Friday, December 12, 2008

India: post the Mumbai tragedy

So what will come out of Mumbai for most Indians? In my opinion, not much.

The attacks on Mumbai tread on new political and symbolic ground: the strategic locations of each attack indicate a new sort of terrorism. The points of attack, if you look carefully, take the shape of a circle, as to indicate full control of South Mumbai - they got the city covered from all angles. The attacks on the Taj and Oberoi show a focus on upper-crust society and are ripe with symbolism - overcoming the rich oppressor, targeting the foreigners, and making social commentary's all classic anti-establishment action that, IMO, makes an important point.

The face of terrorism is morphing and beginning to permeate into new territories. My question in this post, then, is, how will the Indian government respond?

Unfortunately, from what I understand of Indian politics (which is very little...), response will be too little, too late. As a matter of fact, the attacks seem to be used overwhelmingly as a campaign tool for the upcoming elections. BJP vows hard-line action against terrorist hubs in Pakistan, and Congress has been rushing to fulfill campaign promises that were ignored until now. It seems that public opinion is shifting towards the BJP.

Warmongering is easy (and popular) post-crisis (Afghanistan, Iraq?), but in this situation, taking a hardliner stance against Pakistan and possibly attacking is a horrible idea - it will be diplomatic and strategic suicide. Right now, India needs to build its relationship with Pakistan, assisting Pakistan to eliminate the terrorist hubs being bred within its borders and working to end what currently seems to be an unstoppable force. Politically, Pakistan needs to be viewed not as an aggressor state, but a failed state that is not promoting terrorism, but simply unable to end it.

I think Professor Manoj Mate from Boalt put it best. At a panel last week, he discussed that instead of looking outward, it's time for India to look within. Bureaucratic proceedings, unenforced anti-terrorism laws, unbounded and brazen corruption, and ill-trained commandos/police have cumulatively led to a security policy that is in shambles. (Israel criticized India's slow and inefficient response)

Before implementing a serious international agenda, India needs to start reconstructing the legal and political framework that is necessary for a proper implementation of its legislation. As of now, that's simply not happening. Mate argues that the laws are in place and the constitution is clear - it's a political restructuring is necessary in order for real change.

The attacks also become relevant in an economic perspective. In the past five years, the Indian economy has been growing at an annual average rate of 8.8%, boosted mostly by services and manufacturing. Recently, though, after the global credit crisis and attacks on Mumbai, the economy is taking a hit - the stock market has been sliding, capital is hard to come by, and foreign investor and consumer confidence has dipped to a recent low.

One of my older blog posts compared democratization to economic viability. Although that wasn't a technical analysis, it appears that India's democracy is starting to fail itself (For reference).

There's an interesting article in this week's Economist that touches on this issue. It brought up a lot of points that Prof. Mate discussed, but focused more on India's place in the economic superstructure of the global marketplace. It concludes by prescribing India to focus on, most importantly, implementation of its legislation.

Machiavelli said in "The Prince" that the two most essential foundations for any state are sound laws and a strong military. He did not foresee, however, the modern face of terrorism and the state failure that could ensue....before considering legal or military strength, a truly effective state needs to focus on transparency and enforceability.


yishi said...

yee yee! meg meg!

R. Paul Singh said...

Meg--- Interesting stuff and thoughtful too! Besides enforcement and laws the issue is of infrastructure or lack thereof which is and will continue to hinder India's progress in every space and controlling terrorism is no exception.