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Terror won't stop till we fight it like a war

Terror won't stop till we fight it like a war

Author: Vikram Sood
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: August 2, 2008
URL: http://www.asianage.com/presentation/leftnavigation/opinion/opinion/terror-won't-stop-till-we-fight-it-like-a-war.aspx

It has been a bad and bloody month for all of us. Four Indians, including a brigadier, a senior diplomat and two paramilitary jawans, were killed in a suicide attack on our embassy in Kabul. Around the same time, terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir struck against the Indian Army twice, and there were several border violations. And then the blasts in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. Did anyone lose sleep over all this? Probably not. And this is cause for outrage because after the usual hand-wringing, denunciations, compensations and pontification, we return to life as usual because terrorism doesn't affect us. It affects "others".

We forget that terrorism has been with us for decades. We have become numb to casualties - they have been reduced to mere statistics. The blasts we have seen recently are carefully planned acts of terror against soft targets. They are meant to spread fear, to provoke a reaction. They are meant to undermine the economy and to send a signal to India's majority that their lives are not safe.

As yet, there is no evidence about who was responsible for these acts, though as usual various names are afloat. But the fact is that we have brought this upon ourselves. Yes, we are the victims of terrorism from Pakistan. But instead of dealing with it single-mindedly, we sought to appease; Instead of strengthening our investigation and intelligence network, we issued caveats to investigators. Pakistan may or may not be responsible for the current terrorist attacks, but we must take responsibility for allowing a certain mindset to grow and spread unhindered.

People like Osama bin Laden claim that the West, led by the United States and Britain, are the "crusaders" of the modern world who have occupied the "holy land." They and their allies - Israelis, Indians and Russians - must be thrown out. The worst offenders, they claim, are the "apostate" Muslim kingdoms and governments in West Asia. These lands have to be freed through jihad. We hear echoes of these instructions in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions of Fata and Swat.

In his 1996 declaration of jihad against the US, Osama mentioned Kashmir and Assam as some of the places where there was injustice, repression and aggression by Christians, Jews and their agents. To achieve their goal, Osama and his kind justify alliance with the ungodly and the sinners - drug traffickers, arms smugglers. They also justify killing innocent people and children so long as it was not intended.

Bin Laden has often cited Nagasaki and Hiroshima in his speeches and said that possession of weapons of mass destruction to counter those of the "infidels" is a religious duty. And to carry on with the jihad, it is best to recruit the young and the unattached in the age group of 15 to 25. In February 1998, Osama exhorted Muslims "to kill all Americans and their allies, civilians and military… it is the individual duty of every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible..."

This is not to suggest that all Muslims everywhere believe in this. But there are many in Pakistan today who believe in Osama. And that is why terrorists' training camps in the hinterland and fulminations from the pulpit continue. In his Friday sermon on July 11, Hafiz Saeed, the Amir of Jama't ud da'wa, Pakistan, known for his extreme views, urged Muslims to prepare themselves for sacrifices in order to defend Muslim lands, and to protect their "honour and dignity". Two days later, Saeed declared that it was obligatory upon every Pakistani to wrest Kashmir from Indian occupation, adding that India should not dream of peace in the region as long as the Kashmir issue remained unresolved. Extremists in Pakistan, encouraged by the ISI, the Army and politicians, have long targeted India and not just Kashmir. This is very similar to what Osama preaches to his jihadis.

Jaipur, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, and now Surat. These are warnings about a growing capability and ideology extending beyond Kashmir. They are dropping their visiting cards, with the message that more such attacks will take place. India now needs to make the call.

When terror struck America and Britain, they introduced draconian laws. The Bush administration even introduced controversial surveillance laws. In India, we did away with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), but did not consider it important to have an adequate substitute.

Battling terror is a long and arduous task: the capability to prevent attacks has to be upgraded constantly, with the knowledge and acceptance that not all attacks can be prevented. Even with our present system there are many attacks that get aborted.

But when intelligence is inadequate and follow-ups incomplete, indiscriminate arrests follow which lead to further alienation.

Heightened intelligence capability, sustained and built over a period of time, which is able to keep pace with the growing threat, skillful investigation and forensics, particularly at the state level, sharing intelligence, national identity cards, CCTVs at important places, speedy justice which is also seen to be fair, a system of governance that delivers what it is supposed to and a media that does not compete for TRP ratings over such issues: All this and more will have to be put in place for us to succeed.

India must get ready to detect, deter and destroy this menace before it destroys us.

- Vikram Sood is a former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency

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