Saturday, December 12, 2015

Terrorism: Indian vs. European response

In this very important essay by Balu's school of thought, begins with the observation that the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 (26/11) and the recent attack on Paris are very similar in dimension.
However, despite all similarities, the Paris attacks took on a dimension that did not and does not exist in reactions to the Mumbai attack. While India and the rest of the world were horrified by the violence and terror caused by these criminals, the self-description of the terrorists – as avengers for the repressed Muslims of India, particularly in Kashmir – was hardly discussed, let alone accepted. There was no talk of a ‘War of Civilizations’, except by the American press. Barring a few exceptions, no columnist or commentator, no eyewitness, Mumbaikar or otherwise, described 26/11 as an attack on something integral and abstract. There are hardly any descriptions to be found of 26/11 as an attack on Indian values, or as an assault on the Indian way of life – not in 2008, and not in the seven years since. 
On the other hand, the Paris attack is described as exactly that: an assault on European values, on the ‘universal values’ Europe has given to humankind, on the European way of life, and on the freedom that Europe embodies.

At the outset, I should note that the terrorists did not "self-describe" in the Mumbai case.  A previously unknown group, the "Deccan Mujahideen" falsely claimed credit for the attack.  Otherwise there was dead silence.  It was only some months later (July 2009, more than 6 months later) that Pakistan admitted that the Lashkar-e-Taiba had committed the act. In contrast, ISIS released this statement after the Paris attack.

Nevertheless, the article makes a serious point, comparing the Indian and European responses to very similar attacks.

Relevant quotes from then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the nation after 26/11 that characterize the attack on India are:
"We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists."

"We will take up strongly with our neighbours that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them."

"We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people."
The Indian response is about the safety and security of Indian citizens.

The then-President of India, Pratibha Patil, was in Vietnam, at the time, her statement about Mumbai  is sandwiched in between diplomatese with Vietnam.
I condemn in the strongest form the terrorist attacks Mumbai. This mindless attack is the work of those who have no regard for human lives, and are pursuing a path of destruction. My heartfelt condolences to those who have been affected by this act of terror.
The closest statements of the kind that put some abstract value at stake, were, e.g., like that from Sonia Gandhi,
We shall not allow such incidents to deter our firm resolve to combat terror in all its manifestations....India's one billion people have the strength and courage to defend themselves against the assault on its unity and secular fabric...
The contrast:

France's President Francoise Hollande to a joint session of Parliament: (emphasis added):
France is at war. The acts committed in Paris and near the Stade de France on Friday evening are acts of war. They left at least 129 dead and many injured. They are an act of aggression against our country, against its values, against its young people, and against its way of life.

They were carried out by a jihadist army, by Daesh, which is fighting us because France is a country of freedom, because we are the birthplace of human rights. 

At this exceptionally solemn moment, I wanted to address a joint session of Parliament to demonstrate our national unity in the face of such an abomination and to respond with the cool determination that this vile attack against our country calls for.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also described the Paris incident as an attack on liberty and on European values. The statement in German is here.

US President Obama:
...This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.....Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress. Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.
British Prime Minister David Cameron:
These were innocent victims enjoying a Friday night out with friends and family, no doubt at the end of a hard week. They were not seeking to harm anyone. They were simply going about their way of life – our way of life.

And they were killed and injured by brutal, callous murderers who want to destroy everything our two countries stand for. Peace. Tolerance. Liberty.
....The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life.
Even the King of the Netherlands
...Together with France, we will continue to steadfastly defend freedom against those who use terror to try and undermine it. We will never give up our values of freedom and solidarity....
(The Queen of England only issued sympathy and condolences, as far as I can tell.)

The thrust of the essay is that the Indian response is different and possibly superior to the European response.  It is argued that the European/American response concedes to ISIS the status of representing an alien civilization, instead of being just a bunch of criminals with a criminal ideology; and thus sets the stage for a conflict much wider than it needs to be.

Go to the essay: Paris, Mumbai and the Terrorist 'Assault on Freedom'.