Laden’s Demise & Terrorism Threat in South Asia

( This article can also be found on Nepalnews.com )

May 1 will be remembered as a day in world history when Osama bin Laden was silenced for good. His atrocities most notably in 9/11 attacks killing 3000 innocent people have made the Americans jubilant. Simultaneously, a question has arisen whether bin Laden’s demise will exacerbate terror in  South Asia where he had been hiding for years after planning September 11, 2001 attacks. This region has been known for its notoriety as far as terrorism is concerned. Many terrorist organizations including al Queda are based particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. South Asia looks more vulnerable to regional terrorism in Osama bin Laden’s aftermath.

It is paradoxical that the majority of the Mujahidin fighters who resisted the Soviet intervention of Afghanistan (1979-89), were supported by America in terms of training, logistics and weaponry. In the wake of Soviets’ departure many of them have joined the terrorist entities for example the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Group, among others. The American war in Afghanistan is against these terrorist groups. The geopolitical and strategic interests of the superpowers then in 1970s and 80s induced their involvement in Afghan war. Though the Russians were forced to leave Afghanistan, their withdrawal from the country in 1989 precipitated the end of Cold War. The Berlin Wall, symbol of ideological conflict between West and East collapsed in November, 1989.

The scholars have been hotly debating whether the civilisational differences are the major causes of on going wars. This debate has been ignited by the most-thought provoking 1993 essay penned by Harvard Professor Samuel P. Huntington entitled “A Clash of Civilizations”. A recent edition of Huntington’s original essay and related review of the same by various academics show that their perception is not uniform. Nevertheless, the deceased terror icon Osama has always whipped religious passions to attract followers. Unsurprisingly, he and his adherents call themselves Jihadists. They wrongly preach that their mission is to liberate Islam from the Western oppression.

Al Queda is now leaderless in Osama’s death but others will step in to the leadership role. It is a fact that the world’s most feared terrorist organization will face a great set back albeit symbolically. Nonetheless, the remnants of Al Queda will be willing to avenge the killing of their leader by committing terror wherever and whenever they can.

The American assault on a compound in Abbott bad, Pakistan where Osama was killed presents a dilemma. The killing of a terrorist leader, whose hands were stained with blood of thousands of innocent victims around the world, has made the people euphoric. However, hiding of such a most wanted terrorist in a city of military cantonment in Pakistan which is collaborating with the U.S. in counterinsurgency efforts has surprised everyone. This revelation puzzles the Americans the most,who are the greatest victims of bin Laden’s atrocities. They have been providing billions of dollars for years to Pakistan as military aid to bolster them to fight extremism.

Following Laden’s demise the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral ties may be subject to closer scrutiny. Influential U.S. senators have demanded suspension of assistance to Pakistan until the latter reassures its benefactor of effective counterterrorism co-partnership. It is incomprehensible that the Pakistani government was unaware of the presence of al Queda leaders. The U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers announced on May 2 that at least a dozen senior al Queda are based in Pakistan. Happily, John Kerry, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee has urged caution saying, “A legitimate analysis concludes that it is undeniable that our relationship with Pakistan has helped us pursue our security goals”. President Obama has acknowledged the assistance of Pakistani government in locating the building where Osama had been sheltered.

The threat of terrorism in South Asia will likely be more serious against the background of Indo-Pak war-prone rivalry since 1947. Both India and Pakistan accuse each other of assisting the terrorists to destabilize the other. India alleges that Pakistan-supported insurgents are causing India to bleed in Kashmir and Pakistan accuses India of fomenting trouble in Baluchistan. Disturbingly, both the rivals are now equipped with atomic weapons. There is an increasing fear about the safety of nuclear weapons, if Pakistan, in whose soil some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists have made their safe bases, slides further into failure. This pessimism is not without reason.

Pakistan has now apprehensions that India may get emboldened to strike against its nuclear installations in the aftermath of American raid in Abbott bad to kill Osama bin Laden. Aqil Shah in his  Foreign Affairs article (May-June, 2011) entitled “Getting the Military from Pakistani Politics” raises the possibility of some terrorists having access to nuclear weapons. He elaborates that in 2009 the Pakistani Taliban had made dramatic incursions into Pakistan’s northwestern Buner District, which is just 60 miles from Islamabad. The terrorists always vie for deadlier weapons and nukes are the most desired ones if they can get hold of.

Ominously, there might be future attacks from al Queda as well as other terrorist groups. The successful raid by the U.S. in killing bin Laden will force Pakistan-based terrorists to look for new refuge in the neighborhood. Nepal needs to be alert about their possible sneaking into the country. Frustratingly, the Nepali soil looks attractive for such terrorist activities because of weakened security situation. Otherwise, why would the Indian Foreign Minister insist on deploying air marshal in their planes flying from Nepal? Obviously, they have lost confidence in our security apparatus.

It was due to security lapse of Nepal that Delhi-bound Indian Airlines plane was hijacked from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. The evil consequences arising from that event are no secret to us. At  Tribhuwan International Airport tarmac all passengers boarding Indian flights are embarrassingly checked by Indian security personnel despite clearance from Nepal government security in the terminal building. Hasn’t our national sovereignty been compromised? Do the so-called nationalist political leaders have any fitting reply? Furthermore, the Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s remarks in Kathmandu during his second visit to Nepal are only alarming. He has reportedly asked the Nepali authorities about measures being contemplated should the 1999 incident repeat

Any incident of security failures from our side in coming days will provide India the finest argument to further pressurize Nepal to sign the proposed Extradition Treaty, which contains the most objectionable provision of surrendering the third country nationals to the other contracting party.

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