Counter-terrorism: Some home truths: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com

A stereotyped question often posed is: If the US can prevent acts of terrorism in its homeland after 9/11, why can’t India do likewise? Those, who pose this question, attribute the lack of any terrorism in the US homeland to the strong legal and operational measures taken by the US authorities after 9/11. They advocate similar measures in India.

A counter-question, which is relevant, is: How many acts of terrorism were there in the US homeland before 9/11 when these special measures did not exist? Hardly any. The Oklahoma explosion of 1995, the Atlanta explosion of 1996 and some fire-bombing incidents against Hindu and Jewish properties during the 1990s by a Pakistan-based organisation called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra were not strictly viewed as acts of terrorism by religiously or ideologically motivated organisations. They were instead viewed as violent acts of marginal elements in the local society.

If we exclude these incidents, there has never been any major act of terrorism in the US homeland before or after 9/11. The terrorist strikes of 9/11 were an exception. They were staged by al Qaeda in retaliation for the US cruise missile attacks in August, 1998, on its camps in Afghanistan and on a chemical factory allegedly run by it in the Sudan. According to the US, this factory produced chemicals for use in acts of terrorism. According to al Qaeda, it produced anti-malaria medicine for poor people.

A group of 19 Arabs — all foreign citizens — entered the US, underwent flying training and staged the terrorist strikes against the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and against the Pentagon headquarters in Washington DC on 9/11. The US was taken by surprise. It was prepared for attacks in foreign territory, but not in the US homeland. It viewed these strikes as Pearl Harbour-style attacks by a non-state actor. It decided to retaliate against them militarily in Afghanistan from where these strikes had originated. It called it a war against terrorism and has been using its armed forces against al Qaeda with no holds barred.

The US and its people never excuse an adversary, who dares to attack them in their territory. During the Second World War, even though both Germany [Images] and Japan [Images] were the adversaries of the US, it used the atomic bombs only against Japan and not against Germany because it wanted to teach Japan a lesson for daring to attack it by stealth on its territory.

Similarly, the US and its people are determined to teach al Qaeda and Muslims who support it a lesson for daring to attack them by stealth in their territory. The US is prepared to fight against Al Qaeda [Images] and the organisations allied with it for as long as it takes to destroy them and thereby prevent another 9/11 in their territory. While many political leaders in the US criticise its involvement in Iraq and demand the withdrawal of its troops from there, one does not find similar criticism in respect of Afghanistan. There is support for the view often expressed by President George W Bush [Images] that if the US leaves Afghanistan with the “war” half-finished, al Qaeda will attack the US again in its territory. During the current presidential campaign in the US, the criticism against Bush is not for the US involvement in Afghanistan, but for the failure to kill Osama bin Laden and his senior associates and neutralise al Qaeda.

The US has been using its army, air force, navy and covert action groups against al Qaeda, the neo-Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. The US use of heavy weapons and air strikes and the over-militarisation of the US counter-terrorism operations have resulted in large civilian casualties. There has consequently been an aggravation of the anti-US anger in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Islamic world. This has led to more support for al Qaeda and the Taliban and more terrorism. Highly-militarised counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a root cause of aggravated jihadi terrorism.

Since the US has been waging its war against terrorism against foreign nationals in foreign territory, the kind of restraints, which normally operate in counter-terrorism campaigns against one’s own nationals in one’s own territory do not operate. The more ruthless the US strikes with its armed forces, the more the civilians killed. The more the civilians killed, the more the recruits to al Qaeda. The more the recruits, the more ruthless al Qaeda’s operations The more ruthless al Qaeda’s strikes, the more ruthless the US military strikes. It has become a vicious circle.

More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists in different countries after the post-9/11special legal and operational measures than before 9/11 when such measures were not there. The post-9/11 special measures might have protected the US territory from any more terrorist strikes so far, but they have not protected US nationals in different countries. In fact, US nationals abroad and countries which support the US are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks today than they were before 9/11.

It is in view of this that an increasing number of analysts is advocating a mid-course correction with partial, if not total, dimilitarisation of counter-terrorism. At the annual conference of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific in Jakarta in December, 2003, I was invited to speak on India’s non-military approach to counter-terrorism.

