Cornered by terror | Faisal Ali Raja
The regional policy landscape is being shaped by terror events across the globe. From terror incidents in desert stretches of the Middle East to vehicle mowing occurrences in main cities of Europe and from episodes of mass shootings in the United States of America to the recent multiple suicide attacks in Sri Lanka, the normal pattern of state policies impacting internal security dynamics and defining or deforming external foreign relationships, past or present, are changing rapidly. A number of phases exist through which a country passes while being accused of its involvement in an act of terror in any manner. First, whenever an incident of terrorism is reported in a region – be it a smaller or a larger one in terms of its lethality and damage – the countries in the region are suddenly gripped by an unknown fear regarding their probable involvement in it or any possible connection of their citizen(s) in the gory act in which countless people are either injured or perished. The regional countries at first remain apprehensive and anxiously await preliminary investigation outcomes of the incident to see whether or not its soil is used for training, logistical support, cyber cum social media uploads and other IT-based cellular connections. If the affected country establishes a regional connection, directly or indirectly, the accused country is criticised in cyber and electronic media. Sometimes a sanctions regime is imposed on an accused country or part of its forces are dubbed as terrorists or threats are hurled at it with dire consequences which may or may not be translated into potential limited border skirmishes between two states.
The second phase starts when social media-based reporting of any terrorist act is displayed through video or audio texts so that it focuses on a particular point leaving other important questions unattended. These messages are injected into different cyber media-based groups which further multiply it through sharing with other such e-social groupings. The incident hits hard at financial, economic, tourism and industrial zones of a country which may distort its image internationally along with losing considerable electronic social media capital support. This portrays a negative image of the accused country around the world through electronic messaging and video graphics. The terror acts – once coupled with electronic media-based reporting – impact viewers’ minds and pave the way for ossification of negative imaging. In such a situation, the accused country has two options before it: either to confront the investigation processes of the affected country with positive or negative mind bent with or without any cogent evidence; or to assure the affected country of an all-out support to initiate crackdown against the elements involved in such act of barbarism. For example, the mass migration of people to different European countries from the Middle East has been considered as one of the biggest challenges for nearly every country in Europe. A spate of terror attacks in these countries not only provide the necessary policy change in their approach on immigration but also reorient these countries with rise of new rightest parties or weaker groupings with renewed force. The European Union countries also strengthen their unmanned borders and impose restrictions on any illegal entry into their territories. They even make heavy investment in those Middle Eastern countries near Europe where possible immigration routes exist for entry into Europe to curb public exodus from terror-torn countries into European territorial jurisdiction.
The third stage is reached when the texting starts multiplying and becomes a kind of electronic trend. Moreover, electronic and print media start relaying news programmes or documentaries, or columns are being published on the issue. Once it happens, it further damages the reputation of the accused country and restructures regional groupings for possible coordination and alliances against the accused country. The international and regional bodies start exerting pressure on the accused country to do more on terror front and may also stiff their stance on imposition of multiple sanctions to comply with their guidelines. For example, the recent attack in Pulwama resulted in pressure being applied to Pakistan to conduct a crackdown on Jaisah-e-Muhammad (JeM), and even a resolution was moved in the United Nations to black list the JeM chief. The National Action Plan (NAP) 2.0 has been considered in the light of National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2018-23 to further squeeze the terror operators in the hinterland of the country. Moreover, pledges have been made not to allow any non-state actor to use Pakistani soil to conduct terror in alien lands, especially neighbouring countries. Similarly, the recent revelations about the mastermind in Sri Lankan attacks who had reportedly traveled to India multiple times and spent considerable period there might pressurise her to conduct serious crackdown on the remaining elements of the network operating in any manner for providing any kind of assistance to the terror operators involved in Sri Lankan Easter bombings. Moreover, virtual connections with Indian youth have also been maintained possibly from Tamil Naidu, a South Indian state situated near Sri Lankan border.
The last stage is observed when the accused country is completely isolated from the rest of the region or the world. A multiple-sanctions regime is put in place which further cripples its economy so that it is weakened financially. Recently, we have seen that the United States of America has designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror group and given deadline of May 2, 2019 to impose sanctions against any other country interacting with Iran through trading and other financial agreements. We may see imposition of sanctions on Iranian neighbours venturing to start businesses with it or involve in any manner in trade negotiations.
In short, terror incidents may continue to impact regional policies and forging new alliances to strengthen bonds against these incidents. It has now become an important tool to corner a regional country and coerce it to reshape its internal policymaking mechanism.