Mumbai terror attack posers
The recent terror attacks in Mumbai which left some 20
persons dead and scores injured, meet with our unreserved and
vehement condemnation. We join the rest of the civilized world
in offering our heart-felt condolences to the Indian state, its
people and to very particularly those who were affected by the
lethal attacks. Such expressions of sorrow and of moral
solidarity come easy to us in Sri Lanka, who, for long years,
endured the unmitigated bestiality of the LTTE.
Investigations on these attacks are ongoing in India and
observers would do well not to prejudge the issue by pointing
accusing fingers in any direction, but it is plain to see that
terror is continuing to stalk parts of South Asia, although we
in Sri Lanka are free of LTTE terror. However, our fraternal
links with India and other neighbours are so strong that we
would consider a terror attack on one of them as an attack on
ourselves and be so concerned as to extend to the affected state
help in any form to relieve it of its anguish. Besides, we
consider it incumbent on ourselves to share with them our
expertise in fighting terror.
As we have come to realize, we need to always unleash a
two-pronged attack on terror. On the one hand, it needs to be
dealt with militarily and quashed through the use of law and
order measures, as Sri Lanka has already done in the case of the
LTTE. On the other, the terror phenomenon should be tackled at
its roots through the application of a political solution to the
vexed issue. That is, the genesis or the seeds of the violence
concerned must be ascertained, and these must be eliminated by
peaceful means. The Sri Lankan state having accomplished the
first enterprise is now engaged in the second, through the
evolution of peaceful measures that address the outstanding
grievances of the North-East people.
India has been foremost in showing the world the
effectiveness of this double-pronged approach to fighting
political terrorism. The gnarled Sikh rebellion and scores of
other insurrections which have erupted all over India over the
decades come easily to mind. To be sure, India 'fought fire with
fire', but it also ensured that the roots of rebellion were
uprooted through the application of peaceful measures to
eliminate public grievances once the terror threat was defused
by military means. Punjab today is a largely peaceful state but
in the mid eighties it was a chronically violence-afflicted one.
'Operation Blue Star' launched by the Indian state, put an end
to the military capability of the Sikh extremists who were
fighting the Indian centre, but peaceful measures were soon put
in place to manage the roots of the violence.
Pakistan, another close friend of Sri Lanka, is also up
against the terror phenomenon and is currently doing its utmost
to manage the problem while keeping in place the structures of
democracy. We hardly need mention Pakistan's North Western
Frontier Province, for instance, which has been chronically
conflict-ridden over the years. It could be said that Pakistan
is facing the brunt of efforts by sections of the world
community to contain terror by military means.
The point that needs to be stressed is that the majority of
South Asian states are no stranger to political terrorism. They
have suffered severely at the hands of terrorists who have had
no inkling of what it means to be human, as a result of losing
their humanity in the thick of rebellion. But these states have,
over the years, acquired a vast store house of knowledge on how
the terror phenomenon ought to be managed. Sri Lanka, for
instance, is now in a position to advise conflict-hit states on
how terror could be confronted militarily and put down.
It would be fatal to be smugly complacent on these questions.
Poverty breeds conflicts, so does wealth and prosperity.
Ethnicity is aggravated by both deprivation and wealth. For
instance, rising prosperity among some sections of the Sikh
population in India, prompted them take up the cry for a
separate state within the Indian Union.
Right now, there are sections within India which are
apparently continuing to entertain the misguided notion that
violence could earn for them a measure of power. It is up to
Indian social scientists and other knowledgeable sections, to
study the reasons for the persistence of political violence
within the Union. Meanwhile, the SAARC community needs to pool
its expertise more effectively, abundantly and systematically
than ever before, to manage terror by military means in the
short and medium terms.
Despite SAARC possessing the necessary conventions which make
provision for it to pool its expertise and resources to fight
and defeat terror, this has not been happening to the desired
degree over the years. Incidents, such as the Mumbai attacks,
should remind SAARC of the urgency of this task.