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The Invisible War

Some worry about Islamist terrorism. Others about Left extremism. Yet others
about separatist violence. But the endgame for all terrorists is the same. It
is to weaken, destabilize and break- up India...

Rajinder Puri
January 17, 2007

India is in the midst of an invisible war. It is an unrecognized war. The
government tinkers with terrorism in various fronts. The enemy continues to
advance. Last year the enemy struck at many points. In Kashmir the terrorists
killed 517 civilians and security personnel; in Assam, 131; in Manipur 132; in
Nagaland 10; in Tripura 30; in Uttar Pradesh, 21; in Maharashtra, 240. Maoists
and Naxalites killed 394. During 2006, terrorists are said to have killed 1492
civilians and security personnel. Security forces killed 1273 terrorists. In
all 2765 people were killed. The actual figure could be higher.

Bomb blasts terrorized major metropolitan cities. In Ahmednagar district of
Maharashtra, police discovered huge catches of crude RDX bombs for nationwide
distribution. In Andhra Pradesh over a thousand rockets manufactured in Tamil
Nadu were discovered. These were sufficient to arm all the left extremist
groups of India.

Some worry about Islamist terrorism. Others about Left extremism. Yet others
about separatist violence. But the endgame for all terrorists is the same. It
is to weaken, destabilize and break-up India. As 2007 dawned two events
attracted attention. A Lashkar terrorist from Kashmir was arrested in Bangalore
with RDX explosives. He came to target the Bangalore airport, Wipro and Infosys.
What on earth does a so-called Kashmiri separatist have to do with the IT
businesses of Bangalore? His natural target should have been crowded public
Then there were ULFA attacks in Assam targeting migrant labour from Bihar and
Bengal. Over 60 victims died. Clearly the aim was to provoke Bihar and Bengal
to retaliate and create inter-state clashes. What better prescription to break
up India? All these diverse terrorist groups propagate different causes but
serve the same purpose. They look like tentacles controlled by a single head.
So where is the head?

Experts may theorize as they wish. But consider this. Yossef Bodansky was the
Director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the U.S.
Congress. In the mid-1990s he prepared a carefully researched and meticulously
detailed 20,000-word official note entitled China's Surge in the Malacca
Straits. It dealt with the strategy of China's Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA)
to destabilize Southeast Asian countries. The PLA sought leverage over their
governments to secure for China control of the strategic Straits of Malacca.
All shipments for the Far East from West Asia, including oil, must pass through
Malacca. In Bodansky's background paper, the references to India are incidental.
But the following excerpts from it merit consideration. Bodansky wrote:
"The case of the Islamist terrorism in and around the Straits of Malacca is a
classic case of the true meaning of state-sponsored terrorism. In this specific
case, the Islamist subversion of several countries is intensified because of the
strategic interests of a third party-- the Peoples Republic of China-- and, to a
lesser extent, of its close allies. However, it is the close allies-- Pakistan
and Iran-- who bear the brunt of the sponsorship of, and support for the
terrorist escalation. They do so more because of the strategic calculations
concerning China than having vital interests in the Far East. Indeed, Iran and
Pakistan soon transformed Thailand into a safe haven for Islamist terrorists
for the entire East Asia."

And further:
"Beijing urged Islamabad to escalate the subversion of eastern India. The ISI
did not need too much prodding. With support from Beijing, the ISI expanded
operations from vastly expanded camps in both Burma and Bangladesh as of the
fall of 1993.

The ISI terrorism support infrastructure in Bangladesh not only supplies and
trains on China-made weapons and explosives, but the Bangladeshi military
officers, acting as instructors had received special commando and mountain
warfare training in China. The deployment of these assets has increased
markedly since the fall of 1994. It is not by accident that the first action in
the long awaited escalation of terrorism in eastern India was the bombing of an
Indian troops' train in India's northeastern state of Assam in late February
1995. The bombs were attributed to the Nationalist Socialist Council of
Nagaland (NSCN) on the basis of use of RDX and other bomb-technology details.
Since the fall of 1993, there has been an expansion of the ISI support for all
forms of terrorism in north east India, especially Manipur. At least five
senior ISI operatives cooperate closely with the NSCN, providing instructions
and guidance. As of mid-1994, the ISI provided the NSCN with huge quantities of
weapons, ranging from small arms, to rocket launchers, to anti-aircraft missiles
(including a few Stingers). The Chinese preparations for a regional escalation
and major crisis under conditions short of a major war are thorough. For the
conduct of covert operations inside India, Bangladesh and China run their own
training program at Kalapara and Munakata on Bay of Bengal and especially at
the 25 Bangladesh Rifles at Khulna and Teknaf Island in Chittagong. There,
Chinese instructors are directly involved in training Tamils and other Indians
for terrorist, sabotage, and espionage operations."
Despite this information, American policy towards China and Pakistan remained
unchanged. America is a subverted nation. It safeguards only its own security
and its economic ties with China. China's subversive activities escalated after
Jiang Zemin assumed power. He appointed loyalists in key PLA positions. It
remains to be seen whether China's present ruler, Hu Jintao, wants to, or can,
change Jiang's policies. Last week China claimed escalation of Uighur terrorism
in Xingjian. Uighur separatists rubbished this claim. So is China trying to
distance itself from terrorism by a spurious claim? China will never admit its
complicity with terrorism. Indian intelligence will have to make its own

Meanwhile the Indian government is pursuing a peace treaty with Pakistan. Before
proceeding further, it needs clarification. Will President Musharraf in private
concede ISI complicity in terrorism which might be beyond his control? If yes,
India should offer full support provided he takes on the terrorists, regardless
of the possibility of civil war. Otherwise, the peace process becomes a waste of
time. War is rarely an option. But there are other steps India can take--
inappropriate for mention in newspaper commentaries.

To meet the coming critical challenges in the days ahead, India requires a
stable, coherent government. That would be achievable if the Congress and BJP
rose above narrow interests and recognized the critical situation confronting
the nation. Both parties should sacrifice egos and coalesce to form a
government. Indira Gandhi lost a court case and imposed a fraudulent Emergency.
Today a real emergency exists. It is India's gravest challenge since
independence. Will national leaders rise to meet it?

Rajinder Puri can be reached at

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