Leakage from Pakistan of WMD material into the hands of a would be terrorist is considered to be a plausible scenario by many experts on terrorism worldwide and has been causing considerable anxiety to the national security establishments the world over.
In other words, tools of political warfare need to be marshalled to deal with the present scourge of terrorism in the world. The assistance of Muslim world is very necessary in this exercise as they alone can display authority in the re-interpretation of the principles involved. They in turn will have to carry the message to regional and local levels. Only then, those, fearing reprisals, and hence keeping silence, will be encouraged to speak out their mind. A well articulated widely spread Muslim opposition could deter the Islamist terrorist like nothing else can. If such an approach is not considered, all else may prove to be an exercise in futility. It is heartening that some Muslim countries like Egypt are displaying certain sensitivity to such matters.
How fear strangulates Muslim opinion to muteness is visible in India. Terrorism in J&K and other parts of India, ISI schemes for destabilising the country and its Government, calls from across the border to unfurl the flag of Islam over India and attempts to dot the Indian borders with hostile cells hardly produce a ripple of condemnation from the Muslim opinion in the country. Such silence is not good for the country since it leads to avoidable misunderstanding and suspicion. Leaders of Muslim opinion of all shades in the country owe it to themselves and their motherland to condemn terrorism without any reservation and to strike it at its root causes. Moderate and liberal Muslims need to network nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, unlike radicals, they have almost no resources. In India due to vote politics they have practically no government backing.
Finally, the complexity and the gargantuan nature of this problem requires that all countries, seeking redress, should place the interest of the world above their own to combat it. It is a strong belief in India that unfortunately USA is yet to subscribe to this view. American opacity to international concerns sometimes is quite bewildering. It was on display when Pakistan was building its nuclear bombs. It is again on display as secrets about the Pakistani help to make North Korea the eighth nuclear weapon power in the world, have tumbled out into the open. This Pakistani readiness to dispense forbidden expertise can mean the doom of the world if its scientific and military community, known to be highly sympathetic to the fundamentalist cause, extends the same support to the Islamist terrorist as Pakistan did to North Korea. Many feel that US arrogant unilateralism and its ambitious vision to dominate the world for ever will be counter productive in the struggle to combat international terrorism.
International terror today largely means the global Jehad against Christianity and Judaism though Bin Laden once identified Hindus also as a target. The Jehadi anger against autocratic repressive regimes in Islamic countries, most of which are supporters of the West, follows from their identification with the West and absence of Sharia from those lands. In Dec 2006, Ayman-al-Zawahiree, Al Qaeda second-in-command, identified Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Chechnya and Somalia as the principal arenas of this struggle. He separates this campaign from similar activities in India, Southern Philippines, Indonesia and Southern Thailand, and apparently suggests that the latter are manifestations of local Jehadi struggle. But the truth is that the sentiments are equally strong in all the territories mentioned and there are matching reflexes also in most Muslim pockets in non-Islamic countries of Europe. And to win this war a struggle for the hearts and minds must be waged and won.
It should be evident that counter-terrorism strategy in various affected countries alone will not yield the requisite results. At best such a strategy can prevent some tragedies and provide perimeter security to sensitive installations and region as a whole. But it cannot neutralise the virus of widespread radicalisation, which is the core problem.
Note: This is the text of a talk delivered at the National Defence College on April 18,07. This paper is based on published information which however is not individually acknowledged.