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Mainstream, VOL XLIX No 32, July 30, 2011

Rise of Global Terrorism

Monday 1 August 2011


Condemnation should ring out loud and clear against the serial attacks in Mumbai on July 13 which left more than 15 people dead (according to latest figures, 20) and many injured. The terrorists want to send out a common message about their ability to attack with accuracy at a time and place of their choice. The sites, timing and modus operandi of these attacks expose the level of coordination, execution and obnoxious nexus between the terrorists, locals and outsiders. Pakistan needs to realise that gradually it is becoming victim of its own game. The rising tide of continuing insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has further worsened the situation. The cross-border terrorism, supported by Pakistan, has disturbed the life of the Valley. Various militant outfits, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, etc. have been engaged in eliminating innocent bystanders.

These attacks have not only exposed the security and intelligence networks but also robbed the confidence of modern nations in controlling the menace.
Whether terrorism is unleashed at the local, regional, national or international level, it cannot survive for long without international support and collaboration.

In a globalised world, the matrices of power turn on the highly visible, inegalitarian structure of the international economy and as such inter-relations between socio-economic conditions in different parts of the world are becoming more and more obvious.

At another level the post-Cold War inter-national political-economic order is still a victim of the power game that was thrust on the world by the then big powers.

The power-network, woven by the US and its allies in the entire West Asian region, has provoked the ire of the opposition forces in almost every state where the US has had an interest-based relationship.

Thus, as societies globalise and curtains of opacity are removed through increased inter-societal interactions at the international level, people in the underdeveloped countries are holding the big powers responsible for their inferior socio-economic positions.

The major power of the world needs to realise that to a great extent it is gradually becoming a victim of its own game. The post-Second World War ideological rivalries between the capitalist countries and the socialist bloc have created many problems.

Years of interference in crucial areas such as Afghanistan, South-East Asia, Gulf and Latin American countries has resulted in the development of peculiar trends which provided breeding grounds for terrorist activities.

The Talibanisation of Afghanistan would never have taken place had the powerful nations handled the situation well in the beginning. Consequences of the failure to diagnose this social disease (terrorism) at the early stage can be pernicious for various countries.

The strategies of imposing arms and economic sanctions on the so-called rogue nations during the last few years have been counter-productive, and rather helped these nations to gain international sympathy.

ALTHOUGH the prospect of a permanent solution to the problem of terrorism is still far away, one hopes that the powerful nations will develop a more mature understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism that has assumed alarming pro-portions.

The rapid international transportation and use of sophisticated weapons like AK-47 assault rifles and plastic explosives (RDX) have helped to facilitate the expansion of terrorist networks around the world.

Besides, the new suicide squads of terrorists have left the entire security apparatus of the affected states in a state of shock. The recent incidents cannot be viewed in isolation.

A leading anti terrorism expert, Brian Jenkins, believes that though more articulate and multiplied effort by the police and intelligence can tell us about a possible terrorist attack, there is still confusion over whether such a mechanism is successful in dealing with terrorists driven by fundamentalism. Gradually, religion is becoming the main motivating force for terrorism across the globe.

There is a growing nexus between terrorists and internationally organised crime networks. Alison Jamieson, a British analyst on organised crime and political violence, commented that a distinction between terrorism and organised crime has become very blurred recently.

An Italian organised crime expert, Professor Ernesto, says: “The terrorist’s goal is an ideological one, while organised crime’s goal is financial, but the instrument is the same. They both need money and arms”.

In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers engaged in drug trafficking to finance their struggle. In North-Eastern India guerrillas kidnap tea planters and hold them to ransom to help fund their fight for independence. In Chechnya, the secessionists were heavily involved in drug distribution.

These days terrorists are more confident than ever before of their access to the vulnerable points before carrying out any of their attacks and they plan their attack in a heroic manner for the justification and fulfilment of a cause which they think is just.

Thus, they attempt, by their acts, to inspire and manipulate fear to achieve a variety of purposes. Therefore, jostling crowds, busy hotels and crowded trains are increasingly becoming targets of terrorism.

For effective administrative measures, various sources of terrorism must be found first. There is a need for truly effective preparedness programme at the government level.

First, we must know about the people involved in terrorist activities and their motivation.

Dealing with a terrorist incident and mitigating its consequences need to be carefully thought out. Sufficient data about the terrorist-hit area could be of immense use.

Intelligence should be able to provide information about the terrorists’ target, timing and site in advance. But the government alone cannot do much to stop it. Individuals and groups can make a significant contribution towards improving the general security environment.

On the other hand, there is a need for sophisticated security procedures which can go all the way from airport screening to the border area. Some kind of positive programme which can alleviate frustration of terrorists can prove effective.

There is also a need to promote open institutions, including political institutions to absorb the ethnic, religious and political pressure and allow terrorists to vent their feelings in a proper way. This will change their mind and thus encourage them to settle their differences in some peaceful way.

Since present-day terrorists are very well organised and more professional than their predecessors a decade ago, new concepts of safety and security should arise. A vigilant and assertive police and paramilitary network should replace the old one.

There is an apprehension that with the availability of biological and chemical weapons, terrorists could start their campaign with a renewed vigour.

NO civilised political system can progress until terrorism is wiped out, but terrorism cannot be eliminated unless there is a political solution. The need of the hour is the political will to solve problems that generate terrorism.

The states affected by terrorism should open up avenues for a negotiated settlement of disputes and exhibit genuine willingness to resolve long-festering problems.

The efforts of the state to maintain security on the face of terrorist threats should go hand in hand with increased devolution of power to the people and greater democratisation of the system of power and administration.

This threat can be encountered by training and development of a new mechanism bolstered by a multi-dimensional and multi-layered approach based on checks and balances. Since time is changing fast and terrorists have modernised both in strategies and the outlook, following suggestions may be worth considering:

• Carefully examining important incidents and preparing detailed action oriented reports on insurgency and terrorist affected areas.

• Building a sophisticated communication network as part of a wider modernisation drive which gives access to the latest technology to intercept any communication between terrorists.

• Better management of local contacts and sources of assistance to generate sufficient inputs for intelligence.

• Developing new techniques of security and maintenance of secrecy.

• Talent transfer: the need for specialists trained in countering terrorism.

• Need to develop a think-tank specialised in encountering tactics.

• Better management of security development programmes for different levels of police and intelligence.

• Police, intelligence and Army officers should be trained to provide active but neutral leadership to their units.

• Security officials can coordinate with intelligence agencies and can be trained to take the initiative in implementing strategic development plans in consultation with experts from various branches.

• Developing capability to anticipate security needs particularly in terrorist affected areas. This is possible by conducting specialised courses for monitoring security situations.

These measures alone cannot become effective unless prompt and effective amendments are introduced in the criminal judiciary system. Some of these reforms were made earlier too but were not properly implemented. The panel should be able to take the initiative in implementing development plans in consultation with experts from different branches of government. Coordination between the panel and various security agencies could be of immense use in this regard. What is needed is the political will and courage to implement these suggestions effectively and promptly.

To become a more effective machinery, the intelligence and police must attempt to expand their respective scopes and bring about strategic mechanism with the help of the general public, intelligence agencies and international security apparatus. The problem of law and order is different from the problem of terrorism. We often make the mistake of treating both as the same. Therefore, time is of essence and it is high time we realised that a different and focused encounter strategy is required for combating the tentacles of terrorism.

Dr Sudhir Hindwan is a Chandigarh-based Professor of Poliitical Science and an expert on strategic affairs.

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