T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol II Issue I

The 1st Anniversary Edition

May 2003



Romeet K Watt







View Point      

K P S Gill


On Track

Sumer Kaul



Spl. Report



Sawraj Singh


State Craft

Yashwant Sinha



M V Kamath


Last Word

Ram Puniyani



About Us





Present international challenges for peace

Yashwant Sinha

Much has changed as a result of Iraq. But some verities remain unaffected. One of them is the fundamental and pre – eminent threat posed to peace, civilization, democracy and the rule of law by international terrorism. And as far as India is concerned, pre – Iraq or post –Iraq, one of the most critical challenges that confronts us is the menace of terrorism.

There are three issues relating to international terrorism on which I intend to focus my attention today, namely, the theory of root causes of terrorism, the theory of clash of civilizations and the question of double standards in dealing with international terrorism.

Let me begin with a discussion of the so-called root causes of terrorism. There are some in the world who argue that certain ‘root causes’ are responsible for the phenomenon of terrorism and that this menace can be addressed only by tackling issues such as poverty, absence of political freedom, territorial disputes, religious intolerance, ethnic discrimination etc. Until then, we must live with terrorism or rather die at its hands. They point out that terrorism as a means of political struggle has had a long history and will not end without these root causes being resolved.

It is my view that to attribute responsibility for acts of terrorism to such root causes is to misunderstand the phenomenon of terrorism and to weaken the war against it.

Let us look at the evolution of world politics in recent times. In the last fifty years, prosperity has only increased in the world. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, most countries have turned democratic. The importance of freedom and human rights is universally accepted and even authoritarian regimes swear by it in principle if not in practice. Territorial disputes are fewer and fewer in number. Exclusive societies based on race, religion and ethnicity are rapidly being replaced by plural, multicultural societies. A natural process of increased movement of people across frontiers is taking place and the process of globalization is inexorably marching on. Despite all these positive developments, terrorism has increased rather than decreased. If the theory of root causes was correct, then these positive trends should have resulted in a fall in incidents of terrorism. In contrast, exactly the opposite is happening.

The changing character of terrorism in the modern day world needs to be properly understood. The reason there is terrorism is not because there are unresolved root causes but because terrorism has become an instrument of war by other means. It has become an instrument of revenge. What some countries and groups are unable to obtain through peaceful and democratic means is sought to be grabbed through the systematic and deliberate use of terror as an instrument of policy and through the use for subversion and violence of armed, trained and indoctrinated irregulars. This is the reason why the term ‘proxy war‘ is most appropriate to describe the policy of cross border terrorism being sponsored by our neighbour.

To state the above is not to contend that poverty should be ignored or discrimination tolerated. But, it is to uphold the belief that ends cannot justify the means.

Those who talk of root causes argue that ends can ‘sometimes’ justify means. If the cause for which a struggle is waged is important enough, any means including violence and terror is justified. It is true that violence, as a means of settling disputes is as old as history. However, the fact remains that massacres and killings of innocent civilians has never been acquiesced in by society at large and never been forgiven by history, whoever be the victims and whoever the perpetrators. Whether it be the Nadir Shahs and Chenghiz Khans of the past or the Lashkar-e-Toibas and Hizbul Mujahideens of today, their actions have never found public acceptance.

Let us not elevate in stature something as despicable as terrorism by linking it to root causes, civilizational conflicts or by applying different standards. There cannot be any ambivalence on the question of use of violence and terror in the pursuit of political goals. No ‘root cause’ can justify the massacres of Kaluchak and Nadimarg and incidents such as the attack on Indian Parliament of December 13, 2001 which was designed to eliminate at one go the entire national leadership of India. No rational person can accept the argument that the killers of innocent women and children are so called “freedom fighters”. Distinctions between freedom fighters and terrorists propagate a bizarre logic which glorify massacres of one set of innocent civilians, while condemning killings of others. The right to life of innocent people cannot be superceded by a right to kill them or to redress some real or imagined historical wrong. Terrorism is defined by the act, not by the attributes or the description of its perpetrators. Moreover, democratic societies, which address the root causes of alienation and anger, through pluralism, tolerance and socio-economic justice, are precisely the targets of terrorism.

We live in an era of democracy. All problems internal as well as external, can be resolved through legitimate, democratic and peaceful means. There is need to address issues such as poverty, territorial disputes, religious extremism etc. independently and on their own merits. But to use them to justify terrorism and to engage in tortured searches for definitions and root causes would mean undermining both the campaign against terrorism as well as the issues concerned.

The debate over terrorism being a religious phenomenon and its growing incidence heralding a clash of civilizations is also equally spurious. While it might be true that jehadi terrorism has been deliberately used for political purposes, and has become a cause of concern across the world, it is completely wrong to identify terrorism with any particular religion. No religion preaches hatred or sanctions killing of innocent human beings. Responsibility should be placed squarely on those who seek to justify killings in the name of religion. Terrorists and their sponsors have attempted to cover their campaign of killings with the cloak of jehad to try to gain false popular legitimacy and to facilitate the recruitment of misguided youth. They are themselves to be held responsible for any misperceptions created about the religion whose higher goals they falsely claim to advance. In fact, conflicts within various religions and terrorism practiced by one sect upon another itself show that religions and their adherents are not monolithic entities. Almost every religion in the world is characterised by pluralism and diversity. To advocate terrorism in the name of religion is nothing but the ultimate in political chicanery.

