[Burning Issue] Terrorism and the World

India battles on multi-layered fronts to counter cross-border terrorism.

Our security forces are constantly engaged in creating an environment of security in the country.  They have been quite successful in diagnosing and executing them.

The airstrike after the Pulwama attack and the earlier surgical strike made clear the zero-tolerance policy of India towards terrorism.

Context

  • International terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
  • Highlighting yet again the issue of terror at the UN, India has said terror has become a “means of waging war” and requires “global action”.

Why in news?

  • Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has recently addressed the United National Security Council (UNSC) open debate over ’20 years after the adoption of resolution 1373’ on combating terrorism.
  • Describing terrorism as the greatest threat to mankind, he had proposed an eight-point action plan at the UNSC to ensure effective action against the menace of terrorism.

What is Resolution 1373?

  • The Security Council Resolution 1373, adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001, is a counter-terrorism measure passed following the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
  • The resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and is therefore binding on all UN member states.

Major provisions of the resolution

  • The resolution aimed to hinder terrorist groups in various ways. 
  • UN member states were encouraged to share their intelligence on terrorist groups in order to assist in combating international terrorism.
  • The resolution also calls on all states to adjust their national laws so that they can ratify all of the existing international conventions on terrorism.
  • It stated that all States “should also ensure that terrorist acts are established as serious criminal offences in domestic laws and regulations and that the seriousness of such acts is duly reflected in sentences served.”

How Terrorism has become a global issue?

  • The rise of ISIS and the growing problem of foreign fighters have led, in recent years, to some wider acknowledgment that terrorism is a global catastrophe.
  • 9/11, 26/11, Christchurch terror attacks have transformed the global belief of terrorism being a local problem.

Impacts of Terrorism

(1) Economic impacts

Terrorism also thwarts economic growth indirectly by affecting macroeconomic variables, e.g., by reducing FDI, lessening domestic investment, increasing inflation, increasing non-development government expenditures (law and order and Security), damaging stock markets, and increasing unemployment, among others.

(2) Political impacts: A Terror incident shakes the very foundation of a legitimate government and its establishments on moral grounds of accountability (for intelligence failure to avert terror incidences). This results in political instability.

(3) Socio-cultural impacts: Terrorism is often associated with a particular religion or ethnicity. This often leads to paranoia towards a religion leading to communal tensions. Multi-diverse countries like India are the worst hit.

(4) Loss of Life & Property

This is the main impact of a terrorist event. But as we know, casualties are not the only way terrorists can achieve their goals. When people stop leaving their homes and carrying out their lives as normal due to real or perceived terrorist threats, businesses see the impact on their bottom line.

The 8-Point Action Plan

In a first intervention since India joined the UNSC as a temporary member on 1 January 2021, S. Jaishankar had put forward an eight-point action plan as part of his zero-tolerance policy for terrorism, saying there are “no good and bad terrorists” and there should be “no ifs and buts” around terrorist activities.

1. Summon the political will to combat terrorism.

Nor should we allow terrorism to be justified and terrorists glorified. All member states must fulfill their obligations enshrined in international counter-terrorism instruments and conventions.

2. Do not countenance double standards in this battle.

Terrorists are terrorists; there are no good and bad ones. Those who propagate this distinction have an agenda. And those who cover up for them are just as culpable.

3. Reform the working methods

Reform the working methods dealing with sanctions and counter-terrorism. The practice of placing blocks and holds on listing requests without any rhyme or reason must end.

4. Firmly discourage exclusivist thinking that divides the world and harms our social fabric.

Such approaches facilitate radicalization and recruitment by breeding fear, mistrust, and hatred among different communities. The UNSC should be on guard against new terminologies and misleading priorities that can dilute our focus.

5. Enlisting and delisting

Enlisting and delisting individuals and entities under the UN sanctions regimes must be done objectively, not for political or religious considerations.

6. Curbing terror linkages

Linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime must be fully recognized and addressed vigorously.

7. Combating terrorist financing

It will only be as effective as the weakest jurisdiction. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should continue to identify and remedy weaknesses in anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing frameworks. Enhanced UN coordination with FATF can make a huge difference.

