Internal Security Issues 101 – Cross Border Terrorism | Part 1

India has suffered tremendously from terrorism and violence within its borders due to various reasons. This Internal Security and Related Issues series will analyse what are the various factors involved. We begin with cross border terrorism.

What does cross-border terrorism mean?

Terrorism is the organized use of violence for political ends and is directed primarily at innocent people, or soft targets.

Terrorism that has its roots in one country and it operates with the support of the country of its origin, but uses violence to create terror in another country, is described as cross-border terrorism.

Cross-border terrorism in the world:

With the rise of radical organisations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda, other countries besides India are also now suffering from cross-border terrorism. In total, more than 1,200 people outside of Iraq and Syria have been killed in attacks inspired or coordinated by the Islamic State, according to a New York Times analysis. Nearly half of the victims were killed in attacks that targeted Westerners. The others have been civilians in Arab and other non-western countries, killed in mosques, government offices and other targets. See other details here.

Source of image: New York Times


Source of image: New York Times

The extent of cross border terrorism being fueled by ISIS can be gauged from the following picture:

Source of image: New York Times

Cross-border terrorism in India:

The problem of cross border terrorism over the last fifty years in India has occurred in three regions – Punjab, Kashmir and the North–East, where people are on the social and physical fringes of India.

Language, religion and the feeling of alienation set these people apart from the people of the heartland of the country.

All the three are concentrated at the outer limits of India adjoining a neighbouring country that has the desire and the ability to create problems in India’s internal security.

Factors responsible for Cross-border terrorism in India:

1. Geographical factors:

a) Length of borders: India has 14818 kilometers of land borders and a coast line of 7516.6 kilometers. All states except Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Telangana, Delhi and Haryana have an international border or a coast line.

b) Extreme geography: Also, borders are quite complex and almost every type of extreme geography is present at different borders viz. Mountains, deserts, fertile lands, swampy marshes or tropical evergreen jungles. Lack of proper security in inhospitable areas further aids cross border terrorism.

c) Shifting courses of rivers located near boundaries further compound the problem of border management e.g. Padma and Brahmaputra in the east and Ravi in the north.

2. India’s economic and military rise:

India is emerging as an economically and military strong nation in both continental Asia as well as the Indian Ocean region. Pakistan views India’s rise as a threat to its own ambitions. It is thus resorting to cross border terrorism tactics to keep India engaged in proxy wars and divert its resources from other developmental issues. It aims to degrade India’s conventional superiority through a process of strategic fatigue.

3. India’s neighbourhood challenge:

India is like island of democracy between seas of anarchical or instable states. Probably, no other neighbouring country has experienced uninterrupted democratic regime for more than 15 years.

Additionally, in some countries there is cultural radicalism targeted at India, and terrorists and mafia groups are patronized by some of India’s neighbouring states.

4. Territorial Ambitions of Pakistan

Pakistan having failed to grab Kashmir despite fighting conventional wars has resorted to the strategy of terrorism. Conventional wars are expensive and the chances of achieving political objectives through wars have diminished due to the development of nuclear weapons and the possible international reaction.

In such a case, proxy war is a low- cost and no- case option but best suited to promote Pakistan’s geo political, diplomatic and military interest, not only to wrest Kashmir but also to gain forward strategic depth.

5. Boundary disputes

Unsolved border disputed with Pakistan in the area of Sir Creek in Gujarat, the LOC in J&K, AGPL portion in Siachin and with China in Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh and Transk-Karakoram tract further compound the problem.

Indian Concerns:

1. State sponsored terrorism: The links between top army personnel, bureaucrats and political leaders, on the one hand, and terrorists and drug barons, on the other, have acquired a measure of legitimacy under the banner of Islam and jihad in Pakistan.

2. Pakistan’s failure to act against terror outfits: Despite being handed over evidence of Pakistan based terrorists’ involvement in Pathankot terror attacks, and the Pakistan JIT team being allowed access to the terror site, Pakistan has not taken any steps that indicate its intent to act tough on terror.

3. The China-Pakistan nexus has given rise to external concerns such as covert assistance in Pakistan’s nuclear and missile program. Also, China continues to block India’s bid to get Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar (accused in the Parliament terror attack case and, more recently, the Pathankot attack) listed as a terrorist by the United Nations. China has also previously blocked India’s demand for taking action under the Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolutions against Pakistan for releasing Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zaki-ur Lakhvi—the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

3. Recent joint military exercises between Pakistan and Russia (traditionally seen as India’s close ally) despite ongoing India-Pakistan hostilities also paint a picture of concern.

4. India has also become the target in the global jihadi plan of outfits such as ISIS and Al Qaeda which are not only instigating violence through sleeping modules, but also attract educated urban youths to spread terror agenda on social media and to fight in alien lands. There are over hundred Indian youths who are estimated to be fighting for ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Also, the radicalization and recruitment of youth for such terror organisations has become more sophisticated, thanks to the internet.

5. Pakistan’s funding, arming, training and diplomatic support to varied terrorist groups active in Kashmir has emboldened the terrorists all over the world.

Thats it for this part!

The next part in this series will analyse India’s counter-terrorism set-up and the issues with it (click here for Part 2). This is supposed to be one of the most comprehensive series in Internal Security related Issues. Your feedback is welcome 🙂

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