The day before Thanksgiving holiday here in United States, India’s financial capital Mumbai was attacked by terrorists. The cowards killed nearly 200 innocent people. Among the dead were brave police and military men who were trying to save others, a Rabbi and his wife, and tourists visiting India. Lives taken without any regard, without any thought.
Terror gripped Mumbai for three days. By the time the crises ended, the blame game started. India accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists, Indians demanded an answer from their government for lax security and mismanagement of the crises and the United States stood on the sidelines, nervously trying to ensure that the two nuclear armed neighbors didn’t go to war over the attacks. Interestingly enough, India’s other neighbor, Nepal, stood suspiciously quiet.
Although it offered the customary condolence message to India and those who lost loved ones in the terror attacks, Nepal’s government decided to ignore the far-reaching consequences of the attacks. Even by the Nepalese standard of conduct, this recent misfire is hard to take.
India is no stranger to terrorist attacks. In the last of couple of years alone hundreds have been murdered by cowards – some claiming to be fighting for an “independent homeland,” some wanting a different form of government and some wanting to change history.
I am in no position to comment on the Indian government’s counterterrorism or national security policy, but the way the country has failed to learn from past mistakes and continues on same flawed path is surprising.
While neighboring India struggles to cope with terrorism, Nepal is happy to turn the other cheek. The vast porous border between India and Nepal is a modern day wild, wild west. Arms smuggling, counterfeit currency trade, flesh trade – you name it and it is sure to happen here. There are border check posts but corruption and mismanagement have made them another minor hassle for the criminals. If you have money and bullets to back you up, you can run your criminal empire here, no questions asked.
The Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which borders Nepal, has experienced a major proliferation of terror networks in the last decade. Lashkar-e-Taiba – which is being blamed for the Mumbai attacks – has a well-organized network of sleeper cells in the state. The Student Islamic Movement of India, a terrorist organization that wants India to be an “Islamic society,” was founded in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, and is said to be helping Lashkar spread out in the state.
Considering the threat posed by Lashkar and SIMI, especially after the events in Mumbai, one would expect the Nepalese government to take steps to control the wild border with Uttar Pradesh, or at least demand cooperation from India in managing the border. Instead, the leaders in Kathmandu are busy squabbling with each other.
Add to the border mess Nepal’s non-existent plan for managing crisis situations like the one in Mumbai. Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group smuggled arms through Uttar Pradesh into Kathmandu, held up a public place with lots of tourists and started killing people randomly. The Nepalese government has no plans or means to deal with a situation like this.
The army lacks counterterrorism training. It couldn’t even fight the Maoists – who were once called “terrorists.”Its intelligence is as rudimentary as it can get; the army had no idea when Kashmiri militants hijacked an Indian Airlines flight to New Delhi from Kathmandu in 1999. The hospitals are not equipped to handle mass casualties. As you can see, hitting Kathmandu wouldn’t be tough at all, and the city has lots of “soft targets” with zero security mechanisms in place.
The border chaos hurts India too. According to recent reports terrorists are using the Indo-Nepal border to smuggle counterfeit currency to fund their operations. Also, criminals cross over from India to escape justice. Nepal’s Terai region, which borders India, in is political turmoil and gripped by violence. Terrorists could use the lawlessness in Terai to plan and carry out operations in India.
The open Indo-Nepal border, which allows citizens from the two countries to travel freely back and forth without proper documents or security checks, is not serving either side. In fact it is a gaping hole that actually helps criminals and terrorists.
I hate to sound like a sour pundit providing ideas to the terrorists, but if the Nepalese and Indian governments don’t realize the danger of ignoring the wild open border between the two nations, I am sure I will be back again writing condolence messages for hundreds more killed by terrorists. There is no shortage of cowards in this world.
Previously published at UPI Asia Online.