Dr G Shreekumar Menon
The ill-conceived withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan has paved the way for the brutal assault by the Taliban, which will shortly culminate in the complete takeover of Afghanistan, including the capital city of Kabul, in the coming fortnight. City after city is being gobbled up by the Taliban and they are hardly facing any resistance from the Afghan forces. The US entered Afghanistan as part of its campaign against terrorism in 2001, and the current war ranks as the longest ever American military campaign.The hastily worked out withdrawal is a clear capitulation to a terror group that majority across the world view as a rag-tag bunch of radicalised fundamentalists. Despite a much-hyped military prowess and an array of sophisticated weaponry and unmatched air-superiority, the Americans had to bite the dust and flee from Afghanistan, thus concluding their nearly two-decade of military operations.
The Taliban take over of Afghanistan in the absence of any resistance is going to boost evil designs of the terrorist groups operating in South-east Asia.
India that’s facing aggressive terrorism for the past few decades, with Kashmir as the epicentre of violence, will have to brace itself for facing escalated violence of a much higher order than ever before. What the Taliban has gained will embolden the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad which are operating in Kashmir to carry out dastardly attacks not only on the military and police forces but also on the civilians. There is also a possibility of the Taliban turning towards Kashmir with full support and backing of Pakistan. In that event all the assorted terror groups operating in Kashmir are likely to rally behind the Taliban.
The dynamic Modi government has successfully put in place a robust mechanism to integrate Kashmir into the mainstream, which will bring economic prosperity for the people residing there. But, with the Taliban now commanding the situation in Afghanistan upon the withdrawal of the American and allied forces, the anti-national forces will be raising their head and conspiring to destabilize Kashmir. A flare-up in violence can be expected in Kashmir in the coming days. The fate of projects underway in Afghanistan with Indian government assistance is now sealed. India will have no other option but to write-off those investments as lines drawn on water. Be that as it may, what is more worrying is the clear signs of a spurt in India of rapid radicalization and the resultant friction between the nationalist and anti-nationalist forces. While the external enemy can be staved off, the internal divisive forces are far too many and will involve complex, long-drawn legal battles. Our laws, both civil and criminal are far too complicated, time-consuming and otiose, to handle terror conflicts. Further, unfriendly State governments, petty ambitious leaders, heavily politicized administrations, dubiously funded human rights groups, minority groups, NGO’s, journalists, and fundamentalists are going to make governance a nightmare. India needs to be Taliban-prepared, capable of fighting internally and externally any kind of war, conflict or disruption, that will be thrust on the nation in the coming days.
The Taliban and its allies will try to replicate the same modus-operandi in India as it has done in Afghanistan. The only comforting thought is that in Afghanistan the geographical terrain gave the Taliban a clear edge. The wearied American military was held at bay by a group of ragamuffins, for nearly two decades. But, infiltrating into Kashmir will be a different game altogether. However, we cannot be complacent and should not be caught off-guard.
This writer is of the considered opinion that the following measures need to be considered and implemented immediately:
Undoubtedly, Mr. Modi is displaying outstanding leadership and statesmanship qualities, but we need to groom a battery of leaders who will exhibit same caliber and acumen to guide the nation in future. For this purpose, the BJP needs to impart a political leadership program for all its members. They need to be taught and groomed to be leaders in the same mould as Prime Minister Modi or Russian President Alexander Putin. Long-term strategic thinking is the key for successful administration.
It has long been felt by many thinkers that compulsory military conscription is needed for all citizens to instill discipline and also serve as a warning to inimical forces of the formidable military manpower that is at the disposal of the nation. Many countries would dare not even dream of committing aggression on China, because of the manpower might of the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). India also needs such a military force. A beginning could be made by making it compulsory for all new Central Government recruits to undergo one year military training and service at the border areas. Presently, a select few Civil Services like IAS/IPS/IRS have a brief Army attachment program but it is only cosmetic in nature. This needs to be replaced by a strong military training program of one year duration and active service in border areas. In fact, compulsory military service of one year should be made mandatory for all central and state government recruitments.
Students from middle school onwards should be taught about strategic thinking, defence studies, geopolitics, and terror studies focusing on understanding the evolution, convergence and complexity of domestic and foreign security challenges. All university and professional college students should be enlightened through short-term courses about countering violent extremism initiatives that are presently completely out of the thought process of university students. As university students are closer in age to the target audiences of most terrorist organizations, they are better positioned to think in the way that a potential violent extremist recruiter is likely to think. College students exist in this ‘critical thinking space’’. They are in academia, and are about to move into the job market, and many youngsters who get recruited by terror organizations are either teenagers or those seeking employment. Constant radicalization is happening online, targeting youngsters, hence, the need to protect them to counter violent extremism online is the most effective way. Now that education is mostly online because of the COVID pandemic, children also need to be taught how to protect themselves from online predators. Not only children but parents and educators also need to be educated on how terrorism works, and how to get protected from radicalization.
Terrorism studies should be added as a part of General Studies paper in the Civil Services Examination. Hundreds of thousands of civil service aspirants will then get adequate exposure to violence-prone extremist groups and their historical evolution, ideological motivations, organizational structure, demographic profile, operational methods, and potential interest in carrying out mass casualty attacks, including through the acquisition and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This exposure will stand them in good stead when entering into service. In fact, Terrorism studies should be made compulsory for all recruitments whether Central or State service.
Another disturbing development emerging in our country is that many State governments are trying to disrupt the functioning of Central enforcement agencies. Many State governments have withdrawn consent to the CBI to function in their States. Certain States have booked criminal cases against Customs and Enforcement Directorate personnel. Some other States have set up Commissions of Inquiry to disrupt ongoing Central government investigations. Such fissiparous tendencies need to be nipped in the bud by making appropriate legal measures to insulate Central government investigations from any kind of interference by State agencies.
Another emerging issue is the safety of prisoners detained by Central agencies. Since Prisons are under the control of State governments, detainees are often coerced not to involve State government officials, politicians and other party functionaries, in their testimonies. Central government investigators coming to jails for recording statements are being monitored. These are new developments affecting the proper functioning of Central agencies. It is thus high time that Central government prisons are set up to house offenders violating Central laws.
Lastly, history of our motherland is being taught in a distorted and reprehensible manner. Successive generations of Indians are being brainwashed into narratives that are full of praise for invaders and depict Indians in a poor light. Thus, a phrase is being currently circulated referring to the Mughals as “the great Mughals”, when in actual realty they had exhibited despicable behavior, and unleashed barbaric violence on the local inhabitants. If such deliberate distortions of history are not erased, we are going to see more terms like “Glorious Arabs”, “Amazing Afghans”, “Radiant Turks”, “Astonishing Mongols”, “Awesome Portuguese”, “Fabulous Dutch”, “Inspiring French”, “Admirable British”, “Remarkable Chinese”, and so on in our history text books. The ulterior motive is to glorify foreign invaders, gloss over their atrocities and depredations, so that Indians will remain unprotestingly subservient to foreign forces eternally. Therefore, we have to ensure that the history of our country is recorded and taught with integrity and correctness.
Our Western land borders and Kashmir are going to face a lot of disturbances, caused by inimical forces, and we need to be fully vigilant by plugging our internal weaknesses, in order to retaliate as a powerful nation.
Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics) is Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India. He is is also Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA; Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA; Fello, Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A. and AOTS Scholar, Japan www.shreekumarmenon.comn