SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW

Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 10, No. 43, April 30, 2012

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Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal

ASSESSMENT

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INDIA

 

The Hostage State
Ajai Sahni
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management & SATP

A rolling crisis of high profile abductions, initiated with the kidnapping of two irresponsible Italians in Odisha on March 14, 2012, continues to hold the national attention, with Alex Paul Menon, the District Collector (DC) of the newly formed Sukma District in Chhattisgarh, still in the custody of the Maoist’s Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC), since his abduction on April 21, 2012. Significantly, even as the Menon abduction is discussed threadbare, little mention is made of the two policemen guarding him, who were murdered in cold blood by the Maoists. In the interim, the two Italians and the Odisha Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Jhina Hikaka, who was abducted on March 24, 2012, have been released after successive deals with different ‘commands’ of the rebel grouping – the former, in a settlement with Sabyasachi Panda, Secretary of the Maoists’ Odisha State Organising Committee, who controls the Bansadhara and Ghumsur ‘Divisions’; and the latter, in a deal with the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC).

Even as the hostage crisis winds down, with the release of the Sukma DC currently under negotiation, urgent questions persist regarding the conduct of the state during these crises and, more broadly, the fundamentals of ‘negotiating with terrorists’ or with ‘hostage takers’. There has been much commentary on the state’s ‘capitulation’ and the obvious and adverse consequences, both of releasing active Maoists from jail, and of the ‘demonstration effect’ which will ‘naturally’ encourage future abductions, given the success of the present instances.

Significantly, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), with characteristic whimsicality, has now decided that, as a consequence of the “new development”, the Maoists have lapsed from their status as our privileged ‘brothers and sisters’ and are now to be designated as ‘terrorists’. The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Jitendra Singh, told Parliament on April 27, 2012, that abductions were a “new development in their tactics, indicating the gradual transformation of the outfit into a full blown terrorist organization which indiscriminately targets civilian non-combatants.” The assessment was given further weight by the endorsement from elements within security establishment, with the Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), K. Vijay Kumar, reportedly declaring, “What is the difference between the CPI-Maoist and any terrorist organization? This is not a typical rural insurgency. The Maoists believe in protracted war with the state and building a regular army to overthrow the state.”

The inherent contradictions and sheer incoherence of the state’s approach are manifest in these two statements. Vijay Kumar, while condemning the Maoists as terrorists, gives a descriptive of classical Maoist insurgency – the strategy of protracted war towards the building of a ‘regular army’. As for the ‘new tactics’ that Jitendra Singh speaks of, the UMHA’s own data indicates that abduction is anything but new as far as the Maoists are concerned. Indeed, according to UMHA data, a total of 1,567 persons were abducted by the Maoists between 2008 and April 17, 2012, and of these, at least 328 were killed in Maoist custody. Nor, indeed, is it the case that abduction was abruptly introduced into the Maoist tactical lexicon in 2008. The Maoists have had a long and enduring tradition of abductions since the resurgence of the movement in the 1980s, with natural peaks and troughs in their employment of this tactic.

The only significant departure from recent trends has been the targeting of relatively high-profile individuals – foreigners, an MLA and a DC – as against the continuous stream of lesser mortals whose fate is far more easily ignored by the state. State officials have, of course, been abducted in the past as well, but with rare exception –Vineel Krishna, the DC of Malkangiri, Odisha, abducted in February 2011; and seven officers of the elite Indian Administrative Service, abducted en masse in 1987, being prominent cases in point – they have belonged to the lower orders. The Maoists have, however, routinely targeted subordinate Government officials and elements within the Panchayati Raj (village local self government) apparatus, large numbers of civilians branded as ‘police informers’, ‘class enemies’ or individuals guilty of various alleged ‘crimes against the people’, and Police personnel and officers, among others. And while this unending succession of abductions was occurring, successive administrations, including the present United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre, and various establishment political parties, have seen fit to enter into negotiations with the Maoists, have repeatedly spoken of them in conciliatory terms, seeking a negotiated resolution to their ‘movement’, engaged in opportunistic electoral alliances, and generally inclined to oppose the use of force to end the insurgency, overwhelmingly emphasizing negotiated, political and developmental ‘solutions’ to the insurgency.

The shift in profile of abduction victims has also re-ignited an enthusiastic – though characteristically ill-informed – debate on the appropriate ‘response’ to a ‘hostage crisis’. Bemoaning the state’s supposed ‘capitulation’ to secure the release of the abducted Italians and MLA Hikaka, there has been at least some passionate advocacy of a policy of ‘no negotiations with hostage takers’ or ‘terrorists’, and even of a law against such negotiations. Some experts have insisted that such negotiations are not permissible under any circumstances. Others have argued that negotiations are, quite simply, mandatory, on humanitarian considerations, or in view of the basic covenant between citizen and state. Selective examples have been cited in support of each position.

Unfortunately, an analysis of broad trends in response, as well as of the experience of specific cases, is not particularly helpful in deciding the issue one way or the other. Both the ‘hard’ and the ‘soft’ line, it would appear, can take us down the same trajectory. Within the Indian context, advocates of the hard line, including the Hindutva right-wing Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS), through its mouthpiece Organiser, have chosen to salute former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her uncompromising stand against hostage-taking terrorists. The Organiser, commenting on a hated political adversary who banned the RSS as an extremist formation during the Emergency of 1975-77, and ignoring her active collusion with terrorists in the initial troubles in Punjab, noted,

Indira Gandhi as PM (Prime Minister) in 1984 went ahead and hanged Maqbool Bhat when the Kashmiri terrorists held the Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre as hostage. He (Mhatre) was killed by the terrorists. Since then there has hardly ever been any instance when the government stood its ground.

Critics, however, argue that it was Bhat’s hanging that accelerated radicalization, separatism and terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). On the other hand, the Rubaiya Sayeed abduction in 1989, and the state’s subsequent capitulation, is widely seen as the immediate cause of the near complete breakdown of state authority in J&K, and the trigger to the following decades of terrorism. Of course, the state’s response in the IC 814 hostage crisis in December 1999 has become a byword of state capitulation, and is widely regarded as having significantly contributed to a sharp escalation in terrorism in J&K, with the formation of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) under the leadership of Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the terrorists released in this deal with the hijackers. The incompetence that attended the security response at the Amritsar Airport, where IC 814 remained for at least 47 minutes, moreover, offers a sharp contrast to the response to two incidents of hijacking, which were ‘resolved’ at the same Airport, with a strong and effective security response, under K.P.S. Gill’s command in 1993. The termination of the 1993 hijackings sent out a strong ‘dampening’ message to terrorists planning such future actions.

Clearly, however, no ‘formula’ of response can be derived from these and other conflicting experiences.

Much of the present discourse on the hostage issue has also been undermined by contra-factual stereotypes. Israel and the US, it is asserted, have an uncompromising ‘no-negotiations policy’, and this, it is claimed, has served them well, and is what India needs. The truth is, while both these countries have a declared no-negotiations policy, negotiations – and dramatic concessions to terrorists – have, in fact, been the rule. The Israeli example during the hostage crises at Munich (Germany), Entebbe (Uganda), and at Ma’a lot (Israel) – the last of which involved 105 children, among 115 hostages, at a school – are often cited as exemplars of a successful ‘no-negotiations’ approach. Crucially, and more recently, however, Israel chose to release as many as 1,027 prisoners – including no less than 280 terrorists serving life sentences for various terrorist crimes, and who were collectively responsible, according to Arab reports, for the loss of 569 Israeli civilian lives -  in exchange for a single Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Despite the tremendous complexity of hostage situations, a number of utterly facile, and at least occasionally nonsensical, statements on a ‘hostage policy’ or even ‘standard operating procedures’ (SOPs) for hostage situations, have recently emanated from the corridors of power. Opportunistic elements within the UPA have sought to mix in the present controversy over the National Counter-terrorism Centre (NCTC) with the hostage crises, claiming, without any adduced evidence, that the NCTC alone could help resolve such problems. That the UMHA has remained almost entirely passive through the recent hostage situations, however, is entirely ignored by advocates of increasing centralization of such responses.