It would be incorrect to compare India with the US and unwise to advocate an emulation of the US counter-terrorism measures by India. The US is located thousands of kilometres away from the Islamic world. India is right in the middle. The US has no Islamic state as its neighbour. India has two — Pakistan and Bangladesh — both not well disposed towards India. In addition, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics are nearby. Most of the non-Palestinian jihadi terrorist organisations of the world were spawned in this region. Whenever the ill-winds of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism blow from their region, India is in their path. India has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It has to be concerned all the time about the likely impact of its counter-terrorism policies on its Muslim citizens. The US has a very small Muslim population. It does not have to worry about the impact on them.

The situation in India is further complicated by the involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh in sponsoring and assisting terrorism of different hues in Indian territory — the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Khalistanis of Punjab, the indigenous Kashmiri organisations and the indigenous Muslim organisations in other parts of India and of pan-Islamic Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of Laden’s International Islamic Front.

These complications render the tasks of Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, including the police, much more difficult than those of the US. We have to fight terrorism in our own way according to our own ethos without letting our counter- errorism policies becoming copy-cat models of those of the US or Israel.

Despite the frequent incidents of terrorism, we have not been doing too badly. This would be evident from the fact that the terrorists have not succeeded in disrupting the communal harmony or political stability or the economic growth. Even at the height of Khalistani terrorism, Punjab continued to play its role as the granary of India and feed all of us in the rest of India. Despite the surge in jihadi terrorism in different parts of India, we have emerged as the leading IT power in the world. Our economy continues to grow at eight plus per cent. Foreign investment flows continue to remain high.

After every terrorist attack in a tourist resort — whether Bali or Mombasa or Casablanca or Sharm-el-Sheikh — there was an exodus of tourists from there and large-scale cancellations of air and hotel bookings. This has not happened after the Jaipur blasts. This shows the gratifying confidence still displayed by the international community –including the business class — in the Indian ability to deal with this problem and to protect them.

There is no reason for us to indulge in breast-beating after every terrorist strike. By doing so, we only add to the image of the terrorists in the eyes of their community. It is often easier to destroy the terrorists than the image which the media and the agencies unwittingly create of them by projecting them as if they are invincible. They are not.

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Counter-terrorism: Some home truths: B Raman

22 08 2008

Source: rediff.com

A stereotyped question often posed is: If the US can prevent acts of terrorism in its homeland after 9/11, why can’t India do likewise? Those, who pose this question, attribute the lack of any terrorism in the US homeland to the strong legal and operational measures taken by the US authorities after 9/11. They advocate similar measures in India.

A counter-question, which is relevant, is: How many acts of terrorism were there in the US homeland before 9/11 when these special measures did not exist? Hardly any. The Oklahoma explosion of 1995, the Atlanta explosion of 1996 and some fire-bombing incidents against Hindu and Jewish properties during the 1990s by a Pakistan-based organisation called the Jamaat-ul-Fuqra were not strictly viewed as acts of terrorism by religiously or ideologically motivated organisations. They were instead viewed as violent acts of marginal elements in the local society.

If we exclude these incidents, there has never been any major act of terrorism in the US homeland before or after 9/11. The terrorist strikes of 9/11 were an exception. They were staged by al Qaeda in retaliation for the US cruise missile attacks in August, 1998, on its camps in Afghanistan and on a chemical factory allegedly run by it in the Sudan. According to the US, this factory produced chemicals for use in acts of terrorism. According to al Qaeda, it produced anti-malaria medicine for poor people.

A group of 19 Arabs — all foreign citizens — entered the US, underwent flying training and staged the terrorist strikes against the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and against the Pentagon headquarters in Washington DC on 9/11. The US was taken by surprise. It was prepared for attacks in foreign territory, but not in the US homeland. It viewed these strikes as Pearl Harbour-style attacks by a non-state actor. It decided to retaliate against them militarily in Afghanistan from where these strikes had originated. It called it a war against terrorism and has been using its armed forces against al Qaeda with no holds barred.

The US and its people never excuse an adversary, who dares to attack them in their territory. During the Second World War, even though both Germany [Images] and Japan [Images] were the adversaries of the US, it used the atomic bombs only against Japan and not against Germany because it wanted to teach Japan a lesson for daring to attack it by stealth on its territory.

