Lessons from the Brussels Outrage: The Price of Appeasement
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 03 May , 2016

Finally, the attack on Brussels, and the earlier ones on Paris, has brought about a glimmer of realization among many Europeans that they are in the midst of a war, which while quite not like the last World War, is likely to be no less prolonged or horrific. It was certainly not the kind of war they envisaged, having earlier been conditioned to expect an assault by Soviet hordes, which they hoped to combat jointly with American help, and the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Fortunately for them, the world’s largest standing army remained standing quietly while the Soviet Union imploded around it.To their utter surprise the armies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were without a job and had to look further afield from Afghanistan to Libya to keep them in business as usual.

…neither the armies of NATO nor the structures that unite Europe are organized to deal with this new existential threat. All of this comes at a particularly bad time as Europe finds itself at the brink of an economic catastrophe after years of recession.

Quite unsurprisingly, their subsequent interference abroad, along with follies from their imperialistic past have suddenly come home to haunt them. That initiative went completely awry and they now find themselves facing an implacable enemy from within, unwilling to give any quarter and wholly bent on the total destruction of life as they know it.

What is worse, comprehension has now dawned that neither the armies of NATO nor the structures that unite Europe are organized to deal with this new existential threat. All of this comes at a particularly bad time as Europe finds itself at the brink of an economic catastrophe after years of recession. It also faces challenges to its unity thanks to Great Britain seriously considering exiting the Union and because of   the strains put on its member states that are facing the brunt of the refugee crisis that has overwhelmed some governments. Matters are not going to be helped as Neo-Fascists start coming out of the woodwork, gaining respectability through votes.

Despite Europe, and especially in this case, Belgium, having been quick to hold outsiders responsible for their predicament, which they have little trouble in terming as terrorism. This may not be quite the case as some unconfirmed reports now suggest that Muslim youth in the West were encouraged to volunteer to fight against Assad in Syria as his removal was of paramount importance to the US and its allies. Blow back in this context is something we are all familiar with, having seen how militants nurtured by the State become uncontrollable after a time.

More importantly, Europe continues to be in denial over the condition of its minorities, especially their treatment at the hands of extreme right groups, which tend to have the tacit support of senior elements within their Security Forces. Counter radicalization is unlikely to make much headway until the underlying socio-economic and cultural problems are not ameliorated and fringe groups firmly reigned in. Yet, events in Belgium should give us reasons to ponder as we too find ourselves in a situation not too dissimilar to them.

…they have followed a policy of deliberate appeasement of all hardline fringe groups, regardless of ideology, in the fond hope that such inaction would ensure the home base was never targeted.

It is a country with a history of ethnic tension due to rivalries between the country’s French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish. These rifts, where religious and ethno-linguistic roots take primacy over ability or efficiency, have adversely impacted state institutions leaving the country in a constant state of policy paralysis. It is probably the only western democracy that has not established a Counter Terrorism Coordination Center that could have ensured collation and analysis of inputs from diverse agencies and stake-holders, thereby reducing, if not neutralizing such threats.

Worst of all, they have followed a policy of deliberate appeasement of all hardline fringe groups, regardless of ideology, in the fond hope that such inaction would ensure the home base was never targeted. Wishful thinking that has now been tragically belied. In our case, government after government has consistently taken the easier way out and avoided taking hard decisions or putting in place a viable policy to either deal with radical elements within or with its causes.

The percentage of our population living below the poverty line varies depending on our own ideological biases, the Oxford University’s Multidimensional Poverty Index (2010), for example, suggests a staggering 55% lives below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day. Whatever be the figures, there can be no denying the fact that as the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011, published in June 2015 put it, half the households in rural India are landless, dependent on casual manual labour, and live in deprivation. Add to this the absence of basic state infrastructure like access to drinking water, housing, sanitation, roads and medical facilities along with increasing inequalities between rural and urban areas, there is only one possible outcome that such resentment can lead to.

Can we continue to do so any longer and do we really believe that fault lines and fissures can be papered over with inane words and half-hearted action?

We thus have, as one report (Hearts and Mines: A District-Level Analysis of the Maoist Conflict in India by Prof Kristian Hoelscher, Prof Jason Miklian Peace and Prof Krishna Chaitanya Vadlamannati) suggests, that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (or Maoists) insurgency has taken the livesof 10,000 citizens and displaced another 150,000 as it has increased in scope and intensity since 2004 (MHA 2010). The MHA itself states on its website that between Jan 2010 and Dec 2015 a total of 8703 incidents have occurred resulting in the death of approximately 3000 citizens, including 597 Maoists and 812 policemen. To this, we need to add the grave problems and violence that confronts us in the North East and in Kashmir so that every citizen is fully informed of the grave threat that is eating away at our vitals.

