Originally Published 2005-11-09 06:45:17 Published on Nov 09, 2005
The October 29 serial blasts in Delhi are a warning to all of us who are basking in the afterglow of a make-believe harmony across the Line of Control. Opening bus routes, transit points, good wishes, hugs, flowers, smiles are all fine and necessary in one way to engage a neighbour who has been more of an adversary in the past half-a-century of its existence.
Are we kneeling before terror?
The October 29 serial blasts in Delhi are a warning to all of us who are basking in the afterglow of a make-believe harmony across the Line of Control. Opening bus routes, transit points, good wishes, hugs, flowers, smiles are all fine and necessary in one way to engage a neighbour who has been more of an adversary in the past half-a-century of its existence. 

Scratch the surface, remove the smiling masks, read between the lines, look into the eyes of those who proffer amity, and you will see that nothing much has changed; in their minds, India remains an enemy. The Delhi blasts are a reminder of this deep absence of trust.

What do the serial blasts in Delhi mean? That the terrorists can destroy a nation's moment of joy in minutes; can render scores of innocent Indians orphan, hopeless, homeless and with no faith in peace; can render the state impotent, and fuel animosity and bitterness. 

Who are these terrorists? Investigations so far have come up with the names of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI), Babbar Khalsa International and Al Qaeda. All of them have their bases in Pakistan. HUJI operates from Bangladesh as well. Al Qaeda has worldwide presence. All the groups, except Al Qaeda enjoy official patronage in Pakistan. Many of them owe their origin to the Pakistan Army-ISI combine.

LeT enjoys unbridled support from the establishment. It is the armed wing of Jamaat-ud Dawa (JuD), a semi-religious organisation that professes to establish a modern Islamic nation in Pakistan. The primary objective of LeT is to liberate Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagarh, in that order, from India. Despite the bans, LeT has survived to remain a strong organisation, thanks primarily to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's refusal to destroy its roots and the refusal by the US to pursue terrorist groups operating in Pakistan.

The recent earthquake has only increased the influence of the group. Scores of Lashkar activists along with members of its parent organisation, JuD, have been actively working in quake-affected areas of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, laying the seeds of a future expansion plan. On the ground, LeT has gained enormous popular support in these areas, giving it a stable base to recruit and gather contributions in the name of jihad. 

Its chief Hafiz Saeed has enormous clout in the establishment, both in the political as well as military circles. Despite all the noises on terrorism, Saeed's sprawling headquarters of terror near Lahore remain safe from military or police action.

One of the most wanted terrorists in the world, Sayeed leads Friday prayers at a Lahore mosque without fail and hosts parties for political bigwigs in his new house in Lahore city. Saeed runs a website, both in English and Urdu, and hosts all his speeches, pictures of his Muridke complex and showcases the work being done by his men in PoK. Recently, one of the Kashmiri secessionist leaders, Yasin Malik, met him in Lahore to discuss joint relief operations.

Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) is a creation of the ISI. Azhar Masood announced the birth of JeM at the Karachi Press Club in January 2000 with the battlecry: "We will liberate Red Fort." Masood was one of the terrorists released by India in exchange of the passengers of Flight IC-814 in December 1999. Five years since then, JeM has systematically filled the ranks of Kashmiri militancy and indulged in mayhem, alone or jointly with LeT or other terrorist groups. HUJI on the other hand owes its origins to the erstwhile Harkat-ul Ansar, has pan-Asian ambitions, is part of Al Qaeda and operates from Karachi, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

What is their objective? The objective of the terrorist groups or their combine is to destabilise India. They want to drive home the point that they are alive and strong, and retain the power to strike at will, in the heart of India's Capital. They want to prove they are emerging victorious. They have already begun claiming that it is their pressure that brought India to the negotiating table on Kashmir. They also know that India is not in a position to respond effectively. They believe that India could be forced to make concessions on several issues that are currently being discussed with Pakistan.

What is the role of Pakistan? It is responsible for terrorist groups like LeT and JeM to flourish. Pakistan today is home to some of the most dreaded terrorist groups in the world. Even President Musharraf has admitted this. These groups were born in the wake of the Afghan jihad and were subsequently used by the Army and the ISI to activate terrorism in Kashmir. 

Without state support, LeT, JeM and HUJI would have died natural deaths after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989 but have, instead, grown in strength primarily due to the Pakistan establishment's strategy to use them as bargaining chips with the international community, particularly after the global scare of terrorism that followed September 11, 2001, attacks. Pakistan could easily dismantle these groups by destroying their headquarters, seizing their property and freezing their bank accounts and financial channels.

What has been the Indian reaction to the Delhi blasts? It has been to hide its head in the sand. No credence should be given to the routine, lacklustre condemnation. It is a pre-recorded script. What is significant is the eagerness with which the Indian leadership went about the town in assuring the international community that the killing of 60 innocent Indians by terrorist groups operating from Pakistan will not be allowed to affect the peace process. There is not even a word of warning to President Musharraf.

On the civilian front, the reaction matched the pusillanimity of the Government. No one came out on the road to express solidarity, anger and disgust at the way it has been back footing on terrorism. If we don't have water and power for a day, we go out on the road and protest, burn buses and heap abuses on politicians. Not one ventured out when terrorists killed 60 men, women and children three days before Diwali. 

The BJP takes to the road at the drop of a hat; the Left finds enough reasons to picket an airbase where a handful of US pilots have landed for joint exercises. No one squeaks, if a handful of terrorists mercilessly destroy lives of 60 Indians, make scores of young ones orphan. The mischievous Volcker Report generates more heat than the blast. Politicians have reduced terrorism to slogans; academics to an intellectual exercise and journalists as score cards. Terrorism is about life and death of near and dear ones. In all the debates on terrorism, we should never forget this fundamental fact. 

What should we do? As a nation, we fail every time we need to stand together. We must say no tolerance for terrorism. It should be our stated policy. It should be written in black and white, published widely, in all Indian languages: We will not tolerate terrorism. 

We must tell Pakistan that if it wants to talk peace with us, it will have to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure operating on its homeland. President Musharraf must keep his word, given on January 6, 2004, in a joint statement, not to allow his territory to be used for terrorist activities targeted against India. He has not kept the word so far. We must make him keep his word. If we can't, then we should dismantle our armed forces, wind up our intelligence agencies and save the country some Rs 100,000 crore every day.

The author is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Source: The Pioneer, New Delhi, November 9, 2005.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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