Similarly, the US and its people are determined to teach al Qaeda and Muslims who support it a lesson for daring to attack them by stealth in their territory. The US is prepared to fight against Al Qaeda [Images] and the organisations allied with it for as long as it takes to destroy them and thereby prevent another 9/11 in their territory. While many political leaders in the US criticise its involvement in Iraq and demand the withdrawal of its troops from there, one does not find similar criticism in respect of Afghanistan. There is support for the view often expressed by President George W Bush [Images] that if the US leaves Afghanistan with the “war” half-finished, al Qaeda will attack the US again in its territory. During the current presidential campaign in the US, the criticism against Bush is not for the US involvement in Afghanistan, but for the failure to kill Osama bin Laden and his senior associates and neutralise al Qaeda.

The US has been using its army, air force, navy and covert action groups against al Qaeda, the neo-Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. The US use of heavy weapons and air strikes and the over-militarisation of the US counter-terrorism operations have resulted in large civilian casualties. There has consequently been an aggravation of the anti-US anger in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries of the Islamic world. This has led to more support for al Qaeda and the Taliban and more terrorism. Highly-militarised counter-terrorism as practised by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has itself become a root cause of aggravated jihadi terrorism.

Since the US has been waging its war against terrorism against foreign nationals in foreign territory, the kind of restraints, which normally operate in counter-terrorism campaigns against one’s own nationals in one’s own territory do not operate. The more ruthless the US strikes with its armed forces, the more the civilians killed. The more the civilians killed, the more the recruits to al Qaeda. The more the recruits, the more ruthless al Qaeda’s operations The more ruthless al Qaeda’s strikes, the more ruthless the US military strikes. It has become a vicious circle.

More Americans have died at the hands of terrorists in different countries after the post-9/11special legal and operational measures than before 9/11 when such measures were not there. The post-9/11 special measures might have protected the US territory from any more terrorist strikes so far, but they have not protected US nationals in different countries. In fact, US nationals abroad and countries which support the US are more vulnerable to terrorist attacks today than they were before 9/11.

It is in view of this that an increasing number of analysts is advocating a mid-course correction with partial, if not total, dimilitarisation of counter-terrorism. At the annual conference of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific in Jakarta in December, 2003, I was invited to speak on India’s non-military approach to counter-terrorism.

It would be incorrect to compare India with the US and unwise to advocate an emulation of the US counter-terrorism measures by India. The US is located thousands of kilometres away from the Islamic world. India is right in the middle. The US has no Islamic state as its neighbour. India has two — Pakistan and Bangladesh — both not well disposed towards India. In addition, Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics are nearby. Most of the non-Palestinian jihadi terrorist organisations of the world were spawned in this region. Whenever the ill-winds of Islamic fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism blow from their region, India is in their path. India has the world’s second largest Muslim population after Indonesia. It has to be concerned all the time about the likely impact of its counter-terrorism policies on its Muslim citizens. The US has a very small Muslim population. It does not have to worry about the impact on them.

The situation in India is further complicated by the involvement of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh in sponsoring and assisting terrorism of different hues in Indian territory — the United Liberation Front of Assam, the Khalistanis of Punjab, the indigenous Kashmiri organisations and the indigenous Muslim organisations in other parts of India and of pan-Islamic Pakistani and Bangladeshi organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami of Pakistan and Bangladesh and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which are members of Laden’s International Islamic Front.

These complications render the tasks of Indian intelligence and counter-terrorism agencies, including the police, much more difficult than those of the US. We have to fight terrorism in our own way according to our own ethos without letting our counter- errorism policies becoming copy-cat models of those of the US or Israel.

Despite the frequent incidents of terrorism, we have not been doing too badly. This would be evident from the fact that the terrorists have not succeeded in disrupting the communal harmony or political stability or the economic growth. Even at the height of Khalistani terrorism, Punjab continued to play its role as the granary of India and feed all of us in the rest of India. Despite the surge in jihadi terrorism in different parts of India, we have emerged as the leading IT power in the world. Our economy continues to grow at eight plus per cent. Foreign investment flows continue to remain high.

After every terrorist attack in a tourist resort — whether Bali or Mombasa or Casablanca or Sharm-el-Sheikh — there was an exodus of tourists from there and large-scale cancellations of air and hotel bookings. This has not happened after the Jaipur blasts. This shows the gratifying confidence still displayed by the international community –including the business class — in the Indian ability to deal with this problem and to protect them.

There is no reason for us to indulge in breast-beating after every terrorist strike. By doing so, we only add to the image of the terrorists in the eyes of their community. It is often easier to destroy the terrorists than the image which the media and the agencies unwittingly create of them by projecting them as if they are invincible. They are not.





