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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2858

Double standards on terrorism

By Dimuth Gunawardena

"Sovereign Nations have the right to protect themselves against terrorism", - US President Elect Barak Obama

"Every country has the right to defend its territorial integrity and it has become difficult to secure such if incidents (terrorist acts) are not adequately addressed, to carry out business as usual ..........", Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee

It is about time for both India and the US to start applying a universally applicable anti-terrorist policy. It is high-time they give up their two-faced policy of branding only those who hurt their self interests, terrorists while calling other political criminals "militants", "guerrillas", "gunmen", or "freedom fighters" - when it suits their strategic interests.

It is this double standard that caused the spread of this cancer worldwide. All those who deliberately kill or maim innocent civilians and even military personnel in non-military situations for political objectives are undoubtedly terrorists. It is the U.S. and India that should take the initiative in this endeavour since both powers have been victims of terrorist violence in 9/11 and 26/11 respectively.

Mumbai was a wakeup call for all. It was a cowardly, brutal, and cold blooded act of butchery for which the perpetrators must be brought to justice. The Mumbai carnage has its ramifications not just for India but all of South Asia. Needless to say terrorism in all its manifestations has to be destroyed irrespective of its origins or its cause.

All South-Asian governments should strictly follow the US / Western policy of not negotiating with any terrorist group under any circumstance. This has been clearly the case with the LTTE where the latter has used negotiations only as a tactical opportunity to rearm and regroup to carry out large scale attacks on civilian targets in Colombo and other areas of Sri Lanka.

President Elect Obama has identified the South Asia region being the biggest threat to American National Security. So the US think tank "Fund for Peace" has branded all the major countries in the region as failed states. In 2008 Afghanistan (ranked 7) Pakistan (ranked 9) Bangladesh (ranked 12) Sri Lanka (ranked 20) Nepal (ranked 23) have all been classified as nations in the "High Alert" category while even its own ally India (ranked 98) has been classified in the warning list.

This is obviously a highly questionable classification widely used by Western Policy makers and think tanks since it serves their dubious objectives. Leaders of major NATO countries like President Sarkozy or Prime Minster Gordon Brown have emphatically stated the biggest threat that western nations face today is from these so called "failed states". Hence with the exception of India - with her strong foreign service that can meet the impending challenges that the West poses to her - the rest of South Asia will have to look on helplessly.

Its latest outcome is a report by a New-York based 'Genocide Project' with its many inconsistencies and simplistic judgments, lacking in credibility. It lumps Sri Lanka with countries like Pakistan, Sudan and Somalia together in a so-called Red alert group responsible for genocide!

This is most ludicrous since Sri Lanka with her tradition of parliamentary democratic traditions has been largely accommodative in terms of international humanitarian (UN, ICRC, etc.) care for people in terrorist-held areas. The government continues to maintain schools, hospitals, transport services and pay the salaries of all public servants even in enemy territory.

The whole idea behind this 'genocide' project is apparently to manipulate South Asian States to serve U.S. and Western interests on the pretext of protecting human rights. In this venture local NGOs like Sri Lanka's National Peace Council and the Centre for Policy Alternatives serve as agents of Western Policy makers.

The Mumbai incident exposed certain weaknesses within the Indian system that Delhi needs to address. Stealth warships, nuclear submarines, or aircraft carriers will not win this type of warfare.

She should take a leaf from the grave mistakes made by her ally the USA in her anti-terrorist war. In contrast countries like Sri Lanka with their long experience in militarily responding to terrorism which could provide useful lessons for other nations in the region in enhancing anti-terror capabilities. Such cooperation would a critical factor in meeting the threat.

SAARC countries should consider a regional anti-terrorist headquarters to share their intelligence, military skills and training. Perhaps the simple fact that these Mumbai terrorists came in a fishing trawler should have been anticipated in the light of similar terrorist operations taking place across the Palk Straits.

Meanwhile the impending visit to Sri Lanka of India's External Affairs Minister (perhaps to push again for a ceasefire and give another lifeline to the dying LTTE) raises questions on Delhi's moral high ground in condemning the Mumbai attack.

Sri Lanka is probably the only neighbour over which India has absolute control. Delhi and Tamil Nadu continue to antagonise and destabilise Sri Lanka. No other Asian nation has ever behaved in such a manner towards this island. Consequently she can never be part of the "Red-Green bloc" (formed by Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and China) which as predicted by Dr Richard Benkin will one day constitute serious strategic security implications for India.

Delhi's short term impulsive policies due to domestic political considerations, will not only aggravate anti-Indian sentiments among the local populace and governments in neighbouring countries like Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Maldives, but also encourage India's own domestic terrorists and separatists groups.

India should have learnt her lesson of trying to appease Tamil Nadu from the fate suffered by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who forced the Indo-Lanka Accord on Sri Lanka in 1987. There, he became the victim of an assault at a guard of honour. Four years later he was assassinated by the very Tigers whom he and his mother helped.

R. K Narayan's book From Boys to Guerrillas and Mr J. N Dixt's Assignment Colombo both give graphic details of all what India did for the terrorists, including an interesting anecdote about Rajiv Gandhi going to the extent of giving his own bullet proof vest to protect Prabakaran. Yet the ingrate Prabakaran plotted his death and those of 2,000 odd Indian soldiers whose sacrificed their lives for India, but she has so far failed to officially recognize. Such recognition, Delhi fears, will turn the likes of Karunanidhi against the Centre – a case of tail wagging the dog.

India should understand the full gravity of the resurgence of a separatist movement in Tamil Nadu, easily resulting in the fragmentation of the "Union of Indian Republics". It will have far greater consequences for the region than a fragmentised Pakistan.

Over the last 10 years racist separatist writers and thinkers like R. Demodaran, Thanjai Nalankilli and Usha Ramanathan have become increasingly vocal in advocating separatism and dissent against the Centre. Their history's bitterest lesson is Sri Lankan King Parakramabahu's forces marching to Panyanadu and defeating Kulasekera Panyan's forces after which Veera Pandayan was installed as the King of Madurai. This has had an affect on the psychology of DMK's anti-Sinhala racist elements. They have the same hatred towards the Hindi-speaking North Indians.

The greatest fear of Tamil Nadu jingoes is that the Karunanadhi-Jayalalitha conflict over the position of Chief Minister would lead to Delhi imposing Presidential rule on Tamil Nadu where the a non-Tamil Governor would rule that State.

Every time the Sri Lankan Navy near Katchativu arrests an Indian fisherman, South Indian jingoes – encouraged by Prabhakaran - have been dreaming and writing about an independent Tamil Nadu with her own navy and air force shooting at Sri Lankan troops.

One must remember that the only reason DMK dropped its demand 'officially' for an independent Davida Nadu was Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru's move in bringing the 16th amendment to the Indian constitution in 1962. Forty-six years later separatist demands seem to be coming back with a vengeance.

The arrest of DMK Film Director Seeman on October 24 for publicly advocating Tamil Nadu's separation from the rest of India and justifying Rajiv Gandhi's assassination by the LTTE is a case in point.

It is not only the separatist terrorists forces of Tamilnadu, Assam, Punjab, Tripura, Meghalava, Mizoram or Arunachal Pradesh India has to be concerned with - but also their links with groups like the Naxalites. Rejuvenated by the Maoists victory in Nepal Naxalites have formed strategic alliances with India's traditional Left to running parallel political administrations in parts of India. They have their own schools; they give financial assistance to the parents of the school children etc. It is very similar to LTTE operations in Sri Lanka a few years ago. India would do well to take a good hard look at Sri Lanka lesson in dealing with their Naxalite problem.

India - more than any other nation - must address the concerns of her hostile neighbourhood. With its back against the wall in the face of Indian bullying not only countries like Pakistan that can stir the pot of India's 140 million Muslim population but even other neighbours like Sri Lanka tending to exploit situations concerning ethnic groups like Dalit Buddhists, cannot be ruled out.

These other countries too can develop their own counter intelligence capabilities like the Pakistani ISI in order to meet the threats from the notorious RAW to their sovereignty.

- Asian Tribune -

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