Terrorism Update
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Working Paper

There is a growing consensus across much of the world that a global response is required to confront and defeat the rising challenge of terrorism. Such a consensus is largely the result of the fact that terrorism is no longer a local problem of specific countries but an issue that involves a number of international aspects. This consensus, however, usually founders against narrow perceptions of 'interests of state', rigid patterns of Cold War thinking, and habitual resistance to coordinated international action on controversial issues, before it can be translated into concrete and practical programmes of international cooperation. At least part of the reason for this failure lies in the absence of a broader understanding of conflicts outside a particular state's 'region of interests', and the idea that specific terrorist movements threaten their victim societies alone, and are to be dealt with locally. An absence of consistent documentation of the linkages, and the lack of a comprehensive or global threat assessment allows such illusions to survive, even as the menace discovers new victims and regions of activity. Terrorism as a strategic weapon can produce disorder, anarchy and paralysis that affects an entire country or a multiplicity of countries across entire regions. Thus, any effective strategy to counter terrorism must be premised on global efforts that supplement national and bilateral strategies.

The threat of terrorism, moreover, must be assessed, not just in terms of visible violence and subversion, but of the potential generated through the unique and lethal mix of virulent and vigorously propagated ideologies; the institutional structures of international sponsorship and state support; the movement of experienced cadres across theatres that span the entire globe; and the access to and destructive potential of contemporary weapons and information technologies.

In this context, it is important to note that the idea that there has been a 'shift' in the 'locus of terrorism' towards South Asia - and particularly to Afghanistan - is currently being vigorously propounded. This thesis brings an inordinate focus on the transient geographical location or concentration of terrorist incidents, activities and movements, to the exclusion of their ideological and material sources, their State sponsors, and their intended targets and proclaimed goals. This seminar seeks to explore and analyze trends in world terrorism in the context of the hypothesis that it is more accurate to speak of the spread or expansion of the sphere of terrorism, rather than any 'shift'. Indeed, as terrorists secure even limited successes in one region, their methods are adopted in others, threatening an ever-widening spectrum of nations and cultures.

A critical element in the dynamics of contemporary terrorism and its international linkages is the surge of fundamentalist ideologies that increasingly manifests itself in spectacular acts of extremist violence that are unprecedented, not only in their scope and selection of targets, in their lethality and indiscriminate character, but also in the levels of motivation and persistence of movements, despite striking defeats and setbacks inflicted on specific individuals or organizations. The liberal-democratic world is still to come to terms with the inflexible mindset that is, in effect, being 'manufactured' in increasing numbers of institutions dedicated to the violent propagation of absolutist ideologies in widely dispersed geographical areas. There is a clear hardening of beliefs that lends itself to extremism in large parts of the world, and this is a trend that appears bound to accelerate in an uncertain future.

These trends have been reinforced, for some years now, by the improbable idea of a clash of civilizations, of a final determination of the 'superiority' of one culture, ideology or Faith over all others. Terrorist violence has, at times, also been projected as a legitimate instrument in the final, millennial, struggle by those who are absolutely convinced that their vision of the world is the only one possible. Not only do the terrorists feel the need to preserve their religious identity, they also perceive the current context as an opportunity to fundamentally shape the future.

These 'fundamentalist' ideologies are often a rebellion by a minority among much larger and moderate communities struggling to cope with the challenges of modernity, or the inequities of the prevailing order in specific societies. They reflect a defensive sentiment that is, however, translated into a theological or unconditional justification that legitimizes terrorism and enables a mobilization of cadres without the moral ambivalence that would naturally attend a purely political ideology. Critically, however, such ideologies and the movements they inspire are also substantially motivated by day-to-day practical political conditions within their context-specific environment. This makes it difficult for the general observer to separate and distinguish between the political and the religious sphere of many contemporary conflicts. The strident growth of virulent fundamentalism, the sources of its strength, the degree of its unity and cohesion, and the lethal objectives it espouses, need to be understood in local contexts as well as on the international level, if the threat they pose is to be correctly evaluated and addressed.

The primary objective of the Seminar is an effort to probe the ideological nuances, the diverse motivations, the complex interrelations, and the patterns of proliferation among terrorist movements - and particularly those that secure their justification in millennial or religious ideologies. The seminar is an attempt to bring together international research and the experience of those who have actually handled counter-terrorism campaigns against terrorist movements in different parts of the world in order to generate an accurate threat assessment, and to explore coherent alternatives of response.

List Of Foreign Participants

October 29,2001
Press Release

October 30,2001
Press Release

October 31,2001
Press Release






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