India’s experiences with terrorism, insurgency and violence date back to 1947, when the nation as a distinct political, national and geographic entity was realized. Ironically, after being home to a non–violent resistance against the British colonial rule, the new nation woke up to its ‘tryst with destiny’1 amidst unprecedented violence and terror resulting out of the partition of the country on religious grounds. Worse still, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest apostle of peace and non–violence who had led the Indian struggle for freedom, was a victim of brutal political assassination carried out by a religious fanatic! Terror as strategy to settle political scores and achieve religious and political ends is therefore, not new in the Indian context.
The Post 9/11 emphasis on terrorism and the various counter measures and responses has done considerable damage to the debate on issues of human security that had started to emerge in the third world. State centric security discourse has regained prominence and non–state actors have been reduced to undesirable elements like criminals and terrorist groups whose aim is to destroy the peace in the world. This worldview has had an impact on India as well. Attempts to understand the root causes and the logic of terrorism and insurgency have been pushed into the background.
However, at the larger policy level, India recognizes that the ‘global war on terror’ is not universal in terms of content, issues and responses. This implies that India’s problems of terrorism have local and regional root causes and the responses would have to be through national resources and mostly through bilateral cooperation. This explains India’s attempts to work closely with governments in South Asia and most recently even with Pakistan to deal with the menace of terrorism and political violence. There is also an understanding that terrorism is just a strategy or even tactics at times employed by groups seeking an advantage or claim over the state. The “ism’ attached to terror is a misnomer because terrorism is not an end in itself nor a set of ideas or belief system on its own. It is in most cases a means to an end, which can range from political ideology, to anarchism, nihilism and religious fanaticism.