Within this context, it is, indeed, ironic that, as far back as September 2004, the UPA Government had announced that it was planning a “no nonsense hostage policy”. Its “cornerstone”, we were then told, was to be “the principle of no negotiations”. Even more ironic was the fact that this announcement came in the wake of the negotiated release, after meeting terrorist demands, of three truckers abducted in Iraq.

There is evidence, here, of persistent and tremendous political incompetence. At its core is an episodic focus, ordinarily in the face of ongoing crises, on issues crucial to national security, and a refusal to sustain such a focus once the crisis has passed.

If any rationality is to attend our responses to hostage crises, the first element that demands recognition is the fact that options arise out of capacities. The second is that hostage-taking is just one among a wide range of insurgent/terrorist tactics. The third is that all terrorist tactics are adopted within a calculus of success that is integrally linked to relative insurgent/terrorist capabilities and state/security capabilities. Many have argued that releasing prisoners in exchange for hostages has an inevitable ‘demonstration effect’ and encourages future abductions. This, however, is only the case where the state fails to impose unbearable costs on the responsible insurgent/terrorist grouping in the aftermath of the hostage exchange. Where such costs are imposed, anti-state groupings quickly abandon such tactics. The imposition of such costs, however, is not a function of ‘hostage policies’, SOPs, or ‘negotiating skills’, but of general policing or security capabilities, the availability and deployment of state Forces on the ground, and the relative dominance, in specific affected areas, of state and rebel Forces. Essentially, a no-negotiations position, SOPs, or ‘mechanisms’ of response, makes sense only if there is significant punitive capacity and will. Otherwise, these translate into nothing more than a callous and boastful posture of strength, in the absence of real power, at the expense of the hostages, and offer no strategic or tactical advantage.

Critically, no policy or standardized response pattern or mechanism can secure appropriate responses in all situations. The effectiveness of responses will depend purely on the efficiency of the state’s Forces, and on the ability to predict and prepare for all patterns of rebel activity. Abduction is just one among an entire range of Maoist tactics, and relies on the wider capabilities of the rebels and of state Forces. There can be no effective response to a hostage crisis, when the state lacks the capacities, the capabilities and the will to respond effectively to the broader challenge of the Maoist rebellion; to daily killings of its Security Forces’ (SF) personnel and civilians; and to the complex and rampaging depredations of Maoist cadres, militia and fronts across wide areas of the country.

The state has been driven to paralysis by the abduction of a couple of inconsequential foreigners, an MLA and a DC. One can only cringe at the possibility of a Beslan in India – the September 2004 incident in a tiny Russian town, where Chechan terrorists took nearly 1,200 hostages, including at least 777 children, in a school gymnasium. In the eventual SF action at Beslan, at least 334 hostages, including 186 children, were killed. How would India cope with a challenge – and with a catastrophe – of such dimensions?

The gibberish about ‘policies’, ‘SOPs’, the centralization of responses, the transformation of ‘tactics’, ‘terrorists’, and other such twaddle, is nothing more than a diversion, an attempt by bankrupt politicians and Force commanders to direct attention away from the awful crisis of capacities that undermines India’s security and all dimensions of governance. It is not the Maoists that hold India hostage today, but the enduring venality, the incompetence and the collapse of imagination of the country’s leadership.

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
April 23-29, 2012

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

Left-wing Extremism

0

0

1

1

INDIA

Assam

0

0

1

1

Meghalaya

1

0

1

2

Left-wing Extremism

Andhra Pradesh

0

1

0

1

Maharashtra

4

0

0

4

West Bengal

0

0

1

1

Total (INDIA)

5

1

3

9

PAKISTAN

Balochistan

4

0

9

13

FATA

7

0

11

18

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

4

0

3

7

Punjab

2

1

0

3

Sindh

21

7

9

37

Total (PAKISTAN)

38

8

32

78

Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.

