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Sunday, May 8, 2011

India lacks the will to confront enemies

By Swapan Dasgupta

The so-called $1 million 'mansion' in which Osama bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad for the past five years looks, to subcontinental eyes at least, more like an ungainly—and most likely, unauthorised—construction we are accustomed to seeing on the fringes of our unplanned cities and towns. That the CIA was able to hone in on such a building and observe it undetected for nearly a year is a tribute to its capabilities. The success of the inappropriately-named Operation Geronimo on May 2 has forced a review of the theory that Langley's over-dependence on electronic surveillance had made it less effective in a war where the 'non-state players' banked a great deal traditional methods of communication and money transfers. The CIA has shown that when the situation so demands it can fall back on old-fashioned intelligence gathering through a network of spies and informers.

For the US, it was not merely its ability to ferret out the darkest secret of Pakistan that has been both noted and, in some cases, appreciated. Equally significant is the global realisation that it has the capacity to act on that intelligence—whether through Drone attacks or daring special operations. True, the Abbottabad raid violated Pakistan's sovereignty and Washington would have been seriously embarrassed (and even become an object of ridicule) had the operation misfired—as it could so easily have done. Given the sheer magnitude of the risks involved—recall President Jimmy Carter's humiliation when the operation to free the American hostages held by Iran's Revolutionary Guards ended in disaster—President Barack Obama is entitled to draw some political mileage for his show of forthrightness.

It is interesting to see how just one successful Special Ops has lifted the morale of not just the US but even its allies. General David Richards, the Chief of Defence Staff of the UK, for example, that the success Abbottabad was "definitely a positive" in the context of the ongoing operations against Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. "It will remind like-minded people wherever they are", he is quoted in The Times as saying, "that one day their deeds will catch up with them. That is psychologically very important in the context of Libya and other crises in the Middle East…" Yet, the same General Richards had confessed in November 2010 that defeating Al Qaeda and Islamic militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved". It could, at best, be "contained".

The shift from resignation, bordering on dejection, to gung-ho assertiveness isn't likely to be confined to General Richards alone. In the short term, Operation Geronimo is certain to roll back the tide of western defeatism that had egged on Pakistan's innate duplicitousness. But for how long?

As more and more details of the hunt for Osama bin Laden comes into the public domain, it is becoming more and more apparent that Americans have recognised that there is no place for squeamishness in the national security business. President Obama may have won his election in 2008 on the strength of both his ethnicity and a groundswell of aesthetic rejection of President George W. Bush's War on Terror. However, what is now apparent is that the success of last week's operation was ensured by the groundwork done by the previous regime. Had some of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay not been subjected to "special interrogation techniques", the CIA wouldn't have got to know about Osama's trusted courier. And if they didn't have his identity, the spooks wouldn't have been able to gauge the significance of four telephone calls.

Official disclosures have also made it quite apparent that firefight" was inappropriate to describe the encounter in Abbottabad. Only one of those inside the grim house is said to have challenged the marines with a gun, and his resistance was short-lived. Osama, it has now been admitted, was unarmed and apparently cowering inside a room with his latest Yemeni wife.

The implication is dramatic: Osama was executed. Since no court in the US has sentenced him to death, his killing was clearly extra-judicial. And yet, Obama has taken the credit for approving the operation and has even honoured commandos who participated in it. In the eyes of the US, those who ended the life of the country's most wanted terrorist were heroes.

To view Operation Geronimo as a modern variant of a cowboy film starring either John Wayne or Clint Eastwood isn't far-fetched. But was it ethically wrong? Should Osama have been captured alive and then brought to trial in a New York court or, as some have argued, a Nuremberg-type war crimes trial? Alternatively, should President Obama and all those involved in the operation be put on trial for subverting the course of law and taking part in a pre-meditated, extra-judicial killing? Should something like a Special Investigation Team that was inquiring into the killing of Ishrat Jehan, someone the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba claimed as their own, be set up in the US to probe Osama's death?

The US is likely to laugh away these suggestions, just as they have brushed aside Pakistan's protests on the violation of sovereignty. The killing of Osama has demonstrated that effective counter-terrorism is ultimately also a reflection of the national character.

The lessons for India don't need to be spelt out. We lack the will to confront our enemies. This is why we are always a soft target.

Sunday Pioneer, May 8, 2011


Anjali Devi said...

True sir,but unfortunately u r one among the few people who dare to talk lik this in Media..though the common people'll surely accept ur arguments,(as i'm one among them)the so called 'intellectual circle'in our country won't accept this..i'm tired of such 'human right activists',nd their debates in English media..WEN WIL WE GET RID OF THESE KIND OF PEOPLE?i want people who love india more than their 'rights'..

No Mist said...

since this operation, i have been endlessly fascinated by this beautiful operation. yes there is no way other than "beautiful" that I can describe it.

we shd also keep in mind putin's bravado in chechnyan school operation, which went horribly went wrong and ultimately bolstered terrorists organizations worldwide ... though no one after that dared to attack russia. and we must also grant that putin did not have the advantage of covertness ... risks were infinitely greater too.

the message is clear ... the terrorists are ultimate cowards as any backstabber is. and they understand the language of nothing other than sticks. "Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante" -- this victorian sounding principle has large grains of truth after all, like many other victorian morals.

the pussycats of the world, India, will of course not learn anything from this.

Anonymous said...

India, with its unique anti terror policy ultimatly help terrorist to propogate their ideology under right to express and even if someone caught after terror attack, he need not to be worried as long judicial trial and reluctance of govt to execute them given a vote bank, minority issue involved, terrorist rarely get punishment tehy deserved, except only if they dont harm the epitome of ruling family. You r absolutly right, India remain soft and reluctant country with no clear policy to deal with hostage crises, terrorism and in house naxalism. These attitude will surely cost us in big way sooner or later. we cry foul for terror camp in POK and as help from USA but dont have answer, why terrorist are not tried fast and executed for so long long period. police kill some terrorist, easily term it fake encounter, govt use that for political vendetta instead praising them, as we see in gujrat.

padmakumargr said...

"The killing of Osama has demonstrated that effective counter-terrorism is ultimately a reflection of the national character"........

Brilliant Sir. I think this is precisely the essence of your article.

However, is it right to say that India lacks a will to contront its enemies? NO. India and Indians do not lack such a will. The blame needs to be pin-pointed at the UPA government.

For sure, every Indian would rejoice if the Army bombards training camps inside Pakistan without waiting another moment. We would infact celebrate it with much more pomp than how we celebrated India's ICC World Cup victory.

But the 'Secular' Government at the centre is having some other priorities which exactly may not be in national interest.

Hope better sense prevail.


chandarsekar said...

you are absolutely right in saying that OBL should have been captured alive and tried in a court of law before being killed just like they did to saddam hussein.but isn't it surprising nobody but you seems to be talking about it?

chandarsekar said...

i don't mean to demean India or sound pessimistic but i am sure India doesn't have the cojones nor the capabilities to pull off an operation Geronimo.we are just kidding ourselves saying that we we don't.only the US can do something like that unilaterally and totally get away with it.definitely not us.

Anonymous said...

India is definitely capable of doing something at a smaller scale like hiring contract killers to kill people like dawood or hafeez. Hafeez openly goes around and gives hate speaches. If India does this, obviously Pak cannot do anything but talking since there would be no evidence of indian involvement. If they can deny 26/11, we can obviously deny this too. However, the question is willingness of Indian govt and MMS to do this.