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TERRORISM TODAY AND TOMORROW

 

The problem of terrorism will get worse as a result of the crumbling of Pakistan. Countries of the world need to cooperate and coordinate efforts to win the war against terrorism.

 (Summary of the lecture delivered on Monday, December 17 under the auspicious of Bharat Vikas Parishat, Bangalore.)

  

Dr. N.S. Rajaram

 

            Thank you Dr. Patel and ladies and gentlemen for this generous reception and the invitation to speak to this assembly. When Dr. Patel asked me a few weeks ago to deliver this address, my intention was to speak in general about the threat of terrorism against the background of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But in the past couple of weeks events have moved fast. The Taliban-Pakistan forces have been routed in Afghanistan, uprooting thousands of religious warriors who are now looking for new areas to carry out their Jihad. And last Thursday, Pakistan based terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammed have struck at the Indian Parliament House, the center of the world’s largest democracy, and one of the world’s great symbols of freedom and democracy. As in the case of the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, in the latest attack also, the terrorists have sent a clear message: they abhor democracy, freedom and pluralism.

            The latest terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament building has shown that no place— and no one is safe. It is also quite clear who sponsored it and what is behind the attacks. It is a very great error to think that if their grievances are met the terrorists will stop their attacks and melt away. For example, according to some liberals, if India were to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan and Israel were to meet the demands of the PLO, everything will be peaceful. THIS IS A VERY GREAT ERROR. What we are up against is not a political problem but a problem rooted in ideology and demographics. This ideology is the utopian dream of achieving Islamic imperialism through Jihad; the demographic problem is the explosion in numbers of Jihadis produced by the madrasas (Islamic schools), located mostly in Pakistan but financed by Saudi Arabia. These Jihadis have nowhere to go but engage in Jihad.

            The problem for India in the immediate future is the crumbling of Pakistan following the Pakistan-Taliban defeat in the Afghan War. (Taliban is nothing but Pakistani military by proxy.) This has disenfranchised a large number of Jihadis who are now turning their attention to India, and will soon be active elsewhere in the region. Just as the breakup of the Soviet Empire resulted in the disenfranchisement of many Communists, the crumbling of Pakistan is leading to a similar phenomenon in India. Several organizations and intellectuals that were receiving Pakistan’s covert support are now adrift, which may lead them to desperate measures. This is likely to lead to increased terrorist activities.

            In short, the problem of terrorism today, has two causes: institutional and demographic— the crumbling of Pakistan and the disenfranchisement of the Jihadis. This is compounded in India by the irresponsible behavior of some politicians, especially in some opposition parties.

 

Crumbling Pakistan

            While terrorism—there is no need to use the term Islamic terrorism—is rooted in this utopian dream of bringing about a world Islamic empire, the immediate problem for India and other countries in the region is the crumbling of Pakistan. The Taliban defeat is a major military and diplomatic defeat for Pakistan brought about by massive US bombardment combined with ground operations by the Afghan forces, with General Musharraf’s Government forced to collaborate in the destruction of its own forces and institutions. No greater humiliation can be imagined, especially for a soldier like Musharraf. But Musharraf is not much of a soldier; he is a politician in uniform.

            The problem for Pakistan is that in pursuit of an imperial dream, it has bankrupted itself. It has been driven out of Afghanistan where it hoped to gain “strategic depth,” and is left with a ravaged economy and an enraged population. In its pursuit of Jihad, Pakistan allowed its education system to go to rot. The resulting vacuum was filled by madrasas financed by wealthy Arabs and some Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia. These madrasas imparted no worthwhile education but only indoctrination in the fanatical Wahabi brand of Islam. Its ‘students’ are fit for nothing but religious war. These institutions, which produce some half a million potential Jihadis a year, have justly been dubbed ‘Jihad factories’.  What to do with them?

            Now, following its massive defeat in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s imperial dream has gone up in smoke, so where will these Jihadis—present and future—go? They can go to India, stay in Pakistan or go west and create problems in Iran and the Middle East. The last possibility is what scares America the most. According to Harlan Ullman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, "The ultimate nightmare is a pan-Islamic regime that possesses both oil and nuclear weapons." If Saudi Arabia were to become another Afghanistan, US, European and Japanese economies will be in deep trouble. This is the reason that the US enlisted Pakistan as the ‘frontline ally’ in its war against terrorism while simultaneously bombing Pakistani soldiers in Afghanistan. Through this the US hoped to gain firm control over Pakistan’s capacity for mischief in the region. Nonetheless, regional developments, especially severe economic decline in Saudi Arabia suggest that it may be headed for instability. It will be the next trouble spot. (The per capita GDP in Saudi Arabia has declined from $30,000 a decade ago to less than $8000 today resulting in huge national and international deficits.)

