9/11 and India …

The recent bomb blasts in New Delhi, the high alert in New York and a sense déjà vu has made the world stand on an edge again because of terrorism. The fact of this asymmetrical war is that a few are frightening the world, even as repeated attacks have hardened people to lead their daily lives in defiance of the perpetrators.  India has been a victim of terror over four or five decades. It recovers from it and the acts are forgotten, not forgiven. 9/11 brought the same to the US followed quickly by the bombings in Madrid, London and European cities, thus globalizing terror.

Having been in a couple of counter insurgency operations which are classical asymmetrical warfare scenarios, I have observed the psychological conditioning of the guerrillas or terrorists differing where religion is in the mix and when it is not. Theology and politics are the main differentiators.  An incentive is established for someone to go and place a bomb, a promise of something in the future, tangible or intangible is invariably the reward. The risk part is often down played as the reward is believed to be greater. The key results of the attack invariably point to the benefactors of the attack.

Terror acts if treated as a crime, which it is, leave behind many clues. Asymmetrical warfare needs collaborators. Often huge prize money is announced after the crime has been committed. If it were announced as a routine that there is reward for information then there will be many claimants. However, I do feel that there should be reward for information and this should be announced in the media without disclosing names. It will require a very dedicated system to analyse the information to declare it relevant and worthy of reward.  This will be counter psychological warfare against the terrorists and make local support difficult.

It is easy to buy collaborators as a little money can go a long way for a poor person. It may even be that the person is not aware of the consequences and has been roped in just for a few bucks. In a society that is courteous to visitors, where strangers talk to each other as known mates, a cultural environment is prevalent where one can become an innocent collaborator. Much like in America where domestic air travel is so common that one takes entry and exit form airports for granted. The terrorists have in a way taken advantage of the good will of the host society.

Another question arises is to why the threat of global terrorism is not prevalent in all other countries of Asia. While every country links its domestic terror to the global one, in actuality it has repeatedly affected just India. Perhaps India can be said to be the biggest victim if one were to believe that all terror acts claim allegiance to organizations in countries outside of it. After 9/11 there have hardly been any significant acts of terror in the US. This is largely as the US establishment has tightened screws at all levels. Also, the people belligerent to the US have to cross the Atlantic and Pacific to reach its shores, there is little scope for a land based entry. Perhaps the purpose of any acts in the US has met its desired results. There could be many reasons, but statistically India has more than its share. Alas India has porous borders and belligerent neighbours sharing it. Terrorist acts within India cannot really be said to be the result of some global dissatisfaction. It has some religious overtures to it, but it is largely a geo strategic and political one.

Pakistan too suffers from frequent terrorists attacks and claims sympathy with India on this score. There is however a very important difference, which lies in the fact that Pakistan, has a conflict of interest with the terrorists. They are wholly responsible for the creation of terror groups by funding them and harbouring them all along. There is no way we can back track on events in history, but we can definitely help prevent events happening again. Pakistan has repeatedly shown complicity while in denial on every occasion. There is no doubt that terror groups operate from Pakistan and no one does anything about it.

The hope that Pakistan will one day be a responsible neighbour obscures the fact that they are inimical to India’s security.  This affects the possible security solutions, namely a direct confrontation or surgical action to neutralise terror camps. More than this reason perhaps is the nuclear capability of Pakistan.  Unilateral action by India will mean clearly aligning itself with the US and getting involved in the never ending Af-Pak war. This needs to be highlighted as one of the indirect results of terror attacks in India. Who is benefitted by these attacks on India?  If this is to undermine the Indian state, then it has failed several times more by India’s inaction than any action. India’s involvement in the Af-Pak region is clearly a more tangible outcome than the benefits for some terror group seeking release of prisoners or an Islamic cause unknown to their own brethren.

Pakistan’s nuclear capability is best known to the US and it has power to influence, contain and if need be neutralise the capability. The Af-Pak operations are not exactly going the US way and they definitely need more boots on the ground; are they seeking a direct involvement from India? Do these terror activities point towards such actions?

Internal security issues in India are more than adequate to deal with any situation. However, there seems to be no accountability and the media reports nothing on these aspects. We actually don’t see heads roll.  Compare this with what the US went through and achieved. After 9/11 there has been no significant terror attack. In the first instance the actions taken by President Bush for launching strikes on Kabul immediately after sent a clear message and most importantly satisfied the citizens of the country that their security is paramount.

Intelligence gathering mechanisms in India exist, but are not used effectively. Most National parties are cadre based. This has been ingrained in political parties over the last 60 years and party workers career path upwards is clear. The only exceptions are the kin of politicians who gain access as a birth right. The reason I am explaining this is if this structure is used to report on activities of people who are inimical to the security of India, there can be no better intelligence set up. Alas this will not happen as it will mean reporting against a potential vote bank. Outside of politics and intelligence agencies there are cadre based organizations such as National Unions. Besides political ones that go down to the street level, there is none other than the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS).

Intelligence gathering requires cadre based organizations to report upwards, much like in totalitarian states. One doesn’t hear of terror attacks in China, except for Uyghur ones, which perhaps have a cause and incidentally are the followers of Islam.  Likewise in western countries, to dob in on someone is quite common due to the nature of the state and the protection it provides to whistle blowers. Within India cities such as Calcutta have a pada culture, which is street patriotism and perhaps that is the reason why there is very little terror acts there unless triggered by local left wing activities.

The Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is an organization that is cadre based and has branches that go down to the street level. True it is not secular, but has no record of acting in a non secular way. Their voluntary work and principles don’t expound any religious overtures.  The Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) had partnered with two non political organisations, the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). The fact that the BJP was secular was lost sight of and the focus fell on Hindu goondaism (mafia style) through the partnerships. Goondaism in some form is common to all parties, as it is an effective vote capturing vehicle and also a conduit to power. BJP thus was labelled as non secular with right wing Hindu fundamentalism. There is an interesting article by Dr Mohan Malik (of the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies, Hawaii) that highlights the reasons why China feels threatened by the BJP. There is commonality in BJP and China’s ideology. In the case of BJP its association with the VHP whose aspirations of an akhand Bharat (greater India) resonates and conflicts with China’s territorial ones. The BJP’s association with the RSS, a cadre based supposedly ‘para military’ organization, mirrors China’s party cadres and poses to it a threat of serious Indian nationalism. Unfortunately the fact that BJP is a secular party has been ignored. The BJP is the only party that openly declared China as an enemy. In comparing the BJP to other parties, it seems to have key elements that that were beneficial to India’s security more than another party.  In the realm of foreign affairs it did make some tough decisions when it came to dealing with super powers. Their destabilisation and later ousting from power has benefitted in some way those inimical to India’s security. Their right wing actions have not been popular and some of it cannot be condoned. Thus India continues to sacrifice security in the name of pseudo secularism to appease the vote banks and those who stand to benefit by it.

Indian politics appears to have been influenced by foreign interests. The simplest way is to finance parties, which the election commission has addressed by having candidates declare their expenses, a matter which is hard to track. Our politicians, even the well educated are levelled to the politics of the street. They are all not necessarily the few good ones, and the few that are there, are not in a majority to pass electoral reforms. The Election Commission has on list of proposed reforms of which the decimalisation of politics tops the list and which has remained only a proposal now for decades.

India’s security lies in vitalising the existing organizations. The people of India have to demand more accountability. I wish these were the priorities amongst so many others that mass movements such as Anna Hazare’s movement for corruption can bring to the fore. With the weakening of the US economy, the failure of the military operations in its neighbourhood, India is under threat and runs the risk of being roped into a global war which it can ill afford. Internal security is now of paramount importance more than ever before.

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