Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TERRORISM – Need to create a right discourse

TERRORISM – Need to create a right discourse
Ajit Doval

Courtesy: Mail Today, Feb 21, 2008

When the show starts, most terrorist movements are small, made up of losers, have poor organization and are low in capacities and influence. How these seemingly low potential contraptions of riff-raffs metamorphose into mighty giants acquiring strength, expanse and influence to threaten regimes with formidable political power, resources, organization, technology and military might makes an interesting study. Many factors go into it – some of them theater specific. Ironically, one common element that emerges as a major contributor is inept, mismatched and inconsistent response of the State – a case of solution becoming part of the problem. Quite often, terrorists gain more by the mistakes that the States commit than the help their supporters lend. Faltering response to early warnings, political expediency over-riding security imperatives, decision making becoming hostage to episodic compulsions and leadership style which considers smart rhetoric as a substitute to capacity building are some notable causes. The ‘good-intention’ argument is a poor alibi as governments are judged by what they achieve, or fail to , and not what they intended. Conversion of intentions into realities is a technology by itself which needs leadership, commitment and courage, qualities that do not come easily to those who owe their power to patronage alone.
The Government get into this self defeating trap both by default and design. They neither initiate the right discourse, both within and out side the Government, nor allow it to take place. A discourse to debate seriousness and implications of the problem, the possible strategies for conflict resolution or containment, how best to synergize national effort by developing consensus on critical issues etc. are considered politically imprudent. One of the reasons which smothers creation and sustenance of such a dialogue is the doctrine of infallibility of the government that the people in power tend to believe in power distorts perception and its most fatal manifestation in seeing evil designs in everything that does not confirm to ones own self-righteous image. Treating political rivals as enemies is both bad politics and bad security to national detriment.

Terrorism which has costed the nation over 70,000 lives, caused political instability in areas affected, costed diversion of huge resources from developments to security and eroded in the confidence of the people on the ability and intentions of those who govern them needs a better response than justifying failures by recounting short-comings of those in power before. Even if true, the discourse does not help in grappling with the real issues that the nation is threatened with.

Today, on terrorist front and its extended security domain, there are three pressing concerns that need to be addressed and debated. They are real and have high danger potential and dubbing them as rouble rousing by opponents for political gains is deflecting the discourse which could only help our adversaries.

First is a discernible trend towards indigenization of Islamic terror and radicalization of youth. In last few years more and more Islamic youth have gravitated towards extremism. Wahabism is making inroads into tolerant variety of unique Indian Islam. In the wake of well established Indian Islamic theological institutions themselves expressing serious concern over the emerging trend, assertions of the apologists of creating panic over a non-issue lacks credence. Attempted suicide attack by Kafeel Ahmed of Bangluru in Glasgow, arrest of Roshan Jamat Khan of Mumbai and Sarosh Ali Ahmed from Hyderabad in Barcelona are more than straws in the wind. Within the country recent revelations made by Riazurddin Nasir and Assadula Abu Bakr in Karnataka, Sharif in Rampur, Mohd. Kausar and Ghulam Khan in Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh and Sabuddin Ahmad of Madhubani in Bihar are indicative of the intensity and expanse of the malice. More than the violence it is discernible stridency and behavioural shift which is a cause of concern. The focus has shifted from Kashmir to the mainland and youth are getting subverted to an extremist ideology through a well planned effort. Content and direction of in some of the meetings of radical ideologue, activities in some of the Madrassas, mushrooming of new networks are dangerous. Though still in its nascent stage the early warnings are clear and call for a well thought out and nuanced response. The trans-national linkages of these small but determined groups with radical elements abroad and collaborative networks with gun runners, currency counterfeiters, under-world, hawala racketeers, drug syndicates etc. are cause for concern. The proliferation of modules, both in the hinterland and border areas, poses a serious challenge to intelligence and security agencies. Terrorism is not a game of numbers and it does not matter what small percentage of population is sucked into its vortex. Even a microscopic diehard minority has the the capacity to wreck havoc and destabilize the country. With the deterrent threshold brought down by withdrawal of POTA and shelving proposed reforms in criminal administration system suggested by Malimath Committee available legal response to terrorism is weak and ineffective. Creating a feeling of insecurity and discrimination among Muslims that their deliberate discrimination was responsible for their socio-economic backwardness only generates alienation. It renders the task of radical propatagnists easier by playing with sentiments of people and suggesting solutions which militate against nation’s security interests.

