Mumbai terror attack challenges India

Updated: 2011-07-15 12:12

By Binod Singh (

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Last year, I was invited to speak at Peking University to a fresh group of Chinese students, ready to travel to India for a short-term internship. It was organized by AISEC, a student organization across Europe and Asia. I warned the young students to avoid crowded areas, and to travel in VIP class and avoid general class in trains if you can. You can always see the real India from your window of the A/C cabins.

Well, I was criticized by those who invited me. They said that now the parents of the students were scared to send their kids to India. I could understand those parents' concern as they have the only child they cannot risk at all. Finally I convinced them that overall India is a safe country and our government takes special care for foreigners. They all made their trip and wrote to me that they are very happy and enjoying their trip, except sometimes scared and stuck in political rallies.

Mumbai has not yet recovered from the Nov 26 terror siege of the city in 2008, which claimed more than 175 lives and injured hundreds. Some of the best policemen of the city were killed in this attack. It was regarded as India's 9/11. But on Thursday afternoon, the financial hub of the nation was once again shocked by three serial blasts carried out with the help of IEDs. In this attack 21 people are already dead and there are hundreds injured at various hospitals throughout the city. The suspected group behind the attack is a group who call themselves "Indian Mujahedeen."

India is one of the first and last victims of terror emanating from across the border. It started as early as 1989, with some sporadic incidents in Kashmir, but since then terrorist groups have been organized with international links and domestic recruits and training. It has claimed thousands of innocent lives not sparing even women and children. However, the international community woke up to the threat of international terrorism only after the Twin Towers were attacked on Sept 11, 2001, by Al-Qaida hijackers.

Indians breathed a sigh of relief after Bin Laden was killed in a covert operation by US Marines inside the territory of Pakistan. But it was short-lived. Since then, Pakistan is burning in a renewed cycle of terror and India could not be unaffected by its neighbor’s problem. Unless and until there is some consensus reached between the two governments to rein in the dens of terror groups spreading across their borders, there will be no peace in the region. Bin Laden might be history now, but his ideology continues to inspire millions of radical groups across the world.

If we count, since 1989, India lost more soldiers in terrorist attacks than in any other war. In 2001, terrorist attack on the Indian parliament on Dec 13 was a real challenge to democracy and was intended to create instability in the region. On the domestic front, separatist movements, inter-communal violence and domestic terrorism have been a common phenomenon and have always posed a serious challenge to the country's law and order. The Kashmir separatist movement and Maoist revolutionaries are two of the major challenges to internal stability in India.

One thing to be noted here is that, apart from destroying families and creating orphans, each and every terror strike on India has had its long-term impact on the country's economic prospects. Since the 2008 attack, the country has seen a drastic reduction in the inflow of foreign tourists, and to my knowledge, hundreds of Chinese-speaking tour guides in the capital New Delhi had to look for some alternative job to earn pocket money. After each attack, the amount of FDI into the country also goes down, which is clearly reflected in the BSE-Sensex of the Bombay Stock Exchange.

India belongs to one of the most densely populated and poverty-stricken regions in the world, i.e., South Asia. This region occupies only 3.8 percent of the world's surface area but 22.6 percent of the population. None of the South Asian economies is resource-rich and, except for Sri Lanka, all are categorized as low-income developing countries.

South Asia is indeed a region of poverty. More than 40 percent of the world's poor live in this region. As a large majority of the population live and work in rural areas in South Asia, poverty is primarily a rural problem. Imagine, if India were surrounded by countries and regions such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the story would have been different today. But since we cannot choose our neighbors, India and Indians have learned to live with the reality of terrorism. In the near future, there is no stopping its onslaught on the country.

But poverty alone cannot be a reason for the rise of terrorism in South Asia. It has been much more identified with political movements, separatism and religious wars. When it comes to ensuring the public safety of its citizens, perhaps India has a lesson to learn from the experience of the People's Republic of China. Like India, the PRC is also a multi-ethnic and plural society, and several radical groups are also engaged in separatist activities. But, none of them will possibly be allowed to sneak into Shanghai or Beijing or any other big city to create trouble, as the government strikes hard at every act of terrorism and separatism. Perhaps it’s time for India to get tough.

The author is of Indian origin and teaches at the School of Asian and African Studies of Beijing Foreign Studies University. He can be reached at The views expressed here are solely personal and do not represent in any way the view of or any section of China Daily newspaper.