KEY DRIVERS OF TERRORISM IN SOUTH ASIA TODAY
In the recent times, the whole world’s attention has moved towards South Asia. Media repeatedly talks about terrorism in the region. This is partly because some hard-line terrorist outfits have been found to be either hiding in South Asia or had visited it in the past. This information has changed the entire world’s opinion towards South Asia as the most temporal region.
South Asia lies in the southern part of Asia. It comprises of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. All of these countries have people of very diverse ethnic background. The people are so different that many times its inhabitants have asked why it is not considered a separate continent.
This entire region; because of its geographical and economic importance, has been invaded many times by different prominent ancient empires. Almost every great empire of the ancient world up to the 20th century has had sent armies to South Asia. These constant invasions have impacted the region politically, economically and genealogically as well as geographically (“History of South Asia | Essential Humanities” 2017).
While most other invading armies tried to unite the region and influence the locals with their culture, the Europeans sought to subjugate their subjects. The Europeans came as masters and ruled over the area in a dictatorial style. This had the significant impact on South Asia. The people of South Asia stood up, to revolt against their European masters.
During the height of these resistances; in the middle of the twentieth century, some people formed armed groups that would attack the white man and his businesses (“The Indian Independence Movement Began in 1857” 2017). These armed groups formed a strong resistance and led their nations to independence. However, once the respective regions became independent, these armed groups had no other work left to do. They were not merged into the newly created armies of their respective nations. Some of them joined politics and combined their groups in their political parties, but most other teams were left stranded.
Subsequently these armed groups have joined hands with smugglers, bandits, corrupt politicians, mafias, and terrorists, to act as mercenaries. They have been used as hired guns, to do other people’s dirty and illegal work. The work might range from kidnapping for ransom to murdering a famous person.
Since then these groups have resorted to much bigger activities. It has been noted that these groups have often been used to fight proxy wars for other power groups. These groups might be either political parties or even foreign countries. Since they are supported by political parties, it is quite difficult for anyone to stop them from such activities. On 11 September 2001, a terrorist group attacked the U.S by colliding two airplanes with the World Trade Centre. The world was shocked by these events, more so because they took place in the United States; which is considered a superpower. After these attack intelligence agencies reported that they were carried out by a terrorist outfit, known as Al Qaeda.
In the days that followed, media houses the world over reported this only on this event. The U.S government claimed that this was an intelligence failure and somehow the terrorists had sneaked into the country. Just hours after this attack, the Al Qaeda claimed that they had carried out an act. Within hours of this news, media personalities were discussing the role of Al Qaeda and how Islam somehow supports these terrorist acts.
In the attacks of 9/11 the people, it was the Al Qaeda that claimed involvement in the attacks and, the accused were all Arabs. However, it was South Asia that became the focus of the world powers. Possibly because Osama bin Laden; the Al Qaeda chief had established Afghanistan as his base. And also, because somehow all the terrorists caught, had at one point or the other, visited any one of the South Asian countries.
South Asia has had proximity with religion. During the days of British Raj, many religious scholars had founded schools of thought. These gained fame and popularity when the researchers and their students joined the independence movement. During this time these schools of thought were able to attract hundreds of young men and women, who joined them for the independence movement.
Even after South Asian countries gained independence, these schools of thought continued to attract students from all over the world. Because of their involvement with the freedom movement, they had close ties with the regional terrorists. It was perhaps this reason why the United States launched the military operation in Afghanistan.
This information brings to light the fact that terrorism has been a part of South Asia for a long time. The small-time criminals and armed outfits; that started out by kidnapping imperialists and later resorted to banditry and small incidences of terrorism have become international terrorists.
However, one wonders what the exact reasons might be for young men to join terrorist forces and fight against their own country. Apparently, terrorist outfits like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Naxalite-Maoists and the Baluchistan Liberation Army have not been created in the name of God; they were in fact created because a group of men that differed with the policies of their Government.
