On Shashi Tharoor’s article on the Mumbai Terror attacks

Mr. Tharoor’s article is here

And I quote,

.. But this time the terrorists may have gone too far. The murderers of Mumbai made special efforts to single out American and British nationals among their hostages, and they killed the Israelis running Mumbai’s Jewish center. This was clearly not just an attack on India; they were taking on the “Jews and crusaders” of al-Qaeda lore. If it turns out that the massacre in Mumbai was planned in or directed from Pakistani territory, the consequences for Pakistan are bound to be severe..

He considers the terrorists having “gone too far” only when they targeted foreign nationals? Really? Is this sentiment echoed by everyone now? Agreeably, the states who were targeted are powerful militarily and dominate geo-political debates with firm voices – but can India afford to have its own commentators not bring the government to task at its inefficacy?

For once, now more than ever, lets not consider the deaths of thousands of people in terrorist attacks over the last decade as having been unimportant. After all, it should not take attacks on other countries on Indian soil to make statements such as the one Mr. Tharoor made above. Things had gone far enough when the Parliament attacks occurred in 2001 – and further with the multiple blasts across India earlier this year. If anything, these attacks are the clarion call that should affect all decision making authorities in India and the world – and incite them to gear up and deal with the scourge of terrorism.

Of course, this is easier said than done. I’m sure I’m not alone on the internet echoing what must now sound like a broken record of demands. Yet, I still haven’t come across a single article or a policy paper that lucidly highlights the challenges that the government faces in order to get its act together.

Political analysts have pointed out time and again about the dangers of ignorance, mis-management and corruption at various levels of the Indian state apparatus. Pertinent as these points are, it is my opinion that the situation is quite salvageable without having to design or wait for a panacea that will rid us of all problems. What we really need is an extensive code for the political class, and complete autonomy to a national body to oversee their activities – something on the lines of the election commission perhaps – which contains the cabinet secretary, the prime minister, the chief justice and the speakers of both houses of parliament. Additionally, the chief election officer and the central vigilance commissioner can offer their services to it.

Too often do you hear of ineffective policing or law making because a certain politician lacks the personal integrity or resolve to push things to completion. Bureaucrats, as much as the media loves to revile them – serve an important purpose of keeping the state machinery flowing as their political heads change. They are, however, rendered powerless in situations such as these where a politician’s will can close doors to necessary resources that are direly needed. I refer to the above as being issues not during an emergency but in times of calm, when politicians need to see reason and put their heads together and work with, rather than against each other. Are you listening, Raj Thackeray and Mamta Bannerjee?

Such an oversight committee would have the power to bring them to task, as well as be the supreme authority to keep any politician in the country in check. As we move on with the creation of a new federal intelligence agency, lay the roadmap for better inter-agency coordination, create committees to analyze what went wrong, fire scapegoat politicians, and generally “shake up the establishment” – let us also concentrate some of those resources into determining why the political leadership is so fragile and unresponsive – and take measures to address it.

After all, if elected leaders are supposed to watch over the well being of the people who elect them – then Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?