On November 12 & 13, the Network of Hindu Minds, Boston University South Asian American Law Students, AID, Sangam, the South Asia Center, and the United States Hindu Alliance hosted Mr. B. Raman, head of the Institute for Topical Studies in Chennai, India. Mr. Raman spoke about the possibility for political solutions to the problems of terrorism facing various nations in South Asia. Mr. Raman argued that, in dealing with terrorism, political solutions are possible and can often be more effective than military action, provided that governments can identify elements within the terrorist community who have reasonable demands and who are willing to negotiate in good faith.
In addition to heading the Institute for Topical Studies, a think tank, Mr. Raman is also a member of the National Security Advisory Board of the government of India. He has served the Indian intelligence community in various capacities since 1967. He has served as negotiator for the Indian government in its dealings with various insurgent groups, and was instrumental in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the insurgency in Mizoram. Mr. Raman's career has given him intimate exposure to both the political and military aspects of the terrorist threat in South Asia.
insurgency. An insurgency normally has a publicly stated strategic goal, usually involving the control of territory or a re-structuring of a political system, and its attacks are usually limited to the infrastructure and employees of a state. In many cases, insurgents can be dealt with peacefully by convincing them that their political goals can be better achieved through negation, as was the case with the Mizo insurgents in India. Terrorism, by contrast, specifically targets civilians, and is often not accompanied by a specific political or strategic objective. In many cases, especially in the case of Islamist terrorism in Kashmir, the terrorists are motivated purely by ideological considerations that cannot be accommodated politically.
Mr. Raman spoke at length about the issue of Kashmir, the most dangerous of all the conflicts presently occurring in South Asia. Mr. Raman divided the conflict into two stages. Between 1989 and 1993, indigenous Kashmiri groups, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, who were angered by corruption and misrule by the Indian government, were committing most of the violence. Beginning in 1993, however, the Pakistani army began giving its support exclusively to Pakistan-based Islamist groups, such as Lashkar e Tayyaba or Hizb ul Mujahideen, which are fighting for purely religious reasons. The Indian government, Mr. Raman said, has had a great deal of success in dealing with the local groups, both through effective counter-terrorism operations and by attempting to address their legitimate grievances. Many former Kashmiri separatist leaders participated in the recent Assembly elections, and large numbers of former insurgents now work for the Indian army. The Pakistani organizations, however, are fighting for purely religious reasons and cannot be accommodated politically. For example, many of these groups believe that the Indian state itself, because it is a democracy and has a large non-Muslim population, is inherently anti-Islamic and must be destroyed. In this situation, Mr. Raman argued, it is impossible for the government to negotiate, and the only effective solution is to force Pakistan to cease its support for the terrorists.
In addition to Kashmir, Mr. Raman also discussed conflicts in Nepal and Sri Lanka, as well as the Sunni-Shia violence in Pakistan. Mr. Raman said that while the situation in Pakistan was a largely sectarian problem that may not have a political solution, the conflicts in Nepal and Sri Lanka could conceivably be dealt with through negotiation. The recent negotiations between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers, he said, may yield a political settlement that maintains the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka while granting greater autonomy to the Tamils.
Finally, Mr. Raman spoke about the American war on terrorism and the potential for cooperation between India and the United States. He said that, as a result of 9/11, the United States is slowly becoming more receptive to India’s position that the Islamist groups funded by Pakistan are a global threat. Many of these groups had joined Osama bin Laden’s World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders in 1998, and many Al-Quaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan in the wake of the American invasion are now being sheltered by sympathetic groups in Pakistan. Mr. Raman said that an India-US alliance against terrorism could be extremely effective, combining America’s overwhelming military capabilities with India’s extensive experience with terrorist threats and its wide network of human assets within the Islamic world.
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