Jan 14, 2016
President Barack Obama posed four interesting questions in his final
State of the Union speech on Tuesday. I reproduce three of them, because they could well be posed for Indians as well: How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? How do we make technology work for us, and not against us, especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? And how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?
These are good questions for Indians in 2016. When we abandon rhetoric and posturing and put our heads together and start to think of what is going to make our economy better, then things start happening.
First, though, we have to get past the windbaggery. There has been a lot of that, especially after the New Year’s terrorist attack on the Pathankot Air Force base.
We have heard of intelligence failures, a poor tactical response, whether or not National Security Adviser Ajit Doval should have sent in the National Security Guard or whether the army ought to have been rushed into the airbase. There was also a premature claim by the authorities that all the terrorists had been ‘neutralised’ the very first day, January 2. As we know, it took three more days before all the terrorists were confirmed killed and the base secured. Even now, it is not clear if there were four attackers, or six. There were many lapses, including the ease with whih the attackers got into the base over an 11-foot fence and then rested a whole night in a disused equipment shed.
But it was not all bad. India lost seven men, and as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was at pains to stress, only one of them died in direct combat. It takes a long time to clear up after a terrorist incident – authorities are still piecing together evidence from the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris. Nine of those attackers are dead but two are still on the run including purported mastermind Salah Abdeslam.
I counted at least 58 terrorist attacks in India so far this century. These are the major ones, the biggest one being the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai that left at least 191 people dead at multiple locations. The question is, how many more attacks would have taken place if our intelligence agencies and the police were not vigilant? Every successful terrorist attack implies a failure of intelligence and security. But how prepared are we for large-scale terror attacks?