2008 clinched a groundbreaking nuclear deal with the United States that ended its nuclear isolation but the country also suffered a wave of terror bombings climaxing in the terror attacks in Mumbai which left over 170 people dead, bringing it to a standstill for three days. The global market crisis that brought despair to millions across the world also took its toll on the Indian economy, which started strongly but ended on a very weak note.
The November terror attacks in Mumbai were a sign that terror is in India to stay
2008 will clearly be remembered for showing up the utter unpreparedness of India’s security establishment to tackle the wave of terror bombings that has convulsed the country.
The strong message this year, as the attacks got deadlier and more ferocious, was that new-age terror was here to stay.
The 60-hour siege in Mumbai -- the engine of India's economic makeover -- that began on Nov. 26 demonstrated just that. The sheer scale and daring of the assault was staggering.
Ten armed terrorists, who were prepared to kill and be killed, operating in typical military style, alighted in dinghies on the city's sea front, seizing control of territory at symbolic locations and taking hostages.
500 dead over the whole year
Overall, the wave of bombings across Indian cities in 2008 left more than 500 dead.
Security analyst Hartosh Singh Bal explained what needs to be done: “Today we need more investment in basic intelligence -- in human intelligence gathering. The second is that when a strike actually takes place the first people to deal with strike, whatever our counter-terrorism special forces, are the policemen on the ground.”
“For that, they have to be better prepared, better paid and better trained. These are the most obvious steps but these are what we have continued to ignore for the last 20 to 25 years -- ever since we faced terror.”
Mood swings in the economy
The other big issue in 2008 was the economy. Amid a general global slowdown and severe recession in some of the world’s richest countries, including the US and Japan, India’s economy saw wild mood swings.
From economic expansion to the performance of equity markets and from export growth to industrial production, all indicators had the same story to tell: The year had started with a strong economic performance but the momentum was lost as the months passed and India faced the ripple effects of the global gloom.
But economic analyst M. K. Venu maintained that India was better placed than some to weather the storm: “The Indian economy has been hit by the global meltdown like all the other economies. Stock markets are down everywhere. But India and China and many other developing economies still have a lot of steam in their growth story. Housing is doing well in India. Consumer goods companies are growing at a decent pace. And generally speaking India will get a growth rate of 6 to 7 percent, that’s saying a lot.”
Entering the nuclear club
There was also some good news with India entering the elite nuclear club as the result of some high-voltage diplomacy that led to the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export and sale of nuclear technology, ending a ban on trading with India.
The waiver -- a vital step in securing the controversial India-US civilian technology nuclear accord -- marked the end of India's decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and opened the doors for full civil nuclear cooperation between India and the international community.
New superpower in sport
On the sports front, India emerged as the cricketing world's new superpower, making top-ranked Australia bite the dust. It also exhibited its financial might with the launch of the highly successful Indian Premier League that will revolutionise the sport.
India also clinched its first ever individual Olympic gold medal in 108 years when Abhinav Bindra won the 10-metre air rifle event in Beijing, in one of the most pulsating shooting finals in the history of the world's biggest sporting extravaganza.
More than anything, however, 2008 could well go down as the moment when the tide turned for India in its long and demanding battle to act and stamp out terror.