Though, the young people who join these organizations do so not because they believe in the ideology, but because they want to escape their problems (Newman 2006). It is noted that these challenges range from a declining economy to an uneven social structure.
The empirical evidence confirms that there is a high integration between economic growth, inflation, and terrorism (“Macroeconomic Consequences of Terrorism in Pakistan” 2017). Thus, as economic growth increases, it allows people to buy more and more, thus raising the demand for consumer products and leading to inflation. Inflation causes the prices to go up and leads to fewer people being able to buy what most application (“The Changing Nonlinear Relationship between Income and Terrorism Journal of Conflict Resolution – Walter Enders, Gary A. Hoover, Todd Sandler, 2016” 2017).
Ultimately resulting in a gap in the social structure; a class divide (“Terrorism and Poverty : Any Connection? BECKER – The Becker-Posner Blog” 2017). Economic growth is hence, a major contributor to terrorist attacks. This means that the level difference is one major reason why young men from lower and middle classes resort to terrorism. They probably think of themselves as Robin Hood. Robin Hood himself was a fictional outlaw; who helped the poor. His way of helping was to loot and plunder the city; where the rich lived, and distribute the money among the poor. He was constantly at odds with the sheriff but did not consider this as something wrong.
Apparently, South Asian countries have been witnessing political shifts for ages; ever since they became independent. Countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have been see-sawing between a civilian and military leadership. Even still it seems that they have not decided which style of leadership is best suited for them. This is quite unlike the West. The West has managed to come up with one system and have stuck to it.
Political instability is also a cause for a decline in the economy which results in poverty. Both these factors allow young men to divert their talent from a possible job to harmful activities. Moreover, during times of political instability terrorist and separatist groups spring up which give military training to young men. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have witnessed several years of political instability which has apparently turned such countries into breeding grounds for terrorists.
Another point according to the recent study, because of which South Asia has become a hotbed for terrorism, is the burgeoning population. All of the South Asian countries have large populations. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh together have a combined population of 1.7 billion that is more than the population of China. With such a huge population; which is growing every minute, it is next to impossible for the respective governments of these countries to provide any facilities. Hence, the people do not have adequate jobs, access to clean water, sanitation, food, and housing. This has caused a lot of unrest among the people and is one reason why most South Asians are turning towards terrorism. They feel that terrorist outfits can help them fight for their rights.
The fact that there are so many reasons for the youth of South Asia to join terrorist forces is alarming. This indicates that the region has many problems that need to be addressed. There is a high need for a regional strategy and cooperation. More must be done at the local level in South Asia, to promote values of democracy, multiculturalism and ethnic and religious tolerance. Continued emphasis on military approach should be discouraged because it can lead to anarchy.
To get rid of the menace of terrorism, a regional body should be formed. This body can be a part of the SAARC. Its duties would be to go through the problems faced and possible solutions to these problems. This body should be given authority to make decisions for the betterment of the region.
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“Macroeconomic Consequences of Terrorism in Pakistan.” 2017. Accessed September 21. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259098573_Macroeconomic_consequences_of_terrorism_in_Pakistan.
Newman, Edward. 2006. “Exploring the ‘Root Causes’ of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 29 (8): 749–72. doi:10.1080/10576100600704069.
“Project MUSE – Terrorism in Africa and South Asia: Economic or Existential Good?” 2017. Accessed September 21. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/470007.
“Terrorism and Poverty:Any Connection?BECKER – The Becker-Posner Blog.” 2017. Accessed September 21. http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2005/05/terrorism-and-povertyany-connectionbecker.html.
“Terrorism in South Asia.” 2017. Accessed September 21. https://fas.org/irp/crs/RL32259.pdf.
“The Changing Nonlinear Relationship between Income and TerrorismJournal of Conflict Resolution – Walter Enders, Gary A. Hoover, Todd Sandler, 2016.” 2017. Accessed September 21. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022002714535252.
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