INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO.487
Next to Israel, India has been waging the longest fight against jihadi terrorism of the home-grown as well as trans-national variety. Israel'sfight against jihadi terrorism started in 1967 and is 41 years old. The end is not yet in sight. India's fight against jihadi terrorism started in1989 and is 19 years old. The jihadi terrorism faced by Israel is sponsored by a medley of states---- particularly Syria and Iran now and Libya,Iraq, and many other States of the Ummah in the past. The jihadi terrorism faced by India is sponsored by Pakistan and facilitated byBangladesh.
2. In terms of numbers, jihadi terrorists have killed more innocent civilians in India than in Israel. But if one keep's in mind Israel's small sizeand population, proportionately Israel has suffered immeasurably more than India. More innocent blood has flown in Israel than in India.
3. The jihadi terrorism faced by India falls into two categories----that in J&K and that in the Indian territory outside J&K, which forconvenience sake will be referred to as hinterland India, an expression which Shri Ajit Doval, former Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB),often uses.
4. As 2008 ends and we move into 2009, one has been seeing extremely gloomy accounts of 2008 triggered by the attack by the terrorists ofthe Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, and the serial explosions that preceded it in Jaipur(May), Bangalore ( July), Ahmedabad (July) and Delhi (September). Some analysts have even called 2008 as the worst year in India's fightagainst terrorism.
5. We had faced worse years in 1985 when the Khalistani terrorists blew up the Kanishka aircraft of the Air India off the Irish coast killing329 innocent civilians of different nationalities and in 1993 when a group of Indian Muslims from Mumbai recruited by Dawood Ibrahim, themafia leader, and trained and equipped by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), targeted a number of establishments of economicsignificance in Mumbai and killed 257 civilians. It was the first co-ordinated attack on the economic infrastructure of India's financialcapital--- similar to what we saw in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008. It was also the first co-ordinated attack on the economicinfrastructure by terrorists anywhere in the world.
6.The March,1993, terrorist attack, even though more lethal, did not have the same traumatic impact on the Indian nation and theinternational community as the November,2008, attack because it was over in a couple of hours and did not last about 60 hours as ithappened in Mumbai in November,2008. Moreover, private TV channels had not yet mushroomed in India.The Mumbai,1993, attack was inthe form of explosions.TV viewers saw the carnage only after it had happened.The November,2008, attack, was in the form of a prolongedurban battle between some terrorists entrenched inside famous hotels( the Taj Palace and the Oberoi/Trident) and inside the offices of aJewish cultural and religious centre located in the Nariman House and the security forces, including the National Security Guards (NSGs),the special intervention force. This entrenched battle was preceded by nearly an hour of cold-blooded killings of civilians in public placessuch as a railway station, a hospital, a restaurant etc with hand-held weapons. TV viewers saw a live coverage of the entire terrorist attack.
7. We had faced a very bad year in 2006 when a group of jihadi terrorists--- Indians and Pakistanis--- carried out a series of explosions insuburban trains in Mumbai killing 181 innocent civilians. It was copy-cat terrorism based on an emulation of what had happened in Madridin March,2004 and in London in July,2005.
8. The four terrorist strikes in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi were instances of heat of the moment acts of reprisal by sections ofour own Muslim youth angered ---hopefully momentarily --- by local events such as what the Muslim youth saw as the severe sentencesawarded to the jihadi convicts for their role in the explosions of March,1993, the campaign for the early hanging of Afzal Guru for his allegedinvolvement in the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13,2001, by the LET and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) ascompared ( by the jihadi terrorists) to the absence of a similar campaign for the hanging of those found guilty in the assassination of RajivGandhi, a resolution allegedly passed by the Bar Association of Lucknow that no lawyer should defend jihadi terrorists etc.
