The confrontation in the Indian subcontinent between al-Qaida, the Taliban, and their allies on the one hand, and the three democracies they target — Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India on the other hand — must be re-evaluated in terms of international cooperation against the jihadi threat.
A regional system should be established to integrate the struggle against all jihadi forces in the subcontinent. There needs to be a separation between the ethnic and territorial questions from the fight against terrorism. Once that distinction is made, the possibilities of internationalization of counterterrorism will be high.
Jihadists based in any country of the subcontinent must not be given legitimacy by any government on the ground of a local ethnic issue. Jihadi forces must be confronted collectively, while diplomacy and international mediations assist in solving the local problems.
The West can help all players in the subcontinent coming under internationalization of the struggle against jihadi terror. But India has enough international credibility to help the West and other democracies in building an international basis for this counter-jihadi platform.
There are initiatives India can take within the Third World and international organizations which can weaken the jihadist propaganda against India's partners worldwide.
India can help build this international platform because of its unique history in the nonaligned world so that the West and other democracies can in return help India fight against its jihadi threats locally. India must play a strategic and international role in the said campaign worldwide.
Some of that role must be on a military and security level, but India can also play a significant role in diplomatic and political realms to consolidate the international campaign.
Hence in conclusion, I advance the following suggestions to be considered by the Indian government and counterterrorism experts:
1. That Indian think tanks would initiate a series of bilateral seminars and discussions with think tanks and research centers in the various regions potentially involved in such a future strategy, including with the United States, Europe, Russia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and moderate Arab and Muslim states.
2. That the results of these regional workshops would be integrated under an international framework where India could play an important role
3. That such an international framework or document would be submitted to the United States by all member states whose think tanks have been involved.
Evidently such architecture demands efforts, resources, and good architects. I do believe, based on my work with groups and lawmakers interested in the issue worldwide that interest in finding a new global strategy to confront the growing global threat is very high.
The impact of an Indian strategic involvement in countering the jihadi threat on the military, security, and also the ideological and political levels will bring an important addition to the global efforts against the terror forces. Hence, a dialogue between U.S., Western, and Indian strategists, lawmakers, and decision makers to establish the bases of such coordination is a must in the current state of the struggle in countering the common threat.
A Western dialogue with India should open the door to a wide array of regional platforms of cooperation including, for example, between India and Australia and New Zealand on the one hand, and between New Delhi and its three south Asian partners against al-Qaida, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
From its unique position, India can also dialogue with Russia and China (despite disagreements on many issues) on joint efforts to isolate the jihadi networks that threaten the stability of central Asia as a whole.
This cobweb of Indian outreach to countries already fighting the jihadists in Asia and internationally is needed to achieve an unprecedented isolation of al-Qaida and its Taliban-like allies across the largest continent on the planet.
(Adapted from professor Phares' speech to the Asian Security Conference 2010 under the theme "Asian Strategic Futures 2030: Trends, Scenarios, and Alternatives." Professor Phares' presentation was under the title: "The Future of Terrorism: Jihadi threat in the Indian Subcontinent")
Professor Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. www.walidphares.com
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