Thursday, December 11

Pyaar ke side effects

Dear Sitaram Yechury,

You deserve a prize!

But just so that you know, terrorists came to Indian shores long before the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal was conceived. Long before India was considered by the U.S. to be a "strategic ally."

Another thing, Mr. Yechury. Avoid contradictory thoughts in the same speech. "He opposed any move to "curb the rights" of the states by enacting a federal investigative agency....There is a need to create a new security architecture in the country...Yechury said." You further point out that "It is not the inadequacy of any law that caused the Mumbai terror attacks. If needed we can correct the loopholes in the present laws."

Well. Inadequacy of counter-terrorism laws, inadequacy of border protection laws, inadequacy of anti-corruption laws (to name a few) caused the Mumbai attacks. And the many more before it too. Also I don't understand how the rights of states will be curbed through a new agency. It will be a new law. You can write it such that any possibility of "curbing rights" will be eliminated. In fact you can plug the loopholes in the system as a whole. It is a fresh new opportunity, you see.

Sacrilegious as the thought may be for you, we could in fact use some help from countries like U.S. and Israel. As disastrous as their "war on terror" has been, it is true that the U.S. has been able to avoid any terrorist attacks on its soil after 9/11 through strict laws. And Israel has one of the best intelligence agencies in the world.

Of course you deserve credit for recognizing that India has been exposed to "new dangers" due to the nuclear deal. What kind, is a matter for another letter. I don't want to confuse you.

Manasi Kakatkar

(Additional reading: India announces security overhaul.)


a Sane man said...

"It will be a new law. You can write it such that any possibility of "curbing rights" will be eliminated. In fact you can plug the loopholes in the system as a whole. It is a fresh new opportunity, you see."

Didn't he mean the same, when he said that the structure of new federal agency must look into this? I think the way I understand it is that law and order is constitutionally a state subject and hence states have traditionally opposed any form of police reforms etc. Powerful center and weak states would weaken the federal structure and hence any step of forming central structures must be done with due diligence. What say?

I also do not understand how tougher laws help curb terrorism. Isn't it the fact that as the severity of the law increases the rate of conviction decreases? Also, I believe it is not the severity of punishment, but the certainty of punishment that is a deterrent. Also, I do not see how a mere law can deter someone from indulging in crime, when he is committed to die? You think US has avoided any attack after that just because of tougher laws?

Does India have billions of dollars to spend on homeland security like US? Is India geographically as secluded as US? Does a potential terrorist "look" different from natives in India, so that he could be easily looked with a suspicion? Though we need to upgrade the security infrastructure in India drastically, I do not quite understand how US can serve as a model for that.

Manasi said...

Nimish: You make some very valid points.

Though you say that Mr. Yechury is making the same point I want to, I didn't really come across to me as such.

As for law and order being a state subject. What we are dealing with here is defense of the country from external agents. Terrorist attacks in Mumbai or anywhere else cannot be taken as a State’s law and order problem, especially when the agents are sufficiently believed to be foreign nationals. Communal riots, domestic militia, yes. But not attacks by the LeT. According to the Constitution, defense of the country, use of the army, navy and air-force, intelligence and investigation, war and peace are matters for the Union List and fall under the purview of the Central government.

While it is true that an overly powerful Center is detrimental to the federal nature of the country, in matters of defense and intelligence, state interests and politics cannot be allowed to take precedence. I think defense has to be centralized for coordination and efficiency purposes. We would have otherwise had state armies, navies and air forces. State Police are responsible for internal law and order, and they primarily perform duties of protecting and upholding domestic laws. They are not meant to deal with international threats independent of the Central government.

The new agency being talked about, as I understand it, would be primarily responsible for dealing with threats to the defense of the country, and intelligence in particular. I don't think it is being proposed as a replacement for the state police forces. I think it would be a coordinating body. And as I say in the post, it is possible to write it such that State rights are not encroached.

I agree that severity of law and convictions are not directly related. I am not asking for strict laws in the sense that they put restrictions on the functioning of the police and defense forces. Neither do I believe that merely having strict laws would solve our problems. I am asking for prudent, enforceable and adequate laws that would help us convict criminals. It includes reforming the judicial system too. But I would rather not go into it now.

As for the US avoiding any further attacks. In part it is because of strict laws, rules and regulations. In spite of the disaster that the “war on terror” has been, and its impact on the US's image, it is true that there have been no other attacks since then. It implies that they are doing something right, somewhere. Their reaction, emergency preparedness might be bordering on paranoia. But it is working. All I am saying is that we could use some help, some pointers on how to go about a common threat.

We might not have billions of dollars to spend, but that cannot be an excuse for poor defense capabilities, and counter-terrorism. Terrorism is a fact of life, and we have probably been suffering from it for longer than any other country. You would expect that a country under such continuous threat and attack would have efficient laws by now. But we do not. The US response is not ideal, but it worked. And considering the number of attacks we have been facing, we need something that works. I would not say that we let the US dictate or even copy their law exactly. You are right in pointing out the geographical and racial problems in dealing with this for India. We need innovative and customized laws for our unique situation. And we need all the help we can get. If we cannot solve it ourselves, we should be smart enough to ask for help. It might be someone other than the US. I don’t really care who it is, so long as the problem is taken care of.

I see no shame in asking for help in dealing with a problem that has the capability to cripple an entire city and country for a prolonged period of time.

Ashutosh said...

While Yechury is deluded as usual, I don't think the point about there being more Islamic animosity towards India because of its increasingly (at least perceived) close relationship with the US is completely invalid. But it's an ember which we should swallow. Unlike Yechury who obviously thinks we should break our relations with the US, I obviously think it simply means we should buckle up in our fight against terrorism.

Manasi said...

Ashutosh: I understand that closer relations with US makes things difficult, terrorismwise, but to say that it is a consequence of the deal is absurd. We have other older problems exclusive of US relations that have brought the menace to India.