Monday, December 01, 2008

Economist’s Mumbai article stands out

The Mumbai terrorist attacks have spawned a lot of seat-of-the-pants and just plain wrong reporting and commentary.

But there’s been some careful reporting and thoughtful commentary, too.

Of everything I’ve read coming out of Mumbai, I’d put this Economist,com article – “Terrorism in India: Mumbai counts the cost” – near the top of the “careful, thoughtful” category.

The article closes noting some major political, security and social issues Mumbai and India face. Its last sentence wraps with a wise reminder for India and her friends:

India’s friends and neighbours can hope for a measured reaction, but they should not assume it. After an attack on its national parliament in 2001, India mobilised hundreds of thousands of troops on the border with Pakistan.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in power, routinely accuses its successor, the Congress party, of being soft on terrorism.

The desperate spectacle in Mumbai could damage Congress's prospects in pending state polls and even cost it the next general election, which must be held by May. The BJP is now choosing its words carefully but a front-page newspaper advert, presumably commissioned before the Mumbai attacks, accused Congress of being “incapable and unwilling” to fight terror; a sentiment illustrated with a large splatter of blood.

The Indian government, in turn, hopes for restraint from its own people, particularly in crowded, polyglot Mumbai.

The metropolis is sometimes called “Maximum City”, because it is always pressed up hard against its limits. Its commuter trains are crushed with passengers each morning; its squalid slums hum with industry and ambition. No other city in India bears such colossal inconveniences with such phlegmatic grace.

No Mumbaikar would describe the city as liveable; yet many Mumbaikars cannot imagine living anywhere else.

But this attack on its people and landmarks represents an enormous test of Mumbai’s civic temperament. Its assailants may have wished to provoke a backlash against Muslim inhabitants—which in turn would help to radicalise India’s vast Muslim minority.

Even after the last of the terrorists have been killed or captured, that is how they could still hope to win.
The entire article's here.