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Monday, Sep 27, 2021
Outlook.com
Outlook.com

The Coveted Covert Option

The Coveted Covert Option
The Coveted Covert Option
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+05:30

First Mr B. Raman, who has repeatedly brought attention to it. And now Vir Sanghvi who argues: 

America has infiltrated terror groups, encourages them to fight with each other, kidnaps and whisks away important terrorists (‘rendition’) and sub-contracts the job of executing terrorists to friendly secret services.

There is a strong case for us in India to follow that example. Let’s take the instance of the three terrorists who were freed in Kandahar in exchange for the passengers on IC 814. They travelled to Pakistan where they were welcomed as heroes. Should we not have pursued them and taken them out? Would this not have served as a warning to other terrorists?

Similarly, we know who many of the 26/11 masterminds are and where they live. Should we wait for the Pakistanis to move against them – assuming that Pakistan is so inclined? Or should we just send a hit team? We know where Dawood Ibrahim, the man behind the Bombay blasts, lives. Should we mount a large-scale operation to eliminate him?

Of course, it is a theoretical discussion for any such policy would fall foul of the courts. But it's a dirty war and this seems like an easy, sexy idea. Most people I know might wince, hold their noses, but ultimately go along with something like the above, with due caveats about how it could be a slippery slope and how obviously there needs to be a debate about who authorises such "hits" and what the "due process" in such a case would be. Clearly, even this is not something that anyone would want to discuss in public.

The R&AW would have to be really more incompetent than we think it to be, if it has not even considered such possibilities, and the fear of failure, of any such operation going horribly wrong, and its costs -- political and diplomatic -- would hopefully prevent any trigger-happy Bollywoodian adventurism, so our discussions can happily remain in the realm of speculation.

The other option that Vir Sanghvi mentions will not cut ice with most-- it doesn't with me. At the risk of being called a wimp, there is very clearly a moral line that we as a country or state policy should not adopt. Not even covertly, not even when we have full deniability and no fear of failure:

Similarly, should we not consider doing to Pakistan what it does to us? There are many Sindhis, Mohajirs, and yes, Baluchis, who have no affection for the Punjabi elite which runs Pakistan. Should we not finance them so that they can more forcefully express their discontentment? The more trouble there is for Pakistan from within, the more distracted the government in Islamabad will be.

No, even hypothetically, leaving the overall moral argument aside, even practically, do we want to take on the responsibility for killing of innocents and civilians and non-combatants, for those so financed may easily go wrong.

Yes, it is a dirty war and the "enemy" does not offer us similar courtesies, but we still want to fight it with our heads held high, even if it means keeping our fists tightly clenced and our teeth gritted. There are somethings that we just will not do. Else, will there be a difference between Pakistan which has used terror as state policy (albeit undeclared, but the war of a thousand cuts has been documented enough) and India which can still call itself a civilised nation?

But there are things that we can and should do in the meanwhile-- the much talked about police reforms, fixing our internal security apparatus and response time, co-ordinating intelligence inputs, hard-nosed investigations rather than spreading disinformation through politically motivated leaks. And of course ensuring that basic safety precautions on spotting unattended packages etc are propagated.

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