Lessons one needs to learn from Mumbai
By OP Rana (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-03 07:41

Very few things can be more painful than seeing a city in your country go up in flames, and the sense of helplessness multiplies manifold if you are thousands of miles away from home.

Millions of people across the world must have gone through the same emotions watching on TV or reading about senseless acts of violence in their countries. They may be asking the same questions: "Why this bloodshed?" and "When and how will all this end?"

This is not the first time Mumbai has been made to bleed. And if lessons are not learnt, tragically it may not be the last. This sense of fear has made the Indian public and media speak in one voice. They have raised many questions - about the country's intelligence network, security arrangements, ability to deal with crises of such magnitude and accountability.

The country's leadership has responded by removing or getting the resignations of a few top officials. But those are internal matters. What is making headlines across the world is India blaming "elements" in Pakistan for the attack on Mumbai, and demanding that Islamabad take "strong action" against them.

Tempers on the Indian side were running so high over the weekend that one could smell gunpowder across its border with Pakistan. The Pakistani leadership has shown enough maturity not to respond violently to India's charges, though Indian media reports say Islamabad has been massing troops along the border.

The importance of rhetoric in politics and saber-rattling in diplomacy is lost on none. This is a difficult time for India, as it would have been for any other country in such a situation. But as a rising economic power, New Delhi has to think beyond the ordinary and the obvious. The worst possible thing that could happen to the subcontinent, and the world beyond, is another war.

If indeed India, or any other country, wants to declare a war, there are many things to choose from: hunger, illiteracy, inequality, disease, corruption of the mind, senseless violence and global warming. The list can go on. There are too many wars going on in this world in which the only casualties are only humans.

Pakistan is already fighting a war - with itself - to stop senseless violence within its boundaries. Hardly a week goes by without dozens of people being killed in blasts in some part of that country. Islamabad seems to have understood what senseless violence can do to a country. It is ready, President Asif Ali Zardari has said, to join hands with India to fight militancy. But the two countries have a more than 60-year history of mutual distrust. One does not take the other's words at face value.

This is exactly where great diplomacy is needed. Instead of canceling all talks and ceasing all contacts with Pakistan (and thus playing into the hands of the very militants who made Mumbai bleed), India should seize the opportunity not just with talks but with actions.

It might have taken the first step yesterday, when its foriegn minister announced India was not considering military action in response to the attacks in Mumbai. For now, it has issued a demarche, asking Pakistan to hand over Indian fugitives who have taken shelter across the border, including two militant groups' chiefs and an underworld don.

This is a welcome step. But the Indian leadership should know any false step will only help fan passions and will be used by the country's divisive elements, which are many, to foment more trouble.

Many innocent lives have already been lost. The Indian leadership should ensure that others don't fall prey to the marauding band of jingoists, who have been targeting Muslims for all the ills in the country.

This is not the time to blame a person or group or a country. This is the time to protect all people and ensure they are not denied the rights to live properly and get the best possible education so that militancy can be nipped in the bud. Militants are not born but made. And the most potent weapons against militancy are not guns and jails but social equality and education.

E-mail: oprana@hotmail.com