Cross-Border Terrorism: Focus on Pakistan. By Jayanta Kumar Ray. (New Delhi: Shipra, 2016). Pages xviii, index, 294. US$ 49.75 (Rs 995).
NATIONAL RESEARCH PROFESSOR JAYANTA KUMAR RAY’S book, Cross-Border Terrorism: Focus on Pakistan, is a brilliant, thought-provoking analysis of Pakistan’s emergence as a fountainhead of international jihadi terrorism. The book is well researched, analytical, and a worthwhile addition to one’s library. It offers important insights into why Pakistan became a global terror hub, why India had repeatedly failed to punish Pakistan for its proxy war against it, and the role of the United States in all of this.
At the very outset the author draws on statements made by the great Islamic scholar Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in 1946 during an interview with a journalist on the Muslim League’s flawed view that Muslims could be united through their religion by creating Pakistan. It is for this reason that he stated that the Arab world, though Muslim, had no political unity and that there was so much strife between the Sunnis and the Shias. Azad also predicted that Bangladesh would break away from Pakistan.
The book includes a fairly exhaustive introduction, wherein the author explains the birth of jihadi terrorism—its effect on the Arab world, the partition of India, propagation of jihadi terrorism as a strategy in Pakistan and its role, and the war crimes committed in East Pakistan leading to the birth of Bangladesh.
The book is divided into four chapters (Chapters 2 to 5)—Chapter 2 encompasses events in Pakistan and Afghanistan, leading to the development of international jihadi terrorism with Pakistan as the epicenter, and the U.S. funding and its utilisation of Pakistan as a proxy to defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and Washington’s total incompetence in visualising its effects, resulting in Pakistan becoming the home of international terrorism, a process that culminated in the events of 9/11.
In Chapter 3, the author examines the spread and entrenchment of jihadi terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and its impact on India with a surge of terrorist attacks including the one on Mumbai on 26 November 2008, and other cities in India, and the incompetence of the Indian, the American, and for that matter Pakistani governments to deal with it. The chapter ends with the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda Chief, in the Pakistani military garrison city of Abbotabad by the U.S. Special Forces under Operation Neptune on 1 May 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and other national security officials receive an update on Operation Neptune at the White House on 1 May 2011. They are watching live feed from drones flying over the Bin Laden hideout in Abbotabad, Pakistan. Photo courtesy: The White House.
Chapter 4 covers the aftermath of the killing of Bin Laden in Pakistan, U.S. drone attacks on terrorists in Pakistan, Pakistani Army and governmental support to jihadi terrorism, and their reactions to U.S. attacks. It explores U.S. plans to pull out of Afghanistan, subsequent Pakistani military clamp down on the ‘bad Taliban’ in Pakistan, Indo-Pak relations and terrorist strikes in India, and the Modi government coming to power in India. The chapter ends indicating these developments with some optimism, unfortunately as we now see, the events till the present, and after the publication of this book, have proved otherwise.
In Chapter 5, the author, based on certain literature by some pro-Western experts on Islamic literature, highlights the anomalies in the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s life, the interpretation of which has given rise to Wahhabism/Salafism and consequently, jihadi terrorism. These interpretations perpetrate hatred towards non- Muslims, oppression and enslavement of non-believers, justify a jihad or holy war against them and their indiscriminate killing of even women and children and committing atrocities against them, and use of terror in such a war to defeat their opponents. The author ends the chapter by advising readers to accept Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s interpretation of Islam.
In the concluding chapter, the author dwells on the likely effects of the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troop pullout from Afghanistan, the necessity to further clamp down on terrorism in Pakistan, and the need for India to act in a more forceful manner in dealing with terrorism and Pakistan. He stresses on the need for better Sino-Indian and Indo-U.S. relations to counter terror. He then explores the expanding crescent of international jihadi terrorism in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), events in the Middle East, the West’s reaction to the continuing turmoil in the region, and the probability of ISIS taking deep root in Pakistan, which if not controlled, will result in serious consequences for India. He ends the chapter by placing hope on the Modi government to act more forcefully against Pakistan and terror.
The author brings out emphatically that jihadi terrorism has emerged out of faulty interpretation, and/or preaching of Islam, proselytising by elements of Islamic leadership, initially from Saudi Arabia in the form of Wahhabism/Salafism. This politico-religious ideology became the primary strategy of Islamic leaders to establish their Islamic empire/Caliphate. Citing examples from history, he explains at length various facets of Islam that were, and could be, misinterpreted for purposes of further political expansion through the use of jihadi terror as a strategy and weapon. In more recent times this strategy and its underlying virulent form of Islam was exported by Saudi leadership through Wahhabi/Salafi preachers, lavishly funded through oil money to various parts of the world—particularly Pakistan where the Pakistani leadership found in it an ideal strategy and weapon with which to equip Pakistan to defeat the vision of India. He explains the reasons for the sectarian violence between the Sunnis and the Shias. The creation and rise of the Taliban and the role of Pakistan in it is explained in detail as also the factions in the Taliban, their role in defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and subsequently the battle for control of Afghanistan by the Al Qaida and the Taliban conjointly.
Ray describes the rise of the homegrown Pakistani Taliban, based primarily out of Punjab, and other jihadi terrorist groups who are used by Pakistan to support the Taliban and carry out acts of terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir and the rest of India. He describes the detailed lead-up to 9/11, and Pakistan-sponsored acts of terrorism in India including 26/11, and subsequently the total incompetence of both the U.S. and the Indian governments in preparing themselves to deal with such a situation. He also describes in a fair amount of detail how Islamic fundamentalism has become strongly ingrained in Pakistan and the inability of the Pakistani government and their army to control it. He then describes the rise of homegrown fundamentalism supported extensively by Pakistan, and its presence in India in the form of the Students Islamic Movement of India, the Indian Mujahideen, and other local sleeper modules of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The author describes Pakistani discomfiture with the U.S. killing of Bin Laden on Pakistani soil as well as with U.S. drone attacks against Afghan Taliban leaders inside Pakistan, and the deterioration in Pak-U.S. relations. He discusses Pakistan’s battles with the Pakistani Taliban inside Pakistan and brings out clearly that the major sufferer from Pakistani homegrown Islamic fundamentalism was actually Pakistan, citing facts to support his argument. He is critical of Indian leaders who failed to deal with Pakistan forcefully enough, leading to a spurt in acts of terror in India from 2008 onwards.
In his concluding observations Ray discusses the likely consequences of the West’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the birth of the ISIS and the likelihood of its taking root in Pakistan and the region. He expresses hope that the Modi government would be more effective in dealing with the terror threat. He ends on a slightly optimistic note, placing more faith in the Modi government as also the U.S. administration and even Pakistan. His hope is that they would succeed in bringing the situation under control.
I have enjoyed reading this book and strongly feel that its readers would be educated by this thought-provoking analysis of Pakistan’s emergence as a fountainhead of international jihadi terrorism. I do, however, feel that the author will face a great deal of criticism for his exposition of facets of Islam and the Qur’an that he has so strongly highlighted as being the main contributing factors for Islamic fundamentalism and jihadi terrorism.
Lt.-Gen. J.R. Mukherjee, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd), is a former General Officer Commanding 15 Corps in Kashmir, India, and Chief of Staff of the Indian Army Eastern Command.