Losing the wimp

A few days ago, the US navy rescued an American ship captain being held hostage by Somali pirates. The dramatic rescue involved navy marksmen shooting down three pirates, capturing one and saving the captain. Amidst the entire high sea drama, the white house kept a very low profile, giving complete authority to the military men in the field, and especially giving the appropriate standing authority to the commander on the scene, enabling him to take decisive combat action.

Going back to the 26/11 hostage standoff, one sees how India’s politicians dropped the ball by continuing to make major decisions instead of early delegation to the Indian military, thus wasting precious initial hours and letting the terrorists gain an upper hand in the crisis. One of the hotly debated topics in the coming
parliamentary elections is the willingness of India’s leaders to take the terrorism fight to the terrorists. Not just the al-qaeda insurgency, but the ISI-backed sleeper cells and the naxalites and Central India’s jungles or the separatists in the northeast and even the same high-seas terrorism in the Indian ocean.

More often than not, in India, the delegation of authority to execute the lethal force to stomp out the bad guys, is not an issue about the wimp factor. It is the pimp factor. It is the way the political hierarchy controls, manipulates, and pressures the enforcers and the first responders and the border defenders. It is the way the politicians dictate which first information report reports make it all the way and which don’t. Many of the crises seen today were manageable and nippable-in-the-bud incidents back when they began.

A retired colonel of the Indian army recently told me about the sharp and smart colleagues he worked with and how they saw opportunities being wasted in the fight against the bad guys. He described how Kashmir, once India’s tourist paradise, deteriorated into hell right in front of everyone’s eyes. He told how tranquil woods in southern India became naxalite dens and dacoit havens. The common factor with many of the failures, he said, was not the police’s or the army’s ability to tackle bad guys, but their inability to pursue the right courses of action.

Much depends on what amalgam of forces comes to power in a few weeks, and what kind of leader they choose. No matter what party it is, one hopes the person at the top has it in her or him to allow lethal force ion combating the evil. Considering how worse Pakistan’s situation will be in another 5 years, it is imperative that Indians choose someone who will have the guts to take decisive action against enemies. It is highly likely that India will need to go to Pakistan before it goes to the moon.
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