Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
America's selective campaign against terrorism: hard lessons for India

America's selective campaign against terrorism: hard lessons for India

Author: J. N. Dixit
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: September 10, 2002
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/110902-features.html

The first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre is a good occasion for India to ponder whether the specific political objectives of the US-led international campaign against terrorism has addressed its own con-cerns and interests.

These concerns and interests necessarily have to be perceived in the context of terrorist violence affecting India and the potentialities of its continuing threats to the South Asian region and to the world at large.

According to current intelligence estimates, the Al Qaida terrorist group has an effective network of branches in nearly 45 countries. These branches exist not only in Islamic countries but also in those, which have large Muslim communities.

The activities of the group are not geared to specific political or territorial objectives in any specific area. The network is a trans-national global phenomenon. The cadres of the organisation do not belong to any single nationality or ethnic group. It is a particular brand of Islamic extremism, which binds the organisation. It is the violent and militant physical organisational manifestation of the Pan-Islamic movement that has gained strength over the last two decades. Its administrative organisation, command and control structure is highly "federal" in nature, delegating power for carrying out operations to the branches and local units.

The primary aim of the international coalition against terrorism is to make the world safe for diversity and democracy. The campaign will be a prolonged one and its territorial objectives will not remain limited to Afghanistan. Elimination of the Al Qaida terrorist network will be its first priority before other terrorist groups are targeted.

Al Qaida has close links with other Islamic militant organisations in different parts of the world, stretching from the Philippines in the East and to the U.S. in the West and includes countries of Central Asia, parts of China and Europe.

But the manner in which the operations are being carried out since September last, however, raises many questions and merits examination.

The nature of the Al Qaida group makes it obvious that the campaign is complex and will hopefully last long enough to neutralise the movement. What then are the ground realities of the campaign being carried out over the last 12 months? The fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan has been ousted from power, but the military campaign has not been able as yet to capture and eliminate the two top leaders Osama bin Laden and Taliban's supreme leader Mulla Omar.

Nearly 70 per cent of the Taliban and Al Qaida cadres have escaped the dragnet with their weapons and other supplies. A majority of these has either merged with the local population within Afghanistan or escaped into neighbouring countries.

Of particular concern to India is the presence of these cadres on its north-western border with Pakistan. The remaining cadres have escaped into other major Islamic countries around Afghanistan.

The expulsion of this terrorist group from Afghanistan has not brought about expected stability to that country. In fact, incidents of violence against the government of President Hamid Karzai have increased to an extent that Karzai has had to deploy foreign troops as his personal bodyguards. The joint US-Pakistani operations against terrorist cadres in Pakistan have also not fully succeeded.

While this is the predicament of the coalition operations, the US is launching an operation against Iraq as part of the campaign. This decision will create bickerings in the international coalition, as major powers like Russia, China, France, Germany and even important Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have opposed the move.

India has also opposed this anti-Iraq campaign on the ground that it could become a general anti-Islamic phenomenon. The picture that has emerged over the last year is that the US has its own pre-determined agenda in its anti-terrorist campaign.

The political and strategic motivation is not only to eliminate terrorist movements posing threat to the US and other Western Democracies but also to counter the rising radicalism and dissent in Islamic countries. It is true that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 transformed international relations in that unique international consensus emerged fight against international terrorism. Though this terrorism existed even before, post 9/11 became a focus of legitimate punitive attention.

India's policies on the issue were predicated on the acceptance of this consensus. India announced full and unqualified support to the US campaign against cross- border terrorism. India expected that in response to this support, the international community, the US in particular, would address the India-specific concerns on this issue by lending political and operational support in its campaign against Pakistan- sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and in other parts of India.

India also expected that by implication the United States and other major powers would persuade Pakistan to stop activities against India and to move towards a practical solution on the Kashmir issue. The frequency of high-level discussions between India and representatives of the US-led coalition did result in articu lation of support for India's concerns and general political support about India's demands in the matter. Nothing more. Till to-date there has not been a single statement from the US formally and directly acknowledging the links between Musharraf government and terrorist organisations operating against India.

Even more disappointing was the continuing high-level pressure against India to remain restrained and not to operate against Pakistan despite major terrorist operations launched from that country against India.

This insistent advice to remain restrained was given after the Indian Parliament was attacked on the 13th of December, after the massacre of families of Indian soldiers at Kaluchak and after the murder of Hindu pilgrims going to Amarnath Temple.India has come to the conclusion on the basis of the experiences of last year that the US- led coalition's approach in countering terrorism is selective. Simply put, the US pol- icy seems to be that terrorism affecting it and its vital interests are more important than terrorism affecting other countries, including India.

This means India will have to carry out the fight on its own against Pakistan- sponsored terrorism and terrorism generated by organisations like Al-Qaida from Pakistani territory, notwithstanding US reservations about such action.New Delhi has to resolve the contradiction between the desirability of having close equation with the US and the necessity of having to take decisive action against Pakistan- sponsored terrorism, which the US is not ready to endorse due to its own interests.

While the US states that terrorist violence cannot be used for disrupting the unity and integrity of the existing state structures, it holds on to the view that Jammu and Kashmir is a territorial dispute in which Pakistan has a legitimate status.The most important lesson learnt by India is the abiding truth that each state fashions its policies focussed on its own interests and only contributes to the interests of other countries if there is a convergence between their interests and important power concerned.

September 11, 2001 might have changed the world view regarding the phenomenon of terrorism but it has not changed the more permanent terms of reference governing national security policies, that is well summed up in Lord Palmerston's remark: "Countries do not have permanent friends, they only have permanent interests."

(The writer is a former foreign secretary)

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements