Wednesday, January 7, 2009

South Asia: Micro Solutions to a Macro Problem

The recent events in Mumbai have resulted in speculation regarding the security situation between India and Pakistan. Unfortunately, a majority of the information appears speculative at best by security analysts, who have obviously garnered little intelligence on the ground in both India and Pakistan. There is no doubt that this recent act of barbarism by Islamic fundamentalists, whose only intent was to take innocent life was well orchestrated, planned and funded. However, there is minimal intelligence that suggests the act was committed with the aid and complicity by the Government of Pakistan (GoP). This does not suggest that the GoP does not hold some form of responsibility. However, it would be remiss to overlook the internal policies of the Government of India (GoI), as well as other terrorist activities preceding the events of Mumbai not carried out by Islamic Fundamentalist, but by Hindu Fundamentalists.

The Role of Pakistan

The GoI’s role in the War on Terror continues to be a mixed bag of partnership with both the United States as a useful ally, and a safe haven for terrorist organizations planning, training and recruiting for future attacks. It must be stressed that Pakistan has paid a price for its role in the War on Terror. The suicide bombings in Karachi and Islamabad, as well as the assassination of Benzir Bhutto only serve as highlights of the retribution fundamentalist elements have lain on the doorstep of their hosts. However, the fundamental mistake that continues to be made is the primary focus on groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. The groups with the greatest ability to train, recruit and fundraise are the groups located within the region of Kashmir on the Pakistani side of the Cease-fire line, or Azad Jammu-Kashmir (AJK).

The GoP’s relationship with groups inside of AJK dates back to the 1980’s, specifically, Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), Jaish e Muhammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Initially, these groups were funded, trained and recruited by elements within the Pakistani Intelligence Services, the ISI, and the Pakistani Military. However, due to financial, logistical and political strains within the GoP establishment, these ties have for the most part been cut. Unfortunately, just cutting off logistical and financial support for LeT, JeM and HM has not weakened the abilities for these groups to recruit, train and fundraise outside of the region. Moreover, by permitting these groups to function within the border regions, and continue relationships within the ISI, has enhanced their abilities to commit acts of terrorism not only within India, but in Afghanistan as well. Examples are on display in the recent Mumbai attacks, the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan and well-orchestrated attacks on US Military Instillations within the border region with Afghanistan. Given the disruption the War on Terror has put on the abilities of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to function across the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the ability of JeT, JeM and HM militants’ unfettered access to cross all borders has become a useful ally to these groups.

Fundraising has also been a robust avenue for international terror outfits that LeT, JeM and HM have aligned themselves with since their announcement of alignment with groups like Al Qaeda this past spring. The main three terrorist outfits based in AJK (auxiliary groups do exist), have always had considerable fundraising efforts throughout the South Asian Diaspora. Main fundraising efforts continue in Europe, specifically London, Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Madrid; in the United States, specifically Brooklyn, Washington DC, Rochester, Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles; and in parts of Canada and the Caribbean, specifically Alberta, Montreal, Calgary, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. This ability to fundraise on a wide scale under the rouse of Muslim Charities, Human Rights Organizations and Development groups, resulted in robust cash flows for not only these once “Kashmiri” based organizations, but for Al Qaeda and other splinter groups as well.

It must become a priority of the USG to pressure Pakistan to shut down these operations and capabilities without prejudice. This will be a bitter pill for Pakistan to swallow, and it will cause internal debates and disagreements within the GoP establishment, however, after the events in Mumbai, this must be done immediately to prevent any one of these groups creating an atmosphere so volatile it leads to war between the two regional nuclear powers.

India and Internal Policies

The tragedy of Mumbai has resulted in the GoI to reexamine its own internal security policies to find the areas that must be strengthened and provide a more robust yet nimble response should an attack of this magnitude ever reoccur. However, the GoI also needs to reexamine its own internal policies with regards to Hindu Nationalist groups, such as the RSS and rogue elements of the BJP, who commit terrorist acts against religious minorities within India without fear of accountability by the state.

In the past, events specifically in Gujarat, Indian Jammu and Kashmir (IJK) and Orissa have created an environment of dysfunction and fear throughout the sub-continent. In Gujarat, thousands of Muslims were slaughtered at the hands of the RSS in 2002. Terrorist bombings at various Buddhist and Muslim religious shrines and mosques and have killed hundreds and injured thousands. The events in IJK this past summer of RSS and BJP members blockading the Valley of Kashmir resulted in the beating, raping and killing of innocent truck drivers carrying food, mail and necessities for the people of the Valley, as well as targeting Muslims for violent action. Finally, in Orissa, the RSS has openly advocated and offered payment for the killing of Christians who live mainly in the region in the press and on RSS affiliated chat rooms and websites. All of these acts of domestic terrorism at the hands Hindu Nationalist groups have gone unfettered and free of prosecution by the GoI. There can be no doubt that the GoI’s inability to hold these groups accountable, despite promises by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has led to greater communal tensions within the State of India.

Should the USG decide to aide India in its counterterrorism efforts, all groups, not just those with Muslim ties, must be addressed and held accountable. Just as the United States has dealt in the past with groups such as the Branch Dividians, the Montana and Michigan Militias, White Supremist organizations and the events of Ruby Ridge, so will India with regards to Hindu Nationalist organizations. Moreover, fundraising efforts for these groups will also need to be dealt with, as they also are widespread, and garnering robust cash flows to operate without concern of prosecution or rebuke by the GoI. The locations of the fundraising capabilities internationally coincidentally almost mirror those of the aforementioned Pakistani based organizations in Europe and the United States. Fundraising efforts specifically are located in London, New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Washington DC metro area.

It will take the full diplomatic might of the USG to press upon the GoI the necessity to reel these groups in. Without doing so, any efforts to target Muslim oriented organizations will be futile in any and all attempts. In fact, it will only lead to greater support of radical groups throughout South Asia to attack soft targets throughout India, and lead to widespread attacks on soft targets in both Europe and the United States respectively.

Final Recommendation

The USG finds itself in a unique position to be allied with two nuclear powered states, which are lifelong enemies. However, this will present the USG a unique position to finally bring the long lasting dispute to a conclusion, should the USG play their cards correctly. By compelling both the GoP and GoI to address their own internal complications, it will free both of them from continuing the sixty-year old blame game. Moreover, it will bring a final conclusion to the disputed Kashmir Issue. Communal issues regarding Kashmir have always been overstated. In fact, all communal issues between Hindu’s and Muslims have been the result of foul play by the aforementioned Islamist and Hindu Nationalist groups from outside the region. Kashmiri culture and harmony does exist. There is a common language, history and bond among the people of all faiths throughout the region. By eliminating the ability of non-Kashmiri groups to disrupt the harmony that once existed, stability to the region will once again be restored. If not, all efforts the USG may have in store will result in failure.

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