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Terrorist Attacks: How Long Should India just Wring its Hand in Despair?

P.K. Upadhyay was a Consultant with Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses for its Pakistan Project.
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  • July 15, 2011

    The latest terrorist attack in Mumbai revives the old question: what should India’s response be to such provocations? Perhaps, now there is a need to conclusively revisit the issue of response, and other pro-active measures, to deter and forestall such transgressions comprehensively in future. The electronic media is suggesting that the Mumbai attacks were probably carried out by ‘Indian groups’ and, perhaps, they have to be dealt with in the context of India’s internal problems and solutions. Such a conclusion must wait until a full investigation into the incident has been carried out.

    The completely ‘indigenous character’ of such terrorist incidents is a myth, which, some circles, sympathetic to the cause of those who perpetrate them, advance to camouflage their trans-national linkages. Recent terrorist plans and incidents inspired by religious radicalism in different parts of the world were often found to have linkages with those who are votaries of international jihad and are ensconced in the Af-Pak region for quite some time now. Perpetrators of recent abortive terror plots in USA and other Western countries, despite their local citizenships, were found to be linked with the jihadi/radical set-up officially supported, or at least tolerated, for long by Pakistan.

    There have been some straws in the wind in India also about trans-border linkages and encouragement that the so-called ‘indigenous’ Indian Mujahideen had with jihadi circles in Pakistan that are known to have been created, nurtured and protected by sections of the Pakistani establishment, notably the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Therefore, if investigations show that while the hands that had planted the explosives in Mumbai were Indian, but that their brains were located in Pakistan, India must put Pakistan in the dock for not effectively doing enough to prevent its territory from being used for either directly or indirectly staging terrorist incidents in India. It is time now to force Pakistan to cut the umbilical cord between terrorist groups and the Pakistan Establishment by decisively moving against not just its jihadi groups but also the jihadi culture and its sheet-anchor, the ISI.

    Much has been said about the ISI’s links with the terrorist organizations of the Wahabi/Deobandi hue. However, it should now be clear to all that the ISI has come to be completely penetrated by Deobandi zealots (according to some, the late Salim Shahazad paid with his life for hinting at this), pursuing a radical Islamic agenda and forming a network which is out of control of not just the civilian government in Pakistan but even the Pakistan Army. Although the ISI is headed by a serving Army General, it is doubtful that he is in control over the entire organization and, as far as relations with jihadi groups and their operations are concerned, it is a cabal of medium and lower level ISI operatives who run the show by keeping even the ISI chief and his other senior colleagues in the dark. If Osama bin Laden was being safe-housed in Abbottabad for so many years until the US raid last month and the Pakistan Army, including the present and previous ISI Chiefs (which includes General Kayani himself) were oblivious of it, then the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the ‘indigenous officers’ of the ISI effectively conspired to keep it that way. While this may sound bizarre that ISI, an organ of the Pakistani establishment, has broken free of all regulatory mechanisms and has emerged as a monster freely killing Pakistani journalists and human-rights activists, political and minority leaders representing various communities and mounting jihadist attacks in different countries, in the murky world of espionage and jihadist struggles stranger things have been happening. The important point now is that Pakistan should not only be forced to act against jihadi groups, but also against the ISI, which should perhaps be disbanded under the directions of the Pakistani government and parliament.

    To mount this pressure on Pakistan, India must not repeat the folly of mobilizing Army units on the border, knowing fully well that it is not going to lead anywhere in the nuclear era. Instead, if there is clear and incontrovertible proof of links between Indian terrorist elements and the ISI, either directly or through its jihadi proxies, India must take a range of determined and resolute measures to force Pakistan to act against jihadi groups and their supporters in its territory. These may include the use of the Navy to mount surveillance and screening of shipping to and from Karachi. It may be recalled that during the Kargil conflict it was the Indian Navy’s enhanced patrolling activity in the northern Arabian Sea, which caused some jitters in Pakistan. India must also monitor and interdict, if necessary, Pakistan’s international telecommunication and cyber links being used by the jihadi organizations/cells to plan and control terrorist incidents in India. India must signal to Pakistan and others this time around that it will do all it takes to ensure that Pakistan acts not just selectively against some Pakistan-based jihadi elements, but against the entire range of jihadi groups active against India and their support apparatus within the Pakistani establishment. If Pakistan wants to retaliate by upping the ante, let the onus of this decision be on it. Simultaneously, India must launch a diplomatic drive to convince the world about its helplessness and frustration in dealing with Pakistan in a peaceful and non-coercive manner.

    However, should the Mumbai incident turn out to be a truly Indian affair, then the government must deal with its own intelligence and security set-up in a similarly ruthless manner. There have been enough instances of intelligence failures and like the past ones, the present one should also not be allowed to be brushed under the carpet. If a Parliamentary enquiry is not considered feasible due to security reasons, a special committee comprising the CVC, CAG, a Judge of the Supreme Court and two Members of Parliament from Lok Sabha representing the Government and the opposition must be set-up under a Parliamentary Resolution to look into not just the factors responsible for the intelligence/security failure behind the latest Mumbai incident, but the entire gamut of the functioning of the Indian intelligence and security agencies, including the state police and its intelligence set-ups.

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