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Tag Archives | Terrorism

A system of neglect

India doesn’t need more ideas in tackling its internal security challenges; it needs action.

Another terrorist attack in a major Indian city this week left 16 dead and over 50 injured. Yet, within hours of the attack, India’s elected leaders were busy passing the buck and hypothesizing on the intent and “color” of the terrorist attack before a formal investigation had even begun.

There is something sadly predictable about all of this; the incident in Hyderabad itself — going by the dilapidated state of India’s internal security apparatus — and the indulging in parochial rhetoric thereafter that our leaders find so irresistible. Shouting free-for-alls followed when Pune and Varanasi were hit in 2010, and when Mumbai and Delhi were hit in 2011. Yet, not one terror case since 2008 has been solved. While our internal security agencies battle for their own credibility and relevance in the absence of strong political leadership, the cycle of terror continues.

In response to the attacks on Mumbai in 2008, the government set up the NIA, whose mandate could, at best, be described as confused.  India’s “FBI-style” agency, meanwhile, hasn’t produced the results to even remotely warrant a comparison with the FBI. Centre-State issues have stalled essential progress on NATGRID and the NCTC.  And internal security at the Centre continues to be the part-time responsibility of the Home Minister, whose other responsibilities include areas as varied as dealing with Centre-State issues and the implementation of the provisions of the Official Languages Act.

Can Indian citizens really harbor any expectations of reasonable safety and security when there is such abominable neglect on issues related to national security? India’s internal security apparatus is rotting. And this rot is merely a microcosm of a much larger problem that India faces, which is that there is systemic institutional atrophy in varied velocities across the country. The aspiring India of 2013 has government institutions built to govern an India of the 1940s. Where there are incidents that expose these very apparent gaps, we apply short-term Band-Aids when our institutional structures are falling apart at their very core.

Let’s be candid: India does not need any more ideas on how to tackle internal security challenges. Most of these ideas exist in public domain today. They have already been articulated in reports commissioned by the Central and State governments of India themselves. The Kargil Review Committee (KRC) report in 2001, for example, put forward recommendations in reforming our intelligence agencies. On the heels of the KRC report, a Group of Ministers report under the chairmanship of LK Advani proposed structural changes in intelligence and police reform.

The Ram Pradhan Committee Report — as yet not made public — commissioned by Maharashtra in response to the 26/11 attacks, highlighted critical gaps in coordination and execution of response to an ongoing terror incident. The National Police Commission issued eight reports between 1979 and 1981 on police reform and measures to prevent political interference. The Padmanabhaiah Committee report in 2000 recommended significant structural reforms to policing in India. Further, various states have set up their own commissions to study police reform since the 1960s.

So the ideas for reforming our internal security are already there. What India needs is meaningful action, which can only come about through structural reform (sustained by the continued application of political will) to bring our internal security apparatus into the 21st century. If ideas are needed anywhere, it is perhaps in trying to determine how to politically “sell” these essential changes.

K Subrahmanyam, perhaps India’s greatest post-Independence strategic thinker, once said that India’s leaders weren’t interested in national security, but in the politics of national security. While entirely divorcing “politics” from national security might not be practical, given the realities of India today, the political class’ response to terror cannot be restricted to trading accusations, applying Band-Aid solutions and commissioning reports.  India’s citizens cannot be held hostage to perfunctory political reactions to every terror attack on Indian soil.  The ideas are there, as is the mandate from the people of India.  But India’s politicians have been repeatedly found wanting in action.  They must step up or make way for those capable of action.

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Urdunama: Tehrik-e-Kashmir

Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust’s annual Kashmir Solidarity Day conference was held in Lahore yesterday.  Speakers included the always-delightful Majid Nizami, chairman of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust and Waqt Group, and the well-known pacifist and respected academic, Professor Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.  The theme of this year’s conference was clear.  The U.S. has been vanquished in Afghanistan.  India’s leverage over Pakistan is at an end.  The Kashmir issue is no longer on the back burner.  Freedom fighters are about to return to the Valley.  Excerpts of their speeches follow:

Majid Nizami: Kashmir cannot become a part of Pakistan without jihad.  I am willing to sacrifice my life for Pakistan.  We can win Kashmir only through arms, missiles and atom bombs, not through dialog or trade.  And until the issue of Kashmir is solved, Pakistan must not have any relations with India of any kind.

Hafiz Saeed: In the past, we have been unable to resolve the issue of Kashmir because our political and military leaders were disunited.  When Pakistan became a nuclear power in 1998, India was despondent, and [prime minister] Vajpayee — whose links are with the BJP, which was recently identified as having terrorist affiliations by India’s Home Minister — rushed to Pakistan to save face.

Similarly, when it appeared in 1999 that India was about to lose Kashmir (and I am personally aware of what our position was in Kargil), India appealed to the U.S.  It was because of U.S. interference and our own internal differences that we were not able to win in Kargil.  But there is no need for pessimism. I propose that a committee be formed under Majid Nizami, which will examine the reasons for our past failures and propose future plans for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.

As a consequence of 9/11, the freedom struggle in Kashmir was negatively affected.  During the U.S.’s invasion of Afghanistan, India tried its best to cause harm to Pakistan.  India set up terror training camps along our border with Afghanistan and interfered in Balochistan.  But India’s ambitions in Afghanistan now have been severely hit with America’s retreat.

The issue isn’t just Kashmir.  India plans to stop the flow of river water into Pakistan; there is a project to build over 250 dams to prevent river water from flowing into Pakistan, of which 62 have already been built.  But India knows that it is failing in its designs against Pakistan.  It brings up dialog and “aman ki asha” when it realizes that its American friends have have been forced to leave the region.  We salute the Kashmiris for not having given up hope these 11 difficult years.

Pakistan’s priority must be to solve the Kashmir problem.  We can talk to India, because issues can also be resolved through dialog.  But on the condition that India stops its aggressive behavior towards Pakistan, withdraws its troops from Kashmir, and stops damming the rivers flowing into Pakistan.  Let India decide if it wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialog or through war.  Hafiz Saeed and those under his command are ready for jihad. [نواےوقت]

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Pakistan’s resurgent hardline narrative

India needs options to counter looming threats beyond current LoC skirmishes.

On January 8, Pakistani soldiers affiliated with 29 Baloch regiment infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) at Mendhar sector in Poonch, ambushed 4 Indian soldiers, and according to news sources, “mutilated” the bodies of two jawans.  Defense Minister AK Antony termed the act “highly objectionable,” while MEA’s official spokesman, Syed Akbaruddin, called it “ghastly and unacceptable.”

Some reports indicate that at least one of the soldiers was beheaded.  If true, this would not be the first of such an occurrence.  Historically, beheadings of Indian troops were carried out by terror groups affiliated with the Pakistani army and by members of Pakistan Army’s Special Services Group (SSG).  In one such incident in 1999 2000, Ilyas Kashmiri, a member of the SSG (as well as future leader of HuJI’s 313 Brigade, and the “operational commander” behind 26/11) killed an Indian soldier, beheaded him, and allegedly presented the head as “trophy” to his then-COAS, Parvez Musharraf, for which he was highly commended.

In the face of such provocation, India’s response has been measured.  External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid promised a “proportionate” response.  Foreign Secretary Mathai summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir  to protest the incident, who in turn, flatly denied that it ever occurred (as is Pakistan’s m.o.).  To be sure, it is in India’s interests not to escalate the situation along the LoC and to ensure that the ceasefire remains in place.  Pakistan’s military-jihadi complex has never been a big fan of the 2003 ceasefire, as it poses certain challenges to its well-known bad habits.

It is therefore in India’s national security interests to ensure that these bad habits remain curtailed.  Military escalation, over an incident — heinous though the killings were — having little tactical or strategic significance (purely from a military standpoint) to India would not be wise.  Of course, non-military options are available at the government’s disposal, which can be used at a time and place of its choosing.

The Big Picture

But more broadly, what should concern India is the increasing assertiveness in Pakistan’s discourse of a more hardline narrative towards India.  Over the past several days and weeks, there has been disproportionate anti-India coverage in Pakistan’s Urdu press. (1, 2, 3).  This increasing assertiveness could have implications beyond the current skirmishes across the LoC.  The reasons for a more hardline stance towards India could be many.

First, there could be a realization in Rawalpindi that territorial negotiations with the UPA have reached a point of no success for Pakistan. Whatever faith the generals in Rawalpindi initially placed in prime minister Manmohan Singh to deliver magnanimous, Pakistan-friendly solutions to territorial disputes appears to have dissipated with the realization that negotiations have reached a cul-de-sac.  Trade talks, discussions on negative- and positive-lists may continue, but we are effectively back to square-one on issues of any real significance to Pakistan.

Second, while sections of our media misread recent updates to Pakistan’s “Green Book,” the inclusion of a section on “sub-conventional warfare” is interesting.  Pakistan is faced with a serious challenge to its internal security from well-armed militants.  It can seek to counter this challenge by [a] appealing to the militants to lay down their arms (ineffective), [b] military confrontation (costly), [c] absorbing those willing into Pakistan’s security forces, or [d] re-orienting them towards another target (i.e., India).

Indeed, recent statements from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has no direct quarrel with India, nor any capacity today to attack it, must be seen in this light.  This could pose a bigger challenge to India when hundreds of thousands of well-armed, but unemployed “mujahideen” return from Afghanistan to Pakistan in 2014.

The third is the Kayani angle.  Gen. Kayani, no doubt, did not endear himself to his Corps Commanders when he sought, and was given, an unprecedented extension as COAS in July 2010.  Now, while we can never be sure if he favored PPP’s on-going dialog with India, we know that he didn’t try to actively undermine it.  The big question mark is who will replace Gen. Kayani in November 2013, and what will his successor’s views be on India and the U.S.

There’s growing unease in Rawalpindi in the way Gen. Kayani handled the bin Laden raid, the Salala incident, the unrelenting U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, or peace talks with India.  What better way, then, for an aspiring COAS to present his credentials and ingratiate himself with the rank and file of the armed forces than by towing a harder line towards the neighbor on the east?

Lastly, Pakistan’s generals feel they are now in a position to affect a Pakistan-favorable solution to Afghanistan after the U.S. leaves in 2014, while continuing to be ensured of U.S. financial largesse in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism funds (this is a bad assumption for Pakistan to make, by the way.  Remember the Pressler Amendment)?

Securing an advantageous position in Afghanistan and continued economic assistance from the U.S. renders the need to play nice with India moot; or so the thinking of the military-jihadi complex goes.  The increasingly assertive hardline stance could mean increased attacks, both in J&K, and in “mainland” India in the months and years ahead.  New Delhi ought to be considering options to deal with threats emanating from the resurgent hardline narrative, beyond the current skirmishes at the LoC.

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Urdunama: Saboot

On December 1, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani-Khar told news channels that while there was “no evidence” to implicate Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, Pakistan would take action if India were to provide proof of his involvement.  A day later, Pakistan’s far-right Urdu newspaper Ummat interviewed Hafiz Saeed on 26/11, who lashed out against Ms. Khar, India and the United States, while proclaiming his innocence.  Excerpts of the interview follow:

On Ms. Khar’s statements promising action against Hafiz Saeed should India provide proof.

[If any allegations are brought forward,] we will leave the matter to the courts.  We have always opted to resolve issues via the court of law and will continue to do so. We would like to resolve all issues within the provisions of Pakistani law. We do not intend to pursue those actions that will create problems; we’re interested in solving problems, not compounding them.

[However,] it has been 4 years since the attacks in Mumbai. In these 4 years, India has been unable to provide any evidence against me in connection with the case. The documents provided by India as evidence could not stand in court and were dismissed by Lahore High Court as propaganda. A similar case was also made by the Supreme Court. A judicial commission was sent from Pakistan to India on the issue of the Mumbai attacks, and no proof of my involvement was presented to them. Despite this, Ms Khar wants to ask India to provide more evidence against me. She appears to be very eager to help India resolve the Mumbai case, but what has she done with regard to the Samjhauta Express attacks, where many Pakistanis were killed?

If Ms Khar says her government would like to resolve the Kashmir dispute through non-military means, can she tell us how successful her government has been thus far? We have about 2-3 issues with India on Kashmir, and her government has been completely unsuccessful in resolving these through non-military means. There is only one way to resolve the Kashmir dispute — jihad.

On why the U.S. pursues action against him.

U.S. allegations against me are both a conspiracy and evidence of the deepening India-U.S. relationship.  Al-hamdulillah, we have been very successful, through Difa-e-Pakistan Council, in bringing various organizations together and exposing the conspiracies of the U.S. and its ally India to the rest of the people of Pakistan. It is because of this that the U.S. and India want to silence me in any way possible.

On peace with India and the U.S.

The U.S. and India are not pursuing the interests of their people, but the interests of their own politicians. India, to this day, has not accepted Pakistan’s right to exist as an independent state. And yet our leaders go to India and grovel for trade. They want to improve trade ties with India and grant them “Most Favored Nation” status. The U.S. completely supports India in its hatred for Pakistan. The U.S. uses India in the subcontinent the same way it uses Israel in the Middle East. Both India and the U.S. are blinded by their hatred for Islam.

We are now in December. It was in December years ago that the very same India dismembered Pakistan.  Do we now seek to improve economic ties with the same country that divided Pakistan and continues to suppress Kashmiris? Every product that is exported from India to Pakistan will be tainted with the blood of Kashmiri Muslims. Our politicians do not understand that the Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan and the mujahideen in Kashmir are fighting wars for the survival of Pakistan.

India unleashes state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, and dams rivers flowing into Pakistan; and yet our government wants to grant them “Most Favored Nation” status. If our leaders are incapable of empathizing with the mujahideen in Kashmir, fine.  But they must, at the very least, not get in their way. [روزنامہ امّت]

 

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