Today’s world is enormously challenged by transnational terrorist outfits including the global jihadist movement that draw their strength and sustenance from the geography and theology of their regions. It is also believed that some of them enjoy state sponsorship. Counter-terrorism, in this context, has to be operationalized by the utilization of multifaceted techniques, which would include joint intelligence between states, superior intelligence assessment skills, locating the financial flows of terrorist financing, joint operations, cyber and addressing the virtual base of terrorism, the internet, which is being increasingly used by terrorist groups.
India Foundation, in collaboration with the Government of Rajasthan organized the Counterterrorism Conference 2016 (CTC 2016) at Hotel Crowne Plaza, Jaipur, Rajasthan on 2-3 February 2016. The theme for this year’s conference was Tackling Global Terror Outfits. Over 250 eminent intellectuals, academics and scholars from India and all over the world attended the conference which was addressed by over 35 speakers. This conference brought together field operatives, senior officials from security agencies, policy makers, scholars and government leaders involved in counterterrorism operations, planning and sensitization.
The CTC 2016 emphasized on understanding the phenomenon of the mushrooming terror outfits in the Middle East and its neighbourhood, their methodology, motivation and resources. The first session explored the liaison between technology, terror and terror financing at length. The discussions also covered how the operation of these forces in tandem gives birth to the idea of “global terrorism” that transcends national borders and serves the limited interests of the terrorists.
The second workshop focused on terror infrastructure and financing. Panelists discussed in great detail the funding patterns of ISIS and Al Qaeda and the role of state actors and international banking institutions in providing financial support in some cases. This happens when a terrorist organization ingratiates itself to the people by creating a separate welfare state in a way that JeM did in Pakistan. ISIS, on the other hand, is not a self-sustaining organization. It manages its everyday expenses by supplying oil to the Middle East and beyond.
Resilient funding chains meshed with the synergy among competitive terrorist organizations working by rotational seasons of attacks makes it very important that we take the leap to think ahead of terrorists. Methods like hawala don’t involve transfer of physical money or movement but a transfer of value adding to the already resilient finance networks of terror organizations. The inherent flexibility of terror organizations and their finances debilitates monitoring mechanisms. Thus, the only solution is comprehensive cooperation and coordination. The broad spectrum of funding, however, also makes these big organizations vulnerable than the ones that are decentralized. This is where we can tap in and make a move. Smaller limited funding attacks such as the Charlie Hebdo killings pose a unique challenge where pre-paid credit cards were used to raise the money required. The fact that they have less networks makes them harder to combat.
The third workshop discussed Terror Networks- Cooperation and Rivalries. The session extensively analyzed how adversarial it is when there is cooperation among terrorist networks. It explained the transition of militant groups that work for money, individual benefits and other deeds unite together and transform into terrorist organizations when the state act against them. The ally of different terrorist organizations has raised disturbing levels of security concerns, especially over South Asia. This broad global network can be destructed by eradicating the local regimes and forces. Each state fighting terrorism should be careful in the repercussions and state must be really prepared to fight the advanced technology that aids the terrorist network.
The inaugural session was honoured with the presence of the President of India, His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee. In his inaugural address he pointed out that the optimism that was achieved in the field of science and technology in the second half of last century has faded in the first 15 years of 21st century. With the rise of Al Qaeda and ISIS, non-state actors are trying to be state themselves and there is a need of fighting them at all levels of social, economic, psychological and religious aspects. The civil society, both frontier and battle ground of such ideologies, with the help of think tanks have to have comprehensive strategies to judiciously combat terrorism. In his keynote address, Dr. Abdulla Abdullah discussed how terrorism has been used to destabilize Afghanistan over the time of pre cold war, post cold war and post 9/11 attack. He reminded the fact that there is an absence of universal appreciation of the danger that terrorism possess to regional peace and security. Smt. Vasundhara Raje and Sri Suresh Prabhu added that the cost of fighting terrorism is as much as GDP of many countries and it hinders development. The threat is real, complex and sees no boundaries. Every nation needs to dismantle the frame works going behind it. Gen. V P Malik delivered the vote of thanks saying that everyone, irrespective of their background has an important role to play in countering terrorism.
