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After the Mumbai Tragedy

Indian and Pakistani political establishments should deal with the post-Mumbai crisis with greater prudence than they seem to demonstrate at present. Both countries should realise the immense dangers awaiting them if one country, Pakistan, avoids its responsibility towards India's security and the other country, India, globalises the threat from militants operating from Pakistan. There are signs that sections of the Indian political class are eagerly awaiting closer military cooperation with the US under Obama with the hope that India would be the sole beneficiary of the new south Asian war against terrorism. That would be a fresh invitation to greater disaster.

LETTER FROM SOUTH ASIAdecember 20, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly8After the Mumbai TragedyJayadeva UyangodaIndian and Pakistani political establishments should deal with the post-Mumbai crisis with greater prudence than they seem to demonstrate at present. Both countries should realise the immense dangers awaiting them if one country, Pakistan, avoids its responsibility towards India’s security and the other country, India, globalises the threat from militants operating from Pakistan. There are signs that sections of the Indian political class are eagerly awaiting closer military cooperation with theUS under Obama with the hope that India would be the sole beneficiary of the new south Asian war against terrorism. That would be a fresh invitation to greater disaster. They should not fall into the potential trap that will redefine Pakistan-India relations according to the priorities of the US military establishment in which there is a real risk of all of south Asia becoming the epicentre of the new US war against Islamist militancy.Jayadeva Uyangoda (uyangoda@gmail.com) teaches political science at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.The aftermath of the recent violent attack on Mumbai reminds the world once again that more vio-lence is not the most effective way to deal with violence that exists. However, those who manage and run the states seem to continue to learn wrong lessons and im-plement policies that have already made the problem of “terrorism” wholly intrac-table. In the follow-up to the Mumbai trag-edy, India and Pakistan seem to be in great competition with each other to make mat-ters worse for themselves. It appears that after the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government has been under pressure, particularly by the media, to act as the United States (US) did in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attack inNew York. When the overenthusiastic media described the Mumbai attack as India’s own “9/11”, it had at least two ominous suggestions. The first is that India isunder attack by “Muslim terrorists”. The second is that India should retaliate to even bomb the so-called sources of terror, as theUS did in Afghanistan and Iraq. Pranab Mukherjee, with his tough talking to Pakistan, seems to reflect what the Indian middle class expects from the Indian state – “enough is enough”.There are some parallels and differences with 11 September 2001 though. In both instances, a small group of non-state com-batants managed to paralyse for several hours two of the militarily most powerful states in the world. In both instances, the threat of non-state terrorism is perceived, understood and given expression in policy pronouncements primarily as a security challenge faced by the individual State concerned. The shaken political and secu-rity establishment of the US saw a global military response as the only legitimate and effective course of retaliatory action. In India, there is a crucial divergence. Some sanity seems to have prevailed to prevent a right wing ideological build-up for avenging the nation’s honour in a communalist backlash. The recent state elections results do not indicate a height-ened sense of nationalist paranoia in India in the aftermath of the Mumbai tragedy. A Key LessonMeanwhile, a key lesson which both India and Pakistan should learn is that war between themselves or a military response alone against the militants who are engaged in indiscriminate violence as a political practice is not the most effective way to deal with the phenomenon that has been described as terrorism. The Islamist militancy, which has been hijacked by a new generation of practitioners of vio-lence, is a political phenomenon too. The Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, north-western Pakistan and Kashmir are spaces that produce the kind of Islamic militancy which the world today knows essentially as only terrorism. But, does Islamic terrorism have anything beneath or beyond the practice of senseless and self-defeating terrorism, in the horrendous acts that do not seem to suggest anything other than absolute desperation? Why do young Muslim men seem to be so angry with some of the leading western states as well as the Indian state as to kill innocent people and then die themselves in the process? Many people have stopped ask-ing questions of that nature. In this age of global war against terror, those are politically naïve questions that belong only to the past! Meanwhile, as the experience particu-larly during the past seven years shows, George Bush’s global war has only exacer-bated the very problem he sought to man-age. This is something the world has been reluctant to admit. The attack in Mumbai has reminded the world that the global war against terror has not made the world any safer. On the contrary, it has made Asia, particularly west Asia and south Asia, the most militarised regions in the post-11 September 2001 world. In a per-verse sense, west and south Asia have been turned into battle grounds in the so-called clash of civilisations, which is simply defined as a war between the radi-calised Muslims and the civilised rest of the world. There is now a real risk of all of

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