India should really act east now; deadly terror attacks give impetus to push for adoption of CCIT

NEW DELHI,IFTIKHAR GILANI : Three terror strikes in a row – suicide blasts at Istanbul international airport, blowing up police van in Kabul and lately the hostage crisis and killings at a restaurant in Dhaka – have given India an impetus to once again push for adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), stalled at the United Nations since 1996, following differences between member countries over the definition of terrorism.

What’s CCIT, how it matters?
CCIT treaty intends to criminalise all forms of international terrorism and deny terrorists, their financiers and supporters access to funds, arms, and safe havens. Though India has so far concluded more than 40 bilateral treaties globally, on extradition and mutual legal assistance, and has set up joint mechanisms with more than 25 countries, absence of an overarching international convention leaves gaping holes in these bilateral pacts.

Has ‘terror’ different meanings?
UN deadlock was over differences in terror definition. Also, whether the convention would be applicable to the armed forces of a state and to self-determination or freedom movements. “No belief, justification, political cause or argument can be used to justify the acts of terrorism,” India’s permanent representative Syed Akbaruddin had stated in the UN General Assembly.

Why it’s India’s problem area
Organised terror has finally stormed its way into India’s eastern neighbourhood. As dna reported in last April, the Islamic State (IS) mouthpiece Dabiq had announced its new front in Bangladesh and its use as a launching pad for guerrilla attacks in India. The 4,100 km-odd border that India shares with Bangladesh, running through the marshy Sunderbans, dense forests and porous enclaves is already known as ‘problem area’ and a weak spot in the robust border management.

Is IS opening a new front?
Dabiq quoted Shaykh Abu Ibrahim Al-Hanif, ‘amir of khilafat in Bengal’ saying once the group manages to build bases in Bangladesh, it will launch raids in east and west of India. Shaykh asserted that Bengal (IS calls Bangladesh as Bengal) has a strategic location, and building a jihadi base there will facilitate IS to launch guerrilla attacks in India.

How frequent are the attacks
Since September 2015, there have been 45 terror related incidents in the country, with IS claiming responsibility for at least 10 of them. These included the murder of several foreign visitors, the murder of a police constable, the bombing of an Ahmadi Muslim mosque, a murderous attack on a Shiite mosque, the shooting of a Sufi Muslim shrine chief, and an attempt to slit the throat of a Christian pastor. But, all these incidents didn’t attract Western attention.

How vigilant is India to threat
India was closely monitoring the frequent attacks against minorities in Bangladesh, though Sheikh Hasina government had been in denial mode about the arrival of IS. MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said the Bangladesh officials have been impressed upon the seriousness with which the government of India views the attacks against minorities and secular bloggers in the country. He said Bangladesh has taken into preventive custody over 11,000 suspects or believed to be sympathisers of radical elements.

What led to current impasse
Dr Jaikhlong Basumatary, an associate fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), blames the current impasse to ignoring earlier warnings from Bangladesh. For instance, when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa on February 23, 1999, that called for jihad against “the Jews and Crusaders”, it was endorsed by Fazlur Rahman, leader of the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI), commonly identified as ‘the Amir of jihadi movement in Bangladesh’.

Bali night club blasts trail
Observers opine that Bangladesh’s terror connection to Southeast Asia, viz. Hambali of Jemaah Islamiya (JI), the organiser of the 2002 Bali night club bombings shifting JI elements to Bangladesh, was largely overlooked. “Such ignorance has not only resulted in an atmosphere conducive for a process of violent radicalisation in Bangladesh overtime but also perceived to be spawning trouble for the region,” he said.

Hasina govt’s obsession..
The Sheikh Hasina government too, instead of waking up to this ghastly new threat, remained focused on executing Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, convicted for war crimes they perpetuated way back in 1971. Many in Dhaka believe it was time for peace and reconciliation like Nelson Mandela did in South Africa after the downfall of apartheid regime, instead of opening old wounds, which was bound to create a cycle of retribution and violence.