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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pathankot Attack: What It Calls for

The imperial historians have described ancient India more as a ‘cultural unit’. And the nineteenth century European historians had many reasons to cite in favour of their argument: except for Mauryan and Gupta period, Hindu imperialism was said to be ‘quasi-feudal type, loose and unstable’; for a greater part of history India had been torn by ‘internecine war’; it lost ‘political unity’ for almost 2000 years, etc.

Above all, it was continuously invaded by all and sundry—Iranians, Greeks, Bactrians, Scythians, Parthians, Kushanas, Huns, Turks, Arabs, Afghans through western Himalayan passes and through sea-route by Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British. Historians like Smith had even mocked at India saying its society being made up of ‘mutually repellent molecules’ always remained on the brink of chaos.

However hegemonic these observations may sound, one may have to concede the prevalence of a legacy: absence of the ‘concept of a nation’ and ‘national spirit’ across the geography, say from 7th century till Gandhi came on the scene and inspired the people to fight as one for liberation from the British rule.

Immediately after independence, its leaders—driven by patriotic fervour—built such national institutes that are a must for keeping its newfound ‘nation-status’ and the  ‘democracy’ that it has chosen as a tool to govern itself remained strongly etched in its pursuit of economic growth and social justice. In the process, we had chosen socialistic path with great expectations but the results dismayed all of us: the world at large mocked at our 2-3% of growth rate registered in GDP for a couple of decades dubbing it “Hindu growth rate.”

However, with Sri P V Narasimha Rao taking over the reins of the nation as its PM, the scene changed—changed for better for he gently nudged the country from Nehruvian socialism to Market economy.   

The path breaking results accomplished since the economic reforms that he had launched are there to be seen: between the years 2002-2007 there was an annual GDP growth of 8.9% as against 1% in 1900-1950, 3% between 1950-1980 and 6% between 1980-2002. And fortunately, this economic growth is essentially domestic-driven: 60% of GDP is consumed within the country. It is mostly driven by the services sector, which is a high-tech, capital-intensive industry.

Post-liberalisation, India proved to itself that growth is possible and to eradicate poverty, economic growth is essential. Which means, creation of new institutions and new processes that can smoothly handle the transition economics for the benefit of the hitherto marginalised citizens, is a must.

At the same time we have successfully proved ourselves as a dynamic democracy with honest elections at regular intervals. Yet, ‘tolerance for poor governance’ even in modern India is what is terribly disturbing the conscientious citizen. Perhaps, it is this chalta hai  attitude, that was built, as a historian observed, over centuries “blessed by a bounteous Nature who demanded little of man in return for sustenance” that lead to  “love of ease and comfort, an addiction to the simple pleasures and luxuries so freely given by nature” resulting in a habit of “accepting fortune and misfortune alike without complaint”, that allowed things to come to such a pass where the ‘spirit of Nation’ is missing among Indians, ironically even from its national institutes. And less said the better about its leadership.

One witnesses sheer apathy among national institutes in performing their assigned tasks—even the national Parliament is no exception to this malady.  And events such as terrorist attacks on cities, local trains, and even the Parliament building, that too, in close intervals would only compel one to believe in this national malady, besides making conscious citizen quite frustrated.

The recent walking in of terrorists into Pathankot air base with such back-breaking quantum of ammunition and weapons and engaging our forces—BSF, NSG, Army, and all other sundry for almost four days—and in the process killing seven Indian soldiers speaks volumes about the ineptness of our institutions—glaringly exhibits the missing link in our management of national affairs. Analysts indeed dub India’s response as ‘amateurish’. The mishandling of the whole operation well reflects in what the Defence Minister said: “I see some gaps in the operations, but I don’t think we compromised on security.”

According to analysts, four days to neutralize no more than four to six militants that too in a confined space is quite an unacceptable performance. And this pathetic scene compels even a lay man on the street wonder if the assortment of security agencies assembled in the base with no defined ‘unity-of-command’  is what, perhaps, adversely affected the performance.

That side, and all this amply proves that we haven’t learnt anything from yesterdays’ incident of a couple of Jihads walking out of the Arabian Sea straight into Mumbai as easily as not and strike at its iconic buildings—Taj and Trident Oberoi hotels, move freely around as though they owned them—and even engage the national security guards in a fierce battle for almost 60 hours at a stretch. All this clearly shows how inept our security setup is—how casual Indians are of their national interests.

What is required now is commitment of the nation to the cause, be it national security, economic growth, social equity, or social welfare, and willingness to act in cohesion. No useful purpose would be served by blaming external agencies for all the ills that nation is inflicted from time to time. What the people of this country now ask for is: action—action from within the country to neutralise such atrocities emanating from both within and from outside the country.

As a sovereign republic, we are today of more than 60 years old. Yet, we do not appear to have cultivated the spirit of ‘nationhood’. Our national institutes behave whimsically as though they are accountable to none. Voicing our national concern in ‘unison’ is still a distant dream, for everyone acts as though driven by a philosophy: “What is in it for me?” rather than “What is in it for the Nation?” Such behaviour, particularly, from the national institutes spells doom for the nation.  

How long this scant regard for institutional resilience continues is what perhaps today agonizing the younger generation of the country. They are demanding its leadership to build such machinery which ensures the security of not only the bigwigs in iconic buildings, but also of the marginalised folks in railway stations and mandis—local markets and people on the roads, besides subjecting themselves to ‘accountability’.

And, importantly, institutes, be they are meant for national security or for any other purpose must be made ‘system-driven’ rather than ‘individual-driven’, so that no matter who is in power they operate with alacrity and efficiency  as a matter of given.

It is time that the national leadership rises to the occasion! There is yet another reason why this demand should be attended to by the government: the whole business-world wants to know how Indians are going to respond to these attacks in order to assess how risky it would be for them to push forward their business propositions into India.


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