India's Long Term Strategy and Concerns
Lt Gen Chandra Shekhar (Retd) PVSM AVSM
The Nature and Range of Terrorism
Terrorism is fundamentally
an attack on the state. It may be described as an act of violence, committed
against innocent people to create fear, with an underlying political
motive. This fear is an intended effect and not merely a by-product
of terrorism. Terrorists are therefore criminals and not so-called freedom
fighters. International Terrorism has international or trans-national
consequences in which terrorists strike targets outside and beyond their
country of origin such as the 11th September World Trade Centre attack
or the strikes by Pakistan-based outfits in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
International Terrorism also implies that such terrorist groups, e.g.
JEI, Al Qaida, etc. have an organisation/ network/ linkage in a number
of countries. For instance, we have identified terrorists who are nationals
from 16 countries, currently operating in J&K. The question is that
if collateral damage and casualties from terrorism are inevitable, should
the Government have any qualms about swift and ruthless retaliation?
We need to understand
that terrorism is different from insurgency or revolutionary / guerrilla
warfare, as it is an overwhelmingly criminal act rather than merely
a political offence. Even if it is argued that terrorism is employed
by revolutionaries as a ‘tactic’, such means cannot justify the end.
In the ongoing war in J&K we have already lost 28,000 lives. Finally,
the ‘right to life’ is more fundamental than any other right. This is
something that needs to be clearly propagated to everyone, including
is not a new phenomenon to the world or to India in particular. The
11th September incident has only demonstrated another facet of international
terrorism – the tremendous potency of technology and innovation – besides
the globalisation of economies, which have come to transcend national
boundaries. Multi-national corporations and non-state players now have
a worldwide reach. These have compromised the authority of the state.
Non-state players and black money as well as narcotics trade have acquired
power, making some of the terrorist groups (JEI, LTTE & PLO) financially
viable and independent. The revolution in information technology (IT)
and communication also enables instant transmission of ideas and information
at a global level, by the terrorist outfits who can now exploit ‘cyber’
terrorism as well as the deadly and sophisticated Precision-Guided Missiles
(PGMs), and other weapons of mass destruction.
The rise of religious
fundamentalism has introduced a new ideology which sanctifies ‘Jehad’
(holy war) and ‘Fidayeen’ (suicide) attacks. This exploits the situation
of ‘backwardness’ and economic disparity of the frustrated youth of
Terrorism today, therefore,
has been transformed into a trans-national, high-tech, lethal and global
phenomenon. The response to terrorism needs to be structured accordingly
and the decision making process also needs to be modernised.
and Threat Assessment
It is necessary to examine
the environment, both internal and external that exists, before we discuss
the long-term strategy and concerns that confront India. The prevailing
internal environment has a direct bearing on the growth of terrorism
in the country, and should be examined first. The realities in our context
fact that our consolidation as a secular, federal and democratic state
is still evolving; and that the diversity of our multi-ethnic / multi
religious society is often exploited by fundamentalist forces.
absence of sufficient employment and unequal development, the resultant
poverty and the accompanying frustration, which has encouraged unemployed
youth to take up criminal acts and narcotics. The inducement of money
– for instance, Rs 3 to 4 lakhs per year in J&K – is a specific
inducement to take to militancy.
Anti-Terrorism legislation/ legal frame-work and misplaced judicial-activism.
inadequacies in the state apparatus, namely:
in the intelligence structure – human as well as technical.
modernisation of Police, PMF and Armed Forces.
media management and coverage.
— Reactive response
and slow governmental decision-making, lack of clear strategy and
policy on Internal Security.
Amongst the existing
external environment, the regional / sub continental realities that
merit consideration are:
situation between the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’
leading to a heavy influx of drugs and arms. Thus, 21,000 weapons
have been captured in J&K alone.
hostile nuclear Pakistan with a land border of 3,400 km, who sponsors
‘state-terrorism’ and fundamentalist forces.
unresolved border with China (5,800 km), a country that has active
military and nuclear co-operation with Pakistan.
long sea border (7,700 km), prone to pirating and smuggling.
contiguous and porous border with unequal smaller SAARC nations such
as Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, with accompanying problems
such as illegal migration, trade and smuggling in the border belt
and the resultant social tensions. Because of its size and capabilities,
India is perceived as a big brother whose active cooperation is denounced
as so-called ‘intervention’ and lack of it, as ‘indifference’.
On the larger international
scene, the factors that impact on terrorism are the following:
has made geographic borders transparent to the flow of ideas, people
and also turmoil.
has extended the reach and capabilities of the terrorists at the global
interests of national and multi-national corporations (MNCs) pre-dominate
all other interests. Therefore, unfriendly acts by some of our neighbours
are not questioned.
lack of international cooperation to undertake anti-terrorist action
till the 11 September incident. Today, there is better realisation
and the Security Council Resolution SCR 1373 is a good step. However,
unless implemented and enforced, it is of little use. This, therefore,
needs to be converted into an international convention and adopted
by all nations.
LONG TERM STRATEGY
Following from the above
understanding of the nature of international terrorism that faces us
today, it is clear that a long-term strategy is required to counter
terrorism. It has to be comprehensively addressed on all fronts, political,
economic, social and military. This strategy needs to be evolved from
our national aims and objectives to protect ‘core values’. These core
as a secular, federal democratic state with freedom of speech, equality
sovereignty and territorial integrity.
socio-economic growth and development.
We must learn from
the experience of other nations. However, at the same time, we need
to realise clearly that our situation is particular to us and there
are no direct lessons to learn except a re-evaluation of our own experience.
Our strategy must be realistic and cannot be similar to the US model
of worldwide capability or the Israeli strategy of reliance on massive
and immediate retaliation, as the respective environment and capabilities
are different. While, we can take some useful lessons from the British
dealings with the IRA or even the Egyptian policy on eliminating the
Jehadis, one principle is clear – that whatever responses we adopt,
they must not be ‘knee-jerk’ reactions or evolved in an ad-hoc manner.
Political / Diplomatic
cannot effectively be fought alone, as has been our experience so far.
All nations must join hands to combat it, as is being done for Osama
bin Laden and Al Qaida. SCR 1373 must not remain on paper, must be applied
and the defaulting nations punished.
‘proxy’ war must be exposed and international pressure applied. We must
highlight more aggressively, the justness of our cause and the support
to terrorism by Pakistan, both through state and non-state players,
as well as strive to isolate Pakistan in the international community.
A strong message needs
to be conveyed to Pakistan, that we mean business, demonstrated by deeds/actions.
All steps to convey this must be implemented such as diplomacy, trade,
sports and military.
We also need to take
all ‘covert measures’ to pay back Pakistan in its own coin, by encouraging
internal inadequacies in NWPF, Sind, and along the Durand Line.
Our policy of meeting political
/ economic aspirations has succeeded in many cases through the creation
of new states and autonomous councils with limited military containment.
However, it has not succeeded where ‘internal support’ has been potent.
We, therefore, need to move from a policy of appeasement and accommodation
to firm action, before the problem spreads:
proactive policies to confront the terrorists militarily, and at the
roots of terrorist ideology – fundamentalists, social evils and sources
of terrorism e.g. narcotics / drug trade.
effective anti-terrorist laws and legal framework.
and enlarge intelligence networks.
state Police and Para Military Forces in training, equipment and ethos.
Spread the fruits of development
more evenly throughout the country. Locate some of the Public Sector
Units in the remote areas even if they are non-profit making.
Put in a greater developmental
effort in the remote, weaker sections of society – which, though a stated
policy is not visible at present.
displacement resulting in social / ethnic tension such as in Assam
and Tripura, through the joint development of sensitive border belts
along Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Enhance our economic
and military capabilities so as to widen the gap between India and Pakistan
sufficiently, and act as an economic and military deterrence for Pakistan,
which would then realise the futility of trying to catch up.
Promote moderate and secular
polity by media, intelligentsia and religious institutions. The path
of developing a composite culture as already developed in the Armed
Forces may serve as a useful role model.
Address the outdated
education system of Madrassas by quality modernisation and laying down
guidelines for uniform syllabii. We cannot continue to recognise religious
education such as those in the Madrassas as an entrance-system for universities.
Suitable alternatives have to be created.
Upgrade our communication
systems so that television and telecommunication spreads to our remote
and border areas, which are currently under constant reach of Pakistan
There should be realistic
psychological and information warfare so that the will of the anti-national
elements is suffocated and the hearts of the populace are won.
We need to clearly spell
out our counter terrorism strategy / doctrine. This should tackle the
causes and not just the symptoms. I must stress here that J&K is
only a symptom of terrorism and NOT the cause. The direction of military
strategies should be as under:
aim of military operations should be to create a secure and suitable
environment, so that social, economic and political issues can be
addressed effectively. Seeking political solutions to accommodate
the aspirations without fully eliminating the terrorists, their structure
and support bases only results in a ‘fire fighting’ situation and
actually prolongs terrorism. This results in enormous costs, militarily
— The first
step should be to build-up the military forces and their capabilities
(which are not adequate currently), and thereafter consolidation
of these capabilities and finally destruction of the militants.
— A reactive
response is not the answer. A reorientation of armed response is
required so as to launch proactive and specific surgical military
— An important
element of a proactive effort is to increase the costs of proxy
war to Pakistan, by undertaking ‘Hot Pursuit Strikes’ across the
LoC and into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).
evolution of a superior Intelligence System is imperative. This should
encompass human, technical, electronic intelligence, as also modernisation
of data processing and dissemination – both external and
surveillance and management of the borders to check infiltration (International
Border/ Line of Control), is also necessary. This should be achieved
through technical means of surveillance, backed by highly mobile,
specialised forces as ‘Reaction capability’ rather than the present
system, which is manpower intensive.
terrorists have to be hit at their bases, training camps and sanctuaries
to end the surrogate terrorism or the proxy war by Pakistan. We have
to create the means and the will to do this. Special Forces both overt
and covert, need to be employed for this task.
security of our vital installations, nuclear assets and airports.
Static posts or piquets are not the answer. Electronic sensors and
effective intelligence is the need.
measures against nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) and cyber-terrorism.
Army is the ultimate weapon of the state and its over-employment affects
its operational role. The Police and the Para-military should normally
handle the internal security. However, they are incapable of fighting
a proxy war such as in J&K unless their capabilities are upgraded.
At present, there is a
lack of a consistent and comprehensive policy at the national level.
The core of the issue is that we need to respond efficiently and rationally
to the emerging challenges. ‘Collective Action’ to fight by international
cooperation is a must, as the economic costs of combating terrorism
by a single nation are colossal. Such collective action had not come
about till the American-led coalition forces in Afghanistan operated
against the Taliban. Collective action is not confined to active combat
alone. Simultaneously, foreign sponsors of international terrorism have
to be identified and tamed.
Collective Action is
also applicable at the national level. We cannot continue with the present
situation where the Armed Forces bear all the responsibility of dealing
with anti-national elements, while other members of society, from the
safety of their homes, advocate what they deem to be politically correct
measures. A democratic polity and a diverse society such as India do
not support stringent measures and anti-terrorist legislation, even
when necessary. Thus, at present, the security forces have to function
in an environment of lack of total physical and legal support. Therefore,
legal reforms and stringent anti-terrorist legislation have to be enacted.
As an example, the media that has a great reach today, should be used
as a ‘Force Multiplier’ to shape public opinion and to counter false
propaganda. The media must be taken along as a ‘weapon’ of the state
and not of the terrorists.
have to be addressed by both ‘strong arm tactics’ like the Egyptians
did under Hosni Mubarak to chase the terrorists out of the city mosques
as well as by the promotion of secular polity by containing / neutralising
radical religious groups of all religions.
NBC, cyber-terrorism have given the terrorists unlimited powers and
to counter these, we must not lose any time to modernise our security
apparatus. For this, very heavy investment and effort is required and
we must be prepared to follow this effort through. There is also a necessity
to have institutional security, through an overall improvement in intelligence
interception and police efficiency as the list of political targets
continues to grow in the urban and industrial field. The citizens of
the country also have to be energised to feel responsible for the well-being
of the nation and state apparatus alone will not suffice. Simultaneously,
we have to deploy Special Forces for specific tasks and they have to
be trained accordingly. There is also a need to evolve a policy framework
on internal security by the Home Ministry.
Ultimately, the roots of terrorism have to be removed through good
governance. Political corruption and lack of good governance is a basic
contributor to frustration setting in into a society, which is then
exploited by unfriendly nations. Needless to say, this has to be addressed
immediately by striving to achieve economic well-being, social justice
and political aspirations of the populace. In a country of our size
and population, this will take considerable time. Therefore, we have
to put in a sustained effort to initiate, plan for and implement such
efforts seriously, and take them out from merely the realm of election
The author retired as Vice Chief of the Army Staff,
The Indian Army.