9. The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November---like the attack on the Indian Parliament in December,2001---- was not a heat of the momentact of reprisal terrorism by small numbers of Indian Muslim youth. It was an act of terrorism planned and orchestrated from Pakistaniterritory for a mix of strategic purposes---- creating nervousness in the minds of foreign businessmen about the security of their lives andproperty in India, creating doubts in the minds of the Indian public and the international community about the capability of the Indiancounter-terrorism community to protect lives and property, disrupting the developing close relations of India with the West in general andthe US in particular and with Israel. Combined with these larger strategic dimensions was also an element of anger against the NATO forcesfor their operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and against Israel for its policy towards the Hamas. This would beevident from the barbarity to which the Israeli and other Jewish victims (9 out of 25) were subjected by the Pakistani terrorists and from thefact that the Westerners killed by the terrorists ( 12 out of 25) came from countries which are fighting against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inAfghanistan ---- the US, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Canada and Australia. It was definitely not Kashmir-related terrorism. Nor was itrelated to the grievances of the Indian Muslim community against the Government of India.
10. The Mumbai attack of November, 2008, also marked the emergence of the LET as an international jihadi terrorist organisation on parwith Al Qaeda and also indicated the first possible role of Al Qaeda in mentoring, if not actually orchestrating, an act of strategic jihaditerrorism in Indian territory directed against Indian, Western and Jewish targets to compensate for its inability to repeat 9/11, Madrid andLondon till now. Al Qaeda's suspected orchestration was meant to demonstrate to the world that Al Qaeda is alive and kicking and willstrike where it wants to and where it is able to and not where the world expects it to. The attack also demonstrated that Osama binLaden's April,2006, warning----in the wake of President George Bush's visit to India---- of a global jihad against the Christians, the Jewishpeople and the Hindus was not an empty threat. November,2008, marked the opening of a new front in the global jihad. The terrorists cameto kill Indians, Israelis and other Jewish persons and Westerners. They did not come to damage or destroy property. If they had wanted,they had explosives with which they could have caused serious damage to the hotels similar to the damage which the jihadi terrorists ofPakistan caused to the Marriott Hotel of Islamabad on September 20,2008. They did not.
11. After the serial explosions in UP in November,2007 and in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Delhi in 2008, there have been manysuperficial analytical articles written by analysts in India and abroad as if home-grown jihadi terrorism arrived for the first time in India in2008. It was not so. India had been facing home-grown, but Pakistan-trained terrorism in J&K between 1989 and 1993 before the Pakistaniorganisations took over the leadership in 1993.Tamil Nadu had been facing jihadi terrorism unconnected to the ISI and the Pakistaniorganisations between 1993 and 1999 in the form of the Al Ummah movement. The March,1993, explosions were carried out by some IndianMuslims recruited by Dawood and trained and equipped by the ISI. The Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was initially a home-grownmovement though it subsequently came under the influence and control of the LET and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), both ofPakistan.
12. What has been new since 9/11 is the emergence of a new group (not yet quantifiable) of Indian Muslims in hinterland India callingthemselves the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and denying any links with the ISI and the Pakistani jihadi organisations and individual Muslims inthe Indian Muslim diaspora in the UK without any proved organisational affiliation, who sought to help or emulate Al Qaeda. The IM took toterrorism due to anger arising from Indian events and policies. The pro-Al Qaeda individuals like Bilal-al Hindi now in jail in the UK forassisting Al Qaeda and Kafeel Ahmed who died in hospital after an attempted attack of suicidal terrorism in Glasgow in June,2006, took toterrorism for reasons unconnected with India. They were the first global jihadi terrorists from the Indian Muslim community, who weremotivated by what is projected by Al Qaeda as global and historical injustice against the Muslims of the world.
13. Are there Indian Muslims in hinterland India, who are similarly motivated by a global and historical sense of injustice and not merely byanger due to purely Indian reasons? No such Muslim has so far been arrested, but one has been seeing openly expressed admiration for binLaden among some Indian Muslim youth. One saw it during the anti-Bush demonstrations in some cities during Bush's visit to India inMarch,2006, and in the interrogation reports of some arrested SIMI leaders. From admiration to action is just one step away.
14. Could any of these Indian Muslims ---not yet unarthed--- with admiration for bin Laden have played a role in assisting the LET in its attackin Mumbai? It will be unwise to rule this out just because no evidence in this regard has emerged so far. Lack of evidence does not prove afact. It does not mean that a threat does not exist. A terrorist attack of this magnitude and precision could not have been so successfullyplanned and carried out without some local complicity. Only a local or a Pakistani member of the LET, who knew Mumbai well, would haveknown about the presence of many Jewish persons in the Nariman House during day as well as at night and about the very weak securityat the rear entrance to the Taj Mahal Hotel.
15. The terrorist attacks of 2008 exposed the weaknesses in our counter-terrorism management as no other series of strikes in the pasthad---- lack of a culture of physical security and lack of co-ordination and of a cultute of joint follow-up action on the intelligence available.Intelligence was available since September about the impending attack by LET terrorists coming by sea. The available intelligence mightnot have been 100 per cent complete in all respects, but it was substantial enough to sound the alarm bell in Delhi and Mumbai and totrigger a joint response to foil the attack. There was a shocking failure of follow-up action on the intelligence alerts. The Police, the Navyand the Coast Guard have to accept a major share of the responsibility for failing to act energetically to prevent the attack. The intelligenceagencies cannot totally wash their hands off the tragedy by saying that their job ended with the collection and dissemination of intelligence.It was equally their responsibility to ensure that the implications of the disseminated intelligence were understood by the agenciesresponsible for follow-up and that required follow-up action was taken. If this was not done, it was their responsibility to alert the PrimeMinister. It is for that reason that intelligence chiefs have privileged access to the Prime Minister. That access was not utilised.
16. In 1998-99 after the nuclear tests of May,1998, the Government of India revamped its national security management system with thecreation of a National Security Council (NSC), a Secretariat to service the NSC (NSCS), a Strategic Policy Group (SPG), and a NationalSecurity Advisory Board (NSAB)----with the entire architecture supervised and co-ordinated by a National Security Adviser, who worksdirectly under the Prime Minister and has his ears all the time. This system was further revamped in 2000 on the basis of our lessons learntduring the Kargil conflict of 1999. The revamped system consisted of an intelligence co-ordination committee and a technical resourcesco-ordination committee, both under the NSA, and a multi-agency centre in the IB to deal with terrorism to promote the culture of jointaction.
17. The entire system set in place since 1998 to modernise our national security management on the pattern of good practices followed inthe West and Israel failed. There was total dysfunction by the system as well as by those manning it. Our failure to prevent theNovember,2008, attack was due to systemic as well as human failures. The human failure was at all levels----from the top to the bottom. Acasual approach to security threats----from State or non-State actors---- has been part of our culture. The Chinese took advantage of it in1962. The Pakistanis tried to take advantage of it in 1999, but failed. The jihadi terrorists from Pakistan took advantage of it inNovember,2008, and succeeded.
18. Cover-up is another part of our national culture. The report of the committee, which enquired into the debacle of 1962, was neverreleased and debated in Parliament and public. The report of the Kargil Review Committee was released and acted upon, but neverdiscussed in Parliament. There now seems to be an attempt to avoid a comprehensive enquiry into the terrorist attack of November,2008,similar to the enquiry by a bipartisan National Commission in the US after the 9/11 terrorist strikes and the enquiry by the Intelligence andSecurity Comittee of the British Parliament into the London explosions of July,2005. With all eyes on the forthcoming elections, nobodywants a post-mortem.The public should not accept this and should mount pressure on the Government and the political class for a thoroughenquiry. The argument that a public enquiry could demoralise the agencies and its officers should not be accepted. Thorough enquirieswere held into the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and the reports released to the public without worrying about anydemoralisation. Why should we be worried now?
