ARINDAM CHAUDHURI | New Delhi
On January 8, 2013, Pakistani soldiers illegally entered Indian territory through the Poonch sector of Jammu & 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 attacked two Indian army posts in the Mendhar sector of Jammu & Kashmir, followed subsequently by another series of attacks in the Krishna Ghati sector. In spite of a flag meeting between the defence personnel of both these nations, Pakistan violated the ceasefire agreement and entered the Indian side of the 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, Dr 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, every time 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. The animosity between India and Pakistan is not new and the recent incident is an example of the incorrigible attitude of the latter. 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 timeframe, 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 with the terrorists and executed a counterstrike, subsequently killing most of the militants! Today, most nations have decided not to let terrorists and militants take them to ransom and have adopted a no-negotiation policy with terrorists.
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. Negotiating unfortunately not only provides legitimacy to terrorists and their extortionist methods but also undermines the efforts of those who seek political change or solutions to a particular problem in a rather peaceful way. Such servile negotiations have the ability to destabilize the political system of the nation, and above all, dilute the hard work put in by international committees and nations cooperating in countering terrorism at large. Moreover, this subservience provides incentives for the terrorists to repeat the same course of action at a later stage and thus sets a dangerous precedent for the society and the citizens of the nation.
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. Further the Value at Risk (VAR) analysis (of terrorist attacks and negotiation efforts in Colombia, Lebanon and Iraq) concluded that on an average, negotiating with terrorists increases the terror index. While the study shows that elasticity is much lower at 0.37 in case of successful negotiation, terror organizations – realizing that governments are willing to negotiate but haven’t fulfilled their demands yet – might have the highest incentives for perpetuating their behaviour.
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 Bigrades) 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. And thanks to their tough stance, 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 and not for caving in to the demands of the terrorists. But then again, for that kind of negotiation to have any reasonable chance of success, it requires people with skills and expertise in that particular field supported by a highly efficient intelligence team. Evidently, India doesn’t have any such expertise and negotiation will only result in surrendering to the terrorists’ demands. The 1999 Kandahar hijacking case – where the obedient 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 and bilateral 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 infiltrated and created mayhem in Mumbai in 2008; and finally, after a lot of struggle, 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 at all 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. Taking a cue from the 1999 Kandahar hijacking case, where the three terrorists – who were set free in exchange for a few hundred – engineered the Mumbai serial blasts, the Parliament attack, and the most unfortunate 26/11; one among these was also involved in the beheading of Daniel Pearl.
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! India 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.
[Posted in The Sunday Indian Magazine]