The changing contours of global terror in today’s time poses a direct threat to the security of the citizens of any country as well as to international stability and prosperity. The 4th Counter Terrorism Conference (CTC) was organised by India Foundation in Gurugram, Haryana, in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Government of Haryana and the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D). Thirty-three countries sent their delegates/speakers for CTC 2018, the total attendance including from Indian participants being in excess of 350 delegates.
The delegates engaged in intellectual brainstorming to address the theme for CTC 2018, ‘Changing Contours of Global Terror’. The theme was addressed in six sub-themes as under:
- Ideological Challenges;
- Trends of the New Age Terrorism;
- Af-Pak Region as the Epicentre of Global Terror;
- Constructing Effective Counter Narratives;
- Politics of terror and
- Future of Terrorism and Terrorism of Future.
Day 1, March 14, 2018: Inaugural Session
The inaugural session was addressed by Mr Rajnath Singh, Union Minister of Home Affairs, Government of India, Dr YubrajKhatiwada, Minister of Finance, Government of Nepal, Mr Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister, Haryana, and Mr Jayant Sinha, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Government of India and also Director, India Foundation.
In his introductory remarks, Mr Jayant Sinha, highlighted the fact that the annual series of Counter Terrorism Conferences organised by India Foundation since 2015 have created greater awareness among the global community on the widespread tentacles of terrorism and have provided a forum for thought leaders to express their views on the subject and come out with viable policy options to combat the menace.
Thereafter, in his welcome address, Mr Manohar Lal Khattar, while welcoming the delegates, focused on the global consequences of terrorism and committed his government to provide further support for future editions of the CTC, as a step in addressing the problem and coming up with viable solutions.
In his Special Address, Dr Yubraj Khatiwada emphasised the point that terrorism as a phenomenon is not confined to a particular society, country or a region, but is a global problem which has a deleterious impact on society. He said, “Terrorism does not only cause destruction of lives and properties, but it also seeks to uproot the very foundation of our civilization and values.”
While delivering the Inaugural Address, Mr Rajnath Singh reiterated that terrorism has become a global phenomenon which poses major threat to international peace, security and stability.
While commenting on the concerns and challenges related to growing radicalisation, he said, “Radicalisation of populace, particularly youth, is another trend and one of the most challenging problems being faced the world over. Several countries in the world have identified this problem and have taken measures to check and control the process of radicalisation and I am happy to state that India has timely busted some modules that were planning to orchestrate terrorist attacks on her soil.” He also outlined the initiatives of Government of India, stating, “Government of India in tandem with all the state governments has adopted a multi-pronged approach to deal with the emerging situation. What we need is a sustained united effort, to identity and neutralise the terror modules operating across the globe. Only then, our dream of ‘New India’ can be realised, which aims to eliminate terrorism completely.”
Day 1, March 14, 2018: Keynote Address
The keynote address was delivered by Mr Rehmatullah Nabil, Former Director, National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan. Mr Nabil in his address spoke of the security challenges being faced by Pakistan, both externally from Pakistan and internally from an unstable society. He gave details of the involvement of the Pakistani State in supporting terror activities in Afghanistan, stating, “Pakistan has played an important role in the catastrophic failure simply by using religious extremism and terrorism as a foreign policy tool. Pakistan has not been a reliable ally of the international community; its army and intelligence continue to play a double game with the international community on fighting terrorism and extremism.”
Pre Conference Workshops
Two Counter Terrorism Simulation Labs were organised before the inaugural session, both by Mr Marc Kahlberg, Head, Vital Cyber Int and his colleague Mr Amir. They gave a detailed presentation on how technology, especially radio waves, could be exploited to detect and prevent terrorist attacks. In fighting terrorism, Mr Marc emphasised the need to adopt a proactive approach rather than a reactionary response. He stressed on using behavioural pattern and profiling to predict and prevent crime and other terror acts. The second workshop or Counter Terrorism Simulation Lab, was on the exploitation of artificial intelligence in collecting intelligence. The need for a shift in emphasis from big data to big knowledge was also emphasised.
March 15, 2018: Session 1 – Global Terrorism: Ideological Challenges
A Special Keynote Address was delivered by Major General Ahmed Mohammed, Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Army, before the start of Session 1, which was chaired by Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha (Retd.), Former C-in-C, Western Naval Command, Indian Navy. Mr. Ahmed gave a detailed presentation on the Boko-Haram and the rise of non-state actors against Government of Nigeria. In his address, he said, “Terrorism and insurgency are not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. These phenomena predate independence but, they have attained a new dimension wearing international outlook based on the linkages between other terrorist groups in the West African sub-region and other parts of Africa.” He highlighted the impact of poverty and inequality prevalent in society in causing insurgency, refugee influx, gender violence, food insecurity and widespread diseases.
