I write this piece for my fellow citizens, but also to remind the triumvirate of our Home Minister, External Affairs Minister and the Defence Minister, to perform their duty to the world and the Indian nation in particular, and marshal all their strength for combating the monster or terrorism that threatens to devour the world.
Recent terrorist events around India and pre-empted attacks in India clearly establish that the IS is as much a threat to our country and its peace loving population, as it is in the Middle East. I wonder whether people are aware of why the second ‘IS’ in the name of the murderous organisation, ISIS was dropped? Because it is no longer the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but is directed towards every country of the world, including India.
India, as an aspiring world power, must take the lead in exterminating this menace promptly and seriously, for the peace and security of our secular nation, and get into action in the United Nations, Security Council and the General Assembly.
2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. In 2006, the General Assembly adopted the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (Resolution 60/288) by consensus to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism, through a common strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism, and to combat it individually and collectively, mainly through strengthening state capacity to counter terrorist threats and better coordinating United Nations system’s counter-terrorism activities.
The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is composed of 4 pillars - Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; measures to prevent and combat terrorism; measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard; and measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism. The General Assembly reviews the Strategy every two years, and at its 5th review held on July 1, 2016, a detailed strategy based on the above principles was unanimously adopted.
The General Assembly resolution makes it clear that the primary responsibility for implementation of the Strategy rests with Member States, and gives the United Nations system the pivotal role for promoting coordination and coherence in the implementation of the Strategy at the national, regional and global levels and in providing assistance to Member States where requested.
The world has witnessed repeatedly in recent years, the rise of new types of terrorist threats to international peace and security. The most significant challenge is the spread of violent extremist ideologies and the emergence of terrorist groups fuelled by them. Violent extremism is a diverse phenomenon, without an internationally agreed definition. Nevertheless, in recent years, terrorist groups such as the IS, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram have clearly defined the content, intent and operation of terrorism and violent extremism. These groups unite in a single ideological source but transcend national boundaries in their murderous operations. In recent years, terrorist and violent extremist groups have inflicted immense damage. The statistics are frightening: thousands of civilians killed and wounded in terrorist-related incidents in the past decade and millions of men, women and children displaced or forced to flee their homes. Women and children, in particular, suffer, given that many have been sexually abused and enslaved. Even UN field missions and country teams in Africa, Asia and the Middle East have been attacked. This new phenomena of an undefined state of war, which eludes the existing Geneva Conventions on War, calls for an urgent need for increased international cooperation to prevent, counter and combat them.
In 2006, terrorist groups had a certain freedom of movement from their bases in ungoverned spaces. Al-Qaida sought to be a vanguard, preparing the conditions for a takeover of the State in some Muslim majority countries. Its success was limited and resulted in many deaths, almost invariably of fellow Muslims. However, Al-Qaida set the stage for the emergence of a more ruthless and determined form of terrorism. Al-Qaida in Iraq became Islamic State of Iraq in 2006 and then ISIL in 2013 before finally calling itself simply Islamic State and declaring the re‑establishment of the Caliphate in 2014.
ISIL and Al-Qaida remain indistinguishable in terms of their vision and ultimate objectives, but they differ in terms of tactics. From its beginnings, Al‑Qaida has believed that it should work patiently, while ISIL believes that it has to force the pace. ISIL still controls a sizeable area of Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and has expanded its reach through affiliates in Libya, Yemen and West Africa, while claiming “provinces” in other countries. One of the affiliates of ISIL, Boko Haram, has been particularly notorious and lethal. ISIL has also inspired, encouraged or directed attacks in faraway countries including Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, France, Indonesia, Pakistan, Somalia, Turkey and the United States of America. In addition, it has attracted recruits from more than 80 countries, posing a potential threat to security when those fighters return home. Spurred to compete, Al-Qaida and its affiliates have established control of territory, most notably in Somalia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen, and continue to mount attacks in Europe and North, West and East Africa, as well as in Asia.
Terrorist tactics have also evolved. Suicide bombings have become more common, but so have mass-casualty and complex attacks mounted by a group of attackers working together in one or multiple locations and expecting to die. Another worrying trend has been the growing tolerance of terrorism by States, especially when terrorists attack rivals. Terrorism remains a common threat and a shared concern, regardless of its immediate target.
The role of the media and the use of social media by terrorist and violent extremist groups have gained a new quality and thus constitute an increasingly important dimension to address. Even foiled plots attract media attention, serving the perpetrators’ purpose of spreading fear and prompting a reaction. Most new recruits are now from 17 to 27 years of age, with differing levels of education and social and economic backgrounds. This has made the task of understanding and countering the appeal of terrorism all the more difficult, and the international community has found it hard to respond effectively.
That these developments have occurred, and even increased, as the world has poured more resources into countering terrorism raises serious and critical questions:
(a) Have Member States sufficiently implemented the relevant counter-terrorism legal instruments and norms not only to counter terrorism but also to address the conditions that give rise to it?
(b) Has the United Nations system been successful in providing the requested assistance to Member States in preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism?
(c) Above all, are the tools and resources at the disposal of the international community for prevention sufficient to meet and overcome the challenges posed by terrorism and violent extremism?
The adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy has seen unprecedented international consensus on the need for joint action against terrorism. One of its great achievements has been to maintain the agreement that all Member States are affected and thus have an interest in contributing.
India should take the lead and mount continuous pressure upon the United Nations that the intentions of the UN are urgently actionated and effective international mechanisms set up to make a visible dent in countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism, not just in words, but in decisive action.
Before I close, I wonder how many people know that Al Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State was arrested by the US forces in early 2004, and then released in December, because he was appraised by the U.S as a ‘low-level’ threat to public security?