The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organised a seminar on “Terrorism in the India-Pakistan-Afghanistan Region: Linkages and Responses” on February 17, 2009 at the CLAWS Conference Room, New Delhi. The seminar was divided into two sessions: Session – I on “Terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: The Epicentre and the Periphery” and Session – II on “Terrorism in India: Post-Mumbai Response Options”. The panellists of the first session were Lt Gen R K Sawhney (Retd), Amb Rajiv Sikri, and Dr Manoj Joshi and chaired by AVM Kapil Kak (Retd). Session –II was chaired by Shri N S Sisodia and speakers were Amb K C Singh, Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal (Retd), and Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd). The seminar was attended by a large number of officers as well as members of the strategic community.
In his opening remarks, Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd), Director, CLAWS highlighted the current issues on terrorism, linkages, and their implications. Speaking on responses he said a military option is possible and should have been exercised after the Mumbai Terror attacks. FATA and NWFP are affected by terrorism and Pakistan has introduced Sharia in Swat valley. Fundamentalism has been spreading in Punjab province of Pakistan and this could adversely affect India. At present, India is still at the periphery. It is imperative to ensure that fundamentalist terrorism does not spread to the East of the Indus River. With terrorist attacks in Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi and other parts of India, New Delhi would need to take a call on its options and decide its future course of action.
Session – I: Terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: The Epicentre and the Periphery
Chairperson’s Remarks: A V M Kapil Kak (Retd): Pakistan is in a state of turmoil and moving closer to becoming a failed state. The spread of terrorism in Pakistan would affect India’s security adversely. Afghanistan has also been passing though turmoil and chaos and this is affecting India. The new administration in the US is involved in formulating a new strategy. China too is a part of the problem rather than a solution.
Lt Gen R K Sawhney (Retd): Terrorism has become a very complex issue. The US is concerned about developments in Afghanistan. There is a need for India to take a realistic approach on Afghanistan. With the exit of King Zahir Shah in the 1970s, Afghanistan slipped into chaos that continued during Russian intervention in the 1980s as well. After withdrawal of Russia, the Taliban ascended to power in 1996. The US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 but Taliban leaders escaped into Pakistani tribal areas in the FATA and NWFP along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. India should take into account developments in Pakistan’s border areas. The Swat valley is now under the control of Taliban and in all likelihood this area will be entirely lost from Pakistan. Pakistani army and civil administration think that the ‘war on terrorism’ is not theirs, but a war that the US has been fighting. Pakistani society, however, is divided on the issue. The new Obama administration in the US is likely to take decisive steps. Some of the NATO members, especially German and France, do not want to fight. They say that their role is only to undertake reconstruction. It seems that President Karzai is the ruler of Kabul and not Afghanistan. There is total lack of governance and devolution of power would prove disastrous.
Amb Rajiv Sikri: Central Asia has been affected as a result of developments in Afghanistan. India and the rest of the world are at the periphery of global terrorism. Normal and civilised life for the Afghan people has disappeared. Pakistan has real and legitimate security concerns. As far as Pashtuns are concerned, the Durand Line is non-existent since the Pashtuns are settled on both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Drugs are generating the income that is fuelling terrorism. Afghanistan needs an alternative source of income. There can be no military solution for the Afghanistan problem unless it has a political objective. In the long run, India and Pakistan have common interests in Afghanistan. Both India and Pakistan must realise that one day NATO, the US, and Europe will leave the region.
India could not do anything to stop 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. India does not have the leverage to convince the Pakistani army to rein in the attackers. But the US has enough leverage on the Pakistani army. India needs to study the Pakistan army, its powers, perks, and ideological leanings. It also needs to study about the nature of Pakistan society and military, as well as the dynamics of internal politics. The US, China, and Saudi Arabia need to cooperate to stabilise both Pakistan and Afghanistan. It will be in no one’s interest if Pakistan falls apart. There is a need for a regional solution to Afghanistan and India should be part of it. India should work with Pakistan to find a solution to the Afghan problem. Neutral states like Switzerland and the countries of the region should be proactive in obtaining a long-term solution for Afghanistan.
Dr Manoj Joshi: Swat valley has been passing through difficult times. With the introduction of Sharia in Swat valley, Pakistan has complicated the situation. The Pakistani forces are in a dilemma about how to deal with the situation in the Swat valley. The developments in this Valley have wider implications for the region as a whole. Attack on Afghanistan’s Justice Ministry indicative of the Taliban’s present strength and capability. Moreover, there is Shia-Sunni conflict in the Northern Areas. India should not ignore the developments in the region as regional stability is being undermined. Pakistani army is not involved in fighting against terrorism but providing only logistics and other support. Pakistan’s other forces such as the Frontier Corps is involved in fighting against the Taliban. To fight the situation unfolding in Afghanistan, India should participate in the joint battle against the Taliban. The US can solve the problem of Afghanistan with the help of Central Asian countries and Russia. There is a need for a coordinated strategy to sort out Afghan imbroglio.
Discussion: There is no military solution for the problem in Afghanistan. Economic support to Afghanistan is necessary. The US has certain aims and objectives in Afghanistan. The new Obama administration is likely to take some measures that will help in providing peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also been facing many difficulties. India should actively work with Saudi Arabia in dealing with Pakistan. The tribal areas in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are a source of concern for the international community. The US, China, Saudi Arabia and India may help in stabilising Afghanistan.
Session II: Terrorism in India: Post-Mumbai Response Options
Chairperson: Shri N S Sisodia: The Mumbai terrorist attack in November 2008 was a tragic event. Unfortunately, even after the Mumbai incident, India has not formulated well considered response options. India needs to have a comprehensive strategy with regard to fighting and responding to terrorism.
Amb K C Singh: Mumbai incident in November 2008 has affected the Indian psyche deeply. India did not retaliate militarily on the issue of Mumbai attack and its response is below expectation because of many reasons. The US acknowledges that forces emanating from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas are inimical to India. Pakistan army’s low morale and its reluctance to fight the Taliban have complicated the situation. Pakistan army knows that it has been confronting radical Islamists on many fronts. Previously, President Musharraf attempted to solve Kashmir issue but the Lal Masjid episode and domestic compulsions forced him to back away. India must have clear-cut counterterrorism options to respond to spill over from Pakistan.
Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal (Retd) : President Asif Ali Zardari pleaded to the world that Pakistan is in problem because of Taliban. His policy yielded fruit and managed to gain international sympathy though it is a political ploy to garner US aid. Indian response to the Mumbai attack should be selective, calibrated and pro-active. The recalling of India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, snapping cross-border bus services and trade, and approaching UN to declare Pakistan a terrorist state are appropriate steps. The most favoured nation (MFN) status and over-flight permission for Pakistan airlines should be withdrawn. Exercising military option is the most difficult one as Pakistani army is competent to retaliate. India should enhance its coastal defence capabilities and launch surgical air strikes to destroy terrorist training camps in POK, in case of another terrorist attack in India. Internally, India needs to take pro-active steps. The establishment of the National Investigative Agency (NIA) is the post-incident response measure. There is a need for speedy police reforms, making the Intelligence agencies accountable, speedy trial of terror accused, de-linking NSG from VIP duties.
Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (Retd) : India has been facing serious challenges such as insurgencies in J&K, the North-East, growing Naxalism in the hinterland and the mass-casualty terror attacks all over the country. A comprehensive National Security Policy should be evolved after due deliberations at the ministerial and various government department levels mandated by law. India needs a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism. The NIA as it is constituted at present lacks the desired teeth. There should be a system of intelligence assessment at the national level. State level forces and the beat-constabulary needs to be strengthened. Every state must have a dedicated counter-terrorist unit like the Greyhounds in Andhra Pradesh. The CRPF is not capable of fighting urban terrorism though it has been designated as a primary insurgency fighting force. Therefore, a “third force” comprising Rashtriya Rifles and Assam Rifles should be created. It is necessary for the army to concentrate on its conventional role. India should deploy its forces in Western or Northern Afghanistan. India needs to be cautious of terrorism spreading to the Punjab province of Pakistan. Covert action inside Pakistan should be conducted to target the terror leadership. India should fight its own war to root out terrorism from its epicentre. But civilians should not be targeted since we have cultural affinities with the people of Pakistan. The time has not yet come to stop trade and other activities. India’s diplomatic and economic strategies should be appropriate to meet future challenges.
Discussion: India should be cautious on taking actions against Pakistan because it would have regional implications. India’s aggressive postures may force Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where it has deployed to fight against terrorists. India’s position is more defensive in nature. India should positively engage with Central Asian countries and enhance its trade. The feasibility of Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan should be carefully deliberated because such a move has larger ramification. The Mumbai attack in November 2008 was a major setback for the country and India should adopt effective steps to strengthen our security apparatus. There should be a clear cut national directive and response structure.
Concluding Remarks: India’s military presence in Afghanistan needs to be carefully debated because such a move has wider ramifications. India’s surgical strikes inside Pakistan may escalate the conflict and complicate the regional security scenario. Pakistan would retaliate if India takes military actions. India should adopt a long-term policy and revamp its internal security. India should also overhaul its counter-terrorism strategy in addition to providing good training to its forces. India needs to have a strong military to deter enemies and have more options in Mumbai-like scenarios. The military modernisation and complete overhaul of military budget and acquisitions are required. India needs a multi-pronged strategy to combat terrorism but India’s security lies in a friendly relationship with Pakistan as we cannot change neighbours. Pakistan army’s involvement in the nation’s polity should be reduced. There should be healthy relationship between civil society and security forces.
(Report compiled by Dr Shah Alam, Research Fellow, CLAWS and Rohit Singh, Research Assistant, CLAWS)