28 January, 2010

Towards a Security Grid in South Asia

UPI Asia, 22 January 2010, http://www.upiasia.com/Security/2010/01/22/toward_a_security_grid_in_south_asia/9801/
Abstract : A common intelligence network has become hugely necessary for South Asia, if not for the whole globe. Keeping in mind the way global terrorism is taking shape and spreading its zones, the state-actors must set aside their differences.

President Obama’s decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan and at the same time to increase the drone attacks on the tribal areas of Pakistan might have assured many regarding the quick demise of the Taliban-Al Qaeda duo in the Af-Pak region. Nevertheless, the hardened terrorists have been equal to the task. And sometimes, they have been even better then the intelligence network of the US-led anti-insurgency machinery.

The spate of attacks, starting from Abdul Mutallab’s December 25 aircraft seizure to the urban warfare in Kabul on January 18, has surely awakened many from slumber. The strikes ranged from the failure of Abdul Mutallab to blow up the Detroit-bound airplane to the moderate success of the Taliban in invading Kabul. And in between, Jordanian double-agent al-Balawi’s surgical operation in the Khost province of Afghanistan made the CIA doubt its own intelligence.

Most of the analysts, security officers, diplomats and politicians were engrossed with the Pakistan Army’s ground offensive in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). White House too was indulged in pressurizing Pakistan’s military to act in a servile manner.
Focus on military operations in FATA and its adjoining areas were mainly necessary on four counts. First, the Pakistani Taliban faction (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP) led by Hakeemullah Mehsud had stepped up its fearsome suicide attacks on major cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Peshawar and even the business hub Karachi. Moreover, ‘economic-crisis ridden’ Washington was eager to pass the buck to the Pakistanis who were alleged to have been bypassing the burden. Third, a decisive blow to the Taliban in Pakistan was essential to weaken Al Qaeda which draws its support base from the Taliban. And fourth, this time round, USA wanted to use Pakistan’s infantry to catch the elusive Bin Laden, whom they had failed to capture nine years ago at the cave complex of Tora Bora.
But the overemphasis on FATA was probably a tactical mistake as Al Qaeda and its franchisees have unfolded new ways of terrorizing the world. They have started targeting weak states like Yemen, started recruiting from new mass bases like Nigeria, Somalia and North Africa, and have commenced their assault on the aviation sector. Thus, a fresh strategy against terrorism is an imperative.

And it cannot be American-specific or Pakistan-centric. It needs to holistically connect all the countries of the world which have obvious geo-political concerns regarding the menace of terrorism, be it Islamic Fundamentalism or any domestic insurgency.

In this regard, a legitimate co-ordination between different Asian Intelligence agencies can be the first positive step. This becomes more expedient in the light of repeated intelligence failures that we are witnessing. In fact, an alliance amongst the American CIA, Pakistan’s ISI, India’s RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) and Israel’s Mossad may turn out to be a fruitful venture. With time, this common body may bring in its sway security agencies of other nation-states of South Asia, and if possible of other major Asian countries.

If the anarchists can thread alliances across borders, what stops nation-states from doing the same? Well, one may say that religious fanaticism is the binding factor for the Jihadis. But then can anyone answer what is in common between the Tamil insurgents of Sri Lanka and the Maoists of India? Is it religion or is it ideology?

Rather, it is a sheer tactical measure. So, if the rebels may unite on a militaristic issue, the Asian state actors too can forge a coherent ‘Security Grid’ under the auspices of CIA.
And, in that business, the states must not act in a selfish manner. Rather, they need to disseminate information pertaining to each other’s interests, howsoever insignificant it may be to its own security calculus. Thus, discovery of a militant camp on Bangladeshi soil pertaining to India’s North-East needs to be reported without delay as it has the potential of inflicting incalculable harm not only to India, but in future even to Bangladesh. And this very fact should be comprehended by policy-makers.

Along similar lines, the leftist insurgency in India cannot be undermined by USA or Israel. The present ‘war against terror’ cannot be a ‘selected war against anti-American terrorists’; rather it should live up to its proper meaning.

Presently, South Asia stands to be the most vulnerable zone and the den of the Taliban-Qaeda duo. Hence, the nations of South Asia shall have to come forward to set an example.

It requires no guessing to predict that the most troublesome partner in such a coalition would be the ISI. With its ‘childhood enemy’ India as a party to the coalition, ISI may find it suffocating to assert itself.
Moreover, in an ‘extended grid’, the prospect of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel working in tandem shall be too much to expect in the New Year.
Skeptics and critics would argue that the fate of such a ‘Security Grid’ would be same as of SAARC. But the presence of USA in the network might just tilt the balance towards equilibrium; at least as far as Indo-Pak scuffle is concerned.

But, to achieve the above, the nation-states of Asia need to break the paranoid outlook regarding their neighbours and appreciate the greater danger of terrorism. Unless that is done; a terror-free Asia, and hence a terror-free world, would be a utopian concept in the coming decades.

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