People have taken to the streets to express their indignation over the Mumbai attack and the nation's vulnerability to terror. 'Enough is enough'- says one TV channel. There is a demand for politicians to deliver. In response, there is tough talk emanating from government.
I'm afraid unrealistic expectations are being created all round. There is, first, the radicalisation of Indian Muslims in recent years consequent to the Babri Masjid episode, the Mumbai riots that followed, the Godhra riots, the use or misuse of Pota, the Kashmir issue as well as in response to the outrage of Muslims worldwide over American policies towards Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Palestinian issue.
There is, secondly, Muslim anger and ill-will from outside the country directed towards India for a variety of historical reasons as well as the factors mentioned above, something that the Indo-US nuclear deal does little to mitigate. The threats emanate most directly from Pakistan and Bangladesh but also from other Islamic countries. It's hard to say what turn the US campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will take. What is certain is that this is going to be a long haul and, whatever the outcome, India cannot escape the fall-out.
In short, both domestic and international factors create conditions for an escalation in terrorist violence in India in the years ahead. Of course, we need to strengthen the intelligence and security apparatus to deal with these. But to assume that this will confer immunity from terror is sheer delusion. The more realistic course is to develop greater citizen alertness and public response to terror attacks, including a revamp of emergency hospital services.
Israel does not blame its political class for terrorist attacks- it tries to minimise the damage from these attacks and then seeks to pre-empt these as best as it could. Here in India, we need to find ways to disperse economic activity and, urgently, to reduce the importance of Mumbai and especially South Mumbai so that disruptions from terrorist attacks are minimised.
How to cope with terror and minimise the fall-out should be the priority- not unrealistic expectations about eliminating terrorist strikes. I repeat what I said in an earlier post: discrediting politicians and the political process is emphatically not the answer.