Homeland Security

Changing Face of Terror
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Issue Vol 21.2 Apr-Jun2006 | Date : 17 Nov , 2010

In Central Asia the linguistic and cultural diversity intersects with politically charged separatist and irredentist demands growing out of a vast set of subnational (clan, tribal, regional, or even village) loyalties, anemic economic growth, and sclerotic political institutions, which in turn confront various former communist leaders who, quickly donning nationalist guise, have embarked on determined efforts at national consolidation in these newly independent states. In the thick of these struggles, state failure in Afghanistan produced a healthy supply of foot soldiers for various extremist opposition movements, while the war on terrorism that followed has empowered local despots to attempt neutralising both reformist and insurgent opposition.11

South Asia has been experiencing the menace of terrorism since early 1980s. Terrorist violence exacerbated in South Asia in the post- 9/11 period, particularly in the crises of December 2001 and May 2002 after terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament and the Indian Army camp in Kaluchak, respectively.

Viewed in a broad perspective, North-east Asia is very heavily armed. There are massive military forces; some armed with high-tech equipment, ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. The United States enjoys military pre-eminence in the region, both owing to its global military reach and because of its alliances with Japan and South Korea and its friendship with Taiwan. Accordingly, this region is greatly affected by shifts in US strategy, such as the newly articulated doctrine of preemption. Some aspects of the more assertive US approach came in response to the threat of terrorism. Existing territorial disputes within North-east Asia, including South/North Korea; China/Taiwan. Japan’s territorial disputes with Russia, South Korea, China and even Taiwan entail the potential of flaring up thereby threatening the security of the region. South Korea and China also have a maritime dispute. Perception of each other as security threat by the countries of North-east Asia and their conflicts of national interest are prone to undermine the overall security environment. Such an eventuality provides a fertile ground for terrorism to thrive.

South Asia has been experiencing the menace of terrorism since early 1980s. Terrorist violence exacerbated in South Asia in the post- 9/11 period, particularly in the crises of December 2001 and May 2002 after terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament and the Indian Army camp in Kaluchak, respectively. Until 2004, the United States continued to buy Pakistan’s version of terrorist violence occurring in the subcontinent on the lines that there was a differentiation between ‘global’ terrorism and mere ‘local’ terrorism’, a position India was reluctant to subscribe to.

Improvement in Indo-US relations in 2005 and President Bush’s visit to India in early March 2006 has been instrumental in transformation in American perceptions about terrorism in the subcontinent and the relative potentialities of both India and Pakistan to contribute to US endeavours in combating global terrorism. Frequent media reports indicate Pakistan’s inability in handling al Qaeda and Taliban activists within its own borders and along the Pakistan-Afghan border. In other words, countries of South Asia have to live with terrorism in the years to come because the fragile situation in Afghanistan continues to linger on and the remnants of Taliban-al Qaeda activists still remain in commanding position.


Terrorism has assumed a pervasive character and its menace threatens almost every country on the globe in general and Asian region in particular with occasional occurrence of terrorist incidents in West European countries. The US strategy of combating the global war on terrorism, in the aftermath of 9/11 and its Operation Democracy in Iraq since March 2003, has not thus far met with desired results. Al Qaeda and its affiliate transnational terrorist groups are poised against the US and they even have the potential of having access to WMD. The US strategy of combating terrorism has elicited support of rulers of many Islamic countries but it has antagonised the Muslim masses in general, particularly in the Muslim authoritarian countries, where ground for ‘silent sympathy and support’ for al Qaeda is incrementally swelling.

The prevailing scenario calls for re-assessment of overall US strategy and Washington must shun pursuing policies that reflect intentions of nurturing ‘unipolarism’ and ‘retention of military preponderance.’ Instead of pursuing unilateral approach in combating terrorism, Washington should adhere to multilateral approach with prominent role for the United Nations, European Union, G-8, ASEAN etc.


1.  The term ‘Unipolar Moment’ was made popular by Charles Krauthammer. For more details see, Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 70, no. 1 (1990/91), pp. 23–33.

2.  The discussion on the possibilities of stability in the post-Cold War period is adequately facilitated in the works of many scholars. For details see, Graham Allison and Gregory Treverton (eds.), Rethinking America’s Security: Beyond Cold War to New World Order (New York: Norton, 1992); Brad Roberts (ed.), Order and Disorder After the Cold War (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995). Also see, Richard K. Betts (ed.), Conflict After the Cold War: Arguments on Causes of War and Peace (New York: Longman, 2002).

3.  For more details see, Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004), p. 12. Also see, Richard A. Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror (New York: Free Press, 2004).

4.  Anil Kumar Singh, India’s Security Concerns in the Indian Ocean (New Delhi: Har-Anand Publications, 2003), p. 224.

5.  United States, Department of States, Annual Report on the Global Patterns of Terrorism, reports from 1991 to 2001.

6.  Cited in W.P.S. Sidhu, “US Retaliation: Fusion Reaction”, India Today, 24 September 2001, p. 35.

7.  This point is amply illustrated by the following studies- Frank B. Tipton, The Rise of Asia: Economics, Society and Politics in Contemporary Asia (Hampshire: Macmillan, 1998); Aaron L. Friedberg, “Introduction”, in R. J. Ellings and Aaron L. Friedberg (eds.), Strategic Asia 2001-02: Power and Purpose (Seattle: The National Bureau of Asian Research, 2001), pp. 1-16; James F. Hoge, “A Global Power Shift in the Making”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 4, July/August 2004, pp. 2-7.

8.  Steven Simon, “The New Terrorism: Securing the Nation Against a Messianic Foe”, Brookings Review, No. 21, No. 1, Winter 2003, pp. 18-24. Also see, Murat Karagoz, “September 11: A New Type of Terrorism”, Perceptions, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2002), pp. 140-167; and Isabelle Duyvesteyn, “How New Is the New Terrorism?”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 27, No. 5 (2004), pp. 439-454; and David Tucker, “What is New about the New Terrorism and How Dangerous is It?”, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 13, No. 3 (2004), pp. 1-14.

9.  Ian O. Lesser, “Introduction”, in Ian O. Lesser et al., Countering the New Terrorism (Santa Monica: RAND, 1999), pp. 1-2.

10.        Raymond Bonner and Don van Natta Jr., “Regional Terrorist Groups Pose Growing Threat, Experts Warn”, The New York Times, February 8, 2004.

11.        For details see, Gregory Gleason, “Central Asia: State Building in the Face of Resurgent Islam”, in A. Tellis and Wills (eds.), Strategic Asia 2004-05: Confronting Terrorism in the Pursuit of Power (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2004), pp. 199-225.

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Dr Anil Kumar Singh

Dr Anil Kumar Singh, Executive Editor, Aaj Tak and author of the book Military and Media

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