The terrorist blasts in Delhi and Islamabad made clear that terrorism is here to stay unless it is defeated decisively. For an outright victory the war against terror will have to be fought with genuine intent. We must recognize that we are indeed fighting a new and a very different kind of war. Drawing lessons from the recent blasts the following five-point plan suggests itself for overcoming terrorism.
A section of the media has attempted to pick holes in the police version of the Delhi blasts. Judging from past experience, it is entirely possible that the police version is not wholly accurate. But is it substantially inaccurate? Media reports have argued that the alleged mastermind of the blasts, Atim Amin, could not have been a terrorist. They have recalled his background, quoted his friends and relatives, and pointed to his scholastic record to assert this. For the sake of argument let us assume that he was not a terrorist. But, after all is said, the bottom line is that he was in the same room as armed terrorists who shot dead a police officer who had knocked on the door. If Atim was indeed not a terrorist, one may draw the first point of the plan to fight terror. For a war on terror, the state must make it painfully clear to all citizens that in such a war there are no neutrals. It is us against them. Terrorists may have, naturally, friends and relatives who abjure and abhor terrorist violence. They must be told in clear terms that, whatever their past association with a terrorist, they must sever all links with him. Terrorists must be totally shunned and isolated. Otherwise people, innocent themselves, who continue association with terrorists will be deemed guilty of abetting terrorism.
The second point in the plan to fight terror flows from the need to beef up intelligence. Apart from streamlining official agencies the government must create a people's assembly in every one or two polling booths. Voters in these booths should elect a five member executive with authority to oversee the purely local problems in their urban locality or rural village. This executive would be accountable to all the voters in the unit through weekly meetings in a hall or village square. This elemental unit of Panchayati Raj must be given a new and primary level of purely local policing. The local policeman functioning under the existing hierarchy must be accountable for salary and performance to the local citizens. One main function of this primary policing would be to keep watch on new entrants in the locality and on any unusual activities being pursued. The IB through its state units can keep tabs on what is going on across the nation through interaction with these elemental units. Citizens have a vested interest in keeping their neighborhood secure. This interest should be exploited.
The third point arises from creating a political focus on fighting the war on terror regardless of narrow electoral advantage of each political group. To achieve it, this scribe has suggested elsewhere that a national government be established for the next five years. An equitable arrangement for power sharing between the UPA and NDA is not beyond formulation. Only when such a national consensus government is created may the government initiate meaningful steps to implement the next and fourth point in the plan to fight terror.
The recent escalating terrorist acts in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan indicate need for a unified central command directing terrorist activity in the subcontinent. The frequent close cooperation between such diverse terrorist groups as LTTE, Jihadis and various separatist terror groups gives clear affirmation of a single enemy at work ' much like an octopus deploying different tentacles! If the enemy is united, the governments combating it cannot afford to remain divided. The collaboration between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan must be close and coordinated for an effective war against terror. If the governments and armies of all three nations jointly mount action against terrorism, there is no reason why they will not succeed. In fact NATO troops can be urged to withdraw from Afghanistan. Aid from the US and the west may be limited to equipment and intelligence inputs. A united South Asia can demonstrate to the world its self sufficiency for preserving security.
Such close cooperation between nations presupposes not only consensus between Karzai, Zardari, Gilani, Nawaz Sharif, Manmohan Singh and Advani, but equally close cooperation between General Kapoor and General Kayani. All governments must overlook the past and focus on the present war. Pakistan alleges that India is funding Baloch insurgency. India accuses Pakistan of abetting terrorism in Kashmir. Now jointly both nations must bury the past and single-mindedly end the scourge of terrorism. It would be na've to believe that this level of cooperation can ever be achieved without commitment to a lasting arrangement for South Asian unity. And that brings us to the fifth and last point in the plan to fight terror.
Nations jointly fighting terror will need to accept in principle the establishment of a South Asian Union having joint defence and a common market ' in other words, pushing forward a suitably updated South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Plans to implement this can urgently be worked out by the officials of all three nations. This plan can be propagated as the future roadmap for South Asia. While fighting terrorists in the hot spots of India and Pakistan, it must be recognized that there are genuine grievances which need to be addressed in Kashmir, India's Northeast, Pakistan's NWFP and Balochistan. It can be explained to the peoples in these regions how their ethnic identities and self-governing rights will in the natural course be protected in the South Asian Union once it has been established after a successful war on terror is concluded.
This five-point plan, if implemented, should succeed in eliminating organized terror from South Asia within the next five years. The plan may sound too ambitious. But are the South Asian goals of international terrorists any the less ambitious? The plan may initially be considered unacceptable by other governments. But if President Zardari and General Kayani in Pakistan accept it, the rest might follow. If terrorism succeeds, South Asia as we know it will cease to exist. Pakistan most likely will be the worst sufferer. Other nations might face crippling damage. Pakistan could face extinction.