The US now has a stranglehold on Musharraf and believes it can force him to do anything it wants. He probably will but the question is how long will the people and the institutions of Pakistan tolerate this humiliating state of affairs. Now the US has demanded and obtained Jacobabad as a military base, and may soon turn Pakistan into an occupied country. How long this can be sustained is anybody’s guess, but controlling the flow of Jihadis is of paramount concern to the West.

 

Situation in India

            India has been facing the terrorism problem for nearly two decades, ever since the late General Zia ul Haq launched his program of ‘Talibanizing’ the army and the government. As part of this he sponsored a book called The Quranic Concept of War authored by Brigadier S.K. Malik (The English Book Store, New Delhi). President Zia himself wrote the Foreword to the book, which is now required reading for all Pakistani officials—both military and civilian. An Urdu summary of it called Jihad is issued to all Pakistani soldiers. Indian security forces have recovered copies of it from bodies of killed Pakistani Jihadis as well as regular soldiers. The book lays down in clear terms both the ideology of Jihad for world conquest and the use of terrorism as a tool of policy. So terrorism is no aberration but central to Pakistani policy. I don’t know how many Indian politicians are aware of this fact. When I brought it to the attention of several newspapers, they refused to publish it. Only recently have they begun to notice it.

In this context it is useful to contrast the behavior of Indian politicians following the terrorist attack on Parliament against that in America following the WTC attacks. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, everyone in the United States including politicians of all parties, supported the Government in its war against terrorism. No one tried to take advantage of the tragedy to denounce President Bush or his party. The scene in India immediately following the terrorist attack on the Parliament was the exact opposite of this: opposition politicians led by Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist Party and the Congress 'leader' Sonia Gandhi lost no time in denouncing the NDA Government for intelligence and other failures. If they feel that the Government is not doing enough on the security front, why don't opposition politicians help the Government in strengthening security? Instead, some opposition politicians, notably from the Communist Party and now the Congress, are undermining national security by obstructing the functioning of the Government and even the Parliament. This is extremely unwise on at least two counts.

            To begin with, the charge of 'security failure' and 'intelligence' failure are unfounded. Compared to what happened in the US, the attack on the Parliament was relatively minor. This shows that other more destructive avenues like using hijacked planes as missiles were closed to the terrorists due to effective counter-measures. The terrorists were able to penetrate the outer security ring of the Parliament building, but the inner ring functioned effectively and destroyed the attackers. But for the bravery and resourcefulness of the security personnel, eight of who laid down their lives in the process, the attack on the Parliament House might have resembled another Jallianwallah Bagh Massacre.

Even here the vulnerability of the outer ring was due to lack of cooperation by VIPs, especially the self-important MPs and senior bureaucrats. The terrorists took advantage of this weakness to penetrate the outer perimeter. So, far from criticizing them, the Government and the security establishment, especially the latter, should be complimented for protecting the MPs at the cost of their own lives, working under the severe handicap imposed by the VIP culture.

                The problem is that some opposition politicians, especially of the Congress and Communist parties are using obstructionist tactics that are tying the hands of the security forces by opposing any anti-terrorism initiative by the Government. I previously observed that the VIP culture has hampered effective security measures. This has an ugly side. The epitome of the VIP culture in India is the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her family. The very people, notably the Congress President, who vehemently oppose effective security legislation like POTO are the loudest in demanding personal security for themselves and their families. This means, men and women of the Indian security establishment are being asked to lay down their lives to protect Sonia Gandhi and her family, but they cannot protect themselves against terrorists because of her party's opposition to anti-terrorism laws! This is a disgrace.

