Event ReportsPublished on Apr 28, 2004
A two-day workshop on international terrorism in the South-East Asian region and its likely implications for South Asia was organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) at its headquarters at New Delhi on April 28 and 29, 2004, under its International Terrorism Watch Project.
Workshop on International Terrorism in South-East Asia and its likely implications for South Asia
A two-day workshop on international terrorism in the South-East Asian region and its likely implications for South Asia was organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) at its headquarters at New Delhi on April 28 and 29, 2004, under its International Terrorism Watch Project.

The Workshop was attended by eminent counter-terrorism experts from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey and from a well-known think-tank of Honolulu, Hawaii. 

It was also attended by well-known experts from India, governmental as well as non-governmental and distinguished members of the Indian strategic analysts' community.

The Workshop was divided into five sessions, of which the first was devoted to a discussion on the Indian perspective, the second and third to a discussion on the South-East Asian and Australian perspectives, the fourth to the global perspective and the fifth to a critical evaluation of the Workshop by two of the foreign participants from Indonesia and Singapore followed by an open-house discussion. One of the objectives of the critical evaluation was to discuss a roadmap for future networking among the non-governmental counter-terrorism experts of the South and the South-East Asian regions and Australia to promote research and in-depth examination on the subject.

Each session was preceded by a keynote address by eminent members of the Indian strategic analysts' community on the following themes: "Can Terrorism be vanquished?"; the "Geo-strategic Context of Modern Terrorism" ; "Terrorism in South-East Asia-an Indian Point of View" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Terrorism -Fears & Reality". 

Inaugurating the Workshop, Mr.A.N.Ram, a distinguished former member of the Indian Foreign Service and presently the Chairman of the India National Committee of the Council on Security Cooperation in Asia Pacific (CSCAP), underlined three major developments in the South-East Asian region which, in his view, have greatly influenced the discourse on terrorism and political violence in the region. These are - the fact that the economic development in the region has still failed to bring about political cohesion and regional integration; the low priority being accorded by the big powers to South-East Asia in the post cold-war scenario and finally the influence of external factors which have begun to play a role in some ASEAN countries exploiting the vulnerabilities of their fluid domestic situations. He touched upon the Bali Bombings of October 2002 and the growing network of international terrorist groups in the region and stressed the need for a closer cooperation between India and South-East Asia to counter the menace of terrorism.

Mr. K. Subrahmanyam, the doyen of India's strategic analysts' community, who delivered the first keynote address on "Can Terrorism be Vanquished?", underlined the role played by the Western powers, particularly the USA, in the creation and the use of many of the religious terrorist groups of today against the erstwhile USSR and pointed out how these groups had turned into Jihadi Frankenstein monsters haunting the world today. At the same time, he pointed out that the war on terrorism was one of ideas and expressed his confidence that just as the international community had vanquished pernicious ideologies of the past such as Nazism, Fascism, etc belying the pessimism of many as to whether these ideologies could be vanquished, similarly it would emerge victorious in its struggle against the ideology represented by jihadi terrorism. 

During the various panel discussions, the participants exchanged information, insights and perceptions on Al Qaeda, the Jemaah Islamiya (JI), the Lashkar-e-Toiba and other jihadi organisations allied to Al Qaeda and the Hizb-ut-Tahrir. There were also two interesting presentations on the global perspective and on suicide terrorism. Each session was marked by lively interactive discussions on different perceptions and the linkages amongst the terrorist organisations of the regions concerned. These interactions promoted a better understanding and appreciation of the concerns and preoccupations of different countries confronted with the problem of international terrorism.

While agreeing on the importance of effective short-term action to protect the people of the region from the destructive activities of the terrorist groups, the participants stressed that the equally important task of countering the new kind of terrorism represented by Al Qaeda and organisations allied to it in the medium and long term at the ideological level should not be lost sight of. It was stressed that the fight is not just against Al-Qaeda, but equally against 'Al-Qaedaism' and that the progressive Islamic scholars would have to play an important role to counter the threat posed by distorted interpretations of Islam by fundamentalist elements. 

During the critical evaluation session, the Workshop, inter alia, identified the following areas and themes for future co-operation among the think-tanks and non-governmental experts of the Asian region and Australia:

  • Maritime counter-terrorism.
  • How to counter the new terrorism ideologically?
  • The importance of an empirical analysis and information networking especially at the level of non governmental public policy think-tanks and other kinds of research organisations.
  • Devising a mechanism for making the inputs of Workshops such as this available to organisations such as the CSCAP and policy-makers.
  • Strengthening the regional organisations like the SCO, ASEAN and the CSCAP etc.
  • Restructuring intelligence agencies to prevent the forgery of passports and other important documents

The Observer Research Foundation would be taking the necessary follow-up action on these ideas and themes, which have emerged from the Workshop.

List of Participants

  1. Dr. Anthony Smith
    Senior Research Fellow, Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu
  2. Dr. Kumar Ramakrishna
    Head (Studies) and Assistant Professor, Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  3. Dr. Bilveer Singh
    Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  4. General Jose T. Almonte
    National Security Advisor and Director- General of the National Security Council in the Cabinet of former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos from 1992-98
  5. Lieutenant General (Retd.) Agus Widjojo
  6. Former Vice- Speaker, People's Assembly, and presently Distinguished Senior Fellow, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta, Indonesia
  7. Afifi Raswan Dean
    Researcher, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  8. Surat Horachaikul
    Lecturer, Department of International Relations, Faculty of Political Science, 
    Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
  9. Clive Williams
    Director of Terrorism Studies, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  10. Ersel Aydinli
    Associate Professor, University of Bilkent, Turkey
  11. A.N. Ram 
    IFS (Retd), and presently representative of the Indian Chapter on the 
    Council on Security Co- operation Asia Pacific (CSCAP)
  12. K. Subrahmanyam
    Former Convenor, National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), Government of India
  13. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh
    Distinguished Member of the community of Indian Strategic Analyst and Former Member of National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), Government of India
  14. Prof. V. Suryanarayan
    Former Director of Centre for South and South- East Asian Studies, University of Madras, Chennai
  15. Prof. Matin Zuberi
    Distinguished Member of the community of Indian Strategic Analyst and Former Member of National security Advisory Board (NSAB), Government of India
  16. Dr. Ajai Sahni
    Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management and South Asia Terrorism Portal, New Delhi
  17. Prof. S.D. Muni
    Professor, Centre for South Asian Studies, JNU, New Delhi and Honorary Director of Research, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi
  18. Wilson John
    Senior Fellow and Director, Information Services, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi
  19. Dr. P.V. Ramana
    Research Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi
  20. Praveen Swami
    Chief of Bureau, Frontline Magazine, New Delhi
  21. R. Sridhar
    Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Madras Christian College, Chennai
  22. Dr. Swarna Rajagopalan
    Independent Political and Security Analyst, Chennai
  23. Commodore R.S. Vasan (Retd.)
    Coast Guard Region (East), Chennai
  24. N. Sathiya Moorthy
    Honorary Director Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter
  25. B. RamanDistinguished Fellow and Convenor Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter
  26. R. Swaminathan IPS (Retd.)
    DG- Security, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India
  27. Dr. Geetha Madhavan
    Advocate, PhD in Law on International Terrorism and Expert on Terrorism
  28. Kshitij Prabha
    Principal in Charge, VPM's College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai
  29. Swati Parashar
    Researcher, Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

Report prepared by Swati Parashar, workshop co-ordinator.

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