13 July 2006

New acts of terror

How do we move against terrorists? Or, for that matter, against others – including organisations, communities and states – that support terrorism? What skill and magnitude of preparation do we need to have to protect ourselves? For, if terrorists are enemies of the people and not just the state, in terms of not making any demands for their acts or crimes, then, no matter what methods or strategies we adopt, they will find ways to break us.

Threats can come from anywhere – anytime. The use of hijacked passenger jets as cruise missiles in the case of the WTC bombings of 9/11 is a prime example of how innovative terrorists can be. On the other end of the terrorist spectrum, you have the simple case of a bomb in a bag as it may have been used in Mumbai last Tuesday. Even if we adopt security measures to ensure that such attempts do not succeed in the future – and that’s really a very tall order for a country like India – terrorists are unlikely to be stopped.

What I mean is, it’s not the innovativeness of the terrorist campaign, nor the complexity of the defence systems we employ to thwart their moves, that are issues here. The issue that threatens us is that of commitment that terrorists have – i.e. their willingness to die for the cause. Motivated terrorists will find new ways to threaten our lives. They will carry out new acts of terror. If a bomb in a bag won’t work, motivated terrorists will doubtless choose something else.

This is not an illusion. India has already experienced the level of commitment terrorists can have. Just think of the assassinations of Indira Gandhi (shot by her own bodyguards in her own premises) and her son Rajiv Gandhi (a bomb in a garland that welcomed him in a customary Indian way at a political rally), and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Weapons of various types and sizes exist – and they can be expected to be used by terrorists anywhere, anytime.

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