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It is often said that countries which do not remember the past, do not have a future. We Indians tend to gloss over the past, both internally and externally, in the relentless hope for a brighter and prosperous future.


After the 17th SAARC summit at Maldives this month, India and Pakistan have decided to normalise the accident prone bilateral relationship with both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani agreeing to take the neighbourly ties in a positive direction. The secretary level dialogues have started and next will be the much awaited resumption of India-Pakistan sports (read cricketing) ties. Islamabad has even dangled the carrot of granting Indian Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status despite opposition apparently from the Pakistan Army and its strategic arm, the Muridke based Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which was just taken off the list of terrorist organisations by Gilani’s government.


While there is no reason against Prime Minister Singh seeking a harmonious relationship with neighbouring Pakistan, New Delhi must also not forget what happened on 26/11 three years ago. Despite making all welcome noises over bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai massacre to book, none of the 35 main accused listed in the Mumbai police charge-sheet have been taken to task by Islamabad. Hafiz Saeed, the chief patron of JuD, mother ship of proscribed Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), has been has been let out scot free by Pakistan’s judiciary and 26/11 chief military planner Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi is the toast of Pakistan’s ISI at Adiala jail in Rawalpindi. LeT’s monsters like Zarar Shah, Sajjid Mir, Muzammil and Abdur Rehman Hashim Syed, the patron of Indian Mujahideen project, are all out in the open under the patronage of ISI and in effect the Pakistan Army. To top it all, New Delhi is still looking for voice samples of the accused to firm up the 26/11 case and have approached even the Americans in this regard at the highest levels without any success.


In short the massacre of 166 innocent citizens in Mumbai of 26 November, 2008 has been given a decent burial by New Delhi except for stray mandatory noises in the hope that Pakistan will not repeat the strike once again. Even the Americans have now put LeT third in the priority action list after Al Qaida and the Taliban as Washington’s present focus is Afghanistan.


One should not be surprised in India as New Delhi under the previous NDA regime has buried a Kargil, a Kandahar and a Kaluchak in the past. Just as India has failed to make Pakistan accountable for these terror strikes, it has also failed to make its own security managers answerable for the costly lapses.


Three years down the line not one person has been punished for the irreparable loss on 26/11. Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who failed to provide the requisite leadership, is now a governor and so is the former National Security Advisor M. K. Narayanan. Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil is back on the job and Vilasrao Deshmukh, the then Maharashtra chief minister, is a Central Minister responsible for the scientific future of this country.


Whether it be the then external or internal intelligence chiefs or the Navy Chief, who organisation shredded the vital intelligence on the intruding Lashkar ship five days before the attack, no one has been held to task. The same goes with the then Maharashtra Director General of Police or Mumbai police commissioner or even the NSG Chief, whose so-called crack team took more than 60 hours to neutralise the Lashkar terrorists.


While no one will admit it publicly, the 26/11 attack and its aftermath was abject humiliation of India and what it stands for. The fact is that neither the Americans nor the Israelis, whose citizens were also done to death during 26/11, were none too happy with the way operations were carried out. The best part is that we have learnt little or nothing even after 26/11 except add up hardware and troopers for internal security show. Since the crude blasts at M Chinnaswamy stadium last year, not one terror strike has been solved with the National Investigation Agency making a mess out of the latest September 7, 2011 bomb blast investigations.


While it is nobody’s case that India should start war mongering or stop dealing with Pakistan, there is an urgent need to take stock of the past and pass a hard message to both–those who are trying to target India and those who are failing in their duty to protect it. The tendency to classify all internal security blunders as systemic failures is only self-serving and makes a mockery of the nation. It is important that New Delhi insists on bringing the 26/11 perpetrators, now based in Pakistan, to justice as it will deter others in the near future.


This is not to argue that Indian state gives a tacit approval to extra-judicial killings or pre-emptive strikes, but just to convey to adversary that guilty must be punished. Or else the ghosts of 26/11 will continue to haunt us forever.

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