Millennium Post

Let’s call spade, spade

On 8 January 2013, Pakistani soldiers illegally entered Indian territory through the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, attacked an Indian patrol team and eventually killed two soldiers. They went ahead and beheaded one of the soldiers too. This cold-blooded murder is not only inhuman but is also against the international conventions on armed conflicts. A few days thereafter, Pakistani troops organised another series of attacks in the Mendhar and Krishna Ghati sectors. In spite of a flag meeting, Pakistan violated the ceasefire agreement and entered the Indian side of the Line of Control (LoC), not once but five times! Against this backdrop, our prime minister continued to have an obsequiously soft approach and announced restrictions on the visa-on-arrival facility for Pakistani citizens. Furthermore, Singh found it ‘tough to conduct business as usual with Pakistan’ and also managed to send some nine Pakistani hockey players back to their nation.

Hilariously, everytime we have been attacked by our finagling neighbour in the past, Indian PMs have been seen taking soft and abject approaches of suspending bus services or train services or business ties or hockey/cricket matches with the attacking nation. Going by any notion, the recent attack cannot be swept under the carpet by terming it as a mere ‘ceasefire violation’; by all decrees of humanity and national sovereignty, it qualifies as an act of terrorism. In a parallel time frame, even Algeria was under terrorist attack when 30 militants illegally entered Algerian territory, and killed around 40 people. But unlike India, the aggressive Algerian government decided not to negotiate and executed a counterstrike, subsequently killing most of the militants!

Negotiating with terrorists invariably means the government giving in to violence and terrorists being rewarded for activities for which they should have been incarcerated instead – encouraging them to repeat such activities. Negotiating also undermines the efforts of those who seek peaceful political solutions and can destabilise the political system of the nation; above all, negotiations dilute the hard work put in by international committees and nations cooperating in countering terrorism at large.

A recent Massey University study, titled Negotiating with terrorists: the cost of compliance, found that complying with terrorists’ demands might encourage terror groups with a positive terror-negotiation rate elasticity of 0.72.

Today, most nations have decided not to let terrorists take them to ransom. While Israel is known for their tough stance against terrorists, US too – under President Ronald Reagan – drafted a national security policy to not negotiate with terrorists. Russia also follows a non-negotiation policy with terrorists (remember the Beslan school hostage crisis, where Russia killed all the militants who had occupied the school premises and taken around a thousand hostage?). In the past, Germany (against the Red Army Faction), Italy (against the Red Brigades) and UK (in Northern Ireland) too have successfully countered terrorists groups with a non-negotiation policy; they have instead countered terrorist activities using surgical strikes with the help of intelligence in the 1970s and 80s. Thanks to that, these terrorist outfits have ceased to exist today. No doubt, there are still numerous countries that are seen negotiating with terrorists, but then, unlike ours, their sole purpose is to buy time for chalking out a rescue operation. But then again, for that kind of negotiation, it requires people with expertise in that particular field supported by a highly efficient intelligence team – and neither of these is India’s forte.

The 1999 Kandahar hijacking case – where the obedient and subservient Indian government unctuously released three dangerous terrorists who subsequently went on a rampage conducting many more terrorist attacks – is an exemplar proof of the slavish futility of negotiations.

The need for a holistic non-negotiation policy becomes more logical as one travels through the delinquent betrayal history of Pakistan. In 1999, Pakistan signed the Lahore Declaration, promising to work towards a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue, but just three months later Kargil happened. On the same lines, two months after the 2001 Agra Summit, the Indian Parliament was attacked. In spite of mutually agreeing to a ceasefire in 2003, Pakistan again created mayhem in Mumbai in 2008; and finally, when negotiations resumed in February last year, a new series of attacks happened in January this year! India-Pakistan relations have not improved despite several peace talks; how does one justify the more than 70 incidents of cross-border firing (ceasefire violations) that took place in 2012 alone, more than 50,000 people who have died in the last two decades due to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and attacks and more than 150 extremists groups that are active all across the country? As they say, history repeats itself. But in the case of India, history is made to repeat itself. Negotiations (of any level and with any approach) have only been futile – be it in the case of US-Vietnam negotiations or India-Pakistan negotiations.

With time, the definition of terrorism can’t be confined to conventional bomb blasts; even acts of illegal entry into our sovereign lands should be treated as terrorist attacks! Clearly, India now urgently needs an anti-terrorism policy that defines our stance of zero-tolerance and no-negotiation. It’s high time that we called a spade, a spade.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM Think tank
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