Tuesday, August 23, 2005

sandhya jain: on terrorism

aug 23

sandhya is one of my favorite writers in india. always worth reading, immaculately logical.


UN must define terrorism


Sandhya Jain 


            With Islamic fundamentalists determinedly leaving their signature tune upon hitherto unvisited world capitals, and religio-ethnic violence taking a grim upturn in Jammu & Kashmir with the recent beheading of a woman and slitting of throats of five men, India needs to take a pro-active interest in getting the United Nations General Assembly to define "terrorism" at its forthcoming annual meeting in September.


            As of now, there are indications that UN officials are keen to take up the issue of defining terrorism. As a nation that has been consistently targetted by terrorism for several decades, and particularly after Western nations refused to name India as a victim- country in the wake of the London blasts, India must ensure that the September summit yields an international consensus on the definition of terrorism and terrorists. This must be followed up by a comprehensive treaty against terrorism.

            The time has never been more opportune. The growing nervousness in Western capitals over the planting of Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist 'sleeper' cells in their respective societies; even worse, the possibility that home-grown ideologically motivated West-hating potential suicide bombers may be ticking away silently, has effectively neutralized the specious plea that one nation's terrorists are another country's freedom fighters. Hence this is the time to press for international recognition that targeting and killing civilians cannot be justified or legitimized in any circumstances.


New Delhi must also firmly reiterate India's position on Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, and Western capitals which support Gen. Musharraf's stand that the murderers of innocents in the valley are 'freedom fighters' may be informed that India can retaliate by supporting claims for division of territory by their respective Islamic citizens. This threat already looms over several European nations, and is hence a rather potent weapon.  


New Delhi should also avail of the opportunity to highlight the ethnic cleansing of Bangladeshi Hindus by fundamentalist elements in the present regime in Dacca, and to demand that those responsible for this continuing outrage be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The international body must be urged to stop these atrocities forthwith, failing which India would be within her rights to take appropriate measures to protect these unfortunate victims.


In this context, it is worth noting that in the wake of the London blasts, Conservative leader and former Prime Minister John Major committed his party to unwavering support for strong governmental measures against those who live in the country and yet "spit hate" against the Anglo-Saxon way of life. Sir John was forthright enough to state that freedom of speech could not be used as a cover to incite people to violence and that the protection of the public was the first duty of the Government.


Calling for deportation of all terrorists, Sir John told the BBC Radio 4 that from the time he demitted office in 1997, he was aware of an increasing number of Islamist terror groups in the country and hence it would be wrong to say the Iraq war was responsible for the new wave of Islamist attacks. In fact, he said, terrorism had been growing for the past thirty years and did not threaten only the West.


            This is strong stuff. It is also a lesson to all political parties in India about how mature and responsible leaders conduct themselves in the face of terrorist attacks upon their nations and peoples. Far from using the London blasts to corner the Blair Government and canvass minority votes for his party for future elections, Mr. Major spoke up uncompromisingly against the politics of terror. Even more impressively, he dared defend the tragic shooting by the London police which resulted in the death of an innocent Brazilian national, saying: "I rather prefer the expression shoot-to-protect rather than shoot-to-kill. I think that is a more accurate description of what happened."


Sir John's remark about the local roots of an internationally connected terrorism effectively sums up the nature of the threat facing the world. While it is true that key terrorists in the London blasts had a Pakistani connection, the fact of the matter is also that there has been a home-grown radicalism of Britain's Islamic community, especially after the 2003 Twin Towers tragedy. This is a reality the hitherto indulgent Blair Government will have to admit, a fact Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was quick to point out.


So while it is true that the London bombers visited Pakistan prior to the attacks, it is unlikely that they went there for ideological training. As Pakistani scholar Admed Rashid recently told Spiegel Online, it is far more likely that they came to make contacts with militant groups and for training. This is likely because several Pakistani madrassas have been taken over by terrorist groups which are using them as recruiting platforms. And the reason why Gen. Musharraf cannot genuinely shut them down is because they are run by groups whose support he needs for some aspects of his foreign policy, most notably regarding Jammu & Kashmir and Afghanistan.


It is therefore unlikely that Pakistan, which is emerging as the global fulcrum of international Islamic terrorism, would be able to close down the military training camps conducted by terrorist-run madrassas or the ISI; hence the world is likely to witness more and more instances of terrorism with the ISI connection. India constitutes the hinterland of ISI-Islamic terrorism, but now the latter has extended its footprint into the front garden of Western nations. There has never been a better moment for an organized campaign to combat terrorism.  


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