Sunday, January 25, 2009

Terrorism and War Clouds over South Asia by Shamim-ur-Rahman

Terrorism and war clouds over South Asia by Shamim-ur-Rahman.

Author is a Senior Correspondent in Daily Dawn, Pakistan

Published in DAWN suppliment on January 21, 2009. "Anti-Terrorism & Disaster Management Conference)

With the demise of the Soviet Union the balance of power maintained during the cold war of ideologies also withered away and the world saw sudden and massive sprouting of non-state actors, and decision making in world politics acquired religious undercurrents. Some called it clash of civilization and some billed it as global terrorism.

Since 9/11 tragedy non-state actors are held responsible for all the challenges to the international peace and security. The American response to 9/11 in the form of massive attack on Afghanistan against and Iraq, without any cool headed attempt to define terrorism and the terrorists, to many analysts represented that religious undercurrent in Washington's approach to dealing with global security.

The jingoistic frenzy was so high that Neocons, saddled with enormous military might were not ready to address the root cause of the problem and they thought they could wipe out these terrorists with their unchallenged military might. They forgot that under international law States have an obligation to act with due diligence in confronting non-State actors that engage in terrorism.

Analysts have said that terrorism is a complex issue with no easy resolution. They believe that terrorism is not a specifically "Middle Eastern" or "Islamic" problem. Historically, " the continent of Europe pioneered political violence on a world scale, developed modern industrial war, and played the leading role in developing those particular instruments of modern political action and control: genocide, systematic state torture, and terrorism".

Today, Western countries feel that their own lives, their flawed but nonetheless substantial liberal and democratic values are under threat. What they are describing value system , is in fact their religious bias which is reflected on the question of Turkey's entry into the EU and other Muslim countries' attempt to acquire control of their resources and harnessing nuclear energy.

Much has been written on the question whether a comprehensive definition of terrorism exists, but generally experts believe that what is required is a general anti-terrorists convention away from the bunch of destructive conceptual and semantic confusion and controversy so that no terrorist activity remains unpunished. But instead a new constellation of the tyrants following Clausewitz's doctrine went on a rampage and tried to impose their will as international law. The fight against terrorism has resulted in violation and denial of human rights as it was dictated by national security considerations of the US alone.

Terrorism is the defining issue of the post 9/11 world. It is also one of the most confusing and contested words in the political lexicon. But if one looks deeper into international security order it will become clear that non-state actors did not emerge overnight after 9/11. Militancy and extremism was there even before 9/11 due to denial of inalienable rights to freedom and economic opportunities to a vast majority of the world population. It mostly affected the regions which are Muslim dominated. But during the Cold War it was couched in ideological conflict between the so-called Free World and the Communist bloc led by the Soviet Union. Extremism and militancy proliferated as Palestinians were thrown out of the homeland and made refugees. Efforts were made to get them wiped out with the connivance of proxy of the colonial powers. World peace was endangered by Israel as it continued its lethal military offensive against unarmed civilians in occupied Palestine and tried to change the equation in Lebanon, It was also brewing behind the Iron Curtain as Moscow tightened its noose over Central Asian states rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas. It was also injected in the body politics of the sub-continent by imposing the unjust boundary award on Pakistan and failure of the world community in preventing Kashmir's occupation by India and not taking any action against its genocide of the Kashmiris fighting for their right to self determination. This was much before 9 /11. Extremism also proliferated due to iniquitous world economic order in which resources of developing countries were controlled by the big powers.

After 9/11 we are once again passing through defining moments due to Mumbai terrorist attacks after which India, following in the foot-steps of the US, has launched a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. accusing it of complicity in the crime and being the epicenter of terrorism, in an effort to prepare the international community's mind for its surgical strike against Pakistan. It is not agreeing to joint investigation of the incident, as proposed by Pakistan, nor is it prepared to invoke the bilateral convention on terrorism to find the truth. It is in fact using the terrorist act to advance the Indian state's diabolic grand designs against Pakistan.

India's blow hot blow cold diplomacy continues, raising the cost of conflict with Pakistan, without firing a bullet. Despite hectic international diplomacy to prevent outbreak of a catastrophic India-Pakistan war, as a consequence of New Delhi's display of hyper-belligerency towards Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attack, war clouds are still hovering and both the countries are taking adequate steps to deal with the unfolding situation. But war gaming is becoming a bit itchy as both the countries are sticking to their respective positions , though moderating a little due to proactive indulgence of the external actors.

India demonstrated an unprecedented and unexpected belligerence towards a nuclear Pakistan after the Mumbai incident which was used by the Indian media, advocates of Hindutva and hawkish elements in Congress led by Pranab Mukherji, himself trying for the top slot after the upcoming Indian elections. The Indian attitude was understandable because of the nexus between New Delhi and Washington following their strategic alliance.

On the other hand it has put Pakistan in an awkward defensive mode because its defences on the Eastern borders had been depleted and exposed, thanks to questionable deployment of Pakistani troops on the Western borders with Afghanistan to fight what was initially the American war on terror that has divided the country from within horizontally and vertically. The Indian threat has escalated while the country is under grave economic stress and political leadership, both in the government and in the opposition, had no comprehension of the gravity of the situation. Their attitude is making the Indian game plan easier to implement because of the mounting cleavage between them amid smear campaign against each on narrow agenda.