19. The Police in the affected States have arrested many of the perpetrators of the jihadi terrorist strikes of 2008---- operatives of the IM aswell as Ajmal Amir Kasab, the Pakistani, who was captured alive during the attack in Mumbai. Their interrogation has given a wealth of nutsand bolts details of tactical significance---- what is their background, how did they gravitate to terrorism, where and how were they trained,who trained them , what kind of explosives they used, where they procured them etc But they have not brought out much information ofstrategic value which could enable us to make a quantitative analysis of the threat facing us in 2009 and prepare ourselves to counter it. Who are the real brains behind the IM? What is its command and control like? Does it have any strategic objective or is it purely heat of themoment reprisal terrorism? What are its external sources of funding? What are its external linkages----with the ISI, the Pakistani jihaditerrorist organisations and with the world of organised crime? The involvement of the world of organised crime in acts of terrorism, whichbecame evident in March,1993, continues to be one of the defining characteristics of jihadi terrorism in the Indian hinterland as could beseen from the suspected association of Riaz Bhatkal, an underworld character, with the IM.
20. The home-grown jihadi terrorism, which has struck us repeatedly since November,2007, in the name of the IM, is an iceberg. Till we areable to identify, measure and blow up this iceberg, more such terrorist strikes involving serial explosions in important cities are likely. Wasthe disaster, which struck us in Mumbai in November,2008, the LET tip of an Al Qaeda iceberg?. It will be very unwise to presume that itcannot be so. There is an Al Qaeda iceberg which is on the move from the Pashtun tribal belt of Pakistan to areas outside as seen from theexplosions outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad in June,2008, and outside the Marriott Hotel in September 2008. It is time we come outof our denial mode that what is happening in Pakistan cannot happen to us.It can.
21. We still do not have a coherent policy to deal with Pakistan, which has been a State-sponsor of terrorism in Indian territory and withBangladesh as a facilitator. Our approach to Pakistan's sponsorship continues to be marked by the "kabi garam, kabi naram" (Sometimeshard, sometimes soft) syndrome.
22.India has been a victim of indigenous terrorism without external sponsorship as well as terrorism externally sponsored----from Pakistanand Bangladesh. Before 1979, we were also victims of tribal insurgencies in the North-East supported by China, which is no longersupporting them after 1979. One of the reasons why Indira Gandhi decided to support the independence movement in the then EastPakistan was because the ISI was giving sanctuaries to the terrorists and insurgents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) from where threywere operating in North-East India. The creation of Bangladesh ended this sponsorship in 1971, but it was revived by the intelligenceagencies of Pakistan and Bangladesh after the assasasination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman in 1975. We are still struggling to cope with it.
23.One of the lessons of the post-World War history of State-Sponsored terrorism is that it never ends unless the guilty state is made to paya prohibitive price. STASI, the East German intelligence service, was behind much of the ideological terrorism in West Europe. The collapseof communism in East Germany and the end of STASI brought an end to this terrorism. The intelligence services of Libya and Syria werebehind much of the West Asian terrorism and the Carlos group, then living in Damascus, played a role in helping ideological groups in WestEurope. The US bombing of Libya in 1986, the strong US action against Syria, which was declared a State-sponsor of terrorism and againstthe Sudan, where Carlos shifted from Damascus, and the prosecution and jailing, under US pressure, of two Libyan intelligence officers fortheir complicity in the bombing of a Pan Am plane off Lockerbie on the Irish coast in 1988 brought an end to state-sponsorship of terrorismby Libya and Sudan. Syria has stopped sponsoring terrorism against the US, but continues to do so against Israel.
24.There are any number of UN resolutions and international declarations declaring state-sponsored terrorism as amounting to indirectaggression against the victim state. Unfortunately, there has been no political will in India to make Pakistan and Bangladesh pay a heavyprice for their sponsorship of terrorism against India. Once a firm decision based on a national consensus is taken that the time has cometo make Pakistan and Bangladesh pay a price, the question as to which organisation should do it and how will be sorted out. The problem isnot that we don't have an appropriate organisation, but we don't have the will to act against Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our policy of "kabigaram, kabi naram" towards these two countries is encouraging them not to change their ways.
