A Decade After
Interview with K.P.S. Gill,
President, Institute for Conflict Management
On September 11, 2011
How has the world
been transformed by 9/11 and by terrorism over the past decade?
KPS Gill: The
transformation of the world in the face of terror attacks, especially
after 9/11, has been total and complete... After 9/11 there has been
a change in the perception and the world has realized that terrorism
is an activity which is not permissible today, which is an activity
which impinges on civilization, and impinges on activities which are
very vital now to the progress of human kind, especially economic activities.
So there's been a sea change during the last ten years.
Does the world understand
terrorism better today than it did a decade ago?
KPS Gill: Politically
I think the incoherence persists and the perception in the minds of
people is determined by propaganda to which they are exposed. But I
must say that pro-terrorist groups have been very effective in launching
their propaganda war. The theory of the root causes of terror, which
has been pronounced by some of the leaders in the world, is a direct
result of this sort of propaganda, and the repetitive propaganda on
these lines. So now everyone accepts that, although that is not a correct
perception. So as far as the political response to terrorism is concerned,
it still has to crystallize internationally and it still has to crystallize
within the countries itself...
So there's been no coherent
response to terror... President Bush talked about a war on terror, and
he inducted the Army to fight terror, to 'drain the swamps', as he said.
But the recent raid on Osama bin Laden, in which he was killed, shows
that what is required is motivated, well-trained groups to go for terrorist
leadership, and thereby make a change. Not by launching infantry attacks
and military attacks on so called terror hideouts.
You had spoken of
a transformation of the Muslim world from within. To what extent has
this come to pass?
KPS Gill: We have
also to talk about the impact of terror on Islamic populations as such.
And one can see that there has been a gradual distancing of large sections
of the population from Islamic terror groups. The enthusiasm and the
ease with which recruits were available a few years back is not evident
today. For instance, there was a news item saying that the Taliban had
abducted a number of youngsters to convert them to their way of thinking,
when they didn't have to abduct (earlier). They used to get volunteers
easily. But what has happened is that, within the Muslim countries there
has been a lot of turmoil, political turmoil, which has impacted large
sections of the population. And that turmoil is not of anyone's making,
but it is an internal dynamic of the countries concerned... What is
happening in quite a large number of Muslim countries is that people
are probably disenchanted with this technique and want to move on, and
want to better their livelihood, better their conditions. And that is
what is keeping people away from terror...
So, this shows the large
disenchantment of large sections of Muslim populations, and specially
Muslim women, with terror. They are getting away from it. They want
to go to schools, to colleges, and the evidence of that is the difficulty
with which women are pursuing their studies in Afghanistan, in spite
of tremendous opposition, in spite of fear of death and disfigurement
and torture, ostracization. Inspite of all that, they are trying to
go out of the narrow confines of the type of education they are being
imparted, and join the mainstream, the world's mainstream, of education,
which is a sort of universal education. But the impact of this is not
visible as dramatically as it should be, because I think the impact
will take time. May be another 10 years, may be another 15 years. But
then the impact will certainly be there, and it will certainly lead
to a lessening of terror activities. It may not lead to a total stoppage,
but it'll lead to a reduction in terrorist activities.
Is the Arab Spring
turning into an Islamist Autumn?
KPS Gill: Different
countries have had their, shall we say, what they call the Arab Spring.
But like all mass movements, after toppling the regimes concerned, it
appears they do not know what to do. And this happens, I think, it happens
whenever the changes are done without a clear political orientation
among those people who are trying to change society. And this is, of
course, a larger issue which comes up, the larger issue being that the
new technologies that are developing, require a new politics, which
has not happened. The political idiom is still the 20th century
idiom, or the 18th century idiom, or the 19th
century idiom. But what should be the politics of the 21st century,
which will be conducive to mankind's progress? That still has not emerged
and I don't think that there is much thinking going on about that. So,
in the Arab world, you had these regime changes and a movement towards
democracies, but how these democracies will function is very difficult
to say. And the confusion within the Muslim world, I think to a very
large extent, is reflected in what is happening in Turkey, and has been
happening for the last ten-fifteen years. There is a constant struggle
going on, between the fundamentalists and the liberals, within the Muslim
mindset. This particular struggle is still, I should say, based on the
old ideologies. The question remains, how do you get these things together
and work out a relationship between the scriptures of any religion,
and the new thought which is emerging out of the new technologies. There
is a conflict there, and that is a conflict which has not been resolved...
So that conflict brings
about, shall we say, various different types of strands into communities.
You just had this shootout in Norway the other day, which was based
on that gentleman's reading of various histories of various religions,
including the impact of Islam on those religions. So how the mindset
of the people belonging to various religious groups will respond to
the new technologies is difficult to say.
There has been much
speculation about WMD terrorism and the Islamist terrorists' efforts
to acquire WMD capabilities. How real is this danger?
KPS Gill: But
in new technologies are also the weapons of mass destruction. They are
the products of technologies, may be a little older, but they are the
products of such technologies. How would... if it comes into the hands
of terrorist groups or Islamist terrorists, how would they use these
technologies is very difficult to predict. You could not predict what
Osama bin Laden would do till he did it. And no one could predict that
people can use an aeroplane full of people as a missile, and self-destruct
and destroy property and kill such a large number of people. Similarly,
when such weapons, both biological and nuclear, fall into the hands
of terrorist groups, it is very difficult to predict as to how they
will use it. Of course, the obvious conclusion would be that they would
use it to destroy cultures which they feel are opposed to their own
culture. And in that they have already, shall we say, highlighted, the
cultures of the Christian West, the Hindu India and the Israelis, as
the three main enemies of Islam. So these countries, these cultures,
will have to be careful about what may become a grave threat to them,
when such weapons fall into hands of the Islamist extremists, who not
only see enemies, but they also have an agenda of world domination...
Is terrorism weakening,
or have we entered the age of endless war?
KPS Gill: What
happens, say, starting from today, in the next ten years? Does the world
continue to live under fear of terror? And that fear is there because
incidents keep on happening, which keep on reminding people of what
terrorists can achieve or do. So, is the world fated to live with this
sort of fear for the remaining 10, 20, 30 years, for the coming 10,
20, 30 years...?
As the spread of education
takes place, as a mindset change is brought about, not through a conscious
effort of anyone, but through the automatic spread of technology and
greater interaction between people in different parts of the world,
the number of people espousing the terrorist mindset will reduce...
But when will it reduce to a proportion of the population that it becomes
negligible, or it becomes totally marginalized, is difficult to say.
But ultimately, the world is tending towards that. It is tending towards
the ultimate marginalization of terror, and whatever action is being
taken by various governments in the world, that is contributing to it,
but not to such a large extent, as the automatic spread of technology
without any effort, through opening up of trade, through opening up
of commerce, through interaction between nations, through easier travel.
And probably, this process itself, within the next ten to fifteen years,
should lead to a situation where people would not be talking about terror
as one of the central issues on our civilizational horizon....