National security must get due attention

National security must get due attention

The Chief Ministers' conference on internal security convened by the Centre was high on harangue and low on decision-making. It is a pity that a...

The Chief Ministers' conference on internal security convened by the Centre was high on harangue and low on decision-making. It is a pity that a conference, called virtually under the shadow of the gruesome Naxal attack in the tribal belt of Chhattisgarh involved itself more in political one-upmanship than on evolving a clear-cut and sharp-edged policy to fight the twin threat of Naxalites and terrorists.

An agreement on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) again proved elusive; not unexpected in the given condition. Politics had the better of what was required on the occasion, much of the time taken by polemics. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did underline the grave issues before the conference; yet there seemed to be not many takers for the NCTC even in the Congress ranks. Home Minister S K Shinde's conciliatory efforts to sell NCTC, promising firm safeguards to accommodate the States' point of view, too failed to evoke a positive response.

What could, however, be said to be striking on the part of Mr. Shinde was his pointed reference to the growing and revived threat from the Sikh separatist groups and their preparatory designs to unleash a terror war against India, abetted and aided by the Pakistan spy Agency ISI in tandem with the terror outfits of LeT' Huji and the Indian Mujahideen. The significance of the timing this disclosure could not be lost, coming as it did at the political changeover in Pakistan and synchronizing with the anniversary of the Operation Bluestar.

However, the induction of Mr. Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister of Pakistan in his third new avatar has raised optimism in India for not wholly unfounded reasons. After all, he has replaced one democratic regime by another in a country where elected governments had been invariably overthrown by military dictators. Moreover, Mr. Nawaz Sharif seems to be a safer bet for peace with India even though it is really difficult forgetting the way the Kargil war followed the then Prime Minister Vajpayee's memorable visit to Pakistan as part of his endeavours to have a workable peace arrangement with a hostile neighbor.

At least, the apologia of Mr. Nawaz Sharif for the betrayal has all along been that this was the doing of his wily Army Chief Pervez Musharraf who acted behind his back. Even so, we can only wish Mr. Nawaz Sharif better luck this time. However, Mr. Shinde's disclosure about the nexus between the Sikh militants and the ISI is a warning which needs to be heeded by chief Ministers as much as it is of grave concern to the Centre. Has the lesson been taken? Sadly, the answer seems to be in the negative, going by the way Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi got locked in a wordy duel with Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram over the feasibility of the NCTC, the latter coming with a riposte to Mr. Modi that there would be no TADA or POTA which Mr. Modi might be angling for.

The conference was called at a particularly poignant point of time and it was expected that a concrete plan of action would emerge at the conclusion. This remained unfulfilled; no resolution, no joint plan of action, not even the avowal of unity even for show to thwart the fissiparous designs. Even the media headlines seemed to concentrate more on Modi's electoral sweep in the by-polls in his State than on the gravity of the Naxal threat or the menace of terrorism. It is a sad commentary on the leadership acumen in the country and as much on the set of its opinion-makers.

The circumstances are as they are, but it is never too late to make for the lack of those pre-occupied with their own political games. The threat to national integrity cannot be taken lightly. It is perhaps time for the Akali Dal government in Punjab to speak up on this vital national question. Nobody can question their anxiety to get justice for the victims and the survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms. The Bluestar anniversary has ended on a peaceful note. The brave Sikh community has indeed nothing in common with the miscreants sitting in the safe havens across the border.

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