India is in the midst of an invisible war. It is an unrecognized war. The government tinkers with terrorism in various fronts. The enemy continues to advance. Last year the enemy struck at many points. In Kashmir the terrorists killed 517 civilians and security personnel; in Assam, 131; in Manipur 132; in Nagaland 10; in Tripura 30; in Uttar Pradesh, 21; in Maharashtra, 240. Maoists and Naxalites killed 394. During 2006, terrorists are said to have killed 1492 civilians and security personnel. Security forces killed 1273 terrorists. In all 2765 people were killed. The actual figure could be higher.
Bomb blasts terrorized major metropolitan cities. In Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, police discovered huge catches of crude RDX bombs for nationwide distribution. In Andhra Pradesh over a thousand rockets manufactured in Tamil Nadu were discovered. These were sufficient to arm all the left extremist groups of India.
Some worry about Islamist terrorism. Others about Left extremism. Yet others about separatist violence. But the endgame for all terrorists is the same. It is to weaken, destabilize and break-up India. As 2007 dawned two events attracted attention. A Lashkar terrorist from Kashmir was arrested in Bangalore with RDX explosives. He came to target the Bangalore airport, Wipro and Infosys. What on earth does a so-called Kashmiri separatist have to do with the IT businesses of Bangalore? His natural target should have been crowded public places.
Then there were ULFA attacks in Assam targeting migrant labour from Bihar and Bengal. Over 60 victims died. Clearly the aim was to provoke Bihar and Bengal to retaliate and create inter-state clashes. What better prescription to break up India? All these diverse terrorist groups propagate different causes but serve the same purpose. They look like tentacles controlled by a single head. So where is the head?
Experts may theorize as they wish. But consider this. Yossef Bodansky was the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S. Congress. In the mid-1990s he prepared a carefully researched and meticulously detailed 20,000-word official note entitled China's Surge in the Malacca Straits. It dealt with the strategy of China's Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) to destabilize Southeast Asian countries. The PLA sought leverage over their governments to secure for China control of the strategic Straits of Malacca. All shipments for the Far East from West Asia, including oil, must pass through Malacca. In Bodansky's background paper, the references to India are incidental. But the following excerpts from it merit consideration. Bodansky wrote:
"The case of the Islamist terrorism in and around the Straits of Malacca is a classic case of the true meaning of state-sponsored terrorism. In this specific case, the Islamist subversion of several countries is intensified because of the strategic interests of a third party-- the Peoples Republic of China-- and, to a lesser extent, of its close allies. However, it is the close allies-- Pakistan and Iran-- who bear the brunt of the sponsorship of, and support for the terrorist escalation. They do so more because of the strategic calculations concerning China than having vital interests in the Far East. Indeed, Iran and Pakistan soon transformed Thailand into a safe haven for Islamist terrorists for the entire East Asia."
"Beijing urged Islamabad to escalate the subversion of eastern India. The ISI did not need too much prodding. With support from Beijing, the ISI expanded operations from vastly expanded camps in both Burma and Bangladesh as of the fall of 1993.
The ISI terrorism support infrastructure in Bangladesh not only supplies and trains on China-made weapons and explosives, but the Bangladeshi military officers, acting as instructors had received special commando and mountain warfare training in China. The deployment of these assets has increased markedly since the fall of 1994. It is not by accident that the first action in the long awaited escalation of terrorism in eastern India was the bombing of an Indian troops' train in India's northeastern state of Assam in late February 1995. The bombs were attributed to the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) on the basis of use of RDX and other bomb-technology details. Since the fall of 1993, there has been an expansion of the ISI support for all forms of terrorism in north east India, especially Manipur. At least five senior ISI operatives cooperate closely with the NSCN, providing instructions and guidance. As of mid-1994, the ISI provided the NSCN with huge quantities of weapons, ranging from small arms, to rocket launchers, to anti-aircraft missiles (including a few Stingers). The Chinese preparations for a regional escalation and major crisis under conditions short of a major war are thorough. For the conduct of covert operations inside India, Bangladesh and China run their own training program at Kalapara and Munakata on Bay of Bengal and especially at the 25 Bangladesh Rifles at Khulna and Teknaf Island in Chittagong. There, Chinese instructors are directly involved in training Tamils and other Indians for terrorist, sabotage, and espionage operations."
Despite this information, American policy towards China and Pakistan remained unchanged. America is a subverted nation. It safeguards only its own security and its economic ties with China. China's subversive activities escalated after Jiang Zemin assumed power. He appointed loyalists in key PLA positions. It remains to be seen whether China's present ruler, Hu Jintao, wants to, or can, change Jiang's policies. Last week China claimed escalation of Uighur terrorism in Xingjian. Uighur separatists rubbished this claim. So is China trying to distance itself from terrorism by a spurious claim? China will never admit its complicity with terrorism. Indian intelligence will have to make its own assessment.
Meanwhile the Indian government is pursuing a peace treaty with Pakistan. Before proceeding further, it needs clarification. Will President Musharraf in private concede ISI complicity in terrorism which might be beyond his control? If yes, India should offer full support provided he takes on the terrorists, regardless of the possibility of civil war. Otherwise, the peace process becomes a waste of time. War is rarely an option. But there are other steps India can take-- inappropriate for mention in newspaper commentaries.
To meet the coming critical challenges in the days ahead, India requires a stable, coherent government. That would be achievable if the Congress and BJP rose above narrow interests and recognized the critical situation confronting the nation. Both parties should sacrifice egos and coalesce to form a government. Indira Gandhi lost a court case and imposed a fraudulent Emergency. Today a real emergency exists. It is India's gravest challenge since independence. Will national leaders rise to meet it?
Rajinder Puri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org