Anti Terrorism Day 2021: India and the impact of terrorism
BY MAJ GEN JAGATBIR SINGH, (RETD),
The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) is an independent think tank dedicated to shifting the world’s focus to peace as a positive, achievable, and tangible measure of human well-being and progress. As per its latest Global Terrorism (GTI) 2020 report; South Asia continues to remain the most impacted region by terrorism in 2019 recording more deaths than any other region. It also has the widest disparity between Afghanistan and Bhutan which has a GTI score of zero, indicating that it has not recorded a single terrorist attack in the past five years.
A country reporting a high score out of 10 on the index is ranked on top as the worst impacted nation. India ranked eighth, with a score of 7.353. It was at number two for four out of the five years from 2002 to 2006 as per the same index. While Afghanistan (9.592) was reported to be the most impacted of the 163 countries, Iraq (8.682) was the second most affected nation, while Pakistan at 7.541 was ranked seventh. India reported 558 terrorist attacks in 2019, which was the second highest amongst the top ten countries and recorded 277 deaths which was the lowest amongst the top ten countries, according to the release. “
Compared to other countries amongst the ten, India which has lost two Prime Ministers to terrorism faces the widest range of terrorist groups, with Islamist, left wing extremists, and separatist groups active across the country. It is apparent that the typologies of terrorism, are varied and complex. Fourteen of 35 active terrorist groups in India were responsible for fatalities in 2019. “Maoists, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) were responsible for over two thirds of the total deaths and almost half of the total attacks,” as per the report.
However, the number deaths caused by terrorism as well as the number of terror attacks in India declined by 20 percent in 2019. India also recorded the lowest lethality rate of 0.5 deaths per attack on an average, while the other nine countries reported 2.1 deaths per attack on average, as per the report.
But terrorism in India cannot be looked at merely from a statistical point of view. For those effected every attack is one attack too many and even though our country has been busy battling the pandemic we have recently had to confront the menace of terrorism in the jungles of Sukma on 03 April resulting in the deaths of 22 security personnel.
India has a unique location in one of the world’s most dangerous regions of the globe as far as terrorism is concerned; South Asia is the epicentre of Islamist radicalism. Pakistan continues to harbour non state actors and uses them as a strategic tool of state policy with plausible deniability. The tribal areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, which have long been outside the realm of effective control, have remained a breeding ground for Islamist radicals. This menace is only going to increase with the pull out of the US from Afghanistan and with the coming of power of the Taliban who will support both the Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
We continue to deal with terrorist activities including cross border terrorism on a number of different fronts. These threats include terrorism in Kashmir, and in the North-East, threats in our hinterland, as well as the violent Maoist-inspired left-wing insurgency in parts of central India in what has been dubbed the “red corridor”, following the realignment of various Naxalite factions under the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The success stories have been Punjab and Mizoram. Terrorism can further be subdivided into ethno- nationalist, religious, left wing and narco terrorism.
A number of security and intelligence agencies within the government contribute to counterterrorism efforts. These include state-run police forces, central armed police forces, special security forces, paramilitary forces and the defence forces. The army participates in counterterrorism operations as a last resort, though in Jammu and Kashmir and North East they play a more prominent role. Both State and Central Governments deal with this threat and the Ministry of Home Affairs, oversees national police, paramilitaries, and domestic intelligence gathering.
Apart from this there are several intelligence agencies that monitor terrorist activities both at state and central level. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is the external intelligence agency and the Intelligence Bureau (IB), a division of the Home Affairs Ministry, collects intelligence inside India. A Joint Intelligence Committee analyzes intelligence data from RAW and IB as well as from the military intelligence agencies. Finally, there is the National Security Council which advises the Prime Minister on security related issues.
Unfortunately, the international order has not held India’s hand on issues relating to terrorism, more specifically cross-border terrorism. While our voice has been loud and narrative backed by credible evidence the lack of clarity on countering terrorism, specifically within the UN Security Council (UNSC), has cost India both in economic and human terms. Pakistan has also consistently avoided being placed in the grey list by FATF as they have the backing of certain countries.
Speaking at the United Nations Security Council on the “Twentieth Anniversary of UNSC Resolution 1373” on 12 January this year, Dr Jaishankar said the economic uncertainty caused due to the pandemic “has made the world more susceptible to radicalising narratives and extremist propaganda”. He gave a call to all the member nations to fulfil the obligations enshrined in the international counter-terrorism instruments and said; “enlisting and delisting individuals and entities under the UN sanctions regimes must be done objectively and not for political or religious considerations”.
In order to effectively combat terrorism, it is essential to understand the motivations of existing and prospective members of terrorist groups, as well as the recruitment and funding mechanisms these groups use. The key objective of most entrenched terrorist groups is to attain greater social and political influence, with which the group hopes to implement its desired policies and social changes. The oxygen for them today apart from finances is also use of social media and their networks.
A study of India’s decades-long fight against terrorism, reveals that the counter-terrorism efforts have yielded positive results. Security forces in have combatted a range of terrorist groups and the number of attacks have reduced. Counter-terrorism operations, anti-terrorism legislations, peace agreements and grant of rights to local people and abrogation of Article 370 have gradually reduced terrorism. Despite these efforts, non-state actors in Kashmir and Maoist insurgency in Indian Red Corridor remain.
Since the doctrinal shift in response with the 2016 cross-LoC “surgical strikes, and Balakot strikes in 2019, India has also hardened its stand while tackling terrorism by not hesitating to use its military to cross the L o C thereby sending a message that force and not restraint is our default option.
Terrorist groups have however enhanced their capabilities by gaining access to emerging technologies, including drones, virtual currencies and encrypted communications. Social media networks have contributed to radicalization and recruitment of youth; further new geopolitical alliances are the new threats. Anonymity in the digital world is also being exploited by them. It is therefore imperative to take all necessary measures to overcome existing deficiencies within the security forces and intelligence apparatus to help them maintain the momentum and prevent the resurgence of elements inimical to the country.
Freedom from terrorism lies in the strength of our pillars which include effective institutions, cohesion between various stakeholders, social and economic progress, policies and political will. In other words a whole nation approach. We have need to harness our national power for eliminating this grave threat and a consensus must exist on how best to fight terrorism and extremism.
The different agendas and capabilities of terrorist groups present an unprecedented challenge to India’s national security. As the threat of terrorism continues to change, policymakers need to be aware of novel approaches to be able to counter them effectively. The bottom line is that terrorism can never be justified nor a terrorist be glorified and we must also continue to maintain a policy of zero tolerance against terrorism.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. He can be reached at: email@example.com)