25.We must take action instead of depending on the US or other members of the international community to do so. Every country isinterested in protecting the lives and property of only its own citizens. This is natural. It is the responsibility of the Government of India andthe States to protect the lives and property of our nationals. There are many good things we can learn from the Israelis such as theirpassion for up-to-date data bases, all their agencies countering terrorism acting as a single team without ego clashes, turf battles and thetendency to pass the buck, public support for their counter-terrorism agencies, high investments in research & development of newtechnologies for counter-terrorism etc. India has remained a nation of dogs that bark, but do not bite. We have seen it after Mumbai too. It istime we emulate Israel and become a nation of dogs that don't bark, but bite ferociously. At the same time, some methods employed byIsrael such as over-militarisation of counter-terrorism will prove counter-productive in a pluralistic, multi-religious state such as India. Wehave produced many good intelligence bureaucrats, but we have produced very few good intelligence professionals. Our counter-terrorismexperts tend to be over-simplistic and superficial in their expertise, are not innovative and try to deal with technology savvy modernterrorism with methods and thinking which are not equally modern. The terrorists operating in India tend to be more nodern and innovativein their thinking than the counter-terrorism agencies. Increasing their numbers and budgets alone will not produce results unless,simultaneously, there is also a change in their thinking and methods.
26. 2008 was not a totally gloomy year for India. There was gloom in the Indian hinterland. But,there was also sunshine in J &K for the firsttime in 19 years as seen from the spectacularly successful election held in the State in which over 50 per cent of the voters paricipateddefying threats and intimidation from the terrorists and calls for boycott from their political mentors. Let me quote some statistics given byKuldeep Khoda, the DG of Police of J&K, at a media conference on December 25,2008 ("The Hindu" of December 26,2008):
Terrorist violence showed a remarkable decline of 40 per cent in 2008 as compared to 2007.
Civilian deaths at the hands of the terrorists, which reached a peak of 1413 in 1996, came down to 164 in 2007 and only 89 in 2008.
48 political activists, including a Minister, were killed by terrorists during the 2002 election campaign . They could not kill a single political activist during this year's election campaign.
For the first time, 2008 witnessed the best ever performance of the police and the security forces on the human rights front. There was only one complaint of death in police custody, which is under investigation, and no complaint of disappearance from police custody.
27. At the same time, he warned against complacency and pointed out that there were still 800 trained terrorists----300 of them foreigners,mainly Pakistanis---- in the State waiting for an opportunity to step up terrorism.
28.There is terrorism fatigue in J&K as there was in Punjab when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister. Rao was bold enough to lift thePresident's rule and hold the elections disregarding advice from senior bureaucrats not to do so. The elections in Punjab marked thebeginning of the people's alienation from the Khalistani terrorists. People in J&K are tired of violence and of the difficulties which they hadto face as a result of security measures for nearly 19 years. They want normalcy, but this need not mean the beginning of the end of theirfeelings of alienation.
29.The feelings of alienation will not end just because of the spectacularly successful elections. They will end only through meaningfulmeasures by the Govt. of India and the new Govt. headed by Omar Abdullah to address the legitimate grievances of the people and to fulfillsome of the past promises to give greater powers to the State--- almost near autonomy, if not total autonomy. The elections also show thatthe mainstream parties have retained their political base despite 19 years of terrorism---- much of it directed against them--- and that thepolitical base of the political mentors of the militancy such as the Hurriyat is as small as it always has been. Farooq Abdullah used todescribe them as mohalla leaders and not State leaders who are afraid of elections because they know that elections could expose theirlimited following. He is probably right.
30. While keeping our fingers crossed in J&K, we have reasons to be proud of what our intelligence agencies and the security forces haveachieved in J&K after 19 years of sustained and well-calibrated counter-terrorism. They are capable of achieving similar results in the Indianhinterland in 2009 if the systemic and individual deficiencies are identified and removed instead of being covered up,if they work in aco-ordinated and united manner as they did in J&K, if they receive the right political leadership, if Pakistan is made to pay a price for itssponsorship of jihadi terrorism and if we pay due to attention to the legitimate grievances of our Muslim co-citizens in hinterland Indiainstead of dismissing them off-hand as imaginary. Some of them are not. Some of our Muslim youth have real causes for anger against theIndian State and society. We must take note of them and address them. Otherwise, we will drive them into the hands of the ISI and the likesof the LET, the JEM and Al Qaeda. (31-12-08) Part II: Pakistan to follow
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )