Homeland Security

Rain of terror on India
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Issue Vol 23.3 Jul-Sep2008 | Date : 07 Jul , 2011

If the external motivation, inspiration and support were not available; if terrorists had not displayed the ambition to undertake operations against the most powerful countries and societies and inflict damage on them; if jihad had not assumed global proportions; there would be insufficient reason for homegrown terrorists to start killing innocent people in the streets of India.

The repeated attacks on Hindu religious places is intended to provoke a communal backlash against the Muslims, in the expectation that this will engender greater Muslim alienation, leading eventually to the tearing up of the social fabric of India.

It would not be difficult for Pakistan to create the illusion that terrorism in India is homegrown by creating terrorist cells in India, continue motivating them and providing them with training and finance. Pakistan had launched a massive international political campaign against India after the events in Gujarat. The emotions of those days are still alive and the wounds are still raw, and these can be exploited for political ends. In the climate of radical Islam surrounding the country externally, and the networks that are available to spread its insidious message, it is not difficult to mobilise a handful of elements in India, in the name of Islamic solidarity, to settle scores with the enemies of Islam.

If the external motivation, inspiration and support were not available; if terrorists had not displayed the ambition to undertake operations against the most powerful countries and societies and inflict damage on them; if jihad had not assumed global proportions; there would be insufficient reason for homegrown terrorists to start killing innocent people in the streets of India. Gujarat happened six years ago, but terrorists continue to exact revenge even today on innocent people in Mumbai, Akshardham, Varanasi, Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Ajmer, Malegaon, Bangalore and Ahmedabad etc, showing an exceptional degree of malevolence. Now the Indian Mujahideen group has surfaced in a clear attempt to confuse opinion about the source of this terror.

Gujarat is a useful peg on which to hang these repeated acts of indiscriminate violence. The people being punished are ordinary people, untainted by any guilt whatever relating to the Gujarat killings. The terrorists are also ignoring the role played by large sections of Indian society in highlighting the enormity of what happened in Gujarat and the failures of the state apparatus. Opinion builders and non-governmental organisations have solidified the national consensus on better protection of minorities.

It is not unsurprising that since 2002, despite terrorist attacks in Gujarat, calculated to invite reaction, including the latest one, law and order and social peace have been maintained. Purely local disaffected groups would not want to lose the sympathy and support of secular forces in India. Those with an integrated global jehadi agenda would discount this consideration.

India has long taken solace from the fact that Indian Muslims have remained unaffected by the al Qaida brand of Islamic radicalism. Even Bush has been publicly expressing wonderment that no Indian Muslim has joined the al Qaida ranks. Our democracy and secularism are supposed to be an antidote to radical religious ideologies. The argument has been that Islamic radicalism grows when all channels of legitimate political activity are blocked, opposition is not tolerated and economic development lags because of non-performance by the state.

So long as a limited number of our Muslims, motivated, trained, financed and armed by Pakistan are involved, and terrorism is within the dialectic of India-Pakistan relations, the problem would seem manageable. But if it acquires a life of its own, independent of the state of our ties with our neighbour, then its political and social consequences would be much more disastrous.

Religious organisations then step in to provide social services that the state is unable to do, drawing people more and more into the fold of religion and strengthening convictions that only a state run in accordance with the Koranic tenets can resolve the problems of Muslim societies. Such blockages do not exist in India’s liberal and secular democracy and hence our confidence that our Muslims would seek to redress their grievances within the framework of the Indian constitution and not through terrorist violence.

The latter choice would greatly magnify the dimension of our communal problem. So long as a limited number of our Muslims, motivated, trained, financed and armed by Pakistan are involved, and terrorism is within the dialectic of India-Pakistan relations, the problem would seem manageable. But if it acquires a life of its own, independent of the state of our ties with our neighbour, then its political and social consequences would be much more disastrous.

The blasting of our Embassy in Kabul extends the scope of the terrorist threat to India’s security. President Karzai has publicly accused the ISI of complicity and India too has spoken of evidence available of ISI’s involvement. Physically attacking an Embassy is an extremely grave matter. An Embassy is the symbol of a country’s sovereignty and dignity abroad. Seeking to destroy it is tantamount to a declaration of war. Islamic groups have so far attacked the Embassies of those countries who are seen as historical oppressors of Muslims or supporters of Israel at the expense of Palestinian rights, or those seeking political control of the Arab world and its resources or protecting unrepresentative Arab regimes, or being guilty of insulting Islam.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Kanwal Sibal

Former Foreign Secretary of India

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