A crisis or a cause located in the west is always projected as being ‘global’ in its relevance. Anything similar elsewhere is dismissed as ‘regional’ or ‘local’. Reading through and hearing European and American media commentary on the dastardly terror attack in Paris, we are reminded once again of the blinkers that western media and their political pundits wear.
The attack on Paris, it was declared within hours, is an attack on the world. The terrorists who walked the streets of Paris killing innocent people were a threat to ‘global’ peace and security. Their action calls for a ‘global’ response. A 'global war on terror'. Echoes of New York 9/11.
“Every New Yorker and Londoner will instinctively understand what Parisians are going through this morning, a combination of shock, horror, disorientation and fear for the future,” declared a usually balanced and reasonable writer in the Financial Times (UK). Adding, “Yet the memory of the terror attacks of 2001 in New York and 2005 in London also demonstrates the resilience of great cities.” Hello? What about Mumbai in 2008?
Between New York 2001 and Paris 2015, the FT could only think of London 2005. Was it memory lapse or sheer indifference or worse—that when a European thinks of terrorism he only thinks of the west?
European media instinctively declared the killers in Paris as ‘terrorists’, but in November 2008, it insistently referred to the killers in Mumbai as ‘militants’. The BBC persisted with the word ‘militant’ in the face of protests from India and ignoring their own visuals that showed trained gunmen walking the streets of Mumbai, killing innocent people.
After New York, the US justified attacking Iraq. After London, the UK called for a global campaign against the forces of evil. After Mumbai, both advised India to be restrained! The security threats that western countries face are global problems that require a military response. The security threats India faces are local problems that ought to be settled through dialogue.
But then, such hypocrisy should not surprise anyone who follows the western media and its reportage and commentary on world affairs, ranging from security threats to financial crises.
When Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea were hit by a financial crisis, made worse by the policy recommendations of western financial analysts and the International Monetary Fund, the western media, financial institutions and even academic economists dubbed it the 'Asian financial crisis'.
When a financial crisis hit Wall Street and London, it was called a 'global financial crisis'. Writing at the time on the 2008-09 financial crisis, I called it the trans-Atlantic financial crisis. Does an event become ‘global’ because of its geographic ramifications or merely geographic location?
The other hypocrisy about the international response to terrorism is that more often than not victim nations seek a global alliance against it, while advising other victim nations to redress grievances and study the “root cause”. Thus, after Paris attacks, China was quick to advise western nations to examine the “root cause” of terrorism, echoing western advice to China when it comes to the latter dealing with terrorism on its territory.
The issue is quite simple. The international community needs a single definition of terrorism—a point that successive Indian governments have been making— and it should reject and condemn all acts of terrorism irrespective of the “root cause”. There are many ways in which people's grievances can be articulated. Terrorism is not one of them.
The last word on terrorism was spoken by former prime minister Manmohan Singh in July 2005 when he told the joint session of the United States Congress, “We must fight terrorism wherever it exists, because terrorism anywhere threatens democracy everywhere.” Indeed, not just democracy, but peace, security and well-being of humanity.