Terrorism in South Asia: Views from India
Prafulla Ketkar ·       

Since 9/11, terrorism, with its global reach and innovative strategies, has become a serious concern for policy makers. In the South Asian context, cross-border infiltration, multicultural nations, unfinished state building processes and the communal dimension has added to the complexity of this phenomenon. Terrorism in South Asia: Views from India is a noteworthy attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis of terrorism and its various contours. This book is a collection of seventeen papers, dealing with its ideological and theoretical nuances, legal aspects, diverse motivations, complex interrelationships and operational techniques.


In the first section, Shibashis Chatterjee problematizes several issues associated with theories explaining terrorism. The author distinguishes terrorism from other forms of political violence and tries to delink it from the structures of the modern state. The author rightly concludes that the phenomenon of terrorism �??has grown inevitably in conditions of relative deprivation, unjust domination and relentless exploitation of the weak and the voiceless people by the strong and the resourceful ones�??. (p. 46) In the context of recent trends in international terrorism the chapter takes this legitimacy factor into account and concludes that global Islamic terrorism and the domination of the United States are mutually supportive. Unless the West is ready to face up to the charge of a �??legitimacy deficit�?? in their external conduct, mitigating the disease of terrorism is not possible.


The second section focuses on the new trends in terrorist activities. T Sreedhar associates the growth of the Pakistan-Taliban-Al Qaeda network and its various facets like as drug trafficking, arms supply and weapons of mass destruction with the new terrorism. The remaining two papers in this section stress the need to distinguish terrorism from Islam, and to focus on the causes that breeds terrorism rather than dwell on the symptoms of this phenomenon.


Bio-terrorism is one area which calls for more attention. A separate section on this complex topic provides an in-depth analysis of threats posed by biological weapons, including diseases like anthrax, botulism, plague and small pox. While relating the issue to the Indian situation Pushpa Bhargava insists on the need for greater interaction between scientists and policy makers, and the necessity for documentation and classification of the information available on biological weapons.


While restricting the global phenomenon of terrorism to the South Asian context, the next section identifies the transnational network of terrorist and insurgent groups, proliferation of small arms, financing through drug and arms trafficking, strong state support to terrorist activities and the growing culture of suicide terrorism, as some of the characteristics of terrorism specific to the region. While explaining these aspects P V Rao has rightly stated that �??few regions in the world (have) witnessed the global reach of conflicts with purely domestic content as South Asia.�?? (p.159). J Laxmi Narasimha Rao elaborates the linkages between the concept of Jihad and cross border terrorism in South Asia. In a rare enquiry on the proliferation of suicide terrorism, Suba Chandran presents the features and sociological settings of suicide terrorism by taking the LTTE in Sri Lanka and Fidayeen in Kashmir as points of reference.


As terrorists do not acknowledge legal norms, the community of nation-states is finding it difficult to counter this phenomenon on legal premises at the individual or collective level. The inability of the international community to agree on a universally acceptable and comprehensive definition of terrorism due to subjective understandings of this phenomenon makes the task more difficult. The section on legal regimes and terrorism deals with these difficulties and attempts to suggest a way out. At the national level, evolving a legal regime to counter terrorism becomes more complex as differentiating between terrorism, organized crime, insurgency, militancy and separatism is a horrendous task. Even if a nation enacts such a law, it tends to be draconian and abused. G B Reddy has presented a comprehensive historical overview of anti-terrorism laws in India. Since terrorism has penetrated into domestic structures of Indian society the role of the police machinery becomes pertinent in dealing with terrorism. Satya Narayan Pradhan suggests wide-ranging measures to reform the police force through training and providing them adequate technological support and human resources.


The next section brings the focus of discussion to terrorism in Kashmir which is a most tangled issue as it is enmeshed in a matrix of de-institutionalization, poor governance, identity crisis, Islamic fundamentalism and the question of self determination. In his chapter on ethnic identity of the Kashmiri people and terrorism, P Sanjay rightly concludes that �??terrorism based on Kashmiriyat can be addressed by giving more constitutional concessions�?? but �??the Islamic orientation of the Kashmiri identity portends trouble to peace and stability of South Asia�??. (p. 299) How to deal with these multiple identities is the real dilemma of the Indian state. The chapter on the European Union�??s response to terrorism in Kashmir seems to be the odd one in the scheme of this book; instead the international response to this problem would have been better.


The section on Women and Terrorism is a refreshing and relevant one. Since the responsibilities of women are no longer limited to the family, their role and status cannot be ignored in a conflict situation. S Raju, who has done a good deal of work in this area, is of the view that women are �??the worst sufferers in times of war, where they are not responsible for the conflict�?? (p. 326), which is not a holistic picture of the current situation. Women are active agents of peace and conflict in the new situation which is clearly visible in the suicide squads of the LTTE or Kashmiri militants. The role of women as warriors and peace makers needs in-depth analysis.


A comprehensive section on important documents, which includes agreements, treaties and resolutions, on terrorism makes the book more valuable. The book has missed some sections such as the international response to terrorism in South Asia, the issue of child soldiers and the linkages of transnational criminal gangs with terrorist organizations, which only emphasizes the complexity and range of the topic. The analysis of suicide terrorism and women and terrorism needs more depth. The book is well structured and flows from one section to another. Its journey from the international context of terrorism to the region and issue-specific analysis makes it a comprehensive collection of articles on terrorism in South Asia from the Indian perspective.