By Kanwal Sibal
12 Feb , 2013
Afzal Guru’s hanging shows the ineptness with which our political system deals with the grave problem of terrorism. The biggest challenge to our security, and indeed that of countries all over the world that are caught in the cross currents of religious extremism, is terrorism.
India’s problem with externally supported terrorism is amongst the severest that any country faces. Our next door neighbour has been long using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
Traditional military threats can be assessed on the basis of the size of the armed forces, equipment and logistics available to the adversary. A militarily weak country would normally hesitate to attack a stronger one as defeat is never honourable and the price could be loss of territory. A casus belli has to be established to negate any charge of unprovoked aggression; the laws of war are applicable. The international community can intervene through the UN or otherwise against a state resorting to military aggression.
Terrorism has a different logic. It is asymmetric warfare by non-state actors outside any law. The numbers involved are small and the targets are unsuspecting and unprepared individuals in the street, in public transport, hotels or restaurants or peaceful public spaces. Suicide bombers and car bombs can cause substantial casualties indiscriminately. Shadowy groups with leaders in hiding orchestrate these attacks. The involvement of state institutions through groups nurtured by them is on the basis of the practiced art of deniability. The international community cannot even agree on the definition of terrorism. The extraordinary challenge that terrorism poses to societies has to be dealt with exceptional levels of alertness, discipline, training of personnel, technical capacity, policing and organisational response.