Fighting India's War against Terrorism

28 Feb, 2005    ·   1657

Dharini Nathwani argues how India's fight against terrorism remains very much of a national effort despite the global war against terrorism launched by the US

India has been fighting insurgency and terrorism since its days of independence. However, it was the attacks of 11 September which thrust the 'war on terror' into the international sphere and essentially turned the formerly nationalistic problem of terrorism to a global phenomenon. Despite the increased recognition of the urgency of the issue of terrorism, India continues to face terrorist attacks. This raises the question as to whether terrorism is in fact global or whether although the rest of the world now recognizes the problem, eliminating it still remains a task for national governments.

The global 'war on terror', stems from an attack carried out against a country in the West, the question of South Asia's role and importance in this war that it has been fighting single handedly for decades has become increasingly important.

In advocating the 'war on terror', the United States has been accused of failing to recognize the problem of cross-border terrorism in India. Its failure to apply pressure on the Pakistani government in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks suggests an ulterior motive to promote solely its own agenda. Yet its current preoccupation with international terrorism remains ironic as Pakistan remains the epicenter of international terrorism.

Pakistani Jihadi organizations are known to be members of the Bush administrations much despised Bin Laden network. Among these are Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which are the two groups held responsible by India for carrying out the attacks outside the Red Fort in Delhi in December 2001. This incident brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war, following India's skepticism over any peaceful resolution of the Kashmir conflict after the 1999 incident at Kargil. Indian authorities have claimed that the ISI had used terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba in the conflict.

There has been enough evidence to suggest Pakistan is a prominent source for international terrorism, in its supply of arms and ammunition and training for terrorist groups motivated through religion. These groups have operated in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir for decades killing an estimated 70,000 people, 130 times as many that died in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Under pressure from the US, Musharraf has banned most terrorist organizations such as Lashkar and Jaish within its borders, however, Indian and international intelligence suggests terrorist groups are being harbored by the Pakistani government particularly within PoK.

Looking to international organizations such as the UN has lost much of its appeal since the war in Iraq. The loss of credibility renders it incapable of any substantial action against these insurgents or the countries that harbor them. India's most plausible option at the current time seems for it to look to support from the United States and other great powers so that they may apply pressure on the Pakistani government to clamp down terrorist activity from within its borders. India has been successful in drawing attention to its problem of terrorism by casting Pakistan as a breeder and supporter of terrorist organizations. An attack on the Gateway of India (Mumbai) in August 2003 suggests the efforts so far have been ineffective. The Lashkar has been linked to this attack and remains a wonder that Pakistan allows Muhammed Saeed, the leader behind the organization, much freedom to operate.

In conclusion it can be said, India's war against terrorism remains largely her own problem. As Indian patience is running low, lack of international support suggests India will have to deal with its problem of terrorism on its own accord. There is no current convention on how to fight terrorists that pose a threat to a nation's security. The US acted against terrorism in their war against Afghanistan. It should then be of no surprise to the international community if India follows the same line of action in parts of Pakistan, primarily Pakistan occupied Kashmir where, militant groups have been waging a violent rebellion in Kashmir since 1989, trading fire with Indian security forces on almost a daily basis. The area of heightened concern is the escalation of the conflict to the possibility of nuclear war which has forced the region into the international spotlight and will continue to do so on a sporadic basis.

The pressing problem of India's war against terrorism with particular reference to Kashmir conflict and Pakistan can be summed up in the all too famous quote, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter". It is therefore essential that an international consensus on what constitutes as terrorism is developed and enforced by the international community so as to enable India to effectively deal with the problem of terrorism within its borders.