It will be a wonderful thing if the world community succeeded in averting a military show down in South Asia, otherwise the world will have to have cost of conflict, and for a longer time. Since the tension shot up to the danger level, Pakistan has insisted that India should deactivate its forward air bases and withdraw troops to their peace time bases. It should also provide proof of Indian charge sheet. Pakistan is also advocating inclusion if China and Iran in the war against terrorism. India maintains that it had not mobilized troops so there was no question of withdrawing it.

On the other Pakistan was very late in comprehending that Indian attitude was dictated also by its strong economy and integrated Pakistan-centric offensive strike capability which was gradually beefed up since 2004 under a new cold start war doctrine which envisages a blitzkrieg type strategy involving joint operations by the army, navy and the air force .Indian leadership came up with this doctrine particularly after the Kargil incident.

Perhaps this time interests of India and the West have converged because of the rising militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. Surgical strikes attempts to hold on some territory will be the main objective –to bring down the government, disintegrate the military and disintegrate the country. It might also be part of the plan to enable the West to come in militarily as arbiter and deny Pakistan of nukes as a fait accompli. But surgical strike will not remain contained and controlled operation.

According to reports India has, to a great extent, created infra- structure of integrated forward deployment of its combat command close to Pakistan's border during peace time that is why the ISPR chief had recently said that there was no significant forward movement of the Indian troops close to our borders. The so-called violation of Pakistan's air space was definitely a probing mission to test Pakistan's reaction time to the violation of the agreement on no fly zone by military aircraft close to the borders.

Analysts believe that India might have reconstituted its Strike Corps and may have reinforced it to provide offensive elements for the battle groups to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan involving Air Force, and navy in the southern sector. It also means that Strike Corps no longer require the long haul mobilization. Since the most significant aim of the new war doctrine is to strike offensively without giving away battle indicators of mobilization. Hence reports about deployment in Barmer-Jaisalmer-Bikaner-Suratgarh sector. India has pushed the temperature on the high as it maintained the element of surprise necessary to prevent crossing of the nuclear threshold by either side. But can it prevent that, given the India-Pakistan disparity in conventional weapons.

The cold start war doctrine based on NATO's strategy has provided India greater element of surprise in terms of when, where and how it would launch its attack. Many analysts believe that India might have lost that element of surprise because of the lingering on of diplomatic activity to cool off the situation. But that is perhaps to the advantage of New Delhi be which wants to keep Islamabad guessing and come under tremendous economic and psychological pressure due to mobilization of troops.

Perhaps the initial Pakistani response to the Indian threat of a surgical attack was correct and also provided it the time to redeploy its formations.

Perhaps the initial Pakistani response to the Indian threat of a surgical attack was correct and also provided it the time to redeploy its formations, reinforce its reserve corps and devising strategy for fighting a war in an environment where the IAF has a significant numerical air superiority and for countering India's long range missile through a credible anti-ballistic missile defence, and making it impossible for the Indian Navy to impose a blockade of Pakistan's sea lanes.

The war doctrine represent growing power of the Indian military to "compel the political leadership to give political approval 'ab-initio' and thereby free the Armed Forces to generate their full combat potential from the outset, shift from capturing bits of Pakistan territory in small scale multiple offensives to be used as bargaining chips after the cease fire; and focus on the destruction of the Pakistani Army and its military machine. The objective is to deny Pakistan any opportunity to muster global community's indulgence in defusing the situation. Indian government seems to be under increasing pressure of the hawkish elements who want it to use offensive military power .through pre-emptive strategies.

Pakistan cannot remain oblivious of the fact that much before the cold start doctrine was unfolded, Indian military writers have been writing about "reconstructing" Pakistan through a "stable democratic order brought on by unmanageable civil unrest forcing the army back into the barracks, mandated by the global community in the face of increasing global threat from radical Islamist groups. They have also been trying to solicit global community's support, "after military intervention by India". They had not ruled out the possibility of a full-scale civil war, leading to breakaway of one or more of the provinces of Pakistan.

The Indian diplomacy has been focused on the Western sensitivity that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Pakistan was the epicenter of terrorism and that "no lasting solution for peace in Afghanistan can be found without some restructuring in Pakistan". The Indian attitude since Mumbai terrorist attack and its charges against the so-called terrorist outfit in Pakistan is reflective of that mindset.

Pakistan cannot also not ignore the fact that India is being sucked into the so-called peace keeping role in Afghanistan by the US-led coalition and has been using this territory to foment terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. It has sent its mountain-trained paramilitary force tasked with guarding the border with China, under the garb of guarding its workers. India has gained a strategic depth vis-à-vis Pakistan in Afghanistan and the establishment of Indian military airbase in Farkhor, Tajikistan which is first Indian military airbase overseas, and is convenient for transportation of men and material to and from Afghanistan.

Pakistan needs to revisit its economic and security policy and more than improve its governance for ensuring sustainable democratic dispensation. Country cannot be sure of its destiny by always looking for external players to bail it out of difficulties. We have to remove the cause of horizontal and vertical divide within.

There are apprehensions that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. ENDS

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