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April - May 2009


Political News

Lord Dholakia Speaks up for India in the House of Lords

by Lord Navnit Dholakia


Recent Developments in India

The title of the debate is a bit of a misnomer since we are discussing matters in which India’s neighbours bear responsibility about events that happened between the 26 and 29 November in which over 173 people died and twice as many were injured. We are therefore talking about developments in the Indian subcontinent which includes its neighbour Pakistan.

There was a graphic portrayal of violence the like of which bears some comparison with the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11 and the bombing of the tube and buses in London on 7 July. The most striking and ugly feature of the barbaric actions of the terrorists was witnessed live throughout the world on television screens. This memory will not fade away and nor should it be allowed to be “yesterday” news.

When TV cameras switch their attention elsewhere, there are the innocent victims picking up pieces to rebuild their lives. There are the injured and maimed individuals who will take a long time to recover. There are those who went to work and never returned and whose memories will haunt their families for a long time to come.

We can express our sense of outrage and we can understand the anger that Indian nationals have felt. The facts of the incident are not in dispute.

Gunman launched a series of attacks across Mumbai, the financial capital of India. These included the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi hotels, the main railway station, a hospital, restaurants and the Jewish Centre. It is reported that at least 26 foreign nationals which included, UK, US, Australian, German, French. Canadian, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Singaporean citizens died. There is no doubt that foreign nationals were the targets as the hotels and restaurants which bore the brunt of the attacks are normally frequented by foreign tourists. So the terrorist’s intentions were not simply to destabilise the financial capital of India.

It was more sinister than that. It was aimed at many of our democratic institutions in the free world.

There is no doubt that the terrorists were well briefed and well rehearsed. How else could they have targeted the Jewish outreach centre?

But little publicity has been given to the fact that amongst those who died were at least 70 persons of Muslim faith. It is a fact that there are more Muslims in India than in neighbouring Pakistan. They are Indian nationals reflecting the diversity and secularism that the world’s largest democracy provides.

To its credit the Muslim community in India is predominately law abiding and there is no evidence that they are involved in terrorist activities. In contrast, since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, it has alternated between civilian and military rule. The prospect of democracy looks fragile and the peace and stability is often threatened by internal dissent and radicalism that the terrorists have used to destabilise this nation. The role of the ISI and the Pakistan’s future to democracy seems incompatible. You can either have a democracy with an independent judiciary and the rule of law but any interference by the military in the body politics of Pakistan is bound to discredit this process. It will inhibit pluralism and the elimination of poverty and building of prosperity and more importantly its relationship with its neighbours. In this case India. We cannot compensate for the lives that have been lost but it is clear that after the bombing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, the attacks on the Indian Parliament, explosions in Bangalore and Jaipur and the atrocities at the Akshardam Temple in Gujarat, there is irrefutable evidence that the Pakistan Administered Kashmir based militant group Lakshkar-e-Toiba has been responsible for those attacks.

The Intercept evidence provided by United States and the intelligence obtained by the Security Service have confirmed this and Condolisa Rice has been forthright in bringing this to the attention of the Pakistan Government. India has been pressing Pakistan to take action against this group and has also requested that the United Nations put the Jamant-va-Dawa group, a front for Lashkar-e–Toiba be proscribed for being associated with terrorism. Add to this the voice of our Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He named the Lashkar-e-Toiba militants as responsible for the attacks.

The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh is right when he said, “Firstly we have to galvanise the International Community into dealing sternly and effectively with the epicentre of terrorism, which is located in Pakistan” International evidence points to the fact that the “War on Terror” has not reduced terror.

Over 22,000 people were killed worldwide and in the United Kingdom, the security service estimated that there were 1600 individuals who were a direct threat to our country.

I commend the words of our Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He said,” The time has come for more action, not more words. We offer our support for the democratic government in Pakistan, but that Government must act rapidly and decisively against the terror network based on its soil”.

Pakistan’s own future depends on action against those within its borders who are bent on the destruction of its elected Government and Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours” It has already experienced terrorism on its own soil and the regrettable death of Benazir Bhutto is a case in point.

What we now need is not simply brave words but practical action.India’s position in world politics has now been recognised. The relations between India and the USA have never been stronger. The USA has provided intelligence which has helped to nail down the terrorist bases in Pakistan. But the fact remains that both the US and the British Governments are so deeply entrenched in their military role in Afghanistan and the need of cooperation of the Pakistan Government towards this that they have failed to give practical support to elimination of terrorism on the borders of the subcontinent. I can well understand their reluctance because they depend heavily on Pakistan’s co-operation for their military action in Afghanistan But this is a blinkered strategy. Those terrorists who have turned against India and other democratic institutions in the world would not hesitate to turn on their own Government and past events in Pakistan have confirmed this.I trust the Minister will assure me that this is not so.

However if past experience is anything to go by, South Africa immediately springs to mind. Nelson Mandella was branded a terrorist and both the British and US Government failed to condemn the apartheid regime.The message is clear.

You cannot condemn terrorism and yet at the same time condone activities which give shelter to terrorists. Condemnation alone is not enough. There must be practical demonstration on the ground.We cannot defeat terrorism unless the international community squarely confronts terrorist activities. There cannot be any compromise in the global fight against those who massacre innocent people whether in Britain the US, India or in any other part of the world.We must of course give credit to the UN.They have put sanctions on four individuals of L-e-T. This is a small step in dismantling the infrastructure that feeds terrorist activities.Equally Pakistan has an important role to perform. The use of their territory for launching an attack of this kind against perpetrators of such heinous acts requires strong action on their part. Of course there is evidence of steps that have been taken by Pakistan but much will depend on how such steps lead to their logical conclusion.

The attacks in Mumbai failed to sow the seeds of communal division in a country prides itself on its secular policies.It is not enough to see Al Qaeda as sole agents for terrorism.There is evidence that young radicalised people often the product of Madrasas are now actively involved , and their activities do not recognise terrestrial boundaries.There is ample evidence of funding from international sources and more needs to be done to bring rogue States to account for their action in supporting radicalisation of young people which in turn influences Jihadis on the ground.

Terrorism is not just restricted to India and Pakistan. It is also a red herring to suggest that this is an issue related to Jammu and Kashmir. Terrorists have no mandate and no democracy would negotiate a political solution under the threat of terrorist activities. To the credit of both India and Pakistan they have opened a political dialogue. The evidence is there for all to see. More tourism and prosperity in Kashmir, more movement of people across the border and free and fair elections. It has to go much further; it has to be a political solution untainted by terrorist activities.The example of China/ India dispute is a case in point. Despite disagreement over the border issue, both countries have regularised their relations on other outstanding matters. Perhaps this is something that could be a way forward in the matter relating to Kashmir.

The International community, on its part should ensure that there is a comprehensive convention to deal with cross border terrorism. This is the biggest menace we all face.One of the most unexplained dimensions of this terrorist attack was that for the first time foreigners have been targeted. They played no part in any dispute between India and Pakistan. We have a lot to learn from incidents of these kinds. First despite the massacre of hundreds of innocent victims, the terrorists have not been able to derail India’s economy.

Second they have succeeded in worsening relations between India and Pakistan particularly when there was strong evidence of reconciliation and the development of economic unity between the two countries.

Third, as we have learnt in the West, there is no such thing as total security. Terrorism will flourish if we fail to arrest it. A way forward is to ensure that international legal processes are available to extradite those who commit such crimes.

Fourth, the UN must urgently consider sanctions against those countries that provide shelter and financial support to the terrorists.

To defeat terrorism we must all look beyond our own interests.

An attack on a democratic institution is an indirect attack on all of the democratic peace loving institutions of the world.

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