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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

The problem is that power is fragmented between the military-corporate-jehadi-feudal complex that holds the country in thrall and a fledgling democracy struggling to set down roots. In citing aided non-state actors operating from Pakistan, President Zardari is pleading helplessness.

Stay Focused, Act Responsibly

We need to strengthen democratic forces in Pakistan, and they in turn must stop living in a world of make-believe. India is not out to destroy Pakistan.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 9 December, 2008

With Pakistan being read the riot act by the Americans and the EU, Islamabad is trying to figure how to deliver sufficiently, even if minimally, while maintaining the pretence that it has nothing to answer for the terror strike on Mumbai. At home, anger was justified but not the near-fascist hysteria fanned by vacuous socialites, sundry busybodies and sponsored children at irresponsible media “shows”. The terrorists and their mentors must have been delighted to see Indians rubbishing their own democracy. That storm has fortunately passed and the poll results have snubbed the BJP’s divisive politics trading on terror.

The new Home Minister has admitted to a failure of intelligence and security systems and the Government has promised to put better and more effective mechanisms in place in short measure. While this is welcome, the proposed new edifice will be built on sand unless the foundations are well and truly laid to ensure independent and efficient police and intelligence structures and operations that are currently vitiated by flagrant political interference for sordid party-political and personal gain.

The Mumbai security operations were uncoordinated and media management and larger public relations wholly inadequate. None of this need have happened. Police reforms have been on the anvil for over three decades since the National Police Commission reported in 1978. The nth professional-cum-political update of this was done by the Sorabjee Committee in 2006 and reinforced by a Supreme Court directive that the salient features be implemented by January 2007. All political parties in power have joined hands to scuttle meaningful reforms. If the basic police cadres are insecure, politically infiltrated and corrupted, how can the upper echelons remain uninfluenced by such gross abuse. Police reform must now be placed above petty politics and guided by the national interest. Good policing is the country’s first line of defence in upholding the rule of law, the bedrock of good governance.

Proposals for intelligence reform were advocated by a high-powered committee under the late L.P. Singh a quarter century ago. One of its principal concerns was to shield the intelligence apparatus from being misused as an instrument for spying on and fixing political opponents, thereby corrupting the service and diverting it from its task of objective collection, collation, analysis and dissemination of intelligence. The post-Kargil Review Committee Task Force on Intelligence went into the matter in great detail but it is not known how much has been implemented.

On the management and dissemination of defence and security information, the NDA Defence Minister in 2002 invited this writer to look at all aspects of the matter, including information flows within and to the armed forces, and its  interface with national and external information dissemination. The Report, “Information as Defence”, was cleared at the highest levels of the Defence and MEA establishments only to be strangled with red tape.

What is to be done is well known, but implementation is stymied for lack of political will. This applies equally to tackling corruption, which lubricates relationships between corrupt elements among the bureaucracy, the political class, businessmen, contractors, foreign suppliers and a powerful global underworld. The so-called “single directive” precludes prosecution of senior officials and politicians without higher clearance – something not easily forthcoming. The seminal UN Convention on Corruption, designed to deal with the Quattrochis and Dawood Ibrahims of this world, which India has signed, has not yet been incorporated into Indian law. Nobody wants to fight corruption.

Pakistan is still in denial as it was in 1947-49 and 1965 over J&K, in 1971 over Bangladesh, in 1984 over Siachen, in the 1990s over Punjab and its proxy war in Kashmir, in 1999 over Kargil, with regard to the notorious A.Q Khan, its nurturing of the Taliban and much else besides. It does not help when Simon Jenkins of the Guardian, typically, writes magisterially that the Mumbai attack was really “about Kashmir and the status of India’s Muslims”. The heavy turnout in the first four rounds of polling in J&K gives the lie to such piffle.

The US and the West turned a blind eye towards Pakistan for decades for purely self-regarding motives resulting in a great deal of “collateral damage” to India. Fortunately, the world is now reappraising Pakistan as a rogue state that must be tamed. The problem is that power is fragmented between the military-corporate-jehadi-feudal complex that holds the country in thrall and a fledgling democracy struggling to set down roots. In citing aided non-state actors operating from Pakistan, President Zardari is pleading helplessness. Islamabad has been compelled to take some steps to rein in the LeT/Dawa around Muzaffarabad. But describing this as designed to prevent “banned organizations” from collecting and selling the skins of animals slaughtered during Eid, insisting on the authenticity of a dangerous hoax call said to have been made by the Indian Foreign Minister to the Pakistan President, and demanding yet more clinching evidence on the Mumbai attack betrays the fragility of the regime.

While we need to strengthen democratic forces in Pakistan, they in turn must stop living in a world of make-believe. India is not out to destroy Pakistan, which does not need “strategic depth” to foil this plot. Kashmir is a non-issue, artificially kept alive to sustain a flawed and discredited two-nation theory. A J&K resolution is, however, necessary but can only be found along the road-map indicated by Dr Manmohan Singh. Meanwhile, we need to be firm and vigilant but keep our powder dry.

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