Make terrorism irrelevant for peace in Kashmir-EFSAS

Brussels: An Amsterdam-based European think tank has said the only way to deal with violent forms of terrorism is to make it irrelevant and to prevent those espousing it from changing the rules of the game.

An analytical report published by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said, “The first step towards defeating terror is making it irrelevant. The power of terrorist groups is not hidden behind more powerful weapons or bigger arsenal. It lies in their ability of changing the rules of the game. Hence, winning this battle for fairness, reconciliation and peace will happen only through changing the course of the game again, instead of playing according to their plan.”

The EFSAS article further states that ending violence “will also extinguish their (terrorist or extremist) strategy that anticipates martyrs and (the) justification for the blood they spill, which ultimately helps them regenerate.”

Referring to the recent decision of the armed forces of India and Pakistan to reactivate the November 26, 2003 ceasefire arrangement along the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB) during the Muslim fasting month of Ramzan on New Delhi’s initiative, EFSAS says this sets the stage for both sides to “exhibit their real intentions and objectives and let the public recognise who in reality (will) defend their genuine grievances and aims for peace.”

It accepts that the anger that inspires hatred and escalates to violent extremism is generational and that it evolves over time, and if not addressed, it easily finds successors.

Therefore, it says that the declaration of a ceasefire again should be seen as an act of magnanimity and that both sides clearly recognize that “the best way forward is not to do what terrorists expect” and efforts must be made to not to provide them “the necessary fuel for them to continue their ceaseless cyclical pattern of revenge.”

The EFSAS article makes a mention of the utter devastation and fatigue being experienced by the common people of Jammu and Kashmir because of this ceaseless and cyclical bloodshed.

“Those who have lost their children in this perpetuated cycle of violence, on all sides – the parents of civilians, militants, army men and policemen – agree that the proposed suspension of anti-terrorists operations, initially called for the month of Ramadan and with a possibility to be extended, should become the foundation for a sustainable environment which will lead to an atmosphere of tranquillity, eventually serving as the foundation for long-term resolutions,” it says.

The article clearly makes out a case for a phased abandoning of aggressive strategies, coercive measures, military intervention or hard-hitting economic sanctions, believing that such tactics lack effectiveness.

The article examines obstacles which arise on the path towards developing consistent and coherent counter-terrorism measures. It outlines theoretical definitions of the notions of ‘soft- and hard power’, while illustrating their defining features.

Overall, it concludes that counter-terrorism initiatives that embrace the utility of ‘soft power’ might be more successful than those that only rely on the use of brute force.

It admits that soft power can never be divorced from the deployment of ‘hard power’ when responding to terrorism, but makes a case for its auspicious potential not to be

It quotes renowned American foreign policy scholar and practitioner Dr. Joseph Nye, as saying that “soft power is the ability of states to obtain desired outcomes through the power of attraction and persuasion, rather than the power of coercion or payment.”

Nye argues that, “Seduction is always more effective than coercion, and many values like democracy, human rights, and individual opportunities are deeply seductive”.

He further states: “A country may obtain the outcomes it wants in world politics because other countries – admiring its values, emulating its example, aspiring to its level of prosperity and openness – want to follow it. In this sense, it is also important to set the agenda and attract others in world politics, and not only to force them to change by threatening military force or economic sanctions. This soft power – getting others to want the outcomes that you want – co-opts people rather than coerces them”.

Nye explains “Soft power tends to work indirectly by shaping the environment for policy, and sometimes takes years to produce the desired outcomes”, while the notion of ‘hard power’, is often defined as aggressive and coercive, and is deemed most efficient and well-functioning when it is imposed by stronger political bodies upon weaker ones.”

Nye summarises it, “power with others can be more effective than power over others”.

The decision to respect the interests of civilians during Ramadan indeed invites plaudits and will unambiguously expose the intentions of terrorist groups in addition to conveying a positive message to the Muslim community.

Public opinion widely supports the initiative, but terrorist outfits such as the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), which all recruit its cadre from Pakistan, Afghanistan and among the vulnerable youth in Jammu and Kashmir, have rejected the peace offer.

The EFAS article says that New Delhi’s usage of ‘soft power’ should not be perceived as a weakness, but as an attempt to restore confidence in the local population and providing relief to those who has suffered will only facilitate the creation of an atmosphere of reconciliation and peace.

It quotes former Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store as observing, “Political extremism does not grow in a vacuum. Ideas are the oxygen that allows it to flourish and spread. Extremist perspectives win sympathy and recruits because they offer narratives that claim to identify deep injustices and enemies. Without this fuel, the blaze of extremism is quickly extinguished. Confronting and undermining the narratives and ideas of extremism must, therefore, be one of our key tasks. To do this, we must retain the courage of our convictions in the face of extremism”.

Generating comprehensive strategies is crucial to reducing the influence of terrorists and this can only be achieved by working closely with the community and exposing the treacherous vocabulary of violence that terrorists use to groom young people.

“In the long run, young people need to develop the capability to step back and see the bigger picture; It is crucial to collaborate with the population and invalidate the terrorist narrative, by reducing their reach and appeal and exposing their hypocritical stance. The community needs to be shown a way forward, through empathy and solidarity, and the current ceasefire (in Jammu and Kashmir) calling could act as a positive alternative in addressing this threatening situation.”

“Failing to reciprocate to the gesture of the Indian government, militants would virtually deny the right of the local people to enjoy peace, which should send a message across the community about their real motives, substantiating the fact that these terrorist organisations do not foster reconciliation as their business model is based on conflict,” it concludes. (ANI)