A Diwali for ALL Indians: Francois Gautier

8 11 2007

A Diwali for ALL Indians

Francois Gautier

(Reproduced from Rediff.com)
Source: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/nov/07francois.htm

November 07, 2007

Diwali is the Festival of Lights. This Light is symbolic of the spread of Knowledge. What is this Knowledge that is still alive in this wonderful country which we call India?

Firstly and foremost: ‘I accept you; I accept that you may be White or Black, Red or Yellow, Christian, Buddhist, or Muslim. I accept that God may manifest at different times, under different names, using different scriptures. Thus God is Krishna, but also Jesus Christ, Buddha or Mohammad.’ This is an extraordinary statement and a marvellous instrument towards world peace, at a time where terrorism is striking everywhere in the world in the name of One God.
It is also a Knowledge that only the body dies, but not the soul, which is born and reborn again till it achieves perfection. A Knowledge that whatever you do bears consequences in this life or another. A Knowledge that all human beings are made out of Love, even beneath the hate and the killings.

And also: ‘I have inherited from my ancestors the tools to become a better man, whatever my religion, ethnicity and profession: a better Christian, a better Hindu, a better Muslim.’
What are these tools?

Hatha yoga, India’s gift to the world, which has been copied and imitated everywhere.

Meditation, this extraordinary technique of coming back to one’s Self, of settling the mind and the body, which is today practised by millions around the world — another bequest of India to humanity.

Pranayama, the science of respiration, perfected by Indians for three millenniums.

“Does the breath have any religion,” asks His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement, which has spread today in 140 countries. “Is the air we breathe around us Muslim, Christian, or Hindu?”

This knowledge thus does not only belong to Hindus, but also to the Buddhists, Christians, Jains and Muslims of India.

Once upon a time, the Syrian Christians of Kerala [Images], though they remained faithful to the word of Jesus Christ, had incorporated some basic tenets of Hinduism such as reincarnation and karma.

Once upon a time, great Sufis such as Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and preferred son (who should have become emperor instead of Aurangzeb), while remaining true Muslims (and not apostate ones), could translate the Upanishads and step into a temple without thinking they were committing a mortal sin.

Once upon a time, Sikhism was born out of Dharma, to defend the Hindu Dharma and neither Sikh nor Hindu saw any difference between themselves. Once upon a time, Buddha, although he did strike against ritualism and hereditary Brahmanism, did not found a religion, but a path that led to the same Ananda he came from.

This knowledge is unique to India. For the West has lost the truth. We have lost the Great Sense, the meaning of our evolution, of why so much suffering, why dying, why getting born, why this earth, who are we, what is the soul, what is reincarnation, where is the ultimate truth about the universe. And this will be India’s gift to this planet during this century: To restore to the world its true sense; to recharge humanity with the real meaning and spirit of life.

Thus, if you are an Indian settled abroad, whatever your religion, you should carry that identity in your actions and your aura, that you may shine without words, for it is a great privilege and responsibility to be born an Indian. Yet, too often, Indians in the US or Canada [Images], or even the UK for that matter, hide their identities and try to merge into the mainstream culture, becoming more American than Americans, more British than the British.

Sometimes Indians are even ashamed to say that they are Indians and it is a tragedy to themselves and to their children, who lose the connection with one of the most ancient cultures in the world, which is not a religion but the last living spirituality on this planet.

You should also know that today this Knowledge is under attack from all sides. Foremost, from the Globalisation and Westernisation which is taking place at the moment in India at a frantic pace. Television channels and advertisements must be the biggest culprits.

Is white the most beautiful colour, does having a white skin make you so hep? Do a cell phone, a suit or a fancy car really make you a man? This is what millions of innocent villagers or lower middle class viewers are enticed to believe.

There is also a rapid Christianisation of many villages in India, whether in Tamil Nadu post-tsunami, or in the North-East where innocent tribals are converted with the help of million of dollars.

What about the radicalism that seems to grip some Muslim youth? Nowhere but in India do they have so much freedom to practise their faith. And we know that the Pakistani or Bangladeshi bombers in Hyderabad or Mumbai could never function without the active participation of some Indian Muslims.

Lastly Hindu renegades, those intellectuals who want to cut off India at any cost from her past and make a copy — however brilliant — of a Marxism which has died everywhere else, or of the United States of America, where violence, divorce and depression are affecting three persons out of five, are extremely active at the moment, thanks to a government who chooses to close its eyes while this is going on.

