Taliban flaunts missile launch: Threat to world security
[ April 29, 2015 12:56:00 ] The deadly Pakistan-based Islamist group Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) has become deadlier. If its claims that it has developed an indigenous missile named Omar-1 which it successfully test-fired are true then it poses a grave threat not only to Pakistan and Afghanistan but to the regional and international security as well. Terrorism has acquired new dimensions and threatens to alter the status of the world order. The scenario is very scary. The new firepower will not only help grow the influence of the fundamentalist Islamic forces, it will also endanger the actors who created them. And Pakistan will be the first to face the heat as its security forces have stepped up operations against the Taliban following a dastardly attack on a Peshawar school in which 145 people lost their lives, including 132 school children. And the Taliban has made its intentions clear by stating that its enemies will be on the run. From now onwards, the Taliban will not only be able to inflict maximum pain on its adversaries, it can widen its operations as the missile can easily be assembled and dissembled in accordance to the situation. What we are witnessing today is a new version of terrorism. The movement is acquiring a very deadly shape after it has drawn in its fold several highly qualified technocrats, who are religiously motivated, indoctrinated and bent on establishing an Islamist state. Technology, it is now apparent, is their latest weapon of the Taliban. With terror as their chosen instrument, these radical Islamists seek to remake the world. The more worrisome trend is the links between some retired Pakistani military and intelligence officials and nuclear scientists to Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Without their help, it would not have been possible for the fundamentalists to acquire the technology to develop a missile. The latest development will give Western leaders nightmares about militants acquiring nuclear materials, or worse, an entire weapon. When the militants can develop a missile, can that be far behind? It certainly will be next on the agenda of militants. And god forbids if that happens, the entire mankind will be endangered. The consequences of the cocktail of terrorism and nuclear weapons can be very devastating. If militants have gained strength today, then Pakistan can not absolve its responsibility. It has allowed the militants to grow, giving them not only shelter but finances. Pakistan has long been suspected of playing a double game, fighting some militants while supporting those its generals have regarded as strategic assets to be used against rivals and neighbours, India and Afghanistan. Not only that, Pakistan has notoriously played a vital role in nuclear proliferation. One cannot forget the enormity of what Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan has done. He created an elaborate, wholly illicit network by selling nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya. Was he doing it alone? Looks unlikely! The Pakistani establishment and the military in particular were completely complicit as Khan widened his nuclear black market. The fear of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan stemming from the danger of radical Islamists overrunning the country and gaining control of the country”s nuclear assets is arguably the greatest threat. The possibility of Pakistan”s nuclear weapons falling into the wrong hands looks more real now than ever. And the world can”t turn its eyes off. There can be no second view about the fact that TTP is now a force to reckon with. Over the last few years and especially since the Nawaz Sharif”s PML (N) has come to power, the government of Pakistan has been floundering in its policy to tackle the challenge posed by this militant organisation. The government cannot be faulted for efforts to engage the TTP in talks as