Zero tolerance to terror: the empty rhetoric


Arindam Bandyopadhyay

“Zero tolerance” to terror is the new mantra in India. Every now and then Indian leaders come up with this magic phrase that is sure to hit the headlines.

Just a few days ago on Jun 04, 2009, on the eve of the new government formation, it was the President of India, Mrs Pratibha Patil who reminded us. 

Our former External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had some early optimism that  ‘Only policy of zero tolerance can curb terrorism’. He tried to draw the world’s attention when he was speaking at the Russia-India-China ministerial meet in Yekaterinburg, went out of his way to show his faith in Indo-Pak solidarity when he called for a  zero tolerance against terrorism to condemn the Marriott blasts in Islamabad but was soon reminded of reality within a week with the blast in Mehrauli, Delhi. 

 Our disgraced former Home Minister Shivraj Patil  did find some time, between changing attires, after the Jaipur blaststo assure us of this great principle to fight terrorism, but could not have enough time to implement it since he was later made the scapegoat and unceremoniously thrown out by ‘high command’ after the 26/11 Mumbai carnage.

 We have to admit that we have not heard it from the Gandhi family members but the Congress party itself did however show its faith in the doctrine of zero tolerance after the September 2008 blast in the capital and again after the Mumbai terrorist attack.

We have heard it from Union Home Minister P Chidambaram as his policy towards terror and Naxal threats and again as his invaluable neighbourly advise to Pakistan, perhaps moved by the sorry state of the country under the Taliban threat, that like India, Pakistan should declare zero tolerance towards terrorism  as a bold, all-purpose anti terror measure.

Perhaps he had missed that both Mr 10 per cent President, Mr Zardari and the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi have are well versed with such slogan and have already hoodwinked us before, with similar assurances.

After the new government was formed, according to our new External Affairs Minister, Mr.  S.M. Krishna, it appears that despite a change in personality, our motto remains the same. 

All this is possible due to the unwavering commitment of our twice selected Prime Minister, who right from the beginning had promised us to  push for ‘zero tolerance’ to terror  although he was clear and convinced that he did not need any tougher laws  for that. To celebrate his second term he thus reiterated that Govt will pursue zero tolerance to terrorism. However perhaps in an effort to please the instructors from the USA and also careful not to give Pakistan the excuse to release its non-state actors again upon India, he has clarified immediately that despite zero tolerance for terror, his government is ready to make peace with Pak.

To be fair though one should give some consolation for the UPA government since the opposition party, BJP has also used the catchphrase, as did its two most prominent leaders, Mr L.K. Advani and Mr Narendra Modi, but then that is a separate story altogether.