Terrorism Update
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Moscow & Delhi
Fighting Together

There is little evidence that the wave of terrorism that is presently sweeping across much of the globe will diminish in the proximate future. If anything, there is reason to expect a significant escalation in the near term, particularly in view of the mismanagement of the situation in Iraq, the increasing disarray in the ‘global coalition against terror’ and a strengthening perception among Islamist extremist planners that the contemporary world’s ‘sole hyperpower’ is deeply vulnerable to the methods of terrorism and irregular warfare, notwithstanding it great financial, military and technological strength. A natural corollary to this perception is that other, relatively weaker, nation states currently targeted by terrorism would naturally be even more susceptible to this method of warfare.

India and Russia are prominent among such targeted countries, and both have suffered immensely as a result of Islamist extremist terrorism over the past decade. The potential of this campaign of attrition has, moreover, escalated enormously within Asia’s rapidly transforming geopolitical dynamic, giving a new urgency to traditional Indo-Russian ties. It is abundantly clear, now, that the ‘unipolar’ world structure that appeared to have crystallized over the last decade of the 20th Century was, at best, an imperfect transitional construct, and that the world will suffer the consequences of rising instability – manifested particularly in terrorism – for years to come, until a more stable multipolar configuration is crafted out of the current disorders.

During his visit to New Delhi in December 2002, President Putin had clearly stated, "We believe a transfer of the center of international terrorism to this region has taken place, and we intend to coordinate the efforts of all combat international terror." Earlier, in his address to the Indian Parliament in October 2000, he noted, "the same individuals, the same terrorist and extremist organizations are involved in terrorist acts from the Philippines to Kosovo, including in Jammu & Kashmir, Afghanistan and Chechnya."

The control centers of this international web of terrorism lie in Pakistan, the country that supports terrorism in the Indian State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), as in other parts of the country; Paikstan’s patronage – indeed, domination – of the Taliban forces and regime in Afghanistan before 9/11 is common knowledge. What is less well known is the Pakistani role in fomenting Islamist extremism in Chechnya, Dagestan, and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) where the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has actively mobilized fundamentalist forces for over a decade; has directly trained and supported terrorist cadres; and given sanctuary to their leadership. Most of the members of the Chechen Cabinet are known to have been trained in Pakistan, and as far back as in July 1995, senior Russian counter-terrorism officials had indicated that Chechen commander Shamil Basayev was among the terrorists trained in Pakistani camps. Salman Raduyev, another Chechen who had led a raid in Kizlyar, Dagestan, in January 1996, taking over 2,000 Russians hostage, also received training from the Harkat-ul-Mujahiddeen (HuM) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The HuM was an ISI creation, and came into being in 1985, originally to participate in the Jehad against Soviet Forces in Afghanistan. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the group substantially turned its attention to J&K, though its influence and its cadres go well beyond. The HuM has been particularly active in training Islamist terrorists in countries including the Philippines, Myanmar, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya, Dagestan and the Xinjiang province of China.

The Pakistani intervention in Chechnya is part of a larger game plan, drawn out during the tenure of Lt. Gen. Javed Nasir as the Director General of the ISI, to dominate the CARs. Nasir was also an ‘advisor’ to the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), which was used extensively in this process, backed by liberal funding from Saudi Arabia. The TJ extensively preached an extremist Wahabi form of Islam in the CARs, as well as in Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, and in the Xinjiang province of China, mobilizing recruits, who were brought to Pakistan and Afghanistan for ‘religious studies’ and for arms training in camps run by the HuM and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Uzbekistan has accused three Pakistani organizations – the Mezb-e-Harkat-e-Jihad (MHJ), Devas-Ul-Ershad (DUE) and the Islamic Ulema Society (IUS) – of clandestinely training hundreds of Central Asians at various centers in Pakistan to carry out terrorist attacks. A large number of mercenaries and volunteers from Pakistan have also participated in terrorist operations in Chechnya and Dagestan. An international Islamist ‘charitable’ organization, Al Haramein Islamic Foundation, created to support the anti-Soviet movement in Afghanistan in the 1980s was also known to have subsequently widened its activities to support Islamist terrorist organizations worldwide, and established a network of offices in Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, Kosovo, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, Somalia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and was active in Chechnya as well. The Foundation is headquartered at Riyadh, and provides support to Wahabi extremist groups in Dagestan and Chechnya. Al Haramein’s operations in Pakistan have been used to arrange the acquisition of heavy weaponry, a range of armaments, and the recruitment of experienced Pakistani mercenaries for the Chechen terrorists. The Chechen rebels had also established strong links with the Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as with a number of Pakistan based extremist groups, including the HuM, the LeT, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam.

Both Delhi and Moscow see a widening arc of Islamist terror sweeping across Eastern Europe, Central, South and South East Asia. Under the circumstances, effectives counter-terrorism cooperation between the target countries has become an urgent imperative. Joint Working Groups have been set up between India and Russia, and there has been significant forward movement at the diplomatic levels. There is, however, a long way to go before such cooperation can be translated into an effective operational response to the patterns of terrorism that affect both countries, and to the regional geopolitical context that impinges on their strategic interests. Both countries, moreover, have extensive and varied experience in countering terrorism, and there is much that they can learn from one another in terms of the effectiveness or otherwise of tactical, technological, administrative and structural responses to terrorism.

(Edited version published in New Theme: On Russian - Indian Affairs, Volume VII, Issue No. 3, July-September 2004.)





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