The second concern is the fast transforming terrorist scenario in our immediate neighborhood - the global fountain-head of terrorism. The radicals are acquiring new synergy strengths and striking capabilities which they can sustain and resource on their own. Their numbers are swelling and influence spreading while the forces fighting them are increasing on the defensive. Pakistan is facing acute instability and the worst has yet to unfold itself. Post-election regime in Pakistan will find it still more difficult to suppress these tanzeems and at same stage will start covert initiatives to buy peace with them. It may well be at India’s cost. ISI already has assets of long standing amongst them and their revival will be a short exercise, particularly if Musharraf quits. With weakened Musharraf , disquiet in the lower rungs of the army and the new priority of army leadership to minimize losses of their troops in an internecine warfare, the pressure on the terrorists is likely to get reduced. It will also be too naïve to expect that with a democratic government in power there will be overnight transformation of diehard fanatics or depletion in their ranks. No one can predict the end result of this turmoil, which will be long and bloody. Assertions of Lt. Gen. Kidwai , in charge of Strategic Planning Division looking after Nuclear assets and Army Chief Gen. Kiyani that nuclear facilities and assets are completely safe cannot be fully relied upon. India will have to think of initiatives at political, diplomatic and most importantly intelligence levels to build possible scenarios and formulate our response. It will involve building up highly intrusive and pro-active intelligence capabilities in defensive and defensive-offence modes which is highly pains-taking, cost and technology intensive and time consuming process.
The Eastern flank has become equally vulnerable with the demographic invasion being followed by export of terrorism and growth of Islamic radicalism in areas of their settlement. Over two crore illegal migrants are now no more confined to adjoining districts of Assam and West Bengal but spread over farthest parts of the hinterland. Mushrooming of Madrassas with radical dispensation, both along Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Nepal borders is a matter of serious concern. How to combat demographic invasion has to be debated and not brushed under the carpet for electoral advantage..

The third concern is the need to re-design our internal security apparatus in real time to optimize our response at affordable costs. With wars having become ineffective and unpredictable tools of achieving politico-strategic objectives, Covert Actions have come to stay as a new form of warfare; both externally stimulated or internally ignited. Characterized as fourth Generation Warfare (4GW), it involves fighting against an invisible enemy with no formations, no defined rules of war and using not the terrain but the civil society for camaflogue. In this war there is no gurantee that the power with superior weapons, armies and resources would emerge victorious. In winning this war the civil society becomes the critical element, which both has to be protected and within which the enemy has to be fought and neutralized. This can be won only under a polity which unites and not divides and obliterates and not accentuates societal fault-lines of civil society. The Guru of 4GW William Lind so aptly observed that if nation states hope to survive, “People in power must earn and keep the trust of the governed as the heart of 4GW is a crisis of legitimacy of the state”. To win this war we have to have a first rate intelligence apparatus where convergence and not coordination of knowledge and action becomes the reigning doctrine. It will require structural changes . But more importantly, it will need people in leadership role who hold positions by their own right. There is a lesson to be learnt from what William Lind lamented before the American Council on Foreign Relations in his deposition “The establishment is no longer made up of policy types. Most of its members are placemen. Their expertise is in becoming and then remaining members of the establishment. Their reality is covert politics and not the competence or expertise.” When 4GW visists them their response is to “close the shutters on the windows of Versallies”.

Can the thought leaders of the civil society rise to the challenge and force back the debate on real issues and defeat efforts to trivalise them. Happenings are important but what determines the course of history more often is not what happens but how we respond to the happenings. As a civilization our track record on this count is not very commendable but it is never too late to learn.

No comments: