Defining Terrorism

The dispute over the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest outstanding problems of the world, and one that has turned the South Asian region into a nuclear flash-point. The dispute continues to figure on the agenda of the United Nations. And this august body has passed as many as seventeen resolutions for solving this problem. Indian and Pakistani leaders have held scores of meetings at various levels to settle the prickly issue between them. In Jammu and Kashmir itself, the movement demanding an implementation of the UN resolutions has been led by different parties and leaders at different times. In the fifties, the sixties and the early seventies of the twentieth century, the movement was led by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah,father of the present chief minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah. Going through many vicissitudes, the movement assumed an armed and militant dimension after the seventies. Initially, the government of India described the movement as a ‘proxy war’ and blamed Pakistan for supporting and assisting the militant organisations operating in the state. There can be no denying that some militant organisations indulged in extortions, abductions and killing of innocents, but there were some who concentrated only on targetting and engaging the security forces in combat.

And for the past eleven years, New Delhi and Islamabad are engaged in a diplomatic tug-of-war, with one projecting the strife in the state as terrorism sponsored from across the border and other portraying it as indigenous freedom struggle. There is need to a draw a line between terrorism and a people’s movement. Terrorism has no cause and religion. A Brahman killing a Dalit in the name of caste as was done in India, Christians killing fellow Christian as was being done by the IRA in Ireland, or Muslims killing fellow Muslims, as was being done in Pakistan, are acts of terrorism. Or, as was rightly stated recently stated by some speakers in the United Nations, if some citizens of a weaker state wreaked vengeance on the citizens of a stronger state, the stronger country could dub the weaker country a terrorist state and wage war against it under UN conventions. But the question is, if a stronger country drives a weaker country to death by starvation, should that not be called terrorism? The Western countries have all along adopted double standards in labeling a group or a country as terrorist. It is not individuals or groups, but states that resort to terrorism. The most obvious examples of this being the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Israelis are the greatest terrorists who have been torturing Palestinians, or Russians oppressing the Chechens. It would be wrong to pronounce the movement for right to self-determination as terrorism. Instead of trying to outsmarting each other on the definition of the word terrorism, India and Pakistan need to address the Kashmir problem.

There is need for Indian and Pakistani leaders to meet each other and remove the main stumbling block in their relations. The two countries need to understand that the developments in Afghanistan have the potential of spilling over to India and Pakistan.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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