Need for a fine balance

GLOBAL TURBULENCE AND INDIA

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything’s fine today that is our illusion” — Voltaire

The United Kingdom has been a victim of three terror attacks since Mar 2017. The terrorists first struck in the Westminster area, followed by the Manchester attack at Ariana Grande concert in May and later, the London Bridge attack of June 6. When these are viewed in concert with the series of attacks that took place in Paris in November 2015 and the subsequent attacks in Brussels and Berlin in end 2016, many questions come to the fore.

Why major cities in the world have been targeted by terrorists? It is simply because they are ideal for optimum media cover and provide oxygen for their organisation. Ironically, it is this publicity which provides them with recruits.

The techniques used in these attacks ranged from the primitive use of daggers, mowing of innocent bystanders with vehicles to application of ‘Technology driven Sophisticates Operational Practices’ (TSOPs), involving multiple personnel addressing different locations simultaneously.

Interestingly, the attackers involved in these incidents have been primarily Muslims of first/second generation immigrants living in democratic countries. Yet, terror group Islamic State (IS) managed to lure them into these dastardly acts through their online propaganda machinery.

It is a manifestation of the application of ‘crowdsourcing’ and leveraging technology/social media by the terrorists to expand their footprints globally. The recent terrorist attacks have revealed chinks in the intelligence agencies to pre-empt their occurrence. The famous British Intelligence agencies MI-15 and MI-16 too failed on this account.

According to a Rand Corporation (US-based think tank) study of 2015, it was discovered that IS has over 76,000 twitter accounts, a clear jump from the 46,000 accounts reported in 2014. Terrorist groups like Taliban, al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and IS have succeeded in crowdsourcing and crowdfunding through online sympathisers/moles including physical support.

An article on crowdsourcing in the January issue of IS magazine ‘Rumiyah’, a detailed narration on its employability as a weapon of terror including TSOPs has been given. Taliban, al Qaeda and IS have been primarily Sunni Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisations. Taliban and al Qaeda were created by the ISI of Pakistan under the tutelage of the US to defeat then USSR and establish a pro-US/Pakistan regime in Afghanistan.

By 1990, the monster of Taliban/al Qaeda had grown big even for their masters. The strategic thinkers of that time paid little attention to this new monster of international violence. In 1991, Francis Fukuyama, an American scholar proclaimed in his book, ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the end point of humanity’s socio-cultural evolution.

It was a signal that the US was moving to forge a ‘new world order’ based on their perceived national interest. The Gulf war and Iraq war launched by the US were the moves in this direction. It was the 9/11 attack by al Qaeda on the World Trade Centre that brought the new monster of terror into the forefront.

Today, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the entire West Asia is in the grip of radical terrorist organisations especially the IS, supported covertly and overtly by the state and non-state actors. The IS tentacles have been emerging in East Asian countries also.

In response, the hate crimes in the US and other western countries have escalated. The recent attack on Muslims during a mosque prayer in London is noteworthy. There is a rise of radical political class who want to stop the entry of Muslim immigrants from the war zones of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas.

It goes without saying that it is the US, Russia, Pakistan, China and the Gulf countries who are stoking the fire of terrorismto further their national interests with utter disregard to the international community.

India has been a victim of state-sponsored terrorism launched by the ISI of Pakistan, a long standing ally of China who is moving aggressively to establish its own position as a dominant leader in the international arena. The ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is China’s strategic venture designed to project its soft and hard power unequivocally. It is aimed to provide direct access to China into the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea to take care of its larger national interests encompassing energy security, power projection and continued economic propulsion.

Qatar issue

India with its $153 trillion economy, which is expanding at the rate of over 7% annually, is viewed sceptically by China. Its big brother policy to protect Pakistan from being indicted for terror-related activities in the UN and other international forums is designed to keep India under check.

The recent developments in the Gulf region over the accusation levied on Qatar supporting terrorism have far reaching implications. India draws over 70% of its energy needs from the region. The remittances from near 6 million Indians residing in the region amount to $30 billion annually.

With the Shia-Sunni divide and the emergence of fresh cold war between Russia and the US in the region, India has to maintain a fine balance. We must remain out of the loop of ‘regime change strategy’ and yet deploy adequate soft power to safeguard our national interest without interfering in the internal affairs of the countries in the region.

India under the current leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken giant strides in building its position amongst the international community. India’s initiatives like ‘Act East Policy’, ‘Kabul-India Economic Air Bridge’ and ‘Make in India’ projects can propel India further into the international arena.

The key to its success lies in the execution of its projects with speed and alacrity and strong military deterrence. Let there be no politicking over terrorism, national security and the hope of a secure and progressive India.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based defence, security and strategy analyst)

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