government has reminded us again that the Congress Party lacks the will and the spine to act on terror. The Mumbai Blasts were an act of war against India by elements within the Pakistan Intelligence establishment. The Prime Minister needs to end his silence and speak up on how he intends to respond to this act of war against India. A Foreign Secretary level meeting a month on is unacceptable. If that indeed is how the UPA Government intends to respond against acts of war, it better be honest about it and go on record in the Parliament and  say it in as many words. If it lacks the spine to do so, it must resign.
Offstumped Poser to Sharad Pawar: This is a defining moment for the NCP. It must make up its mind if this is how it intends to defend Mumbaikar deaths and if this is how it intends to face the next elections. If Sharad Pawar has even an ounce of self respect left he must resign from the Union Cabinet and withdraw support to the UPA Government.

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