- GS-2: Policies and politics of developed and developing countries
Two decades of 9/11
The events of 9/11 marked both an end of old as well as an inception of new geo-strategic currents.
- On Terrorism: India was facing Pakistan-sponsored terrorist insurgency in Kashmir since 1989. The Islamic terror wave wasn’t treated with seriousness at international level as the West underplayed the issue. But 9/11 forced the end to this weak response and exposed the ideological extremism that was the driving these terror forces.
- Misuse to curb Civil Liberties: 9/11 became the pretext to start two wars (Afghanistan & Iraq), put in motion the perpetual war machine by USA in West Asia region, legitimise unaccountable exercise of executive power, institute the surveillance state that adversely impacted Civil Liberties of citizens. This weakened the US’s geopolitical credibility and authority.
- On US-Pak relations: Pakistan remained an important (& untrustworthy) US ally for the war on terror that commenced in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
- In 2011, Osama bin Laden was eliminated by US forces on Pakistani soil, not far from the Pakistan Army’s officer training academy.
- On US-India relations: 9/11 was an important catalyst in bringing India and the US closer, as there was common problem of terrorism emanating from India’s western neighbourhood. Later, on the rise of China has brought India & USA much closer
- Unipolar to Bipolar: The two decades since 9/11 have seen the world shift from unipolarity, with China emerging as the new pole challenging the US-led world order. The pandemic-induced economic and health crisis only accelerated those trends.
How has India’s tackling of terrorism changed over the years?
- Even in the aftermath of the heinous 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, India chose to exercise “strategic restraint”. This was because the government was concerned that escalating it to a war level can derail the economic growth without yielding much tangible benefits.
- Instead, it adopted a strategy to put international pressure on Pakistan to take action against terror groups
- However, in the recent years there has been a change in approach with single party coming to power that has ensured Political stability & given the democratic heft needed to take strong actions.
- Also, India’s economy has achieved high growth and acquired heft. This has made India to expand its military and diplomatic options in the fight against cross-border terrorism, which the rest of the world has also recognised as a grave issue.
- For example, after the 2016 Uri attack and 2019 Pulwama attack, India proceeded with conviction and confidence to assert itself and stand up for its interests, taking military actions that have reset the strategic calculus.
- Today, economic growth is attracting countries who want to invest in and trade with India, adding arrows to democratic India’s diplomatic basket.
- Liberalisation and Economic reforms that boost growth isn’t necessary only for poverty alleviation and achieving prosperity, but arguably it is now the principal strategy for national security.
The victory of the Taliban on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 will likely create new unknown problems. However, the world should be cautious enough to make sure that terrorism doesn’t rise its ugly head again.
Connecting the dots: