India has been caught on the wrong foot again. It has evoked anger over the bomb blast at Delhi High Court on the one hand and a bit of unhappiness on the accord between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the other. Both show the helplessness which has become the badge of the Union government. In the case of the terrorist attack, it is a failure of all those engaged in protecting the nation. At Dhaka, India could not deliver on the sharing of Teesta river water because West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not willing to release a certain quantum of water after having given word to New Delhi.

The fallout of the two is ominous for the broken and battered Manmohan Singh government. The terrorists have again dared the government which has no clue about its perpetrators, although the responsibility has been owned by the Harkat-ul Ansar, a breakaway group of the HuJI (Harkat-Jehadi Islami).

In fact, as soon as the blast took place, the government sources said unofficially that the needle of suspicion was directed towards the HuJI which operated from the soils of Pakistan and Bangladesh. There was little mention of the efforts that Bangladesh had made to curb terrorism, although Manmohan Singh acknowledged the cooperation of Sheikh Hasina. In the terrific noise that the bomb blast made, the hurrah over the demarcation of the border between India and Bangladesh was lost. New Delhi did not make any specific mention of the exchange of enclaves between the two countries, pending since the freedom of Dhaka in December 1971.

People in Bangladesh are disappointed because they had put all their eggs in Teesta water basket. Yet the territorial exchange is not a mean achievement. There is uproar in Assam and the BJP is livid because it considers itself the sole custodian of ‘Bharat Mata’. It does not seem to be realizing that the question of communal peace has to be lifted from the plain of politics to the plain of humanity.

As for Teesta waters, the older generation in Bangladesh would recall how long it took to bring around West Bengal to give more water from the Farrakha barrage. Being lower riparian, Bangladesh has every right to get water from the Teesta. The point at issue is: how much? At the time of Farrakha barrage accord, a mature, secure chief minister Joyti Basu headed West Bengal. The centre took time to bring him around. It could not go ahead without West Bengal’s sanction because water is a state subject.

Therefore, Chief Minister Mamata Banejree, mercurial and cautious, would need a lot of persuasion and a lot of support from within West Bengal. According to Manmohan Singh, she was on board till the last minute but then she changed her mind. A leader of substance became prey to rumours and self-created doubts. She fears that the communists are only waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon her after she had decimated them in the last assembly election.

True, West Bengal has the last word on giving Teesta water and that too in lean months. But the compromise figure worked out was fair and left most of Teesta water to the state. Emotional Bangladesh has made things more difficult because it has taken the issue to such a high feverish pitch where the lessening of water is considered India’s betrayal of Bangladesh which was breathlessly waiting for signatures on the accord.

In democracies, public opinion matters. It is as much potent in Bangladesh as in India. It takes time and needs a lot of patience and courage the differences to narrow down the differences. Agreements come to be evolved. The Teesta treaty will come through as the Farrakha barrage treaty did. But by damning India no purpose will be served. In contrast, India behaved maturely and there was no angry reaction on the stalling of transit treaty, which was a win-win situation for both.

Dhaka should be more circumspect while finding faults. The bomb blast has changed India’s priorities. Its attention is focused on how to create a mechanism which could cope with terrorism which has taken roots in India. Inputs by Bangladesh would help. This was the psychological moment that Dhaka should have used to hand over the ULFA leader in detention.

No doubt, the main responsibility for security lies with New Delhi. Every time a blast takes place the government says that some heads will roll. I have not seen any so far. There does not seem to be any accountability of authorities or those who had the security system under them. Six major blasts remain undetected. The police or intelligence agencies are nowhere near finding the people behind them.

They have used the same material and exploded the same type of bomb which they had planted in May outside the Delhi High Court.

Since the government has failed again and again, why not seek the assistance of America which it has offered many a time? To the credit of Washington, it has not allowed even a single incident since 9/11, the tenth anniversary which the Americans celebrated with solemnity and dignity. True, their laws are draconian. But so are ours. We too have restricted freedom which does not go well with democracy. Still blasts are taking place.

Something which baffles me is the attitude of political parties. The BJP enjoys seeing Congress-led government in trouble. This is the time when all ranks should be closed.
Instead, every incident is politicized. And there is no consensus on any point. Every party places electoral considerations above the need of the nation. If New Delhi cannot engage Pakistan—an obvious choice—India should be networking with other countries which have proved that they are stronger in curbing terrorism. The time for a serious dialogue with the West has arrived. We must seize the opportunity. We do not have to be taken in by their rhetoric. In fact, we can change the collusion between the civilizations into a war between fanatics and liberals.

The tragedy is that India has no leader that has vision. They are small time operators who go on indulging in their petty differences to the detriment of the country. The challenge is to the polity. There is no time to quibble over small matters. Nor is there any occasion for yatra or fasts. They will only divide the nation further. For political parties, things are either black or white. There is a grey area which they should widen. This requires a sense of accommodation and spirit of tolerance. I feel that the glue which unites the country is drying up.