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A train traveling to Pakistan caught fire early Monday in northern India, killing at least 64 people. Samjhauta Express runs between Delhi and the Indian border town of Attari where travelers cross into Pakistan to board a connecting train to the city of Lahore. TheÂ fire was caused by blasts that occured near Panipat in Haryana. The fire swept through two compartments at Deewana, 10 kilometers from Panipat, as the train was heading to Attari from New Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed grief over the deaths. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and Home Minister Shivraj Patil are heading to the scene of attack. The blaze on the train, which carries travelers to Pakistan, coincides with a visit by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Kasuri to India whoÂ is scheduled to co-chair the India-Pakistan Joint Commission with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee.
Offstumped examines the strategic implications of the terrorist attack on the India Pakistan Peace Train.
Consider this story from Reuters titled “Angry relatives question India Rail Security”
“There were so many people here,” the 26-year-old said, holding a photograph of his Pakistani brother. “But there was no checking and no security … there was no discipline.”
“Most of the victims were Pakistanis and Islamabad also asked it its citizens had been adequately protected”.
While foreign ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam pointed out it was India’s responsibility to protect the train on the Indian side of the border, visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Kasuri minced no words when he said the issue would be up for discussion during his visit.
In September 2006 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got carried away in Havana and announced the India Pakistan Joint Terrorism Institutional Mechanism while declaring Pakistan as victim of terror as well, one attributed it to the Cuban Cigars, but it now seems that Manmohan Singh means what he says. So our Communal Socialist Prime Minister has walked the talked to ensure that Pakistan indeed becomes a victim of terror. In fact not taking any chances Manmohan Singh has ensured that Pakistan becomes a victim of terror on Indian Soil. Wouldnt that just be the kind of stuff you could throw at the opposition BJP if they ever questioned him on how and why Pakistan was a victim of terror. Now we have proof royale with 66 dead Pakistanis on Indian Soil.
How else would one explain this utter incompetence that even the least sophisticated terrorist modus operandi were allowed to succeed with no fear of failure or consequence that too to take Pakistani lives on Indian soil. If in Havan Manmohan Singh voluntarily ceded the moral high ground to Pakistan, today’s events have ensured that moral high ground stays with Pakistan for good while Indians are told to make do with this glorified bureuacratic call center called the Anti-Terrorism Institutional Mechanism.
No more accounting for 7-11 and Malegaon, one can forget them for good. For Pakistan will remind us on every occassion the Institutional Mechanism meets on the 66 Pakistani deaths on Indian Soil and the politically correct Manmohan Singh Government seeking equity and social justice in Anti-Terrorism will go on the defensive.
Today’s events are final confirmation that Manmohan Singh is all talk no action. In the days following 7-11 Manmohan Singh had made tall claims about “Zero Tolerance”, “Past responses being inadequate” and “It cant be business as usual”. Today’s events have proved that there is a wide tolerance, present responses are worse than the past, and it is business worse than usual. Today’s events have reminded us of the dangers of making a bureaucrat the nation’s top leader. Manmohan Singh’s style of governance has been all about appointed Group of Ministers and Bureuacratic commissions while taking little concrete action. That the only definitive response to 7-11 and Malegaon was a bureuacratic mechanism which is yet to even meet, forget taking action, goes to say volumes about the UPA’s willingness and ability to fight terror.
That there was a failure to imagine and anticipate today’s events is explained by the lack of basic security checks on a Cross Border Train whose passengers would be sitting ducks for any terrorist outfit looking to deflect attention from Pakistan sponsored terrorism in India and to derail the India Pakistan Peace Process.
Today’s events however also throw up an interesting dimension. In recent weeks Pakistan has been on the edge on a sequence of suicide bombings including one on the eve of the Indian Republic Day. However India has not seen a suicide bombing since Dhanu armed with a belt full of bombs blew herself up killing Rajiv Gandhi. The fact that terrorist strikes India are not of the suicide variety is indicative of two things. Firstly that these terrorist strikes are unlike the sectarian strife raging within Pakistan. Secondly that they are not homegrown but stage managed from across the border. In the wake of 7-11 and Malegaon the left of center mainstream media fed us with stories about how Muslim discrimination was leading to apathy amongst Muslim youth and that somehow 7-11 and Malegaon were our fault and we all had to feel guilty and redeem that guilt by implementing the Sachar Recommendations . Today’s events are a clear repudiation of that shameful line of thought. The objective of today’s attack was clear – to deflect attention from 7-11 and Malegaon and to queer the pitch against India when the Anti-Terrorism Mechanism actually takes off.
Offstumped Bottomline: Manmohan Singh Government has voluntarily ceded the moral high ground and sealed it for good by not anticipating and acting against Terror pre-emptively. With mere bureaucratic responses to Terrorism Manmohan Singh has reminded us of the dangers of appointing a bureaucrat Prime Minister. Today’s events are an attempt to deflect attention from 7-11 and Malegaon. It would be a tragedy if India fell for that trap.