analysis: Dealing with a common enemy —Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi

3 02 2009

Source: Daily times (Pakistan)
Terrorism is a common enemy of Pakistan and India and this challenge cannot be addressed adequately if these countries do not abandon the current negativity in their interaction. There is a need to return to positive diplomacy and cooperation to combat terrorism.

The Mumbai terrorist attacks were a tragic reminder of the growing threat of terrorism in South Asia, which has extremely negative implications for harmony and stability in the domestic, regional and global contexts. Some extremist groups have acquired the capacity to violently challenge internal order in a state and create extremely problematic situations in inter-state relations. Their actions aim at creating anarchy and undermine the state’s capacity to function as an effective political and administrative entity.

Terrorism and democracy cannot co-exist. These transnational terrorist groups have to be neutralised if democracy and stability are to be secured. This is especially important for countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh that have returned to democracy in the recent past. The Mumbai incident strengthens extremist and hard line political forces in India and marginalises those standing for democracy, peace and good neighbourly relations.

The Indian and Pakistani responses to the Mumbai attack showed that the two states lack a coherent and shared approach to deal with such situations. The home secretaries of India and Pakistan had met in Islamabad on November 25-26, 2008 and reaffirmed their resolve to cooperate with each other for combating the menace of terrorism. Pakistan’s foreign minister was in New Delhi on a peace and goodwill mission when the Mumbai attacks took place. These diplomatic overtures were the first victims of the Mumbai incident.The response of India and Pakistan to the Mumbai incident could be described as episodic, highly nationalistic and shortsighted. Both wanted to play safe by returning to the traditional India-Pakistan confrontation framework. Their initial responses were shaped mainly by mutual distrust and hostility rather than by a desire to view the Mumbai attacks as a challenge that required cool-headed analysis and cooperation.

The task of the Indian government was made difficult by Indian private sector TV news channels that sensationalised the incident. Some anchorpersons openly engaged in Pakistan bashing; some virtually declared war on Pakistan. Their counterparts in Pakistan went on the defensive, arguing that India had started maligning Pakistan before the identity of the terrorists was established. They further accused India of covert efforts to destabilise Pakistan.As compared to the Indian response to the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh avoided some extreme steps like snapping off all communication and trade, recall of ambassadors and reduction of staff of the embassies, and troop mobilisation to the border.This time, the response was tough but measured to avoid an eyeball-to-eyeball military confrontation on the border that could escalate to an all-out war.

The changed strategy reflected a rethink in India on ways to deal with Pakistan in a situation of serious conflict. The 2001-02 Indian troop mobilisation did not extract any concession from Pakistan, which had also moved its troops to the border. India withdrew these troops unilaterally in October to peacetime positions.In the subsequent period, the Indian strategic community explored other punitive options for dealing with Pakistan keeping in mind the presence of nuclear weapons in South Asia.

They suggested surgical airstrikes or swift commando raids on militant training camps in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, limited war rather than a full-fledged war, and Cold Start, which also discarded the notion of total mobilisation of troops to the border with Pakistan.Therefore, instead of full mobilisation, the Indian government moved some troops from peacetime locations to positions closer to the border, but not on the border. Good sense prevailed with the policy makers who decided not to invoke the newly articulated notions of punitive military action against Pakistan.Instead, India launched a comprehensive and aggressive diplomatic offensive against Pakistan with the objective of undermining Pakistan’s reputation and isolating it at the international level.

India would like the international community, especially the United Nations, to declare Pakistan a terrorist state and impose sanctions. The US and European states sympathise with India and are pressuring Pakistan to control terrorist groups based in Pakistan. However, they do not share the Indian aim of isolating Pakistan or designating it a terrorist state. This has caused some anger in India but has also injected realism in its policy towards Pakistan, although the Indian leadership is continuing with its tough rhetoric to deflect pressure from the political right and hard line Hindu groups.

Pakistan’s initial response to the Mumbai incident was confused and the government went into an unrealistic denial mode, i.e. the arrested terrorist and others were not Pakistanis, although some Pakistani TV news channels had provided enough evidence to show that the surviving terrorist belonged to a village in Pakistani Punjab.It took prodding by friendly countries and an internal re-assessment after Pakistan received a dossier from India in the first week of January that the Pakistani government decided to closely examine the linkages between the Mumbai terrorists and Pakistan’s militant groups. Pakistan had earlier banned Jama’at-ud Dawa and detained its leaders.The main victim of the terror incident is the peace process.

