Counterterrorism Strategies in India and Israel

11 Aug, 2008    ·   2647

R Bhanu Krishna Kiran differentiates between the strategies employed by the two countries against terrorism

India and Israel exist in a hostile environment, encircled by inexorable adversaries and a militarized regional milieu. Both countries have fought wars and witnessed crises in every decade of their existence and both are nations confronting external and internal security threats due to terrorism. Israel pursues its uncongenial anti-Islamic stance, while India pursues the path of a secular state to reconcile its large minorities and each country has adopted significantly different strategic approaches to combat terrorism.

India, with an extensive history of counterterrorism operations, offers three examples of counterterrorism strategies: in Punjab, in Kashmir, and in the northeastern states of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland. Security procedures, economic and social development programs, legal measures, intelligence, and international cooperation, have emerged as significant aspects of these counterterrorism campaigns. The Indian counterterrorism strategy has been a facet of statecraft, which privileges diplomacy and international cooperation. It has always been political and multidimensional and has never been the exclusive domain of the military. India's counterterrorism strategy has never sought the annihilation of the enemy and its politico-military behavior has been Clausewitzian at all time.

By contrast Israel sees counterterrorism strategy as a military problem, comprising of military and police operations to disrupt terrorist infrastructure; commercial aviation security; defense against chemical and biological attacks; intelligence collection and analysis and efforts to strengthen the endurance psychology of the civilian population. Israel uses harsh steps like the elimination of terrorist leaders, the use of air force against terrorist targets, naval attacks and punitive measures like exile, and sealing or destroying the houses of proven terrorists.

Even though India has suffered the largest number of terrorist strikes and deaths due to terrorism in the world, it has never used the artillery or other heavy weapons against the terrorists in any part of India or permitted targeted killings of terrorist leaders. India fights terrorists with weapons that will not lead to a disproportionate use of force and collateral damage. It is committed to peace talks and ceasefire agreements with various terrorist groups, whereas Israel has not adopted these modalities. It is apparent that Indian counterterrorism strategy may be considered "soft" when compared to the hard-line approach of Israel. These distinctions have emerged from the dynamics of culture, politics, geography and technology, which provide the framework for these variations in the strategies of India and Israel.

Meanwhile, India and Israel also recognize the importance of emerging technological trends on counterterrorism strategy, but Israel is more developed than India, which is evident from India's import of weapons systems and surveillance equipment from Israel that is also developing technology specific to counter-terrorism.

India has developed an age-old tradition of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence deriving from Hinduism. Arguably, Indian counterterrorism strategy is influenced by its tolerant culture. By contrast, the culture of Israel derives from its long history of Zionism and Jewish history. Beyond Zionism, Israeli mythology serves as the only source of Jewish military tradition; the immense skill and courage of the Hebrew soldier has fascinated the world.

Even though India and Israel became independent around the same time, India, as a state, has existed much longer than Israel. Indian state institutions exhibit a higher degree of lethargy and less novelty compared to Israel. The political leadership of Israel established a state that suited their needs with Israeli political culture incorporating strong precepts and ideas about the use of force. Whereas in the case of India, the colonial state has disappeared, Indian politicians have retained its features to continue the legacy of colonial rule.

The geography and strategic depth of India and Israel are radically different, which is an important factor that differentiates their strategic approaches to fighting terrorism. Due to its unstable geostrategic location, Israel has adopted a belligerent approach for its survival. As a very small country with very small population, Israel has no military depth. Conversely, India has been a political entity for thousands of years and has a history of statehood under several empires and rulers. Most of its boundaries are natural and its strategic location is geographically and historically consolidated. India has a long history of non-aggression and non-expansion beyond these boundaries, and has continued this tradition after independence.

In conclusion, the counter terrorism strategy reveals the inheritance of the nation's cultural traditions and political institutions that are deeply embedded in the state's culture and psychology, which have a profound influence on the development of counter terrorism strategy. In addition, geographical location and the trends in technology have a role in shaping this counterterrorism strategy.