Yet, it is for this Precious Knowledge that all Indians, be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian, or Sikh, should retain their dharmic identity, while being faithful to their Creed or Supreme God. This Diwali thus should symbolise for all Indians, the rekindling of this Light in their hearts.
Let Mother India protect shine in them and rekindle their common indentity beyond their religions.

A Happy And True Diwali to ALL Indians.

Francois Gautier





US Senators support the cause of Hindus in Bangladesh

19 09 2007

An exhibition of photos and panels vividly describing the atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh caught the attention of influential Congressmen and key policymakers in the Bush administration.

The two-day exhibition titled “Asru” was held at the Rayburn House Office Building at the US Capitol from July 30. The exhibits of 28 panels, which graphically chronicled the deteriorating condition of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh over the past several decades, were put together by the Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities (HRCBM) and Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT). “It is time that the world should know what is happening with the Hindu minorities in Bangladesh,” said Amalendu Chatterjee, HRCBM director. The population of Hindus in this Muslim-majority country, he pointed out, has dropped from as high as 37 per cent in 1940s to a mere 11 per cent now. “It is all because of the atrocities perpetrated on the Hindus by the ruling class all these years,” he said.

In organising an exhibition on the plight of Hindus and other minorities in Bangladesh for the first time in the history of the Capitol, the efforts of HRCBM and FACT did cut ice among the Congressmen and key policymakers who took time out of their busy schedule to take a look at what was on display. “All the representatives and their staffers reiterated the need to protect the rights of minorities and to deal with Islamic groups in a resolute manner,” said Utsav Chakrabarti, designer of the exhibition and a member of FACT. The exhibition received bipartisan support from Congressional leaders and was attended by concerned citizens, political analysts and human rights representatives.

Moved by the graphic description of the condition of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh, powerful Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA) wrote in the visitors’ book kept at the exhibition: “The international community must take an action against these genocidal acts now before this culture is extinguished and the minorities forcibly killed, converted or exiled in the face of an underground jehad.” Royce who spent more than an hour at the exhibition hall visiting each and every panel expressed optimism that due to this effort by HRCBM and FACT, members of Congress will be educated “as to the extreme challenge and persecution faced by Hindus, Buddhists and Christians due to the threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh.” Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), who sponsored the event at the Capitol said after visiting the exhibition:

“I was proud to be the Congressional sponsor of this important exhibition on human rights in Bangladesh. I believe it helped bring much-needed attention to the plight of minorities in Bangladesh who have suffered from increasing attacks over the past few years.” Influential Joseph Crowley (D-NY), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Bangladesh and member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said the exhibition “serves as an important reminder to the international community that we must remain vigilant in preventing violence, suffering and loss around the world.” He expressed his willingness to continue working with his colleagues in Congress to help all of the people of Bangladesh to ensure that their religious and ethnic backgrounds are respected.

The event also had presentations by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Bangladesh, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC). Toni Van Pelt expressed dismay at the apathy of the human rights groups towards Hindu rape and molestation victims, while urging the media to take the cause of Hindus in Bangladesh by reporting such incidents. Shahriar Kabir urged for global pressure on government in Bangladesh to take a stringent action against Jamaat-e-Islami for its role in continuing atrocities against minorities. He also reiterated the need to repeal the Vested Interest Property Act which allows the Government of Bangladesh to confiscate properties of non-resident Hindus and others it deems as an enemy of the State.

Samaresh Baidya narrated his first-hand experience facing the wrath of fundamentalist Islamists. He underlined the need for the journalist community to expose the reality of religious intolerance and persecution. Dwijen Bhattachariya, from the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, and Professor at Columbia University, felt that Bangladesh is quickly turning into a Taliban-like state with potential for becoming a breeding ground for the next generation of jehadi terrorists.

Rosalind Costa, a social worker from Bangladesh, narrated her experience rescuing women in rural areas. She described the case of two minor rape victims, Rita Rani Das and Purnima Shil, who were gang-raped by jehadis and forcibly converted to Islam. “Our goal was to create awareness and activism in order to alleviate the plight of Hindus and other religious minorities in that region. And we have achieved it,” said Chatterjee, adding that encouraged by the response, the organisers have now decided to take this exhibition to other parts of the country as well, with Houston being its next destination.