By: Col Anil Bhat, VSM (Retd.)
New Delhi [India], Mar. 15 (ANI): The 19th Asian Security Conference of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) held from March 6-8, on the subject Combating Terrorism: Evolving an Asian Response, featured an impressive and wide array of speakers from India and fourteen foreign countries.
The aim of this conference was to focus on the following themes over multiple interactive sessions:
I. Evaluating the norm building efforts in countering global terrorism, understanding the geo-political realities and defining the Asian and global response to terrorism.
II - Identifying ideologies and drivers fuelling this transnational resurgence of extremist violence, with an eye on the role of terror finance in exacerbating conflict in the region
III - Examining how technology is changing the nature of conflict and the rising challenges there-in to Asian security.
IV - Assessing the threat of terrorism in Asia: From South West Asia, to the extended outposts in South Asia and South East Asia.
V - Forecasting challenges that lie ahead, debating the absence of effective counter-narratives, and building upon a reservoir of best practices of counter-terrorism efforts by countries in the region.
The conference explored these subjects through the course of the following interactive sessions:
• Norms: The Global War on Terror : Challenges for Asia
• New Wave of Global Terror: Ideas, Resources and Trends
• The Age of 'Instant Terror': Technology, the Game Changer
• Regional Perspectives - The West Asia Conundrum : Unraveling geopolitics; global response
• Regional Perspectives - South and South East Asia : The Growing Spectre of Terror
• Constructing effective counter-narratives: The need for a global response
• The Asian Response to Combatting Terror : The Way Forward.
The speakers were former defence minister Manohar Parrikar, DG, IDSA, Jayant Prasad, DDG, IDSA, Maj Gen Alok Deb, SM, VSM (Retd), Mohammad Hanif Atmar, National Security Advisor (NSA), Afghanistan, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, former national security advisor, Pakistan, Mr. Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in- chief, Raial-Youm, Praveen Swami, The Indian Express, Mr. Ehsan Monawar, Counter-Terrorism Expert, Afghanistan, G.K. Pillai, Former Home Secretary, Government of India, Baker Atyani, Veteran journalist from Jordan, Waiel Awwad, New Delhi-based Syrian journalist, Lamya Haji Bashar Taha, Public advocate of the Yazidi community, Iraq, Karnal Singh, Director Enforcement Directorate,Government of India, Dr. Christine Fair, Associate Professor, Peace and Security Studies Program Georgetown University, USA, Gulshan Rai, Chief of Cyber security, Government of India, Arvind Gupta, Deputy NSA, Government of India, Dr. Anne Speckhard, Director, International Center for Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), USA, Madan Oberoi (IPS), former Director, Cyber-Crime, Interpol, Singapore, Saikat Datta, Director, Centre for Internet ; Society, India, Sanjeev Singh, Addl. DG (anti-Naxal Operations), Madhya Pradesh Police, Manjula Sridhar, Founder ArgByte - a cybercrime analytics software, Sanjay Singh, former Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, Vladimir I. Sotnikov,
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Mustafa El Sagezli , General Manager, Libyan Program for Reintegration; Development, Abul Cader Mashoor Maulana , Former OSD, Foreign Minister, Saudi Arabia, Frank Ledwidge (UK), Former Military Intelligence Officer who served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Mohammad Hossein Shojaei, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Iran, India, Eitan Shamir, Senior Research Fellow, Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Israel, Sanjaya Baru, Director, Geo-Economics and Strategy, International Institute of Strategic Studies, Lt. Gen. Chowdhury Hasan Sarwardy, Commandant, National Defence College, Mirpur, Bangladesh, Ayesha Siddiqa, former bureaucrat and political commentator, Pakistan, Ma Xiangwu, Functionary, Communist Party of China, Lt. Gen. Daya Ratnayake, former Commander of Army, Sri Lanka, Kumar Ramakrishna, Head of Policy Studies and Coordinator of National Security Studies Programme in the Office of the executive deputy chairman, RSIS, Singapore, Syed Asif Ibrahim, Indian Prime Minister's Special Envoy on "Countering Terrorism and Extremism, Lt. Gen. Ata Hasnain, former GOC 15 Corps, J-K, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, Grand Mufti, Syria, Adil Rasheed, Research Fellow, IDSA, A.R. Anjaria, President, Islamic Defence Cyber Cell of India and Member, Advisory Council, Jama Masjid, Delhi, Saad al-Qarni, Associate Professor, University of Imam Mohamed Ibn Saud, Kalbe Sadiq, Founder, Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust and Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, Director, Society for Policy Studies.
Commenting on Asia's pivotal role in combating terrorism, Parrikar said that a strong regional push from Asia will exert more pressure on the rest of the world to adopt a cohesive framework to fight terrorism, a 'transnational threat''.
He explained that the response to this threat is generally local and uncoordinated, largely due to conflicting definitions of terrorism and geopolitical constraints, which have stymied a global response, whereas successful combat against terrorism requires a holistic approach, of which important steps are tackling of terror finance and countering the misuse of the internet through social media by terrorist entities.
Atmar, National Security Advisor, Afghanistan described security and counter terrorism as the 'most defining challenge of our times and called for a strong counter-terrorism strategy, with proposed actions at four levels - global, the Islamic world, regional and national. Cautioning that such strategy would be a 'generational challenge' requiring long-term planning, the Afghan NSA insisted that its objective should be to end State sponsorship of terrorism by initiating coordinated political, strategic and military responses to destroy the flourishing sanctuaries for terrorist groups. Terming international accountability as a prerequisite to counter terror, the NSA laid equal emphasis on the need for appropriate action at the national level through good governance, education, and infrastructure building. Dispelling the perception of terrorism being associated with Islam as unethical and unhelpful, the NSA insisted that the Muslim nations have lost more lives to extremism and terrorism than other nations.
Adding that Muslim nations are natural allies in the war against terrorism, he insisted that the narrative of distinguishing between good and bad terrorists should be stopped, as such distinction helps a perpetrator organisation disguise itself as a victim and morphing itself into a Frankenstein monster.
He further noted that Afghanistan is not confronted with a civil war, but a terrorist war, and an undeclared state to state war.
Advocating strongly for the need for security and economic prosperity for all in West Asia, Ambassador Hossein Sheikholeslam, Advisor to Foreign Minister, Islamic Republic of Iran, blamed socio-economic imbalances for political uncertainty in the region. Stressing that West Asia has been a victim of Western arrogance and colonial intervention along with continued meddling for years, is the root cause of political conflicts in the region and added that cohesive socio-economic development of the entire region is the only way to establish peace.
Commenting on Syria, the Ambassador said Iran and Syria share a common political and strategic outlook and it is the people of Syria who must decide their own future.
On Afghanistan, he said Iran's relations with Afghanistan are founded on very close cultural and historic ties.
Speaking on West Asia and Caucuses, other speakers at the conference highlighted the clash of interests of powers involved in the New Great Game for influence in Central Asia, and large-scale drug trafficking along the northern transportation route from Afghanistan to Russia, as chief causes of instability in the region.
The international community was unanimously urged to agree on common denominators for formulation of a single counterstrategy for violent extremism.
The speakers agreed that political communities should try to reach out to the nations and ethnic sections that are potentially prone to radicalisation.
Citing external interventions as one of the major causes for increasing radicalisation of youth and terrorism in the region, the experts called for greater regional and international cooperation for the systematic eradication of religious extremism.
Speaking on the rise of Da'esh as an unprecedented event in the geopolitics of the West Asian region, the experts noted that the terrorist outfit has challenged the existing regional political order by trying to redraw boundaries in the volatile region.
Even if defeated, its surviving fighters could go underground, return to their countries of origin and mutate into another radical organisation.
Some of the common denominators for a counterterrorism strategy identified by the experts were discouraging religious extremism, having proper legislation in place to protect minorities, denying of terrorist sanctuaries and use of non-state actors, and national action plans against terrorism.
There was wide agreement on the need for de-linking religion from terrorism and that the counter-narratives should go beyond religions, to the connected political, historical and psychological issues. Lack of socio-economic development, inadequate education, heightened poverty, corruption, and misguided nationalism were cited as some of the key drivers of extremist ideologies.
Exclusion of minorities from mainstream politics, rising religious chauvinism, and lack of an ideological response to the extremist school of thought, were some other factors.
There was also wide agreement on the need for developing multi-disciplinary approaches, capacity-building of law enforcement agencies, and strengthening of public-private partnership to counter terrorism.
While the conference dwelt on all aspects and issues and proved to be an effective platform for brainstorming on the problems and responses to terror, there is an irony that must not be overlooked. Considering that the host country, India has been a long-term target of terror emanating from Pakistan, with Jammu and Kashmir as a fulcrum, India's own policy and responses have been flip-flop and inconsistent.
While the BJP government-expected to be assertive- showed its assertiveness post the terrorist attack on the Army at Uri by approving a cross-Line of Control surprise strike, subsequent two Pakistani attacks with beheadings/mutilation of two Indian soldiers, were responded to by pounding of over twenty Pakistani border posts. No matter how many such attacks Indian Army launches, induction of Pakistani terrorists into the Kashmir valley and attacks by them as well as radicalization of valley public/youth will not stop until the separatists- read traitors- and their wide network are not neutralized.
It beats reason as to why the Central and state governments instead of neutralizing the separatists, provide them with many benefits, including security personnel and bullet-proof vehicles-when policemen do not have enough bullet proof gear- and further, even providing a government job for the leading separatist's grandson.
It is these very separatists who are consistently and continuously sustaining/funding/inciting anti-Indian sentiments and activities. (ANI)