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India: The Soggy State

By M.D. Nalapat

January 26, 2009

Just as 9-11 may have been avoided if during the 1990s, the United States had taken out rather than play footsie with the Taliban, Mumbai 11-27 (the halfway point in the 3-day siege) together with numerous other mass casualty terrorist attacks may never have taken place had not India switched from a policy of active defense into a passive and reactive state by 1997. It was in 1997 that New Delhi began implementing a unilateral ceasefire against Pakistan, dismantling its covert weapons and mothballing its overt capability with a series of Confidence Building Measures (CBM). All this, despite the continuance of Pakistan's non-conventional war against India

Since 1997, India has gone even further down Appeasement Alley and has become a "soggy" state. While a "soft" state possesses the implements and authority needed for beneficial policies but fails to implement them because of corruption or lack of will, the administration of a "soggy" state has become so dysfunctional that it is unable to implement steps designed for its protection even should it seek to. If should such a situation should continue, year after year, the country will lose its self-defense mechanisms and may finally fall in thrall to malefic influences, the way Pakistan has been by jihadists. Once such a stage is reached, external intervention to buttress healthy elements within domestic society becomes mandatory if the country is not to turn into an international security risk, in the manner of Pakistan.

On paper, India has one of the most robust national security systems in the world, with police and paramilitary forces exceeding 1.3 million - as much as the military. Each year,India spends around a quarter of its budget on these and other segments of its national security system. Their effectiveness can be judged from the reality that India has become the most terrorist-prone country outside the "terror triangle" of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. The people of the country are, in effect, sitting ducks, despite the vast sums spent on their security. A visit to any of India's borders would help explain why.

In the east, although there is a substantial presence of police and paramilitary formations, the border has become porous, as evidenced by the flood of illegal migrants into India from Bangladesh, a country where the military has developed close ties with two armies that see India as hostile - those from Pakistan and China. Today, Bangladesh hosts a slew of jihadist organizations, a few that are engaged in the international jihad, but the overwhelming majority concentrating on India. About $15 is usually sufficient to get across the lightly guarded frontier although in a few segments the price tag may rise to $200. Small wonder that Kolkata (formerly Calcutta),the largest city in the region, now hosts two million illegals from Bangladesh and has become a safe haven for jihadists and other insurgents. To become "legal" on paper does not take long in Kolkata, because by now the lower rungs of the state bureaucracy have been filled with such migrants,who are always ready to help others get ration cards, entry onto the electoral rolls and other paper proofs of citizenship. Indeed, while those who are not Bangladeshi but Indian get charged a small bribe for each such service while illegals are given them gratis.

Not that all those intent on mayhem need to come into India from Bangladesh clandestinely. The substantial presence of Bangladeshi elements in the electoral rolls of his home state of West Bengal is the reason India's external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, has seen to it that visas be given to a flood of applicants from Bangladesh. Even his Cabinet colleague, the Home Minister, has been forced to wonder aloud "why so many visas are being given to people from Bangladesh," a key source of jihadists. Focused as he is on votes, Mr. Mukherjee has yet to budge.

The border with Nepal is almost completely porous, with citizens of each country permitted to enter the other without visa. The border with facing Myanmar is witnessing the same corruption as that fronting Bangladesh, so that those in the narcotics trade find the many checkpoints only a minor inconvenience (and expense). If any of those in the higher levels of the Indian national security establishment sought to alter such a grim reality, such efforts have clearly failed thus far. Because of the widespread presence of jihadist nests across the borders with Nepal and Bangladesh, terrorists with links to groups in Pakistan frequently use these countries as entry points into India, rather than seek to cross the frontier directly. In several parts of the country, including Kashmir, the Gujarati coast and Rajasthan, such crossings are facilitated by a sufficient bribe. Small wonder several farmhouses and villas in the better areas of India's metropolises are owned by those who have spent years in the paramilitaries earning salaries that average of $650 per month.

The numerous small ports on India's western coast have become easily-accessed entry points for unrecorded vessels from the Middle East and Pakistan due to the absence of any effective port security measures. The south coast, especially in Tamil Nadu, has been penetrated almost daily by elements of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who use the hinterland to replenish their supplies in the course of their ongoing war with the Sri Lankan military.

Because of numerous laws that are either not implementable or are seemingly designed to encourage bribes, much of India's political class is flush with cash that they transmit through "havala" channels. As these are the same conduits patronized (and in some cases, controlled) by jihadis and narcotics traffickers, the police are consequently often prevented from investigating the sources of terrorist funding for fear that doing so would result in the exposure of the involved political elites. This and other similar reasons is why there has been a zero rate of conviction for terror-related cases over the past four years, an astonishing record for a country that has become the most terror-prone of any major democracy.

Presumably believing the tourist promotion line of "Eternal India,"the United States and the European Union have prodded New Delhi into a soggy policy towards Pakistan, despite the fact that Pakistan is controlled by an army that sustains as auxiliaries a substantial jihadist force, several of whose personnel themselves subscribe to a Wahabbist-Khomeinist world view. Despite being at the receiving end of jihadist violence from Pakistan since 1989, India continues to refuse to even deprive Pakistan of Most Favored Nation trading status despite the fact that Islamabad has thus far refused to return the favor. In the World Bank and the IMF, the Indian delegation is usually amongst the first to vote in favor of providing extra assistance to Pakistan, a policy smiled on by the United States, but which stands in contrast to Washington's own stance towards other terror sponsoring countries, for example, Iran.

In his January 12, 2009 column in www.upiasia.com, this student of geopolitics contrasted the approaches of India and Israel towards terror. Mumbai 11-27 has shown in blood-soaked detail the folly of pursuing the policies of appeasement toward the watering holes of jihad that successive governments in New Delhi have indulged in for twelve years. In the 1990s, during the period when P.V. Narasimha Rao was prime minister (1992-96), the way in which New Delhi tackled the insurgency in Punjab and the jihadist upsurge in Kashmir was a lesson for another democracy threatened by the same forces on how to do things right - Israel. These days, India has become the best (if that term can be used in such a context) example of how NOT to protect national security. It is the textbook example of what may be termed the "soggy" state.

M.D. Nalapat became India's first professor of geopolitics in 1999 at Manipal University in India's Karnataka state. Since 1992,he has held that Wahabbism-Khomeinism and authoritarianism are the twin threats faced by the international community and that the "unified field" of terrorism mandates a similar response. In 2003,he partnered with JINSA in organizing the first of four annual India-Israel-U.S. Conferences. Professor Nalapat, who first put forward the idea of forming an "Asian NATO," believes that Israel, India, Turkey and Singapore form part of the "Extended West", rather than an "extended Middle East", and that the countries in this group need to work in concert to promote prosperity, democracy and freedom from terror.

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