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INDIA

Taliban threat from Af-Pak real, warns Air chief marshal N A K Browne: Increasing Talibanisation of Pakistan and shifting of terror focus from Af-Pak region would pose a serious security threat to India in the next two years, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne said on April 28. "If the American troops and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) withdraw from Afghanistan as planned, 2013-14 are going to be crucial watershed years for India as far as the security of our western border is concerned," Browne hinted. Times of India, April 28, 2012.

Terror attacks claimed 458 lives in Mumbai since 2000, states Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Jitendra Singh: The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Jitendra Singh in a written reply informed the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on April 25 that 458 lives were lost in terror attacks in Mumbai (Maharashtra) since 2000. Indian Express, April 27, 2012.

102 ceasefire violations reported along LoC in Jammu and Kashmir since 2010, says Government: A total of 102 ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir have taken place since 2010, the Government said on April 25. In a written reply in Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament), Defense Minister AK Antony said 44 cases of ceasefire violations along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir were registered in 2010. While there were 51 cases in 2011, seven such instances have come to notice this year [2012], he informed. Hindustan Times, April 27, 2012.

Maoists building weapons factories in India with help from China, says intelligence report: A ‘secret’ Intelligence Bureau (IB) report suggests that apart from the regular weapons the cadres of Communist Party of India-Maoists (CPI-Maoist) Maoists are normally associated with, they now have facilities to manufacture parts for even complex systems like grenade and rocket launchers. The IB report also establishes that the Maoists are aided in their efforts to build modern weapons by the Chinese intelligence. India Today, April 27, 2012.

Perpetrators of 26/11 should be brought to justice, says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on April 27 stated that the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks (also known as 26/11) should be brought to justice. He stated, "All perpetrators of this crime should be brought to justice as soon as possible," adding, that India and Pakistan should continue their dialogue on regional security and peace to enable "better, improved relations" between them. Oman Tribune, April 28, 2012.

Ceasefire between GoI and NSCN-Khole-Kitovi signed: The Government of India (GoI) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khole-Kitovi (NSCN-Khole-Kitovi) signed a fresh cease-fire agreement on April 27 in Delhi. NSCN-Khole-Kitovi’s cease-fire supervisory board (CFSB) supervisor C Singson confirmed that his group has signed fresh cease-fire with GoI for a period of one year. Nagaland Post, April 27-28, 2012.

‘Gun has no relevance in present scenario’, says Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah:Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said on April 27 that gun has lost its relevance in the present scenario when the people were desiring for peace and it would be better for those holding the gun to give it up and join the process of talks. He assured the people that the State Government would continue to make efforts for restoration of permanent peace in the State in which gun would automatically become irrelevant. Daily Excelsior, April 28, 2012.

Tevhid-Selam-Quds behind attack on Israeli diplomat’s car in New Delhi, says report: The investigators feel that the attack on an Israeli diplomat, Tal Yehoshua Koren, on February 13, 2012, in New Delhi was carried out by Tevhid-Selam-Quds, an organization that is being handled out of Iran. "Its operatives are trained and equipped with weapons, ammunition and explosives, especially in handling of TNT and C4," said a source. The group has a history of carrying out terrorist attacks on Israel in other countries like those in Turkey, including the murder of Israeli security officer Ehud Sadan. Times of India, April 24, 2012.

Maoists release Odisha MLA Jhina Hikaka: The Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) released Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Jhina Hikaka in the forests of Narayanpatna in Koraput District in the morning of April 26. Hikaka was abducted by the Maoists on March 24, 2012, near Toyapet in Koraput District. Zee News, April 26, 2012.

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NEPAL

UCPN-M proposes a federal model of 10 States: The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) on April 26 proposed a 10-State federal model based primarily on ethnic identity. The Maoists propose to keep Chitwan District as a centrally-administered zone. Republica, April 27, 2012.

