Sanjay Negi's thoughts on Current Affairs and Information Technology Directions.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Mumbai Bombings in a Cultural Perspective

The theory of gorrilla warefare is not new. It is a deliberate strategy of hit and run by the weaker side who cannot hope to win in a conventional battle where numbers, hardware and generalship decide the results. Our own Shivaji Maharaj was a leading exponent of this form of military strategy against the vastly superior Mughal armies so much so that the Marathas consolidated their gains and eventually grew to a conventional military power capable of challenging the various Sultanates and even the British for a brief while.

Modern day Terrorism is in some ways an off-shoot of Gorrilla tactics with the difference that the target objectives have been expanded to general populations with a view to gaining publicity and thereby more support amongst their constituencies. This then augments their resources and helps in staging more such strikes in a continuous upward spiral. Logically this would then lead to a situation where things become serious enough and the International community takes note and enforces a compromise. This would be the equivalent of the Gorrillas metamorphosing into a conventional force.

How did earlier civilizations deal with this model of attack designed to weaken their core through such one sided attrition. The most obvious one was to raise large forces capable of carrying the battle to the home ground of the Gorrillas. All great empires have attempted this with varying degrees of tenuous success but most of the evidence points in the other direction. Building strong walls and fortifications has been even less of a panacea agains a constantly moving enemy who is able to improvise ever more creative forms of attack.

What has worked in the past is quid pro quo. The Romans settled barbarian tribes on the periphery of their empire giving them minor citizenship rights in exchange for peace and even protection against invasions by other tribes. This arrangement worked for centuries to the nutual benefit of both sides.

In the modern context it is out of question to make a frontal assault on the home bases of terrorists as they are widely dispursed and are well shielded by the vast urban populations amongst whom they habitate and some of whom constitute their constituencies as well. An overwhelmingly militarily powerful state like Israel has made sporadic attempts at this to no avail. It is theoretically not feasible to reach the desired outcome with this option given the internationally guaranteed constraints of territorial sovereignity and other allied concepts.

Building modern day equivalent of walls and fortresses would definitely be counter productive as these would choke freedom to life and commerce and may inflict greater damages on the economy and psyche than direct terrorist acts could ever hope to accomplish.

The only choice it would seem would be to reach out to the terrorists and their constituencies and offer them civilisational dividends. If in some way the Arab middle east could have a stake in India acquiring political and financial muscle, it would set the tone for Pakistani expectations from India. Civilizationally Pakistan identifies itself with the middle east and in that sense is a front state for pan Islamic sentimentalities. The key to India's Kashmir probem lies further west of Pakistan where their soul lies. Once we accept this reality and even look to envigorate our moribund ethos with the more contemporary middle eastern value systems, we would have taken a giant step in taming the barbarians.

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