Thus, while threats emanating from China and Pakistan, acting alone or in collusion occupy our consciousness, as they must, they do not form an existentialist threat, given our nuclear and conventional capabilities. Internal dissensions and the inability of the political class to tackle these in a just and empathetic manner pose a far graver threat. In this regard it isn’t only politicians but even administrators, Security Forces and even the thinking silent majority that prefers to live in denial. If that were not so we would certainly not be faced with a situation where millions of gallons of water are being used to maintain cricket pitches for a purely private enterprise, the Indian Premier League, while eleven states face unbelievably harsh drought which has led to mass-migration and farmer suicides.

That governments, both state and central, appear to have abrogated their responsibilities in this matter forcing our courts to step in once again is a telling snapshot of where we stand. Can we continue to do so any longer and do we really believe that fault lines and fissures can be papered over with inane words and half-hearted action? Like the Soviets in an earlier age, are we destined to follow in their footsteps and witness the third largest standing army in the world remain standing while the country collapses around its neck?

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Brig Deepak Sinha

is a second generation para trooper and author of “Beyond the Bayonet: Indian Special Operations Forces in the 21st Century.” He is currently a consultant with the Observer Research Foundation.

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4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Brussels Outrage: The Price of Appeasement

  1. It may not be appropriate to draw comparison between Brussels and Indian condition. European Nations have to be abide by rulings of European commission guidelines on refugees or human rights. These nations have robust economy and can easily absorb this burden. It also may be noted that most of these countries have liberal policy in granting political asylum to separatists, terrorists on grounds of prosecution in their home state because of their beliefs, religious, cultural and political views. If their policy is incorrect, they will pay a price for it.India has been more than liberal in accepting illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries. I doubt any country can match such generosity in welcoming refugees or workers. Most of the migrants to west are economic migrants or else how do you explain such a large number of migrants from Pakistan in Greece.The whole demography has changed in Assam and NE states since independence. We are known for vote bank policy world over, so easy for an immigrant to get ration card and nationality documents.
    IPL and BCCI have a special place in our country, cutting across the party lines. It is a big money spinner. Supreme Court despite its best attempt thru Lodha Commission to reform and bring about transparency has failed so far. It does not want to be under RTI but states are more than keen to help them at state’s exchequer cost in organizing such events, at the cost of their own farmers dying of hunger. The ED has done nothing till date on BCCI’s 2009 case alleged foreign exchange to a tune of Rs 2148 Crores- illegally routing money when IPL was held in South Africa. Such cases will never see the light of day.

  2. Brig Sinha has very aptly analysed the terror threat to NATO European nations, after recurring attacks in England, Spain, Paris. This attack in Brussels could have been averted, but for their blind faith in appeasement policies, as brought out; instead of having woken up to the pressing need for a counter terror organisation.
    India having muddled through without a National Security Policy all these years has suddenly decided to play the polarisation card, provoking a communal and caste divide, the consequences of which we have in NO way analysed nor can comprehend. Regrettably neither do we have a policy nor plan to tackle, this brewing hurricane. We already have huge poverty, vast unemployment, skewed reservation policies, pseudo-nationalism and a feeling of great insecurity with the minorities.Currently as rightly stated the Courts and Maoists and the powerful state Divas are calling the shots, while the Govt seems so confidently running itself into the ground.
    The Pak terror groups hit us with near impunity. We roar, rumble and then splutter helplessly. The IS has a soft target in India, and is rapidly closing in with presence in our neighbouring countries. As to why, in the first place we would want to destabilise an existing uneasy environment, can only be seen as gross lack of understanding of our history, culture, plurality, social and religious tolerance, which is totally out of sync with the Wahabbi Islam strain of Hindutva, the current fad. Incompetence and blind confidence that the majority with the Govt support can handle the situation, is a recipe for disaster.

  3. Power invariably flows from the barrel of the gun. If we have to move ahead with the appeasement policies, finally the gun will turn towards, which has been happening up till now. There will be Maoist, jihadist, Northeast, Kashmir, whatever. We need to find that space in between appeasement and the barrel of the gun. The need of the hour is for less tolerance and a bigger barrel of the gun. Jai Hind.

  4. The increase in the activities of Maoists is directly proportional to increase of strength of Communists in Lok Sabha in 2004 to an all time high of 60+. For ten years UPA had been the refuge and sanctuary for the communists and jihadi secessionists. The appeasement started senselessly from 1947, when in spite of partition on religious lines, the exchange of population was prevented. Now in the name of secularism and minority rights, sub-nationalities have come up by openly proclaiming that neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court can interpret the religious edicts of particular religion. Similarly, the death sentence awarded to terrorists is being brandished as judicial killing. We crossed the limits of accommodation. Let us make a beginning by being really “intolerant” against anything that even remotely affects nation’s unity and integrity, or even attempts to lampoon the supreme sacrifices of our soldiers.

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