The panelists in session 1 comprised Mr. James Dorsey, Senior Fellow, Middle East and North Africa, RSIS; Mr Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief Rai Al-Youm and Founder and Former Editor-in-Chief, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Palestine; Mr. Syed Salman Chishty, Gaddi Nashin-Dargah, Ajmer Sharif and Chairman, Chishty Foundation, India; and Mr. Yubaraj Ghimire, journalist and writer, Nepal. The session was chaired by Capt (IN) Alok Bansal, Director, India Foundation. Capt Bansal in his opening remarks, stressed on the need to understand the ideology as confronting such an ideology was as important as combatting the physical aspects of terrorist violence. Mr. Dorsey however disregarded the ideological nature of the challenge and opined that the challenge is political in nature, stating, “Social media is just a vehicle in the hand of the terrorists. It is not the driver of terrorism.” He said that counter-narrative against the terrorism can be effectively constructed only if there is a dream and a political will. Mr. Atwan identified military intervention as the basic reason behind formation of failed states, which ultimately gives birth to acts causing terrorism. He suggested good governance, non-intervention and employment opportunities as the basic drivers of safer environment. Mr. Ghimire discussed the ideological challenge behind the insurgency movement in Nepal. Mr. Chisty attributed the lack of awareness about the history of faith as the major ideological challenge in the fight against terrorism. He opined, “Strength of values from all faiths and religion can bring the communities together, weaken the radical outfits and attack their recruiting propaganda.”
Session 2– Trends of the New Age Terrorism
As a prelude to this session, Mr Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Government of India and Director, India Foundation, delivered the Keynote Address. He identified terrorism as having direct and indirect consequences on economic activities worldwide and opined that diversity of religious presence in India makes the country an ideal place to fight the new age terrorism.
The panelists in Session 2 comprised Ms Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), Mr Vladimir Andreev, Deputy Head, Department on New Challenges and Threats, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia and Mr Syed Ata Hasnain, Former GOC, 15 Corps, India. The session was chaired by Maj. Gen. Dhruv C. Katoch, Director, India Foundation. Ms. Speckhard said that new age terrorism is “selling a dream” and thus, it becomes imperative to dissect this dream and bring out the reality in front of the world. She shared counter-narrative videos, giving out insights on how de-radicalisation can be mobilised. Mr. Andreev discussed the growth of terrorism into a global threat becoming aggressive and effective. He described the modern global terror to include innovative weapons of chemical, biological and nuclear nature. Gen. Hasnain highlighted the challenge in defining the term “terrorism” due to its complex and dynamic nature. He stressed on the changes in technological means and ideological drivers of terrorism. He identified the state sponsored non-state actors as the toughest challengers to fighting new age terrorism.
Session 3–Af-Pak Region as the Epicentre of Global Terror
The keynote address in Session 3 was delivered by Mr Amar Sinha, Former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, India, with Dr. A. P. Maheshwari, Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India chairing the session. Mr. Sinha stressed on the need to shift the focus on Pakistan as epicentre of terrorism as Afghanistan was but a victim of the terror that is being directed from Pakistan. In his address, Mr Sinha stated, “Strong Afghanistan governed from Kabul is in India’s interest.” He appreciated the efforts of Government of Afghanistan to negotiate with Taliban and demanded the rejection of victim-narrative of Pakistani army.
The panelists in session 3 comprised Habil Christian Wagner, Senior Fellow, Stiftung Wissenschaft and Politik, German Institute for International and Security affairs, Germany; Ms C. Christine Fair, Associate Professor, Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington, USA; Mr AbusamatKhaydarov, Former Ambassador, Uzbekistan and Mr Fredric Grare, Charge de Mission of Asia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France. The session was chaired by Mr Rajiv Dogra, Former Ambassador, India. Mr. Wagner differentiated between the western experience and the South Asian experience on the impact of global terrorism. He rejected the act of getting militants in mainstream politics by Pakistan and appreciated India’s greater role in promoting collective security in the region through institutions like BIMSTEC. Ms C. Christine Fair, in her presentation, said that USA aids Pakistan to gain access to Pakistani line of communication and air space to help in its efforts in stabilising the situation in Afghanistan. She expressed her concerns over the use of nuclear coercion and jihadism by Pakistan and suggested the use of sub-conventional deterrence by India against Pakistan. Mr. Khaydarov expressed his concerns over Islamic radicalisation of youth in the Af-Pak region. He opined that economic stability along with upliftment of health and education will help establish a stable Afghanistan. Mr. Fredric Grare highlighted the fight between IS and Taliban for control of territory at few places and their alliance in fighting at other places. He remarked, “It is no coincidence that a country that is the most affected and supports terrorism the most, is the least democratic nation.”
Session 4–Constructing Effective Counter Narratives
The panelists in session 4 of the Counter Terrorism Conference comprised Dr A. P. Maheshwari, Director General, Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India; Mr Shafqat Munir, Research Fellow, Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS), Bangladesh; Mr Nalin Prabhat, Special Additional DGP (Operations), Government of Andhra Pradesh, India and Mr M. Ashraf Haidari, DG (Policy & Strategy), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Afghanistan. The session was chaired by Lt Gen. K. Himalay Singh, former Corps Commander, 16 Corps, India. Gen. Himalay Singh highlighted the lack of efforts in constructing counter-narratives which is of strategic importance. Mr Prabhat made his presentation on “Sharia in conflict with democracy” and suggested the need to create counter-narrative by credible voices within the community and focus on long-term measures of perception management. In his presentation, Mr Munir suggested the use of the term “alternative-narrative” instead of “counter-narrative”. According to him, there is no one size fits all policy and therefore, different narratives should be properly calibrated and presented. He suggested the policy-makers to think beyond operational perspective in countering terrorism and stressed on the need to focus on strategic measures in constructing alternative narratives. Dr Maheshwari regarded identification of root cause as the most important task for diagnosing the problem of terrorism. He said that terrorists are also entrepreneurs who are educated and evolved with time to form innovative ideas. Mr. Haidari, in his presentation, emphasised on joint assessment and common understanding by all States on the definition and counter measures to fight terrorism. He suggested that there should be a mutually agreed upon strategy at both international and regional level.
A Special address was delivered by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Raksha Mantri, Government of India; Director, India Foundation and Mr Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Government of India. In his address, Mr. Rijiju rejected the difference between good and bad form of terrorism and said that there is no scope of soft approach in dealing with terrorism. He identified financing to be the lifeline of terror activities. On the issue of human rights, he said, “Human rights thrive only when there is security in the society.” In her address, Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman said that feeling of lagging behind in fight against terrorism can be attributed to the very nature of terrorism as it creates newer innovative challenges at every step. She said that nature of terror in today’s world is such that we all are facing newer and newer challenges every day and it is more compounded by the fact that today, technology plays a very big role. Smt. Sitharaman also pointed out that every organised and well-structured response to terrorism sometimes has an Achilles heel which a lone wolf can always target. So, to combat the lone wolf attacks, it becomes imperative to unite and innovate our responses in fighting terrorism.
Day 3, March 16, 2018: Session 5 – Politics of Terror
The keynote address in session 5 was delivered by Gen. V. K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs, Government of India. Gen. Singh emphasised on the importance to think on the lines of politics behind terror. He traced the ideological evolution in World War II and commented that Cold War persists in terms of competing to dominate ideological influence and in this context, terrorism is being used as a tool. He said that the politics can be couched in religious or ideological terms and terrorism is being used to further such political aims. In his address, the Minister also expressed his concerns over identification of ‘backers’ of terrorism and their political self-interests. He said that there is no dearth of academic endeavour on the political system that works behind the scene and aids the terrorist movements.
The panelists in Session 5 comprised Mr Stephen Tankel, Assistant Professor, School of International Service, American University, USA; Mr Min ZawOo, Executive Director, Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security; Mr Alexander Evans, Deputy High Commissioner, British High Commission and Mr RinatAbubakirov, Expert, Ministry of Defence, Russia. The session was chaired by Ms Prabha Rao, Senior Fellow, IDSA, India. In his speech, Mr. Evans traced the trans-national terrorist attacks and the political element which indulged in the attacks. According to him, the challenges can be summed up in three words; counting, considering and cooperating. Mr Evans further added that while conducting a political analysis, it is important to remember the information asymmetry and the element of surprise and unpredictability. In his presentation, Mr Tankel expressed his concerns over shift of political element from political violence to terrorism. Mr. Zaw narrated how Myanmar is the field of the longest running civil war. He presented a historical understanding of the peace process in Myanmar and the political elements behind it. Mr. Abubakirov discussed the Russian process of unearthing the politics of terrorism and discussed the Russian involvement in the conflict in Syria.
Session 6: Future of Terrorism and Terrorism of Future
The panelists in session 6 of CTC 2018 comprised Mr Marc Kahlberg, Head, Vital Cyber Int, Israel; Mr Ma Xiangwu, Professor, China; Ms Jacinta Carroll, Director National Security Policy, National Security College, Australian National University and Mr Ismail Ahmed Al Hadidi, Oman. The session was chaired by Mr R. N. Ravi, Chairman, Joint Intelligence Committee, India. Mr. Ravi commenced the session by commenting on terrorism becoming an easy, effective, low cost tool in the hands of self-interested violent outfits. He expressed his concerns over the complication of the situation when States indulge in terrorist activities to achieve their personal objectives. Mr. Mr Ismail described the fragile nature of security in Oman due to its geographical proximity with Yemen, Syria and Iraq. In her presentation, Ms Carroll discussed the emerging tactical trends, technical trends and strategic trends of terrorism. She further stressed on the need of counter-terrorism strategy of every nation and denial of safe heavens. In his presentation, Mr. Kahlberg discussed the threat in relation to global stability. He mentioned the growth of “virtual Caliphate” and the threat it posed to the global citizenry. Mr. Ma Xiangwu discussed peoples’ war against terrorism in China and highlighted the unique nature of counter-terrorism approach in China. He said that the Western world prefers to use military force, but China does not stress on the use of military force.
Mr Rajiv Gauba, Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, delivered the Valedictory Address. He highlighted the growing overlap between terrorist activities and organised crime and expressed his concerns over justification of terrorism by some countries and providing safe havens to terrorists. He also called for a greater coordinated effort to fight terrorism along with the political view.