Thursday, December 4, 2008

Needed: A New Approach to Fight Terrorism

An interesting post on the Bombay (Mumbai) attacks:

I liked two points the author made: (i) it's time to give up attachments (I presume to old ways of thinking); and
(ii) the horrifying events of the past week do invite us to open our "eyes, hearts and minds."

I believe it's important we look for new approaches that are likely to lead us away from conflict, towards peace. I believe it's equally important we find approaches that are realistic, which means we cannot afford to ignore the realities of the situation. These realities include the facts that Pakistan's military intelligence (the ISI) is obviously not under the full control of the civilian government and that the ISI continues to train and finance terrorists.

I was amazed to hear a Pakistani foreign minister state clearly to the world media last week that it was in Pakistan's interest to cooperate with India on the ongoing investigation of the attacks. This is indeed an opportunity for Indians and Pakistanis to give up their attachment to old ways of thinking and work together for peace.

Yet, the Pakistani government was unable that same week to persuade the head of the ISI to visit India, even though it had publicly announced such a visit. Meanwhile, the evidence of ISI complicity in terrorist activity continued to mount. At the moment, attention is focused on the results of the Indian investigation of the Mumbai attacks. But let us not forget that the New York Times quoted US government sources back in August to say that the ISI had aided the blast at the Indian embassy in Kabul in July. And, because of its concerns about the Pakistani military, the US no longer provides Pakistan with advance information of attacks against Al Qaida terrrorists on Pakistani territory.

What does all this mean for India? I think it means India, and Indians (such as myself), need to distinguish between the various wings of the Pakistani establishment and support those that stand firmly against terrorists while standing up to those that continue to train and finance terrorists. This is, of course, easier said than done when it is far from clear what action, if any, Pakistan’s civilian government intends to take against terrorist groups or their powerful supporters.

Perhaps the civilian government in Pakistan could start by extraditing those wanted in India in connection with terrorists attacks, including an attack on Parliament and the hijacking of a plane. At the same time, the government, with the help of its allies, might begin tracing the money that reaches terrorist organizations based on Pakistani soil. Lastly, it must begin the difficult process of bringing its military, including military intelligence, under government control.

Pakistan’s allies and well-wishers need to take their heads out of the sand, acknowledge the ground realities, and help and encourage the elected civilian government to deal with those realities.

The Indian people are understandably angry and sad after the latest attacks in Mumbai. It is important to direct that anger against terrorists rather than against communities or countries.

It is in no-one's interest to be subjected to more terrorist attacks. It is not in the interests of either the Indian or the Pakistani people to have any force, any power, continue the indoctrination and training of terrorists. And it is not in the interests of either country, and their people, to have a “failed state” and a power vacuum in the subcontinent.

I hope these realities will finally help us to overcome the divisions of the past -- based on nationality, religion or language -- and create, finally, the one division that is needed today, not just in the subcontinent, but around the world: the division between people who seek peace and people who spread terrorism.