Praveen Dixit

In spite of the two most devastating World Wars in the last century, and determined efforts not to have the scourge of wars and destruction, we continue to witness repeated incidents of terrorism or insurgency or state sponsored terrorism, even today. There is hardly any continent or country which is free from this nuisance. Any expectation, therefore, that we can witness a world, which is peaceful and free from these incidents, is living in utopia. However, even though, we may not be able to eliminate these, does not mean, that we should give up our efforts. The option of not doing anything is not available, because, it is our responsibility to contain such happenings, examine the reasons for such divergent views and strive towards all possible measures to reduce the sorrows.

Definition of Terrorism

pt2It is difficult to have any agreement on the definition of the term terrorism. Depending on perception, while some people call the violence as terrorist activity, the others would call it as an act of freedom fighting. It depends upon the background of the person who is making this definition. But when any act that focuses on civilians, who are considered soft targets as they have no means of defending themselves, this act can be called as terrorist activity. The terrorist group indulges in this violence for achieving some political purpose. The victims are usually innocent persons unaware of these designs. The purpose of such terrorist act would be to gain publicity for their cause. They also aim to prove vulnerability of their opponents and to demonstrate that the terrorists can strike at free will. Their underlying objective is to create a feeling of anarchy so that people at large would lose faith in the established system. 

pt3As per one definition, “ terrorism is the unlawful use of, or threatened use of, force or violence against individuals or property to coerce and intimidate the governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.”According to the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f (d):“The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated  against noncombatant targets by  sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to  influence an audience. The term  “noncombatant” is interpreted to  include, in addition to civilians,  military personnel who at the time  of the incident are unarmed and/or  not on duty. The term “international terrorism” means  terrorism involving citizens or the  territory of more than one country.  The term “terrorist group” means  any group practicing, or that has  significant subgroups that practice,  international terrorism.”


According to a definition,  Insurgency may be defined as,”  Grab your rifle, join your  teammates, & enter the fight. Take  to the modern battlefield and  engage in intense, realistic battles.  Choose your side between a highly  organized conventional army or the  partisan insurgents.” According to  Merriam- Webster dictionary,  insurgencies fall into the category of  “irregular warfare,” since an  insurgency normally lacks the  organization of a revolution, even  though it has the same objective. In  the Indian context, Naga movement, trouble in various parts  of the north east or Maoist efforts to  ‘liberate’ various parts from  Pashupati to Tirupati may qualify  for the term insurgency.

State Sponsored Terrorism

State – sponsored terrorism is  government support of violent non-state  actors engaged in terrorism.  Because of the pejorative nature of  the word, the identification of  particular examples is usually  subject to political dispute. The  characteristics of this activity are  deep rooted in self determination  movement which is a legacy of the  imperial and colonial era. Several  parts of the world particularly in  Asia and Africa which were  governed by colonial masters were  forced to be parts of new states. The  new states have failed to  accommodate their aspirations or  not adjusted them in new power  sharing models of governance.  Kurds in Iraq and Iran, Baloch  community in Pakistan or a section  of Kashmiris from Pak-occupied  Kashmir may fall in this category.  Depending upon the location and  loyalty that one may have, these  activities may be termed as freedom  movements or instigations by  politically opponent states to create disharmony and chaos in other  states. Evidence available from interrogations of involved persons  caught alive, or various things  including radio sets, maps, clothes,  labels from medicines, weapons,  ammunition, currency notes  recovered from persons killed in  action or their conversations  recorded when they were in action  in hostile countries is enough proof  to determine the states that are  sponsoring these terrorist activities.

pt4India, Afghanistan, United  Kingdom, United States & United  Nations have repeatedly pointed  out involvement of Inter Services  Intelligence (ISI), in aiding and  abetting the terrorists in deadly  actions killing several innocent  persons in their countries.  According to Wikipedia, “The Inter-  Services Intelligence has often been  accused of playing a role in major  terrorist attacks across the world  including the September 11, 2001  attacks in the United States, [71]  terrorism in Kashmir, [72] [73] [74]  Mumbai Train Bombings, [75]  Indian Parliament Attack, [76]  Varanasi bombings, [77] Hyderabad bombings [78] [79] and  Mumbai terror attacks. [80] [81] The  ISI is also accused of supporting  Taliban forces [82] and recruiting  and training mujahideen[82] [83] to  fight in Afghanistan [84] [85] and  Kashmir. [85] Based on  communication intercepts US  intelligence agencies concluded Pakistan’s ISI was behind the attack  on the Indian embassy in Kabul on  July 7, 2008, a charge that the  governments of India and  Afghanistan had laid previously.  [86] Afghan President Hamid  Karzai, who has constantly  reiterated allegations that militants  operating training camps in  Pakistan have used it as a launch  platform to attack targets in  Afghanistan, urged western  military allies to target extremist  hideouts in neighboring Pakistan.[87] When the United  States, during the Clinton  administration, targeted Al-Qaeda  camps in Afghanistan with cruise  missiles, it was reported that two  officers of the ISI were killed. [88]

Pakistan is accused of sheltering  and training the Taliban as strategic  asset[89] in operations “which  include soliciting funding for the  Taliban, bankrolling Taliban  operations, providing diplomatic  support as the Taliban’s virtual  emissaries abroad, arranging  training for Taliban fighters, recruiting skilled and unskilled  manpower to serve in Taliban  armies, planning and directing  offensives, providing and facilitating shipments of  ammunition & fuel, and on several  occasions apparently directly providing combat support,” as  reported by Human Rights Watch. 

Pakistan was also responsible for  the evacuation of about 5,000 of the  top leadership of the Taliban and  Al-Qaeda who were encircled by  NATO forces in the 2001 invasion of  Afghanistan. This event known as  the Kunduz airlift, which is also  popularly called the “Airlift of Evil,”  involved several Pakistani Air  Force transport planes flying  multiple sorties over a number of  days. 

On May 1, 2011 Osama Bin Laden  was killed in Pakistan, he was living  in a safe house less than a mile away  from, what is called the West Point  of Pakistan, the Pakistan Military  Academy. This has given rise to  numerous allegations of an extensive support system for  Osama Bin Laden which was in  place by the Government and  Military of Pakistan. [90] [91]”

Nature of Threat

pt5Irrespective of the name, whether it  is an act of terrorism, insurgency or  state sponsored terrorism; there are  certain common denominators of  all these activities. Terrorists have  no rules and know no boundaries.  Osama Bin Laden and his clan  professed their tactics in the name  of Islam but they do not respect any  religious tenets as witnessed from  the life style of Khalid Shaikh  Mohammed, described as a  mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks  in the United States, and who was  arrested in Pakistan on Mar 01,  2004. They have no hesitation in  committing any heinous crimes.  People may think that terrorists  would indulge in killing only  persons not belonging to their  religion. But there have been  several incidents to prove that the  Muslim terrorists have killed persons believing in Islam by  calling them as infidels. . They have  attacked army and police officers  while on duty indicating that they  closely monitor their targets. The  intention of the terrorists is to create  anarchy. More sensational the  attack, more the publicity is  achieved by them.

pt9In several incidents in Kashmir  after 1989, it has been repeatedly  observed that many Muslims,  Hindus, Sikhs were mercilessly  killed by the terrorists. In  Maharashtra, many Muslims  praying near mosques or travelling  in trains have been killed or injured  in bomb blasts. On a number of  occasions, it is believed that these  Muslims were killed because they  did not owe faith in extreme sect of  Islam called Wahabis as practiced  in Saudi Arabia.

The threat from terrorism is  universal. Many a times, it is  difficult to comprehend about the  demands of the terrorists. They  may ask for release of some persons  detained or demand huge amount  as ransom as witnessed in several  incidents. They may kill diplomats  as seen in the assassination of  Indian diplomat in London in  eighties or the chief of USAID in  Jordan in Oct 2002, or thousands of  civilians in one event as witnessed  in 9/11 in New York. They have no hesitation in attacking women and  children as well.

The terrorists have been repeatedly  capturing young boys and girls and  forcing them to work as child  soldiers. This has been repeatedly  seen in many parts of Africa, Syria,  as well as in various parts of India  where Maoists are active & in Sri  Lanka where LTTE was active till a  few years ago. Many a times, these  children are forced to kill their near  and dear ones ruthlessly so that  they have no option of returning to  their families. Most of the girls are  sexually exploited and forced to  satisfy the lust of these men and  compelled to undergo repeated  abortions.

pt7Most of the terrorist groups have a  tendency to emerge as fast as  mushrooms and change their  nomenclatures when under fire  from the security agencies to avoid  detection. By the time the experts  study about one group, its  members, their affiliations, their  source of financing; another group  is formed either by split of the  earlier group or by joining of some  new persons. It is a highly dynamic  activity. Availability of modern  methods of communication such  as internet, social media, videoconferencing,  satellite telephones  and large funds have eliminated the  distance or remoteness for these terrorist group members. They are  well trained, and well- versed in  using the modern technology. As  witnessed in 9/11 attack, they have received training in advanced  technologies in USA, Australia and  Britain in bio-terrorism, computer  technology, chemical weapons,  aviation engineering, forgery of  travel documents, counterfeiting of  currency as revealed from the  encyclopedia prepared by Al  Qaeda. Seven of the Sept. 11  hijackers– including four Saudis studied  in U.S. flight schools. Abu  Mussab al-Zarqawi’, a Jordanian of  Palestinian ancestry had a specialty  in chemical weapons. Interrogation  of detained Qaeda members  disclosed that he was planning  major terrorist attacks in Europe.  Mohammad, the master-mind  behind 9/11 attacks and arrested  from Rawalpindi in Pakistan had  obtained his degree in Mechanical  Engineering from North Carolina  in US seventeen years ago.  Mohammed did not reveal much  but some of the valuable information was recovered from a  computer, CDs and notebook  recovered from him. From the  details it was apparent that Al-  Qaeda operated through a complex  e-mail system of cut and paste to  prevent leakage of information.1

Measures to Combat  Terrorism

The fight against global terrorism  will need to be fought as a long term  measure. In view of its  complications and inter-linkages  with several other parts of the  world, it also has to be fought by  taking help from all democratic  countries. The strategy could be  divided in short term, midterm and  long term measures. The measures  to counter terrorism particularly  the one created by Islamic state  have to be multi fold. “In the short  term they would include ‘strangling of terrorist finances, tighter control over the manufacturing and supply of  weapons, exchange of personnel;  sharing of expertise; building  common terrorist databases. As  opposed to highly visible actions,  such as bombings, which often  generate negative reactions,  invisible “black operations” such as  assassination of terrorist leaders  and directing figures should be  given priority. In spite of high risks,  top priority should be given to  recruiting both agent handlers and  agents from migrant communities,  as well as sharing the intelligence  generated with the wider decision and  policy – making community. In  the mid – term, the key to  strategically weakening the  terrorist group is to erode its  fledgling support base- to wean  away its supporters and potential  supporters.

There must be a concerted plan by  the international community to  redress the perceived and actual  grievances of moderate Muslims or  affected groups and frustrate the  current wave of open and  clandestine support for their  agendas To defeat Al Qaeda and  Islamic state activists or Maoists  and to prove that they are not God’s men but power–hungry politicians, co-ethnic policing, co-religious  security co-operation  must be developed where religious  elders set the standards and ensure  that religion or ideology is not  abused or distorted by those with  ulterior or political agenda. In the  long term, wider support from  locals as well as Muslim societies is  imperative, if the fight against  Maoists and its brand of Islamist  terrorism is to be won. Without  public support, battles may be won  but not the war.

pt8The efforts against terrorism also  need to be multi-lateral in nature.  It is certain that these efforts  cannot be successful if they remain  confined only to government  agents. The fight against terrorism  will have to be fought in a united  manner. The emphasis should be  on enlisting the help of the people  at large. People should be  educated against the ill designs of  some power–hungry persons and  be vigilant. They should be  encouraged to be inquisitive about  their surroundings and work as  extensions of security personnel.  In Maharashtra, for example, we  have launched a scheme called  Police Mitra. The Maharashtra Police Mitra mobile app can be  freely downloaded from app  gallery. That would nip the  terrorist tactics in the bud. Military  measures against terrorism may  succeed in the short term but are  also likely to be counterproductive  and sustain the  terrorists for longer duration.  Efforts should be made to  encourage moderate elements to  join hands with the government  attempts against the aberrations in  any religion including Islam in the  form of terrorists.

Terrorism mostly thrives on  alienation of local people. When  the government of the day does  not have people’s mandate, or lacks in legitimacy, people start  drifting towards those who  advocate violent methods.  Absence of good government for a prolonged period is the fundamental reason for local  people providing support to the  militants in their adventures. By  and large, the ordinary person  would still not prefer to be with  those who indulge in violent  activities. Most of them are forced  to side with the militants under  threat or gun-culture. Hence it  should be the endeavor of every  agency to win confidence of the  people and encourage participation of people in decision making.  If we only focus on  military methods, the solution to  the problem of terrorism would  continue to evade us. While  addressing the United Nations  General Assembly, Kofi Annan,  United Nations Secretary-General  and Nobel Laureate underlined  that if we ignore other pressing  problems including poverty,  disease, environmental degradation, and if we focus all  our energies on the struggle  against terrorism, we would be  giving the terrorists a kind of  victory. (Nov.11.2001).