10th Asian Security Conference

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  • Rapporteur Report on Session V: Terrorism and Sectarian Conflicts: Transnational Linkages

    February 6, 2008
    Prepared by Alok Rashmi Mukhopadhyay & M. Mahtab Alam Rizvi

    Mark Danner’s presentation took stock of the Global War on Terror. He pointed out that the US does not have any metrics to measure progress, and policy makers are not willing to listen to voices outside the Establishment. The Global War on Terror can be seen and analysed from two perspectives – one led by US President George Bush and the other led by Osama Bin Laden. He stated that the first task a new American president would undertake is to determine whether to continue the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Jean-Francois Mayer took a balanced approach and underscored the difference between terrorism and religion. He pointed out that some Muslim circles, not all, are involved in radical politics all over the world and terrorists in the name of religion actually seek to attain political goals. He also highlighted the astonishing speed of terrorist propaganda and especially the role of Internet as a multiplier. He suggested that distinction should be made to characterise each terrorist group and their objectives should be analysed, so that governments can identify them and start dialogue with some of them.

    Muqtedar Khan explored the root causes for the emergence of Taliban, Al Qaeda and other Jihadi groups. He opined that the rise of these groups is actually a response to the failure of Muslim societies, which by and large have missed the globalisation bus. Muslims seek security, identity and prosperity and when their states and the international community fail to provide them, they turn to alternative agencies, like the Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Taliban in Afghanistan. He categorised Jihadi movements into three groups: state-centric like GIA in Algeria, globalist like al Qaeda and nationalist like Hamas. He concluded that only Liberal Islam can challenge global Radical Islamist ideas.

    Yiorghos Leventis raised some pertinent issues in the complex relations amongst Turkey, Cyprus, the UK and the EU in view of their own security policies. He also emphasised the Turkish role in international peace-keeping operations. He evaluated the role of the Turkish Arm,y which is second-largest in NATO. Emphasising on the EU’s ambivalence of the EU’s position vis-à-vis Turkey, Dr. Leventis summed up that EU-Turkish relations would be crucial for the future shape and identity of the EU.

    Thomas Marks gave the US perspective on the status of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). He distinguished between insurgencies and terrorism. He pointed out that American academia generally considered most global armed conflicts as insurgencies, whereas the rest of the world considered them as terrorism. The US approach towards terrorism at home is to tackle it with the police and the overseas approach is rather complex. The US overseas approach towards terrorism is basically defined and driven by the Department of Defence. Outlining the US national strategy of GWOT, which comprise the pillars of protect, disrupt and counter, he concluded that the effectiveness of a successful Counter-Insurgency (CI) formula lies in correctness, sustainability and breakthrough. The whole-hearted participation of all sections is imperative to the success of any CI endeavour.

    Jolene Jerard portrayed the true nature of the global jihadi threat caused by networked terrorism and individual, self-radicalised groups. After six years of 9/11 the asymmetric threat of Al-Qaedaism is represented by various terrorist organisations, local groups, home-grown extremists. To counter the present threat, she suggested some measures like networking of security services, the creation of an environment hostile to Jihadis, countering radical propaganda.

    Praveen Swami, the first discussant, mentioned that South Asian terrorism has different features. He pointed out that the threat of terrorism the world is facing today, India has been experiencing for decades; the Mumbai blasts in 1993 is an example in this regard. He however stressed the need to distinguish between political and military problem and the importance of promoting Liberal Islam.

    Indranil Banerjie, the other discussant, asked where India stands in the matrix of GWOT. He underlined the specific instance of multicultural India which has a large number of Muslims.

    During Q&A, questions were raised about the freedom of expression in European countries to publish offensive literary works and artistic materials against Islam. Transformation in Islamic countries, the continuance of the GWOT, de-territorialisation of terror and the exact timing when an individual embraces the terrorist path, the emergence of terrorist groups and the failure of states to arrest the trend were also discussed. It was mentioned that in the last two decades a discourse of victimisation has engulfed Islamic countries. This specific discourse has a profound impact on some individuals who out of sheer helplessness take the path of violence against self which is termed as suicide bombings.

    Mr. N.N. Vohra, the Chairperson for the session, highlighted the unique experience of multiculturalism in India and in Jammu & Kashmir in particular. He stressed on the fact that despite the turbulent years of infiltration, cross-border terrorism and extremism, J&K has not forgotten the ethos of communal harmony and peaceful coexistence.

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