Though interaction between India and Pakistan, especially trade and travel, has not been broken off, it has slowed down because of unannounced bureaucratic hold-ups. If the present trends continue, these relations may not be sustainable.This complex and difficult Indo-Pakistan situation led two societal groups, i.e. South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) and the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), to put together a non-official delegation comprising people belonging to civil society groups, political parties and the media that visited New Delhi recently to talk on these issues with their counterparts there.The visit provided a useful opportunity to civil society groups from both countries to exchange views on terrorism and India-Pakistan relations unhindered by official sensitivities.

The people in India expressed strong anger against Pakistan and outlined what could happen if a Pakistan-based terrorist group launched another attack. Such an attack would completely marginalise those who advocate diplomacy and direct interaction for resolution of all problems, including terror related issues.The Indian response is not monolithic. The opinions expressed included a hard line towards Pakistan; anger, anxiety and concern about terrorism; the desire to work through diplomatic channels; support for Pakistan’s current democratic dispensation; and the need to revive normal interaction.

However, there was near unanimity on the view that Pakistan must provide a credible response to the Indian dossier, showing seriousness in dealing with terrorist groups.Despite the tough political statements by Indian government officials and aggressive comments by hard line Hindu groups, the prospects of revival of normal interaction between India and Pakistan are discernable in New Delhi. Much depends on how Pakistan deals with the Indian dossier, in terms of credibility of response and the kind of administrative and legal action that will be taken to neutralise terrorist groups.

However, there is a lack of understanding in India of how terrorism has become a threat to Pakistan’s internal stability; they are more focused on their own problems.Terrorism is a common enemy of Pakistan and India and this challenge cannot be addressed adequately if these countries do not abandon the current negativity in their interaction. There is a need to return to positive diplomacy and cooperation to combat terrorism.

Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi is a political and defence analyst

