India, like Israel, has to fight terror on its own

published on November 27, 2008

Barry Rubin – Courtesy- Daily Pioneer

years, India has been subjected to periodic terrorist attacks
throughout the country. But what happened in Mumbai is something new
and different: A full-scale terrorist war.

This is the kind of
threat and problem Israel has been facing for decades. What are the
lessons for India from Israel’s experience point also reflected by
India’s own recent history?

First, India needs and has the
right to expect international sympathy and help. It will get sympathy
but will it get help? Once it is clear that other countries must
actually do something, incur some costs, possibly take some risks,
everything changes.

If the terrorists come from bases or
training camps in Pakistan, after all, India wants international action
to be taken. Pakistan must be pressured to close such camps, stop
helping terrorists, and provide information possessed by Pakistani
intelligence agencies.

But how might this happen? Will Western
countries make a real effort? Are they going to impose sanctions on
Pakistan or even denounce it? Will they make public the results of
their own investigations about responsibility for the terror campaign
against India?

Not likely. After all, such acts would cost them
money and involve potential risks, perhaps even of the terrorists
targeting them. Moreover, they need Pakistan for various things,
notably to cooperate on keeping down other Islamist terrorist threats,
not spread around nuclear weapons’ technology too much, and being
cooperative on maintaining some stability in Afghanistan.

parallels Israel’s situation with Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. For
decades, the United States and some European countries have talked to
the Syrian Government about closing down terrorist headquarters in
Damascus. The Syrians merely say “no” (though sometimes they have just
lied and said the offices were closed). The United States even did put
on some sanctions. But by being intransigent, pretending moderation,
and hinting help on other issues, Syria has gotten out of its

So, despite all the pious talk about fighting
terrorism, in real terms, India — like Israel — is largely on its own
in defending itself from terrorism.

Another problem India
faces, like Israel in the case of Lebanon, is that it is dealing with a
country that lacks an effective Government. Pakistan is in real terms a
state of anarchy. Even within the intelligence apparatus, factions
simply do as they please in inciting terrorism. Given popular opinion
and Pakistan’s Islamic framework, even a well-intentioned Government
would be hard-put to crackdown.

In Israel’s case, the whole
rationale for regimes like those in Iran and Syria is a radical
ideology. So pervasive is the daily incitement to hatred and the lies,
that popular opinion supports the most murderous terrorism. The murder
of Israeli civilians brings celebrations in the Arab world. The usual
types of appeals to law and order, holding Governments responsible for
their actions, shaming them, or going over their heads to appeal to the
masses on humanitarian grounds simply don’t work.

So what’s a
country to do? It will consider cross-border raids against terrorist
camps or retaliation to pressure the terrorist sponsor to desist.
Sometimes it will actually take such action. But can India depend on
international support for such self-defence measures or will it then be
labeled an aggressor?

How much is India willing to risk war with Pakistan even though it has a legitimate casus belli due
to covert aggression against itself by that neighbour? And let’s not
forget that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, a situation which Israel may
soon face in regard to Iran.

Now we can see the logic of
terrorism as a strategy by radical groups and countries pursuing
aggression by covert means. The terrorists and their supporters have
lots of advantages; the victims are not only put on the defensive but
have to make tough decisions about self-defence.

Finally, there
is the dangerous “root cause” argument. Many Western intellectuals and
journalists — as well as some Governments — are ready to blame the
victim of terrorism. In Israel’s case, despite desperate efforts to
promote peace, making of concessions, withdrawals from territory, and
offer of a Palestinian state, it is said to be the villain as not
giving the Palestinians

The terrorists and their
sponsors use this situation to their advantage. By being intransigent
— demanding so much and offering so little — they keep the conflict
going and are able to pose as victims simultaneously.

some suggest that if India merely gives up Kashmir and makes various
concessions, the problem will go away? This might not happen but it is
worth keeping an eye on such a trend.

The Indian Government is
thus going to have some very tough decisions to make. How will it try
to mobilise real international support, not just expressions of
sympathy for the deaths and destruction? In what ways can it seek to
destroy terrorist installations and deter their sponsors?

experience offers some lessons: Depend on yourself, be willing to face
unfair criticism to engage in self-defence, take counter-terrorism very
seriously, mobilise your own citizens as an active warning system, and
decide when and where to retaliate.

Defending yourself against
terrorism is not easy. Unfortunately, even in an era of “war against
terrorism” those truly willing to help in the battle are few and far

The writer is director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East
Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.

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