The inaugural session was followed by a special dinner hosted by Shri Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, India where Mr. Ibrahim Rahimpour (Deputy Minister for Asia & Pacific Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran) was the Guest of Honor. Mr. Rahimpour spoke against the idea of “flexible terrorism” that distinguishes between “good” and “bad” terrorists. He called upon all countries to unite for comprehensive action against terrorism. Shri Doval looked back on the last 16 years of the international fight against terrorism and said that the key lesson in this fight is to do the right thing but more importantly not do the wrong thing. Reminding that countries fighting terrorism must have both strategy and tactics, he warned against states that outsource instruments of coercion to non-state actors.
In his special lecture, Dr .S. Jaishankar expressed the importance of need of local actions to be governed by global norms. Terrorism can only be encountered by fostering international cooperation and for that, a state centered approach would allow the perpetration of terror and hold the oxygen to non-state actors. Effective interstate cooperation is required and integration is the key factor to counter terrorism. Mr. Md. Shahriar Alam, Honorable State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Bangladesh was the keynote speaker at the second special lecture. He reiterated that security cooperation was the high point of the bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh and spoke of the steps taken by Bangladesh to check terrorist activities within its borders. He also highlighted that the struggle against terrorism is ideological and counter-radicalization work is important in this regard.
In the first plenary session The Caliphate, Al Qaeda and Global Jihad and its theological underpinnings, Sri M J Akbar talked about the evolution of Caliphate and global Jihad concept. Dr. Daniel Pipes assessed the purposes of terrorist attacks which mostly are a reaction to government. The unexpected arise of Caliphate in Libya, Yemen, Nigeria and Afghanistan could lead to greater radicalization. Lt. General Ata Hussain pointed out that the real problem is the lack of information about Islam and the difference between fundamentalism and radicalism. Dr. Alexander Evans said that nations shouldn’t lose the sight of regional and rational aspects of terrorism. The 4 factors that needed to be combated now or that aid terrorism are technology, transnational alliance, multinational cooperation and innovation. He also suggested that there is need for an evidence based analysis of the process. Shri Sultan Shahin talked about the concerted efforts from the Wahabi factions to destroy the peace that Islam as a religion stands for. Through madrasas and various other modes, Quran and hadiths are misinterpreted and used for indoctrination. After listing out the main features of Jihadi ideology, he concluded by saying the importance of standing strong and tall against the attempts to tarnish the image of Islam in the world.
The second plenary session on Regional and International Response to Global Terror brought in experiences from different parts of the world in dealing with the threat of terrorism. To tackle terrorism, it is important to understand the fundamental reasons that trigger terrorist activities and then check them at the source. Targeting a single organization alone cannot yield the desired results. We have to work towards the common aim of uprooting terrorism. Multi-lateral cooperation is very important in achieving this.
The third plenary session on Global Terror and Impact on South Asia discussed how, out of the major variants of terror seen in South Asia, religious fundamentalism is the most prominent one. With most of the countries having a highly understaffed police, South Asian countries are finding it hard to tackle this menace. But South Asian countries are mostly resilient towards this threat as they are democratic and well governed. The efforts of the Sri Lankan government to defeat LTTE was discussed in detail later where it was said that fighting a just war becomes important to ensure all sections of society gets equal set of opportunities within a nation.
Valedictory session was graced by Home Minister Rajnath Singh where he spoke about how world is still grappling with a definition of terrorism, but the terrorists are gaining considerable ground during this time. In his valedictory address, H.E. Datuk NurJazlan Mohamed, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malaysia spoke about how Malaysia has improved its terrorism fighting capabilities over the last few years and expressed its willingness to engage with other nations in fighting terrorism. He condemned the use of Islam as a tool to inflict violence upon people. Terrorism has got nothing to do with religion as every religion talks about peace. The session ended with Shri Kalyan Singh who talked about how terrorism is like a cancer for humanity that will destroy it if it is not controlled and the importance of increasing the peace and happiness of the world so that we can have a better future. The program concluded with Capt. Alok Bansal delivering the vote of thanks.
The photo gallery for the Counterterrorism Conference 2016 can be accessed through the given link: