Indian Governments Soft-Kneed Counter-Terrorism Approaches

India was once again subjected to insensate killing of its unarmed innocent civilians in the heart of India's capital city of New Delhi, last weekend (October 2005). New Delhi has been subjected by Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, time and again in the last couple of years. This has notably included the Parliament House, the military garrison in Red Fort and now the serial bombings at four locations on the eve of the major Hindu festival of Diwali. Earlier in July 2005, Pakistan-based terrorists attacked the inner-sanctum of the Ram Janam Bhumi complex at Ayodhya ' the Hindu equivalent of the Vatican or Mecca for the Muslims.

How is it that Pakistan-based terrorist organizations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed feel emboldened to attack with impunity highly sensitive targets in India?

Plainly speaking, they feel emboldened because Indian Governments of all political hues have not imposed any political or military deterrence on Pakistan-based terrorism directed at India as a strategic weapon used by the Pakistan Army and its rogue terrorist organization. Israel all along has used military deterrence against terrorism directed against it. The United States post'9/11 has used both political and military deterrence against the Islamic Jihad directed against it.

Arguably, both may not have been able to fully stamp out terrorism directed against them, but it is also a fact that their terrorism-deterrent policies have made them and their people that much safer.

India today has no clear-cut declaratory counter-terrorism policy in terms of political and military deterrence to combat the asymmetric war launched against it by Pakistan Army sponsored terrorist outfits.

The major reasons which lead to the above regrettable state of affairs and a soft- kneed political approach to counter-terrorism can be attributed to the following:

  • India's counter-terrorism policies and enactment of anti-terrorism legislation is ham-strung by the domestic politics determinant of Indian Muslim minority vote-banks.

  • India's political over-investment in keeping the India-Pakistan peace dialogue.

  • India's over-reliance on United States assurances that it will restrain Pakistan to desist from its state-sponsored terrorism and proxy war against India.

Successive Indian Governments have been shackled by the domestic politics determinant of catering to the minority vote-banks of Indian Muslims. This led to such politically inadvisable steps like abolishing India's anti-terrorism legislation like the TADA and POTA. The present Congress Government adopted the abolition of POTA as an election plank and which it did on coming into power. Regrettably, India is without a stringent anti-terrorism statute available. This makes the task of law-enforcing agencies very difficult to combat terrorism. Even the United Nations has mandated the imperatives of stringent anti-terrorism laws.

India's political over-investment in the India-Pakistan peace dialogue has time and again prevented it from sending strong deterrent messages to Pakistan that the Indian nation state would not tolerate any further terrorism directed against it. The Indian public is treated to such puerile statements/approaches:

  • India-Pakistan peace dialogue is 'irrevesible'

  • Terrorism incidents will not be allowed to stall the peace process.

  • Accepting the Western argument that Islamic Jehadi organizations in Pakistan are beyond the pale of control of General Musharraf.

India's responses should have been:

  • India-Pakistan peace process is reversible.

  • India will break off the dialogue if Pakistan does not control the terrorist incidents against India.

  • If General Musharraf is unable to control terrorism , India will resume peace dialogue only when a new leader emerges in Pakistan who can control terrorism.

India post-9/11 has over-relied on the United States assurances that India should not raise the stakes against Pakistan and that the United States will prevail over Pakistan's military ruler for restraint. All pledges from General Musharraf conveyed by American interlocutors have turned out to be empty handed.

India's political establishment needs to convey to USA that while US strategic interests may dictate continuance of Pakistan Army rule in Pakistan under General Musharraf, the same is not in India's interests. Further, that if General Musharraf does not deliver on his pledges, India reserves the right to impose whatever deterrence on Pakistan as required by its own national security interests. This could include reciprocating the carrying of India's proxy war into Pakistan.

India's soft stances also stand reinforced by Indian media's noted political columnists and the Indian Government's favorite media foreign policy expert who have been singing the same soft tune. India's judiciary too have placed over- reliance in extending judicial processes to terrorists and by giving precedence to human rights to terrorists who in their killings have shown scant regard for the victims' human rights.

However, after the present serial bombings by Pakistani terrorists, there is a flicker of hope. The Indian public is aroused and demanded strong responses to Pak-based terror. The Indian media has come out of its slumber and come out with strong editorials. Even the pro-peace Times of India was forced to put a front page editorial 'Enough is Enough'.

More heartening, in this context, were two strong points made by the outgoing Chief Justice of India, Mr Lakhoti on the last day of his office i.e. 31st October, 2005, namely:

  • There is only one penalty for terrorists- 'THE DEATH PENALTY'.

  • India's soft counter terrorism responses arose from 'A LACK OF POLITICAL WILL'

It is hoped that the Indian Government gets his very sound message.

India cannot keep on relying endlessly on condemnations from the United Nations, USA, Russia and others to defeat the terrorist threat against it. India itself has to impose political and military deterrence on the perpetrators of terrorism against it.

Plainly speaking, nothing could be more apt than to reproduce a quotation of the noted British strategist Major General JFC Fuller referred to in my book: "India's Defence Policies and Strategic Thought - A Comparative Analysis":

"The nation which depends for the security of its honor on some international force has become but a kept woman. There is only one guardian of honor ' a virile arm backed by a virile brain. Again a state, which is not prepared to defend its honor by a righteous war, and depend on the benevolence of others to guarantee its existence, when its life is threatened, is but a paralytic living in an alms-house; it has scarcely the right to live, for it lacks the might to thrive".   


More by :  Dr. Subhash Kapila

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