A LEADING Israeli counter-terror expert has warned against confusing violent protests with terrorism, and advocated the use of “least harmful measures” to contain such agitations, including in Jammu and Kashmir. Otherwise, Prof Boaz Ganor said, there is a danger of the protesters being radicalised and turning to terrorism. Speaking to The Indian Express, Ganor, who heads counter-terror studies at the IDC college in Israel, also described surgical strikes as a “wise” option against terrorism and cautioned that the next big security challenge for India would emanate from the proponents of “global jihad”, especially Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
Without naming Pakistan, Ganor further said that Israel can learn from India on fighting terror because this country has for years experienced “organised terrorism” that is mostly “state sponsored”.
Asked about the use of pellet guns on protesters in Jammu and Kashmir, Ganor said, “As a counter-terror expert, I don’t see violent protest as terrorism. One needs to use all possible measures to prevent violent protests… hopefully, with little damage, injuries or killing. One reason is you don’t want to kill and secondly and importantly, you will end up radicalising protesters using harsh measures and some of them might turn to terrorism, which you don’t want. You need to use the least harmful measures for those violent protests.”
Asked about surgical strikes, like the one carried out by the Indian Army across the LoC last September on terrorist launch pads, as a viable counter-terror measure, Ganor said, “I think surgical strikes are crucial… as effective counter-operational capability to fight them. If need be, to kill them, destroy their camps. Hard power is important.”
Ganor, who is in Delhi to attend a counter-terror conference, said, “Most terrorist organisations are embedded in society and they know that if states go after them, there will be collateral damage… (But) surgical strike also means wise strike, it doesn’t mean bombarding civilian areas, it means pinpointed strike. Collateral damage is counter productive, it creates more hatred and unites people to join militant groups against the states.”
According to Ganor, the next challenge for India, which is situated at the centre of the Indian Ocean rim and is a mixture of cultures and religions, will come from “global jihad”, especially Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda.
With IS losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the threat for India and its neighbouring countries has gone up, said Ganor.
Comparing IS to a “balloon”, which is not yet full, he said, “It’s being pressured in Syria, Iraq and popping up in Africa and Europe. The big question is whether it will pop up in the Indian Ocean rim. I tend to believe the answer is yes….because terrorism is like a fashion and there will never be a time when there is no fashion.”
Ganor added, “A decade ago, the fashion in this region was al-Qaeda. I will not say it’s disappearing… we see it with Boko Haram in Africa. We see it in different parts of the world where local elements who used to be affiliated to al-Qaeda shifted loyalty to IS. You have many affiliates of al-Qaeda surrounding India, and IS sees those affiliates as fertilised ground…”
From an Indian point of view, Ganor said, “If I am an Indian decision maker, with so many years of counter-terrorism experience India has accumulated, I would now think about preparation and prevention of this threat (Islamic State and lone wolves) from infiltrating into India.”
Asked about deradicalisation and counter-radicalisation programmes to prevent youths from joining terrorism, Ganor said, “I am not a big believer of deradicalisation because it is difficult to deradicalise someone who is radicalised. I am a great believer in counter radicalisation…The main task, however, here is on the shoulders of Muslims, on the shoulder of imams, to promote real Islam, one they believe and practice in.”
Ganor also said India has been facing the challenge of “organised terrorism” for so many years that is mostly “state sponsored” and has a lot of experience in “analysing and understanding it”. “Israel is good in counter terror but can still learn from India on the counter narrative on terrorism,” he said.