Let me in this connection quote from an address delivered by Prime Minister Vajpayee in February of this year to an International Youth Conference on Terrorism - “It is through such misuse of religion that jehadi terrorism is trying to violently impose its own rigid, intolerant social order uniformly around the world. The murderous campaign has not spared even Muslim populations, as was evident from what the Taliban did in Afghanistan.” Addressing the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Kuala Lumpur two weeks later, the Prime Minister further said, “President Musharraf has referred to my country a little while ago. His strange logic masks Pakistan’s territorial designs on an integral part of India. He justifies terrorism against India by talking of root causes. Does he go into the root causes of sectarian terrorism in his country?”

I would like to now turn to the issue of double standards in the fight against terrorism. Much has been said in this regard and I have no desire to point fingers or cast blame in any direction. As is evident, there is a tendency amongst some to condone terrorism in some places while condemning it elsewhere. This is completely counter-productive. Such lenience will only boomerang on everyone. As recent events have borne out, such groups support each other and their agenda, goals and targets mutate. Therefore, so long as the capacity, infrastructure and latitude to resort to terrorism remains, no person or country is safe. Terrorism has often turned upon its own mentors.

There can be no justification whatsoever for terrorism and it must be eradicated wherever it exists. Those connected to the heinous acts of 9/11, had inter linkages in terms of collaborators, funding, indoctrination and training including in our neighbourhood. State agencies and groups directly sponsored by our western neighbour are also known to have provided safe haven and logistical support to fleeing Al - Qaeda and Taliban terrorists.

As a member of the international coalition against terrorism, as a neighbour and friend of Afghanistan, we are greatly concerned at the re-emergence of Taliban inspired and ISI backed terrorism in parts of Afghanistan. Soon after the military phase of operations had begun in Iraq, a foreign national working with the ICRC was specifically identified and killed in Afghanistan. According to information available with us, the killers made a call to a former Taliban leader before carrying out the execution under specific instructions. Similarly, two US soldiers were ambushed recently. A large number of Taliban elements were apprehended in Helmand and Uruzgan who had entered Afghanistan from the east and were carrying a significant amount of arms, ammunition, explosives, communication equipment and publicity literature against the Afghan government. A memorandum was also submitted on 14th April on behalf of the people of Kandahar, calling upon Pakistan to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, and to stop supplying bombs and explosives to terrorists.

The democratic world today faces the greatest existential threat to its ideology and its way of life in terrorism. Compartmentalized national approaches cannot deal with the seamless web of international linkages which terrorism has developed. The fact that sponsorship, bases and finances for terrorism in our region come from a military regime and its intelligence agency cannot be ignored.

The issue of global terrorism is critical, complex and one of the most difficult challenges facing mankind in the 21st century. Terrorism, today recognizes no boundaries. It is not limited to a particular country or a particular region. But, its most egregious manifestations are found in our neighbourhod. Terrorist movements have worldwide linkages and can reach any part of the world where they wish to perpetrate terrorist acts. Finances needed to support terrorism are raised globally. They use the new interconnectivity of a globalised world to their advantage. Their linkage with transnational criminal syndicates, with narcotics, smuggling of arms and money-laundering gives them added reach and lethality. No region or country is insulated; neither distance, power nor wealth provides immunity.

Few countries in the world have suffered as much as India has from this menace. We owe it to ourselves as well as to the world to push, prod, persuade and mobilize the international community into redoubling efforts aimed at eradicating the phenomenon of terrorism from its very roots. It is particularly important for us in India to speak out and articulate our perspectives in this regard in a loud and clear manner. What we have to say may not be palatable to some. Criticism and opposition may come our way. We must, however, continue to speak out.

Much of the world woke up to the menace of terrorism only after September 11. We, in India have been facing this danger for over two decades. It was only when terrorism struck close to home that many in the world realized they should have woken up earlier and before they became a victim. Similarly, our views may today meet with some opposition based on short-term expediency. But, we have a responsibility to continue to express the truth as we see it and also meet the challenge facing us. We must maintain our courage of conviction and I am sure, sooner rather than later, the voice of India will be heard and accepted. Matter of fact, a cursory glance at today’s newspapers will reveal that our voice is already being heard.

Let me conclude by asserting that India must conduct its foreign policy with self-confidence, dignity and on the basis of equality with all nations, big or small. There is no dearth of advice on foreign policy issues. But let me make it clear that we neither need to panic over possible U. S. intervention in our affairs nor should there be concern that our relations with the U. S. are on the verge of collapse. India cannot remain silent simply out of fear of incurring the displeasure of others and India-US relations should not be viewed through the prism of only one issue. India-US relations are based on a whole host of objective factors and these factors continue to bring our countries closer together.

On an issue such as Iraq, it is with considerable deliberation that the Government chose to adopt a ‘middle path’. There are some in our country who believe that India should have been in the trenches fighting the U.S. and U.K. with the Republican Guards of Saddam Hussein. There are others who would like us to be a vassal state and to subordinate our thought and action to the rich and powerful.

India will go to neither extremes. We will continue to balance the pursuit of our national interests with our principles. Neither will we sell our souls to others nor will we pursue blindly antagonistic policies for the sake of antagonism. Treading the middle path might be a lonely endeavour but if that is what our national interests dictate, we shall proceed on this path with conviction and determination.

And, on an issue such as terrorism which impinges on the very core of India’s security and the well being of her people, India will remain steadfast and single minded in the pursuit of her national interests.


Excerpted from the Second Rajendra Mathur Memorial Lecture delivered by Minister of External Affairs under the auspices of the Editors Guild of India on April 19, 2003 


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