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Post-Brunch Intelligencer

Midmorning ramblings on the state of the species

Festival of Explosions

Posted by Nath at 9:32 AM
I used to love Diwali as a kid. One night a year, we'd go into the garden and blow things up. We typically started with sparklers, and worked our way up over the course of the night to rockets and those little 'machine-guns' things. And the night was never complete without a couple of 'atom bombs' – deceptively small parcels of gunpowder with a signature blast we only heard one night a year.

This year, however, I had a different sort of explosion on my mind. The night before Diwali, New Delhi was shaken by a series of brutal terrorist attacks. About 60 people were killed; 200 or so were injured.

But the death toll is not what annoys me. I am sympathetic, of course, to families of those killed – but it makes no sense to get carried away. People die all the time – a hundred here, a hundred there – and I react with no more than a sympathetic 'tut-tut' before I click away and forget about it. But floods and train wrecks are accidents. Nobody sits down and says 'You know what? I feel like a good flood today'. They just happen. They can be controlled to some extent, but they can't really be avoided.

Bombs are different. People plan attacks like these to achieve specific political objectives. And that's where the Delhi attacks get puzzling; politically, I don't see how the militants stand to benefit from a stunt like this.

I think the people in favour of an independent Kashmir have realized that the only way forward is through talks. As Mandela put it:
Whenever things threatened to fall apart during our negotiations – and they did on many occasions – we would stand back and remind ourselves that if negotiations broke down the outcome would be a bloodbath of unimaginable proportions, and that after the bloodbath we would have to sit down again and negotiate with each other. The thought always sobered us up and we persisted, despite many setbacks. You negotiate with your enemies, not your friends.
The pro-Pakistan faction has not understood this simple fact. They are still blowing things up because, you know, that's just what they do. I find it hard to believe that they put any serious thought into the political consequences of their actions. Damaging Indo-Pak relations does not increase the chances of Kashmir going to Pakistan; it merely delays the outcome, whatever it will be.

Speaking of Indo-Pak relations, they really seem to be getting more and more complicated. Not too long ago, we were giving them large amounts of money to help with the quake relief effort. (A somewhat questionable move, I might add. As Atanu Dey puts it, money is fungible.) More recently, we've been dropping hints about the involvement of a 'foreign power' in the Delhi attacks. As this whole thing pans out, it will be interesting to find out the extent of Pakistan's involvement (if any) in the attacks.

It's no secret that the attacks were probably carried out by pro-Pakistan groups. However, the primary suspects are denying involvement. Whether they were actually responsible for the attacks or not, the only reason I can think of for them to actively deny participation is to increase the perceived magnitude of the terrorist threat. After all, most analysts think there are only a couple of groups capable of pulling off such an attack. Perhaps the separatists want us to think we're up against more than we realized.



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