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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Battle stations? - Ikram Sehgal

The Mumbai operation was not possible logistically without indigenous support. The 10-12 attackers (in two-man teams) went about their deadly business confidently and professionally—secondary locations creating diversions the terrorists attacked the primary targets, the Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi and Nariman House—which suggests intimate knowledge of Mumbai. They moved about as if they had lived in the place for years. The volume of ammunition, grenades and explosives used in Close Quarter Battle (CQB) in the first few hours, would put to shame the “first-” and “second-line” authorisation of an infantry company (comprising 149 soldiers). The incident went well past 72 hours. Ammunition had definitely been stored in the hotels.


It is in Pakistan’s interest to eliminate terrorist presence from our midst, India knows this is easier than done. For example, from Oct 26 to Nov 25, terrorist attacks in India resulted in 122 civilian deaths, 10 security personnel and 50 militants, a total of 182. What is their track record for the last four decades against Naxalites (100,000 or so hardcore terrorists proudly calling themselves terrorists) who openly collect government revenues in 70 out of about 600 districts in mainly Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and in Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, etc.? Eighty percent of the terrorists are non-Muslims, including Christians, Buddhist, Sikh and (in the case of Naxalites) Marxists. The Anti-Terrorist Force (ATF) chief in Mumbai, Hemant Karkare, arrested serving Indian Army Lt Col Purohit for terrorist attacks. Karkare was already under death threats by Hindu rightwing extremists. The experienced campaigner walked into this trap because he must have known those who lured him to a street far from the action. Muslim leader Abdul Rahman Antulay, former a chief minister of Maharashtra, was hounded for demanding an enquiry into the cover-up. His abrupt about-turn exposes how “state terrorism” targets Muslims in secular India. India is diverting international focus from the real issue, the deep-rooted Muslim grievances.


One cannot rule out the imminent likelihood of air and ground “surgical” strikes across the LoC, which technically does not constitute an international border. However, Operation “Cold Start” is a Pakistan-specific option, launching all-out war from peacetime locations across our international borders, as the name suggests, without warning or mobilisation. Indian adventurism pre-supposes US (and world) sanctions for “punishing” Pakistan. It can well escalate out of control into a nuclear exchange, with unimaginable long-term horrific consequences. Sonia Gandhi getting into the rhetoric has crossed the “fail-safe line” of being bellicose. We must take their threats seriously. Our strategic reserves, presently employed in FATA, Swat and Bajaur, must be redeployed immediately to our eastern borders. Vacillation amounts to gambling with this nation’s existence, irresponsibility bordering on criminal negligence. Only rhetoric by our leaders will not do. Fast-surf through Indian channels, see and hear the Indian elite: one retired general advised scrapping the Indus Water Treaty to turn Pakistan into a desert. Forget rebutting, it was shocking to see all the panellists quite happy with the idea of 160 million Pakistanis starving to death. Our military response to any attempted to “surgical” strike should be to permanently solve our water problems by targeting dams in Kashmir!


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