Event ReportsPublished on Apr 28, 2004
In its June 2004 issue, Jane¿s Intelligence Review, has carried a report on the "Workshop on International Terrorism in South East Asia and its likely Implications for South Asia"
Jane's Intelligence Review report on  Terrorism
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In its June 2004 issue, Jane's Intelligence Review, has carried a report on the "Workshop on International Terrorism in South East Asia and its likely Implications for South Asia", organised by Observer Research Foundation, from April 28-30, 2004. The complete text of the report is reproduced below.

Pan-Asian terrorist links

Possible links between terrorist groups in South and Southeast Asia were discussed at a conference organised by the non-governmental think-tank the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi on 28-29 April. 

A major theme to emerge from the conference was the strong linkage between hardline Islamist groups in both regions. The leaders of Islamist groups in Southeast Asia, such as Jemaah Islamiyya (JI) and Laskar Jihad, not only participated in the war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, but also spent significant transit time in Pakistan. 

Radical Islamists from Southeast Asia, and a few from Australia, have forged links with hardline Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), among others. Pakistani group Harkat ul-Jihad ul-Islami (HuJI) has attempted to expand its operations into Bangladesh and Myanmar in a clear example of regional interaction. As intelligence expert and conference organiser B Raman argued, these links provide a compelling case for India to pay greater attention to Southeast Asian security. 
Another theme to emerge was the nexus between international terrorism and local rebellions. A number of speakers sounded notes of caution in viewing conflicts such as those in Kashmir, Aceh, southern Thailand and the southern Philippines in terms of international terrorism. Yet it is clear that forces with a wider #146;clash of civilisations#146; agenda have tried to graft themselves onto these problematic regions. For example, LeT cadres have fought in Kashmir, but unlike other separatist/irredentist groups in Kashmir, LeT sees this struggle as the beginning of a wider campaign for its Islamist agenda. Evidently JI has attempted to forge ties with disaffected elements in southern Thailand, yet the crisis - which worsened during the conference proceedings - cannot be seen as part and parcel of the war on terrorism. Local conditions, including the corruption of local officials and violence stoked by elite politics, have also played a role in rising levels of unrest. Situations of local and communal violence should not be mistaken for international terrorism, yet Al-Qaeda and its sympathetic fellow travellers have clearly tried to link these struggles to their own war against the West. 

The Washington factor 

The USA#146;s role in the war on terrorism was critiqued by a number of speakers on a number of different fronts. During the inaugural keynote address, K Subrahmanyam, an Indian commentator on strategic affairs, noted the part Washington played in the formation of Jihadi groups in the Afghanistan context. Security journalist Praveen Swami outlined the USA#146;s role in the formation of LeT during the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Washington#146;s apparent support for authoritarian regimes in nearby regions - not least of all Pakistan - was judged by a number of participants to be short-sighted. Many delegates argued that Pakistan has demonstrated a lukewarm response to confronting the terrorist problem and questioned Washington#146;s continued support for President General Pervez Musharraf#146;s regime. 

Retired Indonesian General Agus Widjojo said that many Indonesians fear they may become a target in the war on terrorism and are deeply suspicious of Washington#146;s intentions. Dr Kumar Ramakrishna, from Singapore, critiqued Washington#146;s under-utilised strategy to "diminish" the underlying conditions of which terrorist groups are able to take advantage. He recommended that the USA seek new and inventive ways to influence moderate voices within Islam. Many speakers noted that events in Iraq had not improved the USA#146;s reputation. At the heart of this discussion was the tacit admission that Washington#146;s lead on the war on terrorism is critical to its success - or lack of success. 

Delegates also discussed the tactics of terrorist groups, particularly the emergence of groups and freelance individuals that agree with Osama bin Laden#146;s overall goals but are not part of his network. Swati Parashar, a researcher at the ORF and co-organiser of the conference, noted the transformation of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) from a small group in Jordan in the 1950s to a network with a presence in Central and South Asia and contacts with radicals in Western countries. Professor Matin Zuberi, a former Indian civil servant, highlighted the major difficulties for non-state actors in successfully acquiring, developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction. He concluded that conventional attacks would continue to be the main tool of terrorist groups. 

Professor Clive Williams spoke on the issue of suicide terrorism, which has been utilised in South Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka, and is now emerging in Southeast Asia, with the Bali bombings in October 2002 and Marriott hotel attack in Jakarta in August 2003 cited as examples. Dr Ersel Aydinli, from Turkey, drew on the case of Islamist activity in that country to highlight the issues of international "connectors" from the Al-Qaeda network who are able to convince and cajole local cells into terrorist action before moving on, as well as the related problem of document fraud and falsified passports. 

The conference was a timely reminder of the importance of analysts from connected regions comparing notes and experiences. The workshop was planned as part of a wider conference and publications effort by the ORF into the problem of terrorism. 

Anthony L. Smith is a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Hawaii. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, US Pacific Command, the US Department of Defense, or the US government. 

Source: Jane#146;s Intelligence Review, London, June 2004. * Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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