8. Adequate funding

Adequate funding to UN Counter-Terrorism bodies from the UN regular budget requires immediate attention. The forthcoming 7th review of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy offers an important occasion to strengthen measures to prevent and combat terrorism and building capacities of member states.

Global facets of Terrorism

Terrorism is the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political or social objective.

It has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police.

Various attempts have been made to distinguish among types of terrorist activities. In general, there are three basic facets of terrorism – international terrorism, domestic terrorism and transnational terrorism.

We need to be familiar with these five types of terrorism:

  • State-Sponsored terrorism, which consists of terrorist acts on a state or government by a state or government.
  • Dissent terrorism, which are terrorist groups which have rebelled against their government.
  • Terrorists and the Left and Right, which are groups rooted in political ideology.
  • Religious terrorism, which are terrorist groups which are extremely religiously motivated and
  • Criminal Terrorism, which are terrorists acts used to aid in crime and criminal profit.

Terror tactics these days are more modernizing through new technologies such as:

Bio-terrorism: It is the intentional release of biological agents to cause illness or death in humans, animals, or plants. These agents may be bacteria, fungi, toxins, or viruses. They may be naturally occurring or human-modified.

Cyber-terrorism: It is the convergence of cyberspace and terrorism. It refers to unlawful attacks and threats of attacks against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Why do people resort to terrorism?

Individuals and groups choose terrorism as a tactic because it can:

  • Act as a form of asymmetric warfare in order to directly force a government to agree to demands
  • Get attention and thus political support for a cause
  • Directly inspire more people to the cause (such as revolutionary acts) – propaganda of the religion/separatism
  • Indirectly inspire more people to the cause by provoking a hostile response or over-reaction from enemies to the cause

Somewhere in the roots of domestic terrorism, socio-cultural deprivation remains the prime mover.

Terrorism in India

Following are the types of terrorism which threatens India’s security and internal peace and tranquility.

  1. Ethnic terrorism
  2. Religious terrorism
  3. Ideological terrorism

Ethnic Terrorism: Terrorism based on an identity crisis, resource crisis, and cultural imperialism among various ethnic groups is called ethnic terrorism. It is spread in the northeast region of India.

Religious terrorism: The systematic violence propagated based on religion is called religious terrorism. The feeling of religious superiority is at the root of this terrorism. Religious terrorism in modern times is considered terrorism.

Ideological terrorism: If the purpose of planned violence is motivated by communist elements, it is called Left Terrorism or Naxalism/Maoism.

The UN and its handling of Terrorism

The UN’s counter-terrorism work in recent years can be organized under three headings:

First, a norm-setting role that includes-

  • the development and promotion of a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and efforts to counter violent extremism,
  • a set of international conventions, and
  • far-reaching UNSC  resolutions imposing counter-terrorism obligations on member states;

Second, capacity-building activities to help countries meet some obligations (through FATF and all) and

Third, Security Council-mandated sanctions, in the 1990s, against state sponsors of terrorism, and since 9/11 against hundreds of individuals and entities affiliated with Al Qaida.

The UN has accumulated ample experience and a proven record of success in its efforts to end civil wars over the past two and a half decades.

However, serious questions arise regarding the preparedness of the UN’s conflict management tools, in particular its peace operations, to deliver mandates in countries affected by terrorist insurgencies, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Lebanon.

Limitations to the UN

The U.N. is too political, too uncoordinated, too focused on process rather than outcomes and follow-up, and too far removed from the people who actually deal with the problems of terrorism.

  • Invocation of a “war on terrorism” and adoption of reflexive security measures renders very serious pressure on any organization such as the UN.
  • As an intergovernmental organization catering to the needs and driven by the interests of national governments, the UN is constitutionally ill-equipped to implement counter-terror measures.
  • The UN’s comparative advantage may thus lie in supporting and mobilizing funding for networks that would allow for the sharing of best practices among such local actors.

