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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours! (September 2016)

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Terrorism is a scourge that has haunted the world for years and threatens to do so for decades to come. There seemed a time when it appeared that the world would unite as one to pursue this infection to its logical end. That era dawned on the 11 September 2001 when the United States was attacked with weapons the world had never used and at a scale which warranted unity and immediate action. For even as the US was attacked, amongst the dead were nationals of many countries. The world was paralysed by the attraction of the main target, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York.

Such good intentions, alas, don’t last long. Even as the US-led coalition endured to free Afghanistan from its sanctuaries of terror, the players scooted across the border to lick their wounds, re-group, wait out, plan and come back as before. In Afghanistan, they came back as before, the Taliban attacking districts and provinces that were vulnerable because of sociology and geography. Both the factors have also been exploited by the meddlesome neighbour. The appearance of Pakistan as the main service provider to the warehouse of terror has been the defining picture of the late 20th century.

Well, at least, a warehouse as far as South Asia is concerned. For the others, it isn’t the case. Israel, the other perpetual victim, doesn’t see a Pakistan hand anywhere, but rather focuses on Iran. While India, the Eastern victim, is clearly chums with Iran and quite at ease doing business with it. That, in essence, is the dilemma in the global campaign against terror and why unity is a fleeting phenomenon. When victims themselves identify differing perpetrators, it is difficult to come to a definite resolution on this malaise.

This is not to say that disunity is all that holds the world back from finding solutions. After all, the victims have to find solutions for themselves. That has been an enduring fact of human societal and political evolution. The self has to look after itself, alone. In this world, from the earliest period of state formation, interests of one political union are almost never akin to that of another. Since utopia doesn’t exist, there is little point in expecting convergence of thought and action between different countries even if they are united by democracy, business and security. Ultimately, national interests will prevail.

There has also been a long pending debate on the definition of terror in the United Nations. Countries differ on account of that old issue, national interests. So, some will define a perpetrator as a freedom fighter and another would like to have the label of ‘terrorist’ stamped across the photo. Both stick to their respective positions out of prevailing national interests and the world continues a needless debate. In the campaign against terror, does it really matter on the ground if the world body can’t come to an agreement on the definition? After all, it is a scourge that has to be tackled remorselessly, tirelessly, unfailingly and largely solely.

India can cry itself hoarse about being a victim of terror but it will not invite cooperation to the extent that it desires. The classic example is that of the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks and the response of various countries that lost citizens in those ghastly moments of madness. Even as many mount preventive attacks across the world and retributive strikes post terror, none has conducted any such operation against the masterminds who continue to draw crowds and funds. Not even Israel, the darling of counterterrorism experts. So, it is a simple equation, the sum of national interests versus the square of operations. If the twain fit, then action. If not, silence.

Silence, however, is no option for the victim. So, India has to grab the reins in its own hands and steer the steed toward success. But that is easier said than done, for it requires a resolve that extracts extremely heavy costs. And it requires a situational awareness that hasn’t always been apparent. Even as society evolves with time and technology, so does terror. It now comes in various forms, having metamorphosed from its earlier blood and bullet form. Terror now comes in forms that are bloodless, but no less bloody in terms of societal and political costs. A political solution is always the only enduring one, so all options must be used to reach that endgame.

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