Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an assessment

What New Delhi should do about the threat

Here is an assessment following an email discussion with my colleagues Rohan Joshi & Pranay Kotasthane on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. See Rohan’s post for context.

1. The Pakistani state and the Pakistani society have neither the intention nor the capability (if they have the intention) to take down the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD). It has crossed the line from being a merely extremist terrorist group to a provider of public goods. It acquired the characteristics of a para-state with obvious popularity and social legitimacy.

2. The Pakistani army, on the other hand, does retain the capability to degrade the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. For instance, they could get a hothead loyal to Hafiz Saeed to assassinate Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi or another competing top-rung leader, engineer a rift, cause clashes while promoting propaganda against them. However, given that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a key instrument of the Pakistani army’s existential anti-India posture, the army is unlikely to want to damage the JuD.

3. So the best the civilian government will do is play the Schrödinger-Hiesenberg quantum game, where the JuD is banned but not banned. If another party takes over, the JuD will be not banned but banned. It is unrealistic to expect democratically elected civilian governments to act against JuD especially to satisfy India or the United States.

4. Therefore, India’s short-term options should be

  • to prevent JuD from acquiring greater capabilities. At this moment it is an irregular light infantry. It should not be permitted to acquire more advanced weapons and capabilities.
  • to prevent JuD from acquiring territory. ‘Non-state actors’ getting hold of swathes of territory from which they can carry out conspiracies and attacks on Indian soil will complicate New Delhi’s national security strategy.
  • to prevent JuD from acquiring followers in India. In contrast to the 1990s, it is possible today for followers to ‘train’ with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) without actually having to go to PoK via Karachi via Dubai.
  • to prevent the JuD from launching terrorist attacks in India.

5. India’s longer term option remains clear: dismantle and destroy the military-jihadi complex.

6. There is a convergence of interests between India and the United States, and to a lesser extent with China too, on the short-term options. New Delhi’s outreach to these states should be to arrive at a consensus on preventing the strengthening of JuD. It is unclear if other countries share interests on the longer-term issue of destroying the military-jihadi complex. It might be some time before the United States comes around to this view. For now, the focus on short-term goals will be good enough.

Overcoming the fear of the assault rifle

Citizens and self-defence

What should you do if you are confronted by a terrorist? Over at INI Signal, a decorated former army officer argues that potential ‘victims’ must charge on the terrorist and incapacitate him.

A marksman who can ‘shoot to kill’, achieves that status by practice, practice and only practice. In contrast, a terrorist in most of the cases is introduced to the weapon and after a very minimal induction, sent on a mission. With such minimal exposure, he resorts to indiscriminate firing and escapes if confronted with least opposition. His reflexes will only push him behind and the intended victim though unarmed, will gain an upper hand…

This myth of an assault rifle being disastrous should be killed and we should realize that it is the man behind the weapon and not the weapon which needs to be addressed. If the man behind the weapon is weak, a state of art weapon is equivalent to that of a block of wood. Soldiers who have had occasion to demonstrate courage under fire would perhaps be the first to accept that almost no one is devoid of fear when bullets fly. An understanding of the real destructive power of the enemy, training, being in a ‘kill or be killed’ situation and the knowledge that ‘offense is the best form of defense’ is what allows soldiers to overcome their fear and do the seemingly impossible. I am not suggesting that we train every citizen to be a soldier, but if we can do just enough so that every citizen is aware of the basics of what is the real capability of the commonly used ‘terror weapons’ and if we can educate them on how to react in adverse situations, we may have done our bit. [INI Signal]

Ram Kumar calls for a national movement to educate citizens so that they do not end up as easy prey in a soft state.

Vote, you fools!

A government that can’t protect us from rainwater can’t protect us from terrorists

What can ordinary citizens do? Well, go out and vote. Salil Tripathi on the attack on Bombay:

New York has been attacked, London has faced – and avoided – attacks. Israelis are used to dealing with terror. And yet, the perception about India is that it takes these attacks in, as if nothing has happened. Returning to normalcy is an important part of dealing with terror. Preventing terror, and making people feel secured without imposing arbitrary restrictions on their lives, without suspecting individuals because of the collective they may belong to – religion, caste, language – and inspiring a sense of security among those who want to trust the law: these are the things a government must do. And it is in that area that the state has failed its people.

Fixing that also requires greater political participation. South Bombay, the epicenter of the attacks, is among the wealthiest parts of the country. And yet, that parliamentary constituency routinely has low turnout during elections. Voters don’t turn out for municipal elections as well. They must register their voice, they must protest, through the power the Indian constitution gives them, and elect a government that delivers, and not one that gets in through default, due to overall apathy. India has a phrase – chalta hai – this will go on. That must not do. Bombay’s citizens cannot, and should not, go about being vigilantes. But they can be vigilant about their rights, through their right to vote. [FEER]

The right way for India to respond to the terrorist attack

We call for a well-considered, national response to the war that has been thrust on India

The most important national response at this time is to support and strengthen the government and the state’s security apparatus to enable it to finish the job. Pragmatic Euphony recommends:

Support the Indian state in the immediate near future irrespective of your political or social beliefs, prevent breeding of cynicism against the inefficacy or imeptiitude of the state, avoid calls for increased securitisation of the state, disabuse the Indian electronic media of its notion of unbridled “freedom without responsibility” and hold the political parties accountable for a vision and worthwhile action plan for internal security when it comes to choosing the next government. [PE]

Offstumped reinforces the message and calls upon citizens to support police efforts to apprehend the escaped terrorists by greater civic vigilance civic “to verify the identity and antecedents of those around them and make sure no one has gotten away or found shelter in a safe haven in the dark alleys of Mumbai.”

There are reasonable grounds to believe that the attack was planned, supported or executed by international terrorists. There are also reasonable grounds to believe that it could not have been carried out successfully without local participation, support or connivance. Getting to the bottom of this is a question of fact, not opinion, diplomacy or geopolitics. This does not mean that the Indian government must wait until everything is proven in court—it can and it must act once it has enough information to convince itself of the identity of the attackers and the design behind the attacks.

Yet, that does not call for a knee-jerk response. And certainly not a repeat of Operation Parakram—when India mobilised its armed forces for a war against Pakistan. The geopolitical context is different today. In fact, getting India to raise military pressure on Pakistan suits the interests of two quarters. Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani jihadi establishment would see this as a way to get the (anyway reluctant) Pakistani Army off their backs along the Durand Line. The Pakistani military establishment would also like the “risk of a India-Pakistan military confrontation” to change the way the United States frames the problem in the subcontinent.

On the contrary, an Indian strategic response ought to focus on Afghanistan, and its border with Pakistan. That theatre is a key front in the global war on terror—and India’s own.

And finally, as Offstumped, Retributions and Swaraj have started doing, it is necessary to call out the motivated, mistaken or plainly wrong commentaries that have started pouring out into the domestic and international media.

A gathering resolve?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gets the words right

Here’s a bit of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his address to the nation:

We are not prepared to countenance a situation in which the safety and security of our citizens can be violated with impunity by terrorists. It is evident that the group which carried out these attacks, based outside the country, had come with single-minded determination to create havoc in the commercial capital of the country.

We will take the strongest possible measures to ensure that there is no repetition of such terrorist acts. We are determined to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety and security of our citizens…

We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people. [PMO via Rediff]

These are the right things to say, and do. He does not have too long to follow through though, but there isn’t any excuse left for not getting things rolling on a war footing.

Earlier, L K Advani had spoken to Prime Minister Singh to offer support and solidarity at this time. This too was the right thing to say, and do.

Much depends on how long they can sustain this.