'Nip it in the bud', 'A stitch in time saves nine', 'catch 'em early, catch 'em young' are some of the aphorisms of traditional thinking, which talk about dealing with a situation before it becomes unmanageable. There is a simple commonsense logic to it, something that doesn't need an in depth analysis, that prevention is always better than cure. But politics, national to a certain extent, and international, to a greater degree, is an entirely different beast. A small example - whenever acts of terrorism are perpetrated by a group, based off, trained in and funded by a foreign land, the rules of the game are such that the victim country is well within its right to treat it as an act of war and take action accordingly, even when there is no explicit declaration of open hostilities by the country, hosting, aiding and abetting the terrorist group. To put it in context, the Mumbai attacks by Lashkar-E-Toiba. It is an open secret, at least from the Indian view point, the victim, and all other eye-in-the-sky witnesses (read, the US, with its great snooping capabilities), that the terrorist group has sympathies and sponsorship from the state military and intelligence institutions, if not an express letter of intent signed by the highest civilian body, the executive, to do what it did - commit a brazen act of cowardice, murdering innocent civilians, in a neighboring land. Didn't a world war just start on the premise? And here it is three years after that nightmare, India is trying in every which way possible to bring Pakistan to the talking table, trying to sort things out in amicable and peaceful manner, as though, wilfully turning a blind eye to the sacrifices of the fought men and fallen civilians. Does nipping in the bud mean taking a hard blow in the face, and yet try to muster up a smile and extend the hand in good will? Another example - it is well documented that almost all of the hijackers who rammed the planes into the Twin towers, Pentagon, and that open field in rural Pennsylvania, carried Saudi passports, born and bred there, before joining Al-Qaeda and getting trained for the mission in Pakistan. And, the US's response? Bomb Afghanistan and invade Iraq, leaving the two countries that served as the suppliers and the trainers in tact. In fact, Pakistan is even provided with billions of dollars of aid for both its military and civilian cooperation. To an average Indian, this is one of the most confounding policy decisions ever not just of U.S's but also by its own country refusing to tackle the menace of terrorism by its horns and instead trying to change the hearts of the perpetrators with mere words and more sops. Is this the punishment that fits the crime - coax, cajole and what it looks like, even bribe? Israel's example is often quoted by the Indian hardliners in the situation. More precarious than India's, Israel is surrounded by a bevy of bellicose nations itching to wage a war on the diminutive nation at the slightest provocation. And when the provocation does not come, instigation becomes the order of the day. Lob rockets into its land or launch suicide attacks in crowded civilian areas to trigger a retaliatory response. Israel's policy has been consistent in this matter when dealing with terrorism - zero tolerance. Whether it be one citizen or tens killed, their lives should be and will be avenged at any cost, even it means making daring raids on foreign soils, with the help of its elite squads capturing and killing the perpetrators and the masterminds of those ghastly attacks. Which brings to the question, when Israel ......why can't India or U.S?
The India dilemma - India's inability at this moment, in trying to mete out commensurate justice to the preachers and practitioners of terrorism, unfortunately and ironically lies in its new found prosperity. Caught between a rock and a hard place - China and Pakistan - India's resolute approach in refraining from launching a full scale military attack on its nefarious neighbor boils down to simple economics - can it afford foregoing its current status and position as an emerging economic powerhouse, one that has been painstakingly built over the last couple of decades and engage in a war that would greatly undermine, if not completely wipe out its future financial rewards. Yes, that is what the Indians have to contend with, whenever clamors of raiding into Pakistani soil reaches a fever pitch right after every significant terrorist attack. In simple terms India unwittingly became a victim of its own success. Had a similar scenario prevailed during the 70s or the 80s, the thinking heads - both in the administrative and the military sections - would not have thought twice escalating the issue to its end game within no time, immaterial of the men and materiel at hand. And now, with far advanced military tactics and enhanced weaponry, all that it could do is use them only in the ultimate doomsday scenario, when all options of peaceful rapprochement have been exhausted and the country is in imminent danger of complete annihilation. Short of that, India continues to take the body blows chin up, doing nothing more than sharpening the rhetoric and try its best, applying diplomatic pressure to, restrain Pakistan, at best, into taking its foot off the pedal routinely exporting terrorism. So, how far can the country be pushed before the advantages of the economic successes come into direct collision course with the national security interests? And India hopes in all its wishful thinking and deal making, that the question doesn't boil down to that, where it has to make a hard decision choosing between prosperity and security. In simplistic terms, setting the geo-political forces aside, prosperity of a nation breeds internal security. A society that is financially stable, economically viable, and fiduciarily solvent, finds no reason to engage in military conflicts, lest it upset its own applecart. And in this simple tenet lies the core of current Indian diplomacy, particularly when dealing with Pakistan, where one side has so much to lose and the other, so little (to lose/gain). This imbalance between the two neighboring nations is a precarious situation, both in bilateral trade and mutual security interests. Any stable nation cannot afford instability in its vicinity, for, it would only be a matter of time, before insecurity and paranoia launch themselves without being mindful of the consequences.
It is a fair assumption that the world has seen its last war between neighboring nations, in Iran and Iraq, and in this current climate of military upmanship of trigger happy security establishments, a war between neighboring nations, more so when they have been brandishing their nuclear credentials, with a fair glee, would only end in setting them at least decades, if not centuries, back, recovering from their respective nuclear fall-outs. This doomsday deterrence presents an interesting opportunity for setting up the table for dialogue, discussions and simple commonsense. In short, India has to give Pakistan a reason to live, proper, make progress and wish for a bright future, because, better future is the reasons nations fight or make friends. India should facilitate creating an environment in Pakistan where it has to think twice before taking a step forward in full military gear and that can only be possible economically and never militarily. Fear of the neighbor, of its might, can only last for so long, before the other side, either steps up to match the might (like the India-Pak situation) or lose all hope and acts in desperation (like Israel-Palestine scenario). Both of which do not bode well for each player involved in the warring game. Hope is the reason nations build, trade and operate; take out hope of better tomorrow, nations or men lose the primary reason to exist and from this desperate cornered states, the minds try to get in sync with whatever philosophy/religion/-ism/demagoguery offers better life, if not in the current one, at least in the afterlife. And it is no wonder that majority of the suicide bombers believe that 72 virgins await them in the afterlife and the sooner they end the current one (even better, when it is for a noble cause of revolting against the oppressor/infidel, according to their handlers), the faster that they can start reaping the benefits and comforts in heaven.
In a very distorted way, even in this situation, hope is offered as an incentive (even if it is to die and end the current life). Be it men or nations, hope is what should be instilled, promoted and made to look forward to. A blow for a blow might sound fair and better and satiate the ego and senses, but only temporarily. When it comes to redressing the wounds, the future generations will not pardon/absolve the present ones of their bravado-laced, chivalry-filled war excesses. So, whether India likes it or not, its only option is to drag Pakistan, even if by the ear, to the discussion table, and talk shop, improve relations, establish trade, develop the country's infrastructure, offer its citizens a chance for a better living. And that is the only way out, for both India and Pakistan. And that is what it means, when some wise person said, if you can't beat them, befriend them.