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PAKISTAN

21 civilians and nine militants among 37 persons killed during the week in Sindh: At least four persons, including a Policeman, were killed and 19 others injured during Police operation in Lyari area of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, on April 29.

An encounter between Police and Lyari gangsters left 10 persons dead, including a Station House Officer (SHO) and a Constable, in Lyari area of Karachi.

At least eight persons, including two Security Force personnel, were killed in a gun battle between Police and Lyari gangsters in Lyari area of Karachi on April 27.

Four persons, including a Head Constable, were killed in separate acts of target killings in Karachi on April 26.

At least five people, including a political activist and two football players representing the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) team, were killed in separate target killings incidents that took place in Karachi on April 24. Dawn; Daily Times; The News; Tribune, April 24-30, 2012.

Osama Bin Laden wanted shoe bombers to follow up on 9/11 attacks, reveals British convict Saajid Badat: Al Qaeda’s slain leader Osama Bin Laden had planned to follow up the September 11, 2001, (also known as 9/11) attacks with shoe bombers to blow up American passenger planes, which would have brought the American economy to its knees, a British man, Saajid Badat (33), convicted on terrorism charges testified in a trial Federal District Court in Brooklyn (New York) on April 23. "He (bin Laden) said that the American economy is like a chain. If you break one link of the chain, the whole economy will be brought down," Badat testified.

Laden had also planned to mount indiscriminate attacks on Pakistani soil, revealed the documents seized by the Americans from the compound in the Abbottabad ares of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where Laden was killed.. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) shared intelligence about possible al Qaeda attacks inside. Times of India, April 25-28, 2012.

MQM, PPP and ANP involved in extortion, alleges Federal Minister of Interior Rehman Malik: Federal Minister of Interior Rehman Malik on April 23 revealed that activists belonging to political parties of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led coalition Government of Sindh are to be blamed for the menace of extortion in Karachi. Malik said that activists of PPP, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Awami National Party (ANP) and other parties were involved in extortion in the metropolis. Dawn, April 24, 2012.

Afghan Taliban to get ‘safe passage’ for reconciliation talks, says Afghan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas: Pakistan, US and Afghanistan agreed on April 26 to provide ‘safe passage’ to Afghan Taliban militants willing to join reconciliation talks and set up a working group to settle modalities for their unhindered movement. This was announced by Afghanistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani. Dawn, April 28, 2012.

Era of wars over, says Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on April 23 said that the era of wars has ended and Pakistan is prepared to resolve all outstanding issues with India, including the Kashmir dispute and terrorism, through talks. Instead of trying to resolve issues through force, the Government has adopted a policy of progress and negotiations, he added. Times of India, April 24, 2012.

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SRI LANKA

No favorable response from the Government for political solution, says TNA leader R. Sampanthan: Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan said that there had been no favorable response from the Sri Lankan Government on the issue of local political solution to the national problem in Sri Lanka. He further said that the suggestion made by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) for an accepted solution for the national issue with maximum devolution had also been thrown away by Mahindra Rajapaksa Government. Dailymirror, April 27, 2012.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]
Publisher
K. P. S. Gill
Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni

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A Project of the
Institute For Conflict Management

http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/sair/index.htm

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2 thoughts on “SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW

  1. If I were India, I would not trust Pakistan. Sharia Law and Blasphemy Laws reign there, now, thanks to the Taliban’s heavy influence, and their assassination of Christian Cabinet Officials. I agree with other bloggers, you cannot negotiate with someone who is wrong. You must lead, not them. Plain. Simple. Period.

  2. Reblogged this on Impressions and commented:
    Even as the hostage crisis winds down, with the release of the Sukma DC currently under negotiation, urgent questions persist regarding the conduct of the state during these crises and, more broadly, the fundamentals of ‘negotiating with terrorists’ or with ‘hostage takers’. There has been much commentary on the state’s ‘capitulation’ and the obvious and adverse consequences, both of releasing active Maoists from jail, and of the ‘demonstration effect’ which will ‘naturally’ encourage future abductions, given the success of the present instances.

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