My mind goes back ten years ago.
Somewhere around 7 pm in Delhi on 9/11, my son
called me on the mobile as I was driving home from
work. “Baba”, said he, “Are you near a TV?”. “No”, I
replied. “You better get to a TV right away. A plane
has crashed right into the World Trade Centre!” I
rushed home, switched it on, watched in horror,
first alone, and then with my son, at footages of
the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11,
crashing into the north tower; then shortly
afterwards, as the second plane, United Airlines
175, smashed into the south tower; followed by hours
of dumbstruck shock seeing the mayhem wreaked by
Osama bin Laden’s terrorists.
Excluding the 19 suicidal hijackers, 2,977 men and
women were killed in the World Trade Centre, in the
Pentagon, and in the four planes that crashed — two
into the World Trade Centre, one into the Pentagon
and one in a field at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The
world changed. Forever.
Ten years later, what has the US and India learnt
As far as the US goes, there have been many
positives, and a few serious negatives. In less than
15 months of 9/11, the US put in place the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which, through
a single authority, controls citizenship and
immigration, customs enforcement and border
protection, transportation security (these are the
guys who screen passengers in US airports and
ports), the coast guard, the secret service and a
few other agencies. The DHS currently employs over
216,000 people; works through a widely networked and
unified IT system; and has a federal budget of
almost $99 billion for 2011.
Despite it spanning so many critical and often
conflicting federal departments, the DHS works. The
proof: since 9/11, there has been no significant
jihadi terrorist attack in the fifty states of the
USA that could claim even a single life. There have
been several attempts including two in Time Square,
New York City. But well over 99 per cent of the
jihadi plans were intercepted by the DHS
intelligence apparatus and squashed before the
event; and thankfully for the tiny residual, there
has been no fatalities.
However, the larger price that the US has had to pay
is monstrous in terms of human lives, material and
budgetary outlays. In Iraq, 4,474 US citizens have
been killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2011, with well
over 800 people being killed each year between 2004
and 2007. And Operation Enduring Freedom in
Afghanistan has already snuffed out 1,762 US lives.
It could be argued that there is light at the end of
the tunnel in Iraq. Not so in Afghanistan. Despite
the occasionally successful drone attacks in the
North West Frontier Provinces and the spectacular
mission to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad,
Afghanistan is more dangerous than ever before. It
has a possibly corrupt and certainly inept
president, innumerable warlords — small, medium and
not so medium — and is a jihadi open zone, where
terrorists of all ages come and go at will.
Worse still, the consequences of 9/11 have
unfortunately begat a rampant and fundamentally
violent stateless entity that goes by the name of
Pakistan. The war on Osama has created thousands of
clones across Pakistan, who think nothing of bombing
mosques, schools, hotels, market places, major
intersections, railway stations and any place that
attracts people — all in the cause of martyrdom for
a completely bigoted notion of Islam. They also
think nothing of crossing the border and doing the
more of the same throughout India, be it in Mumbai,
Hyderabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune and
Here are the facts of terrorist attacks in India
since September 2001, which have killed ten or more
people. 2001: J&K assembly (35 killed) and the
Parliament in New Delhi (12). 2002: Akshardham in
Gujarat (31) and J&K (30). 2003: Train bombings (11)
and two car bombs (52), both in Mumbai. 2004: Assam
(16). 2005: pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi (59). 2006:
Varanasi bombings (28); Mumbai suburban railways
(200); Malegaon (37). 2007: Hyderabad (the first
killing 13, and the next, 42). 2008: Jaipur (63);
Ahmedabad (45); New Delhi shopping centres (21).
2009: 26 November in Mumbai, Kasab et. al. (168).
2010: German Bakery, Pune (13). 2011: Opera House,
Mumbai (21) and High Court, New Delhi (12). That
adds up to 909 victims, and counting.
So what have we learnt from terrorist attacks? The
facts suggest that we have learnt little or nothing.
An effete Shivraj Patil has made way for the
seemingly tough P. Chidambaram. But the attacks
continue unabated. Look at the cops in whichever
city you live and ask yourself whether you can count
on them to save you. The US DHS protects its
country. As terrorism focuses on soft underbellies.
The softest being India.
Published: Business World, September 2011