September 12, 2001


 Search the Internet
Send this column to a friend

Print this page
Recent Columns
Give him something to
     fight for
Pearl Harbour -- no,
     not, the movie
End of tradition
Do India and Pakistan
     need IMF to dictate
     a solution
The voices of reason

Admiral (retd) J G Nadkarni

The fight against terrorism has to start NOW!

Three questions will agitate the minds of the Indian people in the aftermath of the unprecedented attack on US institutions by terrorists. First, how will it affect the equation in Kashmir? Second, what will be the effect of the attack on national security? Third, what will be the other effects of the terrorist attack?

The terrorist attack will no doubt strengthen India's position in Kashmir. At one stroke terrorism has become a worldwide and immediate threat. Up until now, the fight against terrorism tended to be a limited local affair. Although the United States and other Western countries played lip service to fight terrorism, their support to condemn and combat the evil tended to be limited depending on how their own national interests were affected.

Thus, despite clear and overwhelming evidence against Pakistan, the United States usually stopped short of declaring Pakistan a terrorist state. After all, State-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan did not affect the United States directly, or so it was thought. That cozy feeling has surely gone down in a debris with the World Trade Centre buildings. President Bush has made it clear he considers that a fight against terrorism is a worldwide fight and that the US will in future make no distinction between terrorists and nations which harbour and give aid and succor to terrorists.

It is also clear that the definition of the words terrorist and terrorism will undergo a change as a result of the attack. It will now encompass all forms of rebel and unlawful activities including harboring fugitives like Dawood Ibrahim, running training camps for terrorists and even allowing hate nurturing madrasas. Countries can no longer be complacent about feeding and sustaining terrorism under the excuse of 'giving moral support to freedom fighters.' Pakistan will now have to think twice before openly supporting terrorists within the country.

In the past, practically every country had supported rebel activities in one form or another. During the Cold War years, both the United States and the Soviet Union routinely supported rebel activities all over the world, sometimes directly, at other times through their allies. The US mounted a full scale invasion against Cuba and to this day supports Cuban rebels in Miami. The US involvement in the 1973 overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende is well known. The Soviet Union too supported rebels in Angola and in many other parts of the world.

India has been incensed at Pakistan's support for terrorists but it must be remembered that in the eighties India supported the LTTE rebels in Sri Lanka. The Indian government surreptitiously trained the LTTE and provided it with weapons and equipment. Even to this day, despite losing Rajiv Gandhi to an LTTE-sponsored attack, LTTE receives both monetary and other assistance from Tamil Nadu with the Indian government turning a blind eye to such support.

There was not a word from the Indian government when the LTTE blew up 11 aircraft in Colombo some weeks ago. In India's case the genie uncorked from the bottle rose up against its benefactor. More than 2,000 Indian jawans lost their lives in Sri Lanka.

If terrorism is to be combated on a world wide scale, it cannot be in a selective way. A terrorist is a terrorist whatever his cause and cannot become a freedom fighter just because you support it. India would do well to make this position clear and clean up the skeletons in its cupboard before joining the international fight against terrorism.

In the immediate future, the attacks in the US will certainly put pressure on Pakistan, not only to close down the terrorist camps it runs but also to distance itself from Afghanistan and the Taleban. One can expect an improvement in the situation in Kashmir as a result.

The events in the United States will certainly give a boost to hardliners in the Indian government and the country. The calls for attacking terrorist camps in Pakistan and giving hot pursuit will increase. There will now be less fear of any international repercussions if such attacks are undertaken. Unfortunately, such attacks will also result in India being made to come down from the high moral ground that we have occupied in the past. Terrorism cannot be combated by becoming a terrorist yourself.

The attack gives an opportunity to India's security experts to carry out an immediate review of our security measures and beef them up if necessary. The attacks in the United States were only successful because of their innovative methods, helped apparently by precise execution and somewhat lax security. The use of a jet as a guided weapon is certainly a novel and unique idea.

Two years ago the Indian government, after much fanfare set up the National Security Council. It was set up to come up with solutions and position papers for just these type of situations. Although the Cabinet held an emergency meeting as a result of the terrorist attacks, there was no indication that the NSC met. Can we expect some action from the NSC? What are the measures they recommend? How do they intend to ensure that such things do not happen in India?

There are very few things that any security apparatus can do when a determined terrorist is willing to lay down his life for the country. The best any government can do is to limit the damage. In the corrective measures which the Indian government is sure to take, thought must be given to prevent the use of a transport aircraft as a guided missile. This can only be done if the pilot's cabin is made totally inaccessible to the passengers in an aircraft. This may not prevent the hijackers from blowing up the aircraft but it will prevent far greater damage to property and prestige.

The forthcoming fight against terrorism gives our country an excellent chance to extend the fight to include other unholy elements, the Mafia, underworld gangsters and narcotic peddlers. In the past, some of their Indian friends, to serve their own petty interest, have thought nothing of joining hands with these undesirable agents of crime. The politicians, police and the movie industry have all been guilty of cavorting with gangsters and their agents.

The war against terrorism, whatever form it takes, can only be successful if, not just the government agencies but the public also join that crusade.

Admiral J G Nadkarni (retd)

Tell us what you think of this column