Absurdity rules


Flying into and out of destinations in the US has become a nightmarish experience for passengers. Post-9/11, the US administration has incrementally stepped up security measures, including intrusive checks, in response to each and every suspected case of terror threat in air. The latest set of measures were announced last Saturday in the wake of the detention of a Nigerian national with suspected al-Qaeda links who apparently planned to blow up an American airliner flying from Amsterdam to Michigan. It may sound absurd but passengers travelling to the US cannot move out of their seats during the last one hour of flight. They can carry just one check-in baggage which they will not touch in the last one hour’s travel. No use of pillow or blanket is allowed during that time. Nor will they get any information about the flight path during this leg of their travel — all these after they are subjected to a fresh layer of security check before boarding the aircraft.
Insofar as these measures are intended to enhance air travel security, passengers would put up with the hardships involved. It is better to err on the side of caution than pay with the lives of innocent passengers for want of adequate security precautions. After all, terrorists constantly innovate their methods to strike at chosen targets. However much the tightening of American visa rules or security measures might appear to be an overreaction, the US administration is justified in actions.

However, the problem with the US anti-terror actions is that Washington does not think other countries should take those steps which it takes to ward off terror threats. Take the case of Washington’s instant opposition to India’s move last week to tighten its visa rules to prevent the David Headleys of this world from travelling to this country as businessmen any number of times to spread their terror network. Forget about agreeing to extradite Headley for interrogation in this country, the administration is not even ready to allow Indian interrogators to question him in the US. That is inexplicable given the fact that the US itself has provided extensive details about Headley’s involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. It is foolhardy to believe that terrorists can be neutralised in a compartmentalised manner. But that has been the bane of America’s global war on terrorism, be it under Bush earlier or Obama now. It is time the US bridges this credibility gap in its war on terror.

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