            This raises a disturbing question: why has the Congress become virtually a satellite of the Communists with their well-known record of treachery? From Iftar parties to alliances (with SP) to national security, it is not Sonia Gandhi but Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist Party who is setting the agenda. Leadership vacuum in the Congress has allowed the Communists to hijack the Congress to set the opposition agenda. This agenda is dominated by opposing fight against terrorism and doing whatever possible to sabotage the improving relationship between India and the United States by bringing up irrelevant and false allegations like the US violation of Indian airspace and now the fabricated 'Coffin Scam'. As expected, the Communists, now leading the headless Congress by the nose, are pursuing an anti-national agenda, something that they have always done. The Sonia Gandhi-led Congress now consists of little more than camp followers of the Communists.

            This abdication of responsibility by the main opposition party (the Congress), due entirely to the incapacity of its President is a dangerous development. For over sixty years, the Communists have pursued an anti-national policy. During the British period, especially during the war, Communists worked as “spies and stooges” of the British Government. Then they cooperated with the Muslim League in the Partition of the country. Soon after Independence, they worked with the Nizam and the Razakars in Hyderabad against the Government. During the 1962 Chinese attack on India, they supported the Chinese. (One or two of these are now prominent in the Congress.) They supported the Chinese nuclear tests, but opposed India going nuclear. Most recently, during the Kargil Conflict, they tried to undermine the Indian Government and demoralize the armed forces.

If people are not aware of this treacherous record of the Communists and fellow travelers, it is because they have been writing our history textbooks! So their howls of protest against ‘rewriting history books’ are not exactly unmotivated. These have now practically hijacked the Congress, with a clueless Sonia Gandhi as its ‘leader.’

During the Kargil Conflict also, she went around the country making negative comments about the Government and its conduct of the war. In fact, during the summer of 1999, when the Kargil campaign was its height, Pakistan television often began its news programs with one of Sonia Gandhi’s election speeches—probably written for her by a Communist stooge in her party—denouncing the Government and its conduct of the war. This is bound to affect the morale of the fighting forces. Let us also not forget that in the weeks and months leading up to Kargil, she and her allies practically immobilized the Government with threats of bringing it down, which she eventually did. This created a window of opportunity for the Pakistanis to carry out their infiltration across the LOC. Fortunately, the country responded by trouncing her party and strengthening the hands of the Government.

What we are seeing today in the aftermath of the Taliban defeat and terrorism striking in the heart of India is a repeat of this indefensible behavior. The Communists who cannot win an election have managed to hijack the once great Congress and are essentially dictating the opposition agenda. This is no different from the Islamic Fundamentalist parties in Pakistan: they have little public support, but they have managed to infiltrate and gain control of national institutions like the armed forces. The Communists have not been so successful, but they have essentially taken control of the opposition. Sonia Gandhi, the opposition leader has become the unwitting Trojan Horse of the anti-national Communists.

In light of this record, the Congress’ official statement that it will ‘support the Government’ in its war against terror must be taken with a large pinch of salt. This was the ploy used during Kargil also, but we know what its ‘leader’ did during the campaign. It will be a repeat now also. The truth is that Communists and fellow travelers who now pull the strings in the Congress will have it no other way. As always, actions speak louder than words.

If the opposition feels that security is not effective, it should work with the Government and help make it better. But the Communists being essentially an anti-national outfit are undermining national security. Also the Opposition’s unruly and disruptive behavior like tearing up anti-terrorism bill like POTO will convey the wrong message to terrorists. They are bound to think that India is a weak and disunited country that can be brought down with just a few terrorist attacks. This, one suspects has been the Communist agenda for decades—to break up India. Now they seem to have taken control of the leaderless Congress. The nation must unite to defeat the terrorists.

 

Conclusion: World must unite

            It is not just Indians that need to unite in the war against terrorism: free people of the world need to unite and fight as one. Terrorist outfits can exist and flourish only as long as there are states like Pakistan that provide them shelter and logistic support. Also, terrorism cannot be neutralized by deflecting it to a different location—say Kashmir, Central Asia, Afghanistan or wherever. Terrorism cannot be finessed, it must be fought to the finish. It certainly cannot be appeased. It may be necessary to make some short-term compromises as the United States has done with Pakistan and Israel did with the PLO. But this cannot be a long-term strategic objective. India and the world will have to pay a price in both human and economic terms. There are no short cuts and we need to fight it until the world is safe. After all, the world created the terrorism problem by ignoring the ethical and moral danger for short-term gains. We are now paying the price.

            Above all the world must unite. We either hang together are we will hang separately.

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