Post-26/11: What India needs to do

31 01 2009


In the introduction to her book What Terrorists Want, Louise Richardson explains why she studied terrorism “to try to establish why an otherwise responsible parent, student or teacher would chose to join a terrorist movement and remain in one and why a group of people would collectively choose to kill innocent people they do not know in order to advance some goal unlikely to be achieved in their lifetime.”
What happened in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 and continued for three days raises just these and several other questions. And what we have seen is no longer a proxy war, but an all out assault on the Indian state. It is an attack on all Indians and all Indians will have to be prepared to fight this one. It is far too serious to be left to politicians.
It may be state policy in Pakistan to use jehad as a deadly instrument of foreign policy and as a force equaliser against the superior Indian military, but then that state has the manpower willing to act as its emissaries in this bloody game virtually sure that they will die. There is a terrorist rationality in this seeming irrationality — of dying unsung for a cause unfulfilled. Perhaps the incident itself is the rationale. Perhaps the incident coverage by the media provides the narrative and renown for the future. Or perhaps, the debate that ensues with the pseudo-liberal platitudes provides some justification.
The terrorists who attacked Mumbai were seeking a global audience for their expression of hatred and the spectacular act was part of their psychological warfare.
Their inspiration may be the desire of their leaders and ideologues — like Syed Qutb, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, Ibn Taymiyah and even Hafeez Saeed — to return to the glory of 7th century Islam. This would inevitably put them into conflict with the 21st century world including a large percentage of Muslims. Pakistani rulers have used Kashmir as glue for organising groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) as a policy instrument against India. It may now be getting out of control.
Why now?The question that many ask is that given Pakistan’s present political uncertainties, an economic crisis despite having just received an IMF bailout, and a security predicament in the NWFP and US pressure to co-operate, given the kinds of peace overtures coming from the president, why did it feel it necessary to indulge in this kind of adventurism. Maybe these are the very reasons why this adventure was necessary. All this is part of a devious plot, to create a crisis on the eastern frontier by having this terrorist act which is difficult for the Indians to ignore, then move troops away from the Fata and NWFP which would alarm the US/Nato in their battles against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ensuing tension on the eastern frontier would absolve Pakistan of having to fight America’s war in the west unless the US is able to assure Pakistan that its eastern flank is not endangered by Indians.
A major terrorist incident in Mumbai would provoke an Indian reaction, raise tension and alarm the US. Kashmir would be back on the radar screen of the new president. So, if India could be made to see reason in this, Pakistan would be able to help the American cause in Afghanistan. There is considerable writing in the US precisely on these lines and a major terrorist action would be useful in impressing the new president anxious to find a different path to solving the Afghanistan imbroglio. The hope would be that the Americans would be able to leave Afghanistan with Pakistani assistance, Pakistan would have access to Afghanistan and Kashmir and, finally, the LeT would be the heroes.
As it is, the Pakistan army has been fighting its Fata campaign very half-heartedly and has been more interested in obtaining steady cash inflow of money from the US. The Pakistanis do not want to eliminate the Taliban as they would have future uses for it in Afghanistan and Kashmir in a post-US phase.
Sushant Sareen feels that there will be immense US political, military and economic pressure on Pakistan to prevent it from entering into a deal with the Islamists. If the Pakistanis defy the Americans, then they risk economic collapse and military confrontation with the US.
On the other hand, acceptance of US demands will cause public outrage as the US and Pakistani forces take on the Taliban and the Taliban retaliate by hitting in major towns and cities. In this context, the Mumbai plot was a way to pre-empt this pressure.
Over time, the Pakistani Taliban have been able to or been allowed to take control of large chunks of territory in Fata and Swat. The startling disclosure that Baitullah Mehsud, till recently accused of assassinating Benazir Bhutto, had now been declared a Pakistani patriot, who would allow the army to pull out and concentrate on the Indian frontier, could be an indicator of the shape of things to come.
It is possible that there is a strong difference of opinion in the Pak army about priorities — whether Pakistan should be fighting America’s war in the NWFP and killing their own Muslim brothers in the province or fighting its own war in Kashmir and against India.
Possibly, there are those in the Pak army who feel that Pakistan must not be seen to be fighting its own people -although that never bothered the Pak armed forces whenever they have had to tackle the Baloch. Maybe this is a victory for the Islamists inside the Pak army.
The Pak army’s badge of professionalism is heavily imbued with Islamic overtones. The Pakistani soldier and officer are different from the officers who graduate from Khadakvasla, Sandhurst or West Point. The man from Kakul trains under the motto ‘Jehad fi’isbillah’ — Jehad in the name of God. He leads a modern Islamic army and genuinely believes that he is the ‘protector of the faith’ and the ‘defender of the realm’.
And this army is steadily losing control of parts of its territory in the northwest as the Taliban spread deeper into Pakistan.
Pak army’s guided missileThe LeT (Army of pure), whose involvement in the Mumbai attacks is now established, is an Islamic terrorist force in Asia with links to Al Qaeda. Its network extends across South Asia, has links in Afghanistan, and has received generous donations from the Middle East especially Saudi Arabia. Besides, it also has the support of the Pak army and the ISI. Seed money came from Osama bin Laden and there have been generous donations from rich Pakistani businessmen. Saudi Arabia has sustained this outfit with considerable funding.
The political wing of the LeT, the Markaz Dawa Irshad, (renamed Jamaat ut Dawa renamed Idara Khidmat e Khalq) today runs 200 mainstream Dawa schools, 11 madrassas, two science colleges, an ambulance service, mobile clinics and blood banks. Its recruits are not ill-educated madrassa students, but well educated and educationally qualified urban professionals.
The Lashkar continues to have training camps in Muridke, with its headquarters near Lahore. The LeT has conducted operations in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and SE Asia. The Lashkar is an invaluable asset to the Pak authorities as it enables it to keep the Kashmir option open even while supporting the US campaign in Afghanistan.
It is sometimes assumed, incorrectly, that the LeT is a Kashmiri outfit. It is a purely Punjabi Pakistani group. As an associate of Osama bin Laden’s International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Crusaders and Jews and then later to include Hindus, its scope of activity is beyond Kashmir.
As Wilson John of the Observer Research Foundation points out Hafeez Saeed’s favourite verse from the Quran is Wajahidu fi Sabilallah (Wage a holy war in the name of God). It was not too long ago when the LeT chief Hafeez Saeed told his followers in Lahore from where he usually doles out inflammatory sermons against India when he said, “India understands only one language — the language of Jehad”.
This was on October 13, 2008, a few weeks before the attacks on Mumbai were launched or as one can suspect, maybe by then the operation had already begun.

Vikram Sood is a former chief of the Reasearch and Analysis Wing. The second part of this article will appear tomorrow