TERRORISM STALKS LONDON: WHAT NEXT?
There is no sanctuary or safe haven anywhere in the world where terrorists cannot infiltrate. Over the last two decades the terrorists, whatever be their nationality or affiliation, have proved to the hilt that they can strike at any place any time however impregnable could be the full proof defences of the target they aim at. What stun everyone is not only the daredevil surprise element, but also their modus operandi that changes from time to time, depending upon the preparedness of the nation targeted at. September 11, 2001 sent Shockwaves across the US and the rest of the world as the operatives of the ever elusive Osama bin Laden and his Al -Qaeda took to ingenious ways-just using ordinary aircraft as lethal missiles-to bring the twin towers at Manhattan, New York. A panicky US opened two war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq to quell terrorism overseas in order that it doesn’t raise its ugly head at home once again.
But terrorist have an edge over others in that they strike at a time when the potential victim is least prepared and cautious. And this time they stunned the world by rocking London in a series of explosions at a time when the G-8 (plus 5) Summit had just begun in Gleneagles in Scotland on July 7, 2005.lt was a deadening tragedy following the euphoria over London winning the bid to host the 2012 Olympics: a series of blasts ripped through London’s underground train network, killing more than 37 persons and injuring over 300. Several explosions took place in less than an hour, triggering panic as shocked commuters-many bleeding with their faces covered with soot-streamed out of the tubes.
The first blast rocked the Adlgate station in East London, and then there was no stopping; the next blast was heard at the Liverpool Street station in the heart of London’s business centre followed by blasts at the Edgware, King’s Cross, Old Street and Russel Square station. At Tavistock Square, a device exploded on a double-decker tourist bus, ripping off its roof resulting in several casualties. An eyewitness said that the bus was “ripped open like a can of sardines and bodies were everywhere.”
It looked as if the whole London had come to a standstill with the entire public transport shut down with the police asking the people to “stay where they are” and remain calm. London remained without trains and buses throughout the day, leaving people stranded across the city and at airports, adding to the panic and chaos. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, who was attending the G-8 Summit in Scotland, rushed back to London.
The terror attack on London resembled the string of bombings on four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, that killed 191 persons in March 2004. ‘This one is very similar to the attack in Madrid: a soft target, full of people, coordinated attacks, at rush hour. All are indications of Al-Qaeda,” said a Cairo-based expert on militants. But the London blasts are more significant, because of the British capital’s international status and because of the timing.
A statement on an Islamic website said that the bombings were a “response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan”. It also warned Denmark and Italy that they would “receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
At Gleneagles, the G-8 leaders, in a show of solidarity, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr. Toiny Blair as he read a joint statement from the Summit. The eight leaders were joined by the Un Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, European Commission President, Mr. Jose-Manuel Barroso and the leaders of Mexico, India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Mr. Blair had a message for those engaged in terrorism: “Our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world.”
Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was a special invitee for the G-8 Summit along with the leaders of Mexico, China, South Africa and Brazil, has a better knowledge of terrorism than any other leader. No other country has gone through more macabre forms of terrorism than India. Even before the Indian Prime Minister was to go to Scotland to attend the G-8 Summit, terrorists stormed Ayodhya to desecrate the makeshift Sri Ram Temple, but the timely action by the CRPF and the PAC averted a great calamity that would have triggered disastrous consequences across the country. Terrorism could have been tackled in a more systematic way had only the more powerful countries listened to India’s advice and had taken timely action.
The US learnt it belatedly that the elements who fomented cross-border terrorism in India since 1989 played a crucial role in the terrorist attack in the US in September 2001. Politics of expediency made US join hands with Pakistan to fight the Taliban which itself is the creation of Pakistan. Taliban may have been defeated on the morrow of the war in Afghanistan, but it has not been destroyed. It is still active and may still strike at moments they consider opportune. Osama bin Laden and his operatives are still at large and have the tacit support of the powers-that-beinlslambad.
Our great ally Russia, too, has been the target of terrorist attacks by militants from Chechnya. In 2004, around 360 people including more than 150 school children were killed when a school building in Russia was stormed by militants owing allegiance to Chechen rebels.
Several countries including India have signed bilateral agreements with other countries to work with unity to fight global terrorism. One country after another has gone through terrorist violence in the recent past. Apart from India, the US and Russia, the countries that suffered terrorist attack includes Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
There is widespread fear that almost all civilized societies are threatened by insidious terrorist networks that seek to access the most sophisticated weapons including clandestine nuclear material to make dirty bombs. Many countries are agreed that they should cut off sources of terrorist funding and not give any asylum to terrorist organizations or group of terrorists. Extradition agreements by which a wanted criminal or terrorist should be extradited from the country where he is hiding or is given protection to the country where he is wanted for trial have been finalized by many countries.
There could be no end to terrorism if there is no sincere desire on the part of the international community.
Terrorism thrives just because of the double standards of certain countries who, though victims themselves, do not take serious note when others complain of terrorism just because it suits the foreign policy of the country that ignores the country in distress. India has been at the receiving end of the worst manifestation of terrorism forever a decade and a half and is still not free from it India has been lobbying for years to evolve an international covenant through the UN or other international bodies to fight global terrorism, but not much headway has been made in this regard just because insular politics comes in the way of the unbiased judgment of terrorism and the need to tackle it. When self-centred politics gets the better of human judgment, terrorism has its field day.
World politics has taken a bizarre turn with the alarming rise in terrorist groups working with a well-knit network and fired by an iron resolve to secure their objective. That death no longer strikes fear in the daredevils that are prepared to become suicide bombers adds a dangerous dimension to the surge of terrorism. Suicide bombers can no longer be tackled by conventional weaponry or the stockpile of atomic weapons. Here are guerilla fighters who have the upper hand over the most sophisticated defence anywhere in the world. Suicide bombers mushroomed among the rank and file in the LITE cadres in Sri Lanka. Terrorists and even armed fighters have taken the cue from the lethal punch of becoming martyrs for a cause they hold dear and their clan is expanding: we saw their impregnable foray in New York in September 2001 and see it in Palestine and Iraq.
Future wars may not be fought between countries as such. The danger may come from a group of militants armed with most dangerous weapons, holding to ransom any civilized country. India had to go through a harrowing experience a few years ago when a Cabinet Minister had to escort-hardened terrorists in exchange for the safety of the passengers and crew of a hijacked civilian aircraft. Pakistan abetted in the dastardly crime, while the civilized countries looked away as if it were our own business to tackle a crime that originated elsewhere. It is this kind of hypocrisy in international politics that has provided the breeding ground of terrorism. If you think your problem is mine too, and my problem is mine only, then you are in for trouble later. Every terrorist act shows that no country can afford to remain in splendid isolation while another country bears the brunt of the attack. This underscores the overriding importance of genuine cooperation and coordination among all countries. A global mechanism to tackle terrorism, to trace the causes of terrorism and the need to prevent terrorism, to dismantle terrorist network and close the channels of its funding must be created under the aegis of the United Nations or other international bodies.