Need for a global action

A high-level review of UN peace operations concluded in 2015 that the UN peacekeeping missions, due to their composition and character, are not suited to engage in counter-terrorism operations. This is mainly because-

  • The growing presence of religious terrorist groups in many of today’s civil war environments complicates the UN’s peacemaking.
  • This is because many of these groups pursue maximalist demands that are very difficult to meet or to incorporate into political settlements based on human rights and democratic governance.
  • Even where such groups may be motivated primarily by local, legitimate, and reversible grievances, key powers tend to discourage negotiations with them.
  • Again, extremists groups have proven difficult to engage around respect for humanitarian norms, which the UN has successfully employed elsewhere with other armed non-state actors.
  • The UN has increasingly become a target of such groups, which has led it to ever greater preoccupation with protecting itself rather than local civilians.
  • This has greatly hampered its ability to engage with the local population, win hearts and minds, and mediate local disputes.

India’s action: Leading from the front

India has been fighting insurgency and terrorism since its days of independence.

  • India has been at the forefront for a call of global action against terrorism which is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon.
  • India has been calling for the passing of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN. CCIT calls for a common definition of terror and the criminalization of international terrorism.
  • A decade of relentless efforts by India to get Pakistan-based terror master Masood Azhar listed as a global terrorist by the UNSC finally came to fruition in 2019.
  • India has been successful in drawing attention to its problem of terrorism by casting Pakistan as a breeder and supporter of terrorist organizations.  To this testimony, India’s role play at the FATF against Pakistan is globally visible.

This signifies India’s leadership in global counter-terrorism efforts.

Way Forward

  • Indeed, around the world many governments continued to rely primarily on military and law enforcement tools in their counter-terrorism efforts often to the detriment of human rights and with insufficient attention paid to underlying drivers of extremism.
  • The world needs to shift its focus primarily from military and law enforcement tools towards a holistic approach.
  • This is because counter-terrorism efforts often tend to detriment the human rights and least attention is paid to underlying drivers of extremism.

Endorsing the Christchurch Call

Christchurch call of action is an initiative named after the New Zealand city where 51 people were killed in an attack on mosques.

The attack had highlighted the urgent need for action and enhanced cooperation among the wide range of actors with influence over this issue, including governments, civil society, and online service providers, such as social media companies, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The initiative outlines collective, voluntary commitments from governments and online service providers intended to address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online and to prevent the abuse of the internet.

Such collaboration can be extended over various parameters of counter-terrorism moves by the global community.

A note for the UN

While it is true that the UN’s operational counter-terrorism activities have faced severe shortfalls and limitations; the UN has proven a useful venue for establishing the broad normative and cooperative frameworks for collective counter-terrorism action.

  • The UN needs to reflect on how it can adapt its peace operations to deliver on their mandate in theaters where terrorist networks are present.
  • Among the key questions the UN will need to confront are: how to identify elements among violent extremist groups that could potentially be engaged in mediation, peace and reconciliations processes.
  • The UN has to arrive at a how to adapt Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration programs to the context of violent extremism.

India has to be ‘all-alert ‘

Looking to international organizations such as the UN has lost much of its appeal since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The loss of credibility renders it incapacity of any substantial action against these insurgents or the countries that harbor them.

  • Technological advancements and, arguably, new geopolitical alliances also bring with them new terrorist threats.
  • Despite myriad ideological and operational complexities when it comes to terrorist groups active in the country, India is outperforming its peers when it comes to meeting these challenges.
  • However, the fight against terrorism is far from over.
  • India must be prepared with its military and diplomatic options to eliminate these threats well in advance.

Conclusion

  • Terrorism is not just a violent activity but it attacks the social, cultural, and defense fabric of the country and society and hinders its sustainable development.
  • All countries must solve problems like the socio-economic unjust, refugee crisis, human rights abuses globally, and stands unanimously against all forms of terrorism to end it.

In conclusion it can be said, India’s war against terrorism remains largely her own problem.  For time to come, India will have to deal with its problem of terrorism on its own accord.


References

https://www.orfonline.org/research/one-year-since-the-christchurch-call-to-action-a-review/

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/in-8-point-action-plan-against-terrorism-jaishankar-slams-pak-takes-a-dig-at-china/articleshow/80241500.cms

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/eam-jaishankars-8-point-action-plan-in-unsc-to-combat-terrorism#read-more#read-more

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_India

http://www.ipcs.org/comm_select.php?articleNo=1657

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