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Target jihad's ideologues

Target jihad's ideologues

Author: Shobori Ganguli
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 1, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/147330/Target-jihad's-ideologues.html

How many deaths will it take till a man knows that too many people have died, Bob Dylan had once asked, and he found the answer blowing in the wind. Indeed how many more terror attacks must India sustain before we realise that we have bled enough? How many times must we warn Pakistan that retribution will be swift and immediate the 'next time' there is an attack on Indian soil? For how long will New Delhi employ diplomacy, coercive or otherwise, to get Islamabad to crack down on anti-India terror modules? How long will it be before a citizen of this country can move around freely without the fear of not returning home alive? The New Year has arrived without too many answers.

Admittedly, the terror bloodbath in India began two decades ago but 2008 will go down as a year that witnessed the most brazen assault yet on our social and democratic fabric. With devastating terror attacks ravaging the length and breadth of this country, citizens were served gory reminders, through the year, that terror has come to cohabit with them, that they are never too far out of danger's way. After at least 12 major terror attacks last year, the common man now knows that terror is no longer limited to far-off Jammu & Kashmir. It is not even limited to certain sections of the country or society. After Mumbai, terror has come to haunt each one of us as a force that can attack more than crowded middle-class bazaars, places of worship or even local trains. Today every corner of this country is on the terrorist's radar.

The first audible declaration of this urban warfare came in December 2001 with an abortive attempt on our Parliament House. Although foiled, it was the most chilling reminder of the war that had been unleashed on us from within Pakistan, a war that would be waged at a time and place of the terrorists' choosing, not at the borders at India's will. Seven years since little has changed. Way back in 2004 Pakistani officials at the highest levels had told their Indian counterparts that they were willing to cooperate. "Give us something in our hands to go against the jihadis," they had said. India gave them that 'something' by way of evidences and continues to furnish Pakistan with fresh data pointing to the involvement of Pakistani nationals in various terror attacks. Net result: Pakistan remains in denial mode.

While this is not to suggest that India should whip up war hysteria against Pakistan, it must be pointed out that more needs to be done beyond drumming up international support for India's victimhood. There was enough in the Mumbai attack to prove that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, which was nurtured by the ISI to be used in Jammu & Kashmir, now has a broader agenda and ideology and has fanned out across India. The magnitude of the Mumbai attack brought the global community commiserating to India's side. The war against terror must be intensified, said voices. However, while the world may be united in the war against terror, it is also true that each country must wage its own kind of war. Israel's war, for instance, is different from Russia's. So is America's from India's.

In the eventual analysis, each country has to evolve its independent anti-terror strategy to address specific local contexts and security concerns. Sample for instance what Israel is doing in Gaza currently. Faced with a routine barrage of rocket attacks from the Hamas, Israel decided to go for the kill, bombarding the outfit's bases in Gaza. According to Israel, the assault was mounted on the militant outfit to prevent rocket and missile attacks on neighbouring Israeli towns. There are now indications that Israel may not keep itself confined to air attacks and that a ground military assault cannot be ruled out. Predictably, the Arab world has risen in condemnation; Israel also risks antagonising a wider international community. However, in order to prevent a daily assault on its vulnerable civilian population living close to the volatile Gaza strip, Israel acted the way it thought best.

Driven by its own security concerns, Russia mounted a military offensive against Georgia in August 2008. After routing Georgia's Army in the war over the separatist region of South Ossetia, Russia recognised the independence of the region and another breakaway area, Abkhazia. The move was condemned by the US and several other European countries but that did not prevent Russia from deploying about 3,700 soldiers in each region.

Again, no country in the world could prevent the Americans from invading Afghanistan and subsequently from marching into Iraq after 9/11. Struck at its very core, America went after its targets in the two countries and continues to do so. Whether or not Mr Barack Obama reverses Mr George Bush's decision, it is clear that the US exercised its sovereign right to defend itself the way it thought best. Mr Bush's popularity ratings may have nose-dived following the US invasion of Iraq but the truth is that American territory has not witnessed another terror attack after 9/11.

In India's case too there is a specific context. Apart from the Pakistani establishment's stated hostility on Jammu & Kashmir, there are elements in that country which wish to bleed the rest of India as well. While Jammu & Kashmir is a prickly bilateral issue between the two Governments - full-scale military wars have been fought on the issue - anti-India terror outfits exist beyond the realm of political or diplomatic discourse. Jammu & Kashmir can well be part of a Composite Dialogue between the two countries but terrorism is not a diplomatic or political issue. It is an issue that threatens every citizen of India and must be dealt with accordingly.

True, it is hard to formulate a deterrent for the kind of fidayeen who swooped down on Mumbai a month ago. They came to embrace mortality after inflicting severe wounds on India's spirit and soul and they did precisely that. It is indeed difficult to penalise those committed to ending their own lives. The people India needs to deal with are those who fertilise such mindsets from the safety of their training camps across the border in Pakistan and who have managed to appoint their representatives across Indian towns and cities. A fidayeen may not fear for his life - he has been indoctrinated to sacrifice it - but a Masood Azhar or an Afzal Guru does. Death is a deterrent for these jihadi ideologues and that is precisely the deterrent India must employ in a targeted fashion. Else, there are many more Kandahars and Mumbais waiting to come India's way.

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