Photograph of Anil Chawla

Author - Anil Chawla

An aggressive strategy for India to combat Pak sponsored terrorism.

The difference between war and terrorism is subtle. War is a fight between two states, while fringe anarchist fanatic groups often resort to terrorism. However, this distinction has disappeared in recent years. Many states have been supporting, aiding, assisting and sponsoring terrorist activities.

Another difference is the glorification of war and a universal condemnation of terrorism. Somehow it has come to be accepted that war is ethical and good, while terrorism is a crime against humanity. There can be no doubt that western media has played its part in creating this moral distinction. In spite of all the noises against terrorism, western nations have never hesitated to use terrorism as and when it suited them. In the past few decades, CIA, KGB and such agencies have been accused of assassinations, coups and armed rebellions. Obviously the ethical and human rights bogey is only for external consumption when the Western powers are at the receiving end of terrorism.

In contrast with the self-interest-centered viewpoint of western powers, India has been adopting a strictly moralist view towards terrorism. Indian leaders have been crying hoarse against Pak sponsored terrorism and have been hoping that the rest of the world will come to India's aid. Indian argument is based on the evil nature of Pakistan's acts. India has been pleading with the world powers to act and solve the problem in her backyard. At times this has gone to ridiculous extents. For example, there has been a demand by India that USA should declare Pakistan a terrorist state. At a press conference, LK Advani (India's tough-talking Home Minister) was asked a simple question - "Why has India not declared Pakistan as a terrorist state?" Mr. Advani had a simple answer. India does not have any such provision in her laws while US laws have such a provision. Mr. Advani surely knows that India's Parliament has the power to make laws as may be required.

Apparently, Indian leaders find it easier to appeal to US leaders than to their own Members of Parliament. The arguments of ethics, morality, human rights and international order are used to appeal to international community. Rhetoric and hard words seem to be the weapons that Indian leaders appear to be employing against terrorism. If it is not hard words, the only other option that Indian leaders can think of is sending the army to fight it out. After every terrorist attack, Indian Prime Minister uses the harshest possible words to threaten war.

It is important to understand the mindset behind such war cries in India. A large cross-section of leadership and people of India sees war as a noble act. Dying for the country is martyrdom and is glorified. The glamour of war has helped build up hysteria. Leaders have portrayed war as the only possible alternative for fighting terrorism. The country does not realize that such a portrayal only reflects limitations of minds of Indian leaders, who are too happy to order thousands of soldiers to go and die for an undefined strategic objective.

Two major limitations of mental make-up of Indian leaders are - (a) inability to come to terms with terrorism as a form of war and (b) failure to understand that wars need political strategies. Treating terrorism alternately as a law and order problem on one hand and on the other hand as a military issue has failed to counter terrorism in an effective manner.

State-sponsored terrorism is a form of war that cannot be countered by conventional war. For the past two decades, India has experimented with use of army to fight terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir with no success. It is indeed strange that instead of learning from past experiences, there is a clamour for increased use of army. Is it not time that India learns to fight this war and gives up knee-jerk reactions to individual terrorist acts?

State sponsored terrorism can be effectively curbed only if a disproportionately higher cost is imposed on the sponsoring state. The key is to act in one's national interests as one would act in times of war. Bleeding the sponsoring state and taking it to the brink of disintegration (and if possible breaking it up) are perfectly legitimate aims to be pursued by a country under attack. Strategically, it makes better sense to use internal tensions and fissures of the enemy to achieve one's objectives. Sacrificing one's young men must be avoided as far as possible. Instead the attempt should be to provoke and assist citizens of the enemy to harm and bring their own country to a state of collapse. Let us see the application of this doctrine to the specific case of Pakistan.

Pakistan has been systematically sponsoring terrorism in India and especially in Jammu & Kashmir. It has been calling terrorists as freedom fighters and has been openly declaring its support to the militants in Jammu & Kashmir. In return, India has adopted a defensive position. An aggressive strategy would have involved a similar sponsorship of groups in Pakistan. There is historical evidence in support of the allegation that integration of Sindh and Baluchistan into Pakistan was done in a most shady manner. There is a feeling in Sindh and Baluchistan that Punjab is treating them as colonies. In both provinces, there are groups who are willing to shed blood for independence from Pakistan. India should actively support such groups and act as a catalyst for freedom movement in these provinces. India must also champion the cause of Shias, Ahmedias, Mohajirs, Hindus and Christians in Pakistan. As and when feasible, such minority groups should be provided moral, political, financial and other (read arms) support.

India's avowed strategic objectives in relation to Pakistan should be as follows:

India must declare the above three as central pillars of its Pakistan policy. Just as Pakistan misses no opportunity to raise Kashmir issue at any international forum, India must raise the above issues. The above ends should be seen as ethical ends that justify all means. Pakistan's espousal of Kashmir's "freedom fighters" can be countered by a similar support to freedom fighters of Sindh and Baluchistan and to soldiers of secularism. It is high time that Indian leaders adopt secularism as a universal value whose application is not limited to domestic politics.

Does it sound too farfetched, almost impossible? Yes, it does. The reasons are not too far to seek. Current generation of ruling political class in India has grown up on the pacifist principles of peace and non-violence. Nehru learnt the futility of peace and non-violence after the defeat of 1962. Unfortunately, Indian political class has not yet learnt the lesson completely. The Gandhian mindset seems to cling on. A country fed on Gandhian ideals cannot be expected to acquire a "Will to Power" overnight. Yet, there is hope. The new generation in India does not share the political values of the old.

Before summing up, a mention of a person from the old generation is necessary. It is rumoured that PV Narasimha Rao, as Prime Minister did take steps to achieve the above objectives. He funded Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) and Jeeye Sindh Movement (movement for liberation of Sindh). During Rao years, Karachi was burning. A senior journalist (who is now a Cabinet Minister) once claimed in a private conversation that during those years, deaths in Kashmir used to be matched on a day-to-day basis by killings in Karachi. After Rao, India had two Prime Ministers for a very short duration each. Vajpayee came to power with an eye on Noble prize for peace. He discontinued the practice of Rao years and rushed on a bus to Lahore. Rumours may be baseless but the rest is history. After Rao years, MQM has died a slow death. Karachi is peacefully providing home to the worst criminals who planned the Bombay blasts, while Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and Advani are begging the world to save a great country called India.

The Rao story may be false (one hopes that it is not). Assuming that Rao story is true, Mr. Narasimha Rao could have gone one step further. Instead of doing it in a clandestine manner, Mr. Rao could have adopted a more open approach. He could have heralded a change in the mindset of Indian political class. Possibly, Mr. Rao was not sure about the reaction of the country and her political class. Probably, the country was not ready to assert her will to power. Probably, the country is not yet ready or may be that the country is ready but her leaders are not.

The biggest challenge in the war against Pak sponsored terrorism is internal. India needs to get over her defensive mindset and assert her true might in a manner free of historical hang-ups. India needs to appreciate that crying about the evil of terrorism is futile. India needs to learn that terrorism can only be countered by a simple old adage - "Tit for Tat". India needs to liberate the people of its neighbouring country from a tyrannical State. India needs to acquire the high moral ground and adopt all possible means to achieve the ethical aims. But all this needs something more fundamental - leaders who can think and act keeping the interests of the country above everything else. Does India have such leaders?


30 May 2002

The above article attracted some very interesting comments. Please click here to read the debate.

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If you liked the above article, you may also be interested in reading Mumbai Attack - Time For The World To Act by the same author, written on 3 December 2008.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

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