Sunday, September 29, 2013

United against the terrorism

Five years ago, fugitive Indian Mujahideen commander Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri slipped through the India-Nepal border near Madhubani. From there, he undoubtedly continued to safer havens and made sure the Indian Mujahideen would be better trained and more dangerous than ever before.

The recent arrest of high-profile fugitive Siddibapa of the Indian Mujahideen—popularly known as Yasin Bhatkal—from near the Raxaul border in the northern part of Bihar has confirmed that the traditional structure of the India-Nepal border needs drastic changes.

Once, the border areas were known as peaceful regions. But now, more and more terror cells are using the area to cross international borders and plan their attacks. There have been many such cases and the current border security system has been incapable of stopping them from crossing from Nepal into India and vice-versa.

Both in principle and practice, India and Nepal are cooperating to fight terrorism and protect their lands from being misused by rogue elements. Notwithstanding the good intentions of both countries, it is clear that the open border between Nepal and India is being covertly used for passage by terrorists.

Bihar shares a 625 km border with Nepal, of which a long stretch between Jaynagar in Madhubani and Raxaul in East Champaran has been under the scanner of the Indian police since 2006. The complicity of Pappu Khan, Mohamed Khalil, Omar Madani, Ghayur Ahmed Jamali and Ajmal alias Shoaib, in recent terror attacks on Indian cities and the establishment of their activities in northern Bihar districts have justified the police’s attention and call for more of a focus in this region.

The Bihar government has shown resilience in recent years in curbing terrorist activities. The State Government woke up after a joint operation of the Intelligence Bureau and the Delhi Police in October 2005 where these agencies scanned the call details from Madhubani to East Champaran and found an unusually high number of ISD calls to hostile destinations and known terrorist linkages.

India surely appreciates Nepal’s readiness to cope with these challenges and thanks to a joint operation, India was
able to nab a deadly terrorist like Yasin Bhatkal. However, the overall security situation is very complex and the two countries have to deal with it cautiously and on time. Measures need to be taken now, as tomorrow might already
be too late.

We immediately need to end the notion that the open border between India and Nepal poses no security risk. Also, border security has to be up to the mark, which it is currently not. Second, both countries should allow each other to track wanted criminals in their respective territories, thereby making the region unattractive for wrongdoers. Times are getting tougher for India and Nepal due to the rise of international terrorism.

The leaders of both sides must recognise this and they must focus their efforts on fighting terrorism—whilst not neglecting other crucial issues. Nepal is aware of India’s problems with imported as well as homegrown terrorism. Broadly, Nepal cannot afford an unstable India and obviously, a peaceful Nepal is one of India’s main concerns. On the political side, there should be no obstacle for a new security cooperation.

An effective way to deal with cross-border terrorism could be through dialogue on high official levels. Sadly, neither side has taken this issue very seriously in the past. As a consequence, terrorists have been able to move across borders and carry out crimes.

There is, therefore, a crucial need to restructure border security arrangements and build better infrastructure on both sides of the borders. Furthermore, as Indian police are state agencies, Nepal should find a way to involve state governments, who share common concerns along the border, instead of only dealing with New Delhi. Third, the Nepal Police needs a modern upgrade when it comes to interface technology and an increase in the headcount to be deployed near the border.

The Government of Nepal has partnered well with India and if it continues to do so by making its territory safe and
its borders impassable for terrorists, India will be the beneficiary. This strategic response to the activities of non-state terror networks would end their so far successful acquisition of easily accessible resources and pieces of infrastructure.

Until a few years ago, it was unthinkable that terrorists could misuse places like Janakpur or Pokhara to conduct illegal activities against India. The two Indian districts of Madhubani and Darbhanga also suffer from these latest
developments, despite their past intellectual traditions of refined cultural practices and communal harmony.

These two districts are known in official police criminal records as the ‘Madhubani Module’ and ‘Darbhanga Module’ What, then, is fueling the hate-game? Consensus can be attained by looking at some of the most recent terror cases and their link to the districts of north Bihar. There is evidence of local support and—shockingly—most of the culprits ended up as terrorists because they misinterpreted the teachings of Islam.

They have forgotten the shared past and the unbreakable trust which still remains among the different communities of the Mithila region. Neither historical records nor the present situation justifies such misinterpretations. Nevertheless, terror has expanded. It has to be ended and terrorists have to be reformed (those who are willing to be) or wiped out.

There is no reason for us to treat them with kid gloves. India has been suffering greatly from terrorism, although it was only after 9/11 that the world acknowledged India’s pain. India has the capacity to fight terrorism and its determination to do so is unshakable. Nothing could be as helpful at this stage as effective security cooperation between India and Nepal.
-Atul K Thakur
(Published in The Kathmandu Post on October06,2013)

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