Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Sri Lanka: No election gimmick

Modi’s mention of Sri Lankan carnage stresses less on terrorism and more on his image as a competent fighter against it 

Pankaj Sharma
28 April 2019

Never before has any Indian Prime Minister tried taking political advantage of terror blasts in any other country the way Narendra Modi is busy doing during his electioneering for the Lok Sabha elections. In the garb of condemning terror attacks on Sri Lanka, Modi is asking people to vote for his Bhartiya Janata Party to eradicate terrorism. As people say 'yes' upon being asked by him if they think that terrorism should be completely wiped off, keeping aside all the decency of public life, he asks if there can be anyone other than Modi who can fight terrorism? Modi tells people in his election rallies that a vote for BJP is a vote to destroy terrorism of the sort Sri Lanka has suffered. Also Read - Nursing grievances His mention of Sri Lanka blasts is a part of his ongoing efforts to exploit high-octane nationalism by adding more fuel to an already ugly politics of patriotism and national security. To turn the national conversation away from its spotty economic record, BJP has made every effort to exploit issues related to Pakistan and China too in the past few months. Also Read - A defeated purpose After terror attacks in Sri Lanka, there are pertinent questions floating in the skies across the world. The first and foremost question is who is really behind the attacks carried out by National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), an Islamist terror group? According to Sri Lankan authorities, NTJ has multiple links to foreign countries. Sri Lanka's Muslim population is less than 8 per cent of the country's entire population. Therefore, it is not easy for any local Islamist group to stage such massive attacks. An attack of this magnitude is not possible without the active involvement of a foreign state or state intelligence agency. Which could be that country? Which could be that state intelligence agency? There are reports that the Indian government had sent at least 10 very serious advisories to Sri Lankans based on intelligence inputs about the plans of terror attacks during the past several weeks. India has been actively assisting Sri Lanka in countering terror outfits since the days Rajiv Gandhi was Prime Minister. I recall the days of 1987 when I covered the operations of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in the forests of Jaffna. I spent days and nights with the soldiers and interviewed Maj. Gen. Amarjit Singh Kalkat who was heading the IPKF in Sri Lanka and retired as a Lt. General. Vested international interests are busy throwing various mischievous theories and raising questions about the timing of attacks in Sri Lanka. They argue that as Sri Lanka defeated LTTE years ago, the atmosphere of peace that had prevailed may well have created a false sense of security that was ripe for exploitation. They are trying to connect the dots that suit them. Sri Lankan episode needs an answer for several questions. Why Easter bombings that killed more than 350 people in Sri Lanka including foreign nationals received far less foreign media coverage than Christ Church terrorist attack? Why was the intelligence warning which came on April 4 ignored and even withheld according to Sri Lankan minister Lakshman Kiriella? Why ISIS claimed the responsibility after three days of the terrorist attacks? How ISIS, which is decimated in the Middle East, managed to carry out such massive coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka? These are the questions circulating at different forums of media — print, tv and social digital handles. It is still not clear if the Sri Lankan suicide bombers planned and executed the attacks since the Christchurch killings or if they were planning such bombings for a longer period and then linked it to Christchurch. It is also not clear why Sri Lanka has been chosen when it doesn't have anything to do with the Christchurch shootings. Nor has it played any role in the West's wars in the Muslim world, a common excuse the IS gives for its attacks on western countries and civilians. Sri Lanka also doesn't have a history of Islamist terror. Though IS does not actually represent the victims in New Zealand, they perceive the Christchurch killings as an attack on Islam. So, for a self-proclaimed defender of the faith, they are 'duty-bound' to retaliate. IS believes in the philosophy that an act against Islam by Christians is not an act of just one terrorist but a crime committed by 'crusaders' and 'Romans'. Therefore, IS, as the 'true believer' of Islam has to punish them. This mindset gives IS a free hand to take action against Christians anywhere in the world. IS operated through a centre-periphery model. Its 'centre' was the seized territories of Syria and Iraq — the proto-state from where 'Caliphate' functions. Rest of the world is the 'periphery' where recruits could be found. The IS' centre has now been decimated. The Kurdish militia in Syria, and the army and the Shia militia in Iraq have destroyed IS bases from where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ruled. But despite the destruction of its organisational structure, its ideological apparatus is intact. Sri Lanka carnage compels us to develop a deeper understanding of terrorism itself. We have to ask serious questions about ISIS because it has claimed the responsibility for the carnage. How did ISIS emerge? Who is helping to sustain ISIS? Who created Daesh? Who sired Al-Qaeda? It is not a hidden fact that many of the terror outfits we know today are linked to geopolitics and the pursuit of global dominance and power. So, could there be any China hand, even remotely, behind the attacks on Sri Lanka because it has been seeking to manipulate the power balance in Sri Lanka for a long time now? A section of Sri Lankan leaders has been resisting these attempts because they are in favour of an independent foreign policy that aims at securing win-win situation with India, China, and Pakistan. Or, could there be a Pakistan hand, through its 'non-state actors'? Pakistan these days is playing the same games for China that it has been playing for the USA until a few years back. Indian and Sri Lankan security apparatus are probing links between Pak-based terror groups and Lankan extremist groups. No one can say that this is a lone wolf attack. Unless experienced hands are involved, it is impossible to acquire the quantum of explosives used in the attack. The precision with which attacks were made also indicate the role of experienced hands. This type of attack requires extensive training. In this context, there is a need to probe the links between Lankan extremist groups and extremist elements in South East Asia and Maldives. Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared to stop at nothing in creating human victims. An end must be put to this. It cannot be done by making it an election issue to fetch votes in favour of a particular political party. Prime Minister Modi must focus on solving the Sri Lankan puzzle with required seriousness so that India could be saved from such attacks. Even during electioneering, he needs to behave as the Prime Minister of India and not as a 'swayamsewak' or merely a BJP leader. (The author is Editor & CEO of News Views India and a national office bearer of the Congress party. The views expressed are strictly personal)

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