Originally Published 2005-05-21 11:50:25 Published on May 21, 2005
No Indian terrorist group is co-operating with the international jihadi terrorist movement headed by Al Qaeda.However, certain Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations, which are members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), are being used by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for organising terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir (J) and other parts of India.
International  Jihadi Terrorism: An Indian Perspective
No Indian terrorist group is co-operating with the international jihadi terrorist movement headed by Al Qaeda.However, certain Pakistani jihadi terrorist organisations, which are members of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), are being used by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for organising terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and other parts of India. These are the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). All these organisations except the HUJI have been designated by the US State Department as Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) and are subject to action under the UN Security Council Resolution No.1373 against terrorism. India has been trying to persuade Pakistan to stop using these terrorist groups against India and to dismantle their terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory.

After the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, the international community has recognised that no cause, however just, could justify resort to terrorism. In any discussions on the root causes, one should see that this consensus is not weakened.Anger is the common motivating factor of all terrorism, domestic or international. There could be different causes for anger, domestic or international. Dealing with the domestic causes is the responsibility of the State concerned. 

Among instances of anger with an international fall-out, one could mention the anger in the Arab world over the unresolved Palestine issue and over the counter-terrorism methods adopted by Israel and in the Islamic world as a whole over the counter-terrorism methods adopted by the US in its so-called war against international terrorism, over the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US-led coalition and over what is perceived as the double standards adopted by the US with regard to the acquisition of a nuclear capability by Israel and Muslim countries. Until there is a satisfactory solution of the Palestine issue and there is an end to the foreign occupation of Iraq, the flow of angry Muslim youth from different countries to
participate in the international terrorist movement is unlikely to diminish.

Anti-American and anti-Israeli feelings in large sections of the Muslim population in different countries are fueling international jihadi terrorism. This has to be addressed.Counter-terrorism itself, when it uses excessive force as done by the US and Israel, becomes a root cause of aggravated terrorism and provides oxygen to international terrorist networks. In India, we stress the non-military approach to counter-terrorism. Under this, the Police is used as the weapon of first resort against terrorism and the military only as a weapon of last resort. The Army is used mainly in the border areas where we face the problem of cross-border infiltration of foreign mercenaries.

However, in the case of organisations such as the Al Qaeda, a non-military approach alone may not work. Some of their objectives such as a reversion to Islamic Caliphates cannot be accepted by the international community. Even the Governments of the Islamic world would not accept them. The Al Qaeda and some of the Salafi groups practise reprisal terrorism based on an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth policy. There can be no political or other non-operational approach to them. They have to be neutralised effectively through international co-operation. Where an international terrorist group is motivated not by an urge for reprisal, but by perceptions of grievances, legitimate or not so legitimate, non-military approaches can be tried.

There has to be a judicious mix of the tactical and strategic approaches to international terrorism. The objective of the tactical approach would be to weaken terrorist organisations and make them realise that violence is not a viable option. The objective of a strategic approach would be to insulate the law-abiding sections of the affected community, provide them with economic and social incentives for continuing to be law-abiding and keeping away from the terrorist organisations and give them a future worth looking forward to through economic development and investments in the social sector such as education. In countries such as Pakistan, many poor rural families send their children to the madrasas because there is no alternate, affordable secular education system available. Observance of human rights and better training of counter-terrorism agencies in order to prevent their personnel from indulging in over-reaction would also be an important component of the strategic approach.

Another important component of a strategic approach is the need to counter the ideology of the international terrorist network. To be able to devise a workable ideological approach , it is necessary to correctly analyse the ideological trends in the international terrorist movement. There cannot be a uniform ideological approach applicable to all countries. Western and Australian analysts make the mistake of viewing Islam and the global terrorist network originating from sections of the Muslim population as monolithic. This is not so. The tendency to view them as monolithic leads one to miss the different ideological strains. Not all Muslims think alike. Not all Muslims agreed on the wisdom of Al Qaeda's action in launching the terrorist strikes in the USA. Many feel it has done great harm to the Islamic world by providing the US with an excuse for using its military might against them. Even those who share the anti-US and anti-Israel anger of Al Qaeda feel there were other means of giving vent to this anger than to carry out terrorist strikes in US territory. Similarly, many Muslims doubt the wisdom of the Al Qaeda in starting a jihad in Saudi Arabia. They fear it could antagonise the Muslim common man by coming in the way of his right to pay a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy land. The thinking, unfortunately widely prevalent in the Western world, that all Muslims think, act and behave alike is coming in the way of a nuanced approach to counter-terrorism.

The influence of the Deobandi-Wahabi ideologues of Pakistan such as the late Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai of the Binori madrasa of Karachi on the attitudes and ideology of the international jihadi terrorist organisations, including the Al Qaeda, has not been paid adequate attention by Western analysts. Similarly, little attention is paid by Western analysts to the writings and statements emanating from religious elements in Pakistan. Ideologues such as the late Abdullah Azam, who are often quoted by Western and Israeli analysts, are forgotten thinkers of the past. They have little influence on the thinking of the Muslim youth of today. It is surprising that hardly any analyst, either in the West or in South-East Asia, has paid any attention to an interview given by an unidentified leader of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM---then known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar)to Kamran Khan, the well-known Pakistani journalist, which was carried by the "News", the prestigious Pakistani daily, in two instalments in February,1995, under the title "Jihad World-wide". These two articles indicated their concept of a global jihad and gave details of what they were already doing in this regard in the Philippines and other countries.

It is important to make a distinction between the Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF) . One should not treat the two as one and the same. The IIF adapted the united front tactics of communist insurgencies to suit the operational needs of jihadi terrorist organisations. Thus was born the international jihadi terrorist network. The IIF ideology has three components--- loyalty first to religion; religious solidarity; and recognition of only the frontiers of Islam and not national frontiers. The IIF feels that its perception of the Islamic Ummah as an organic whole gives the Muslims the right to go and wage jihad anywhere to protect their religion and their co-religionists.

One should avoid over-projecting the role of bin Laden in the international jihadi terrorist movement, thereby giving him a larger than life-size image and an air of invincibility. Amongst large sections of the Islamic world, he commands more respect as a good jihadi commander than as a good religious leader. As a religious leader, Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Amir of the Taliban, commands more respect and following than bin Laden. bin Laden tells Muslims in his messages how to be good jihadi fighters and not how to be good Muslims.

In judging the success of the so-called war against terrorism or the lack of it, the question to be asked is not whether Al Qaeda and its command and control are weakening. It is whether the motivation and morale of the global jihadi movement against the US are weakening. It is not so as could be seen from the seemingly unending flow of volunteers for suicide missions.

One way of circumventing the present logjam over the definition of terrorism would be to define what constitutes an act of terrorism. It should be easy to achieve an international consensus that certain acts such as hijacking means of transport, causing explosions in means of transport and using improvised explosive devices in crowded places constitute acts of terrorism and all organisations which indulge in such acts should be designated as terrorist organisations. All States, which support such organisations, should be viewed as State sponsors of international terrorism. (20-5-05)

Note:This article is based on observations made by the writer at a meeting of a Study Group on Terrorism of the Council on Security Co-operation Asia Pacific (CSCAP) held at Bangkok on April 26 and 27, 2005.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. E-mail: [email protected] )

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.