The world changed on September 11. Innocent people from all across the world, including an estimated 250 Indians, were killed by the senseless actions of a group of terrorists. The events in New York and Washington were broadcast in real-time around the world. Suddenly, the horror of what was happening was visible in all our homes – in real-time. There was now a new enemy, a new war – one unlike what the world has faced before. This time around, the war is going to be different, because one will not know when it is over.
Sitting in Mumbai, one may have been physically far away from New York and Washington. But as the developments unfolded, it became clear that India is not going to be far away from the next battleground. Pakistan is at the centre of attention, and the possible link as the US plans a retaliation against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The future is uncertain. The enemy we are all dealing with is one that is prepared to die and kill civilians. The next new thing now is fear.
Terrorism was at the heart of the discussion when the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Agra recently. Terrorism knows no borders. It is what India has been fighting in Kashmir for the past many years, and what few countries in the world have acknowledged. These regional battles, like sparks, should have been contained and extinguished but were allowed to spread.
This war is one that impacts every country, every society in the world. Every community has good people and bad people. A global network of terrorists exploits the bad people to hurt the good people. Terrorism has no favourites. A past friend can be a future enemy. India discovered this when Rajiv Gandhi was killed by an LTTE suicide bomber in 1991. We have seen it now in Afghanistan.
The next war is not going to a high-tech war. All the combinations of smart missiles and other weapons will not get rid of the enemy. Unlike previous wars, this one is not with a state or a government. It is right versus wrong, good versus evil. It is a crusade that has to be fought on the ground, and in the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Countries and people now have to make their choices – are they with the good or with the bad. There is no middle road, no abstentions, no neutrality in this war.