Friday, 9 October 1998

Make no Concession to the Terror Network

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

The Cold War might have ended seven years ago with the fall
of Soviet Union, but since then a new archipelago of terror has
taken shape, in Asia and Africa, with spottings in Europe. This,
the Archipelago of Terror, has been created by religious
fundamentalists to promote their agenda of separateness. Here,
in the camps of the network, recruits are taught that it is
irreligious to live peaceably alongside other faiths; that it is a
holy duty to use the AK-47 and the plastique explosive against

This new Terror Archipelago has its strongpoints in Saudi
Arabia and Pakistan, with smaller bases in Libya, Iraq, Sudan,
Palestine and Iraq. There are scatter of cells in several countries,
including several on the Indo-Nepal border, as well as in the
Philippines and recently in Marseilles in France. Xinjiang in
China is a new focus of attention. There are two broad streams
within the system, one centred in the Saudi-Pakistan link-up and
the other in Iran. Smaller sub-systems, with linkages to other
countries, also exist.

In the countries where the network is based, there exists a
dual system of authority: the regular government, and the
shadow entity of the Archipelago. The first has almost no control
over the second, while the latter has a great deal of leverage over
the former. Thus a Syed Mohammed Khatami in Iran will have
as little control over the elements of the Archipelago in his
country as Nawaz Sharif will have over the ISI-druglords combine
in Pakistan, or King Fahd will have over dozens of Saudi
nationals who finance subsystems of the network in locations as
far separated as France, India and the Philippines.

While much of the expenses needed for running the system
comes from the drug trade, Saudi nationals provide the bulk of
the rest. Pakistan is home to the largest number of training
camps in the network, beating Sudan by a wide margin if one
includes the training camps in Afghanistan that are Lahore-
controlled. Indeed, Afghanistan has been sought to be recreated
by the Terror Archipelago as the first country to fall totally
within its grip. However, this is being resisted by two contrary
tendencies. The first is Pashtun nationalism, which is chafing at
the Sunni Punjabi strings controlling the Taliban; the second is
the large number of non-fundamentalist Afghans, who do not
want to be part of a network.

The significance of the Archipelago for the policies pursued
by democratic states towards countries that are home to it lies in
the fact that concessions given to the network weaken not just the
country making them but democratic tendencies in the host
countries. Thus the 1972 Shimla agreement, which handed back
all the gains of the 1971 war, did not protect democracy in
Pakistan from getting subverted, initially by Z. A. Bhutto and
later by Zia-ul-Haq. While concessions to the democratic
superstructure - such as trade concessions and people-to-people
exchanges - are welcome and necessary, concessions that are
designed to feed the demands of the Archipelago are futile. The
democratic superstructures have no way of forcing the terror
network to adopt democratic ways. Instead, concessions will
embolden the warriors of terror.

Thus the acceptance by India of Kashmir as an "area of
concern" may in fact have an effect which is the reverse of that
hoped for by those who agreed to this demand. It may embolden
the Archipelago to make further attempts at establishing its hold
over major parts of the state. Until the likely recruits to the terror
war realise that the sovereignty of New Delhi over at least the
parts of Kashmir now governed by the National Conference is
final, they will continue to pump oxygen into the war. Just as at
Shimla in 1972, at Murree in 1997 the Indian negotiators forgot .
about the Archipelago when agreeing to important concessions.

There are several problems in Pakistan that affect the security of
India, the genocide in Sindh being an example. Another is the
second-class status given to minorities in Pakistan. Had these
questions been included along with Kashmir as an "area of
concern", it would have been a fairer exchange.

Just as in 1972 the ground situation was overwhelmingly
favourable to India, and yet the Shimla Accord that was signed
continued the fiction of the Kashmir "dispute", today once again
the ground situation is in India’s favour, at great human cost. Yet
once more New Delhi has given life to a ghost, by agreeing to
discuss a single Indian state rather than generalised principles
over clusters of territories in both countries. The least that can be
expected after such a step is to withdraw the foolish 1948
application to the United Nations. That august body needs to be
told that for years it has failed to vacate aggression and now
India will settle the problem itself. Secondly, the UN Observers
Group, all relaxing at the expense of the international community,
need to be sent packing. Thirdly, the counter-measures against
the Terror need to be maintained.

After a few more years, slowly the economic ruin caused by
the wars indulged in by the terror network will embolden the
people of Pakistan to come out against the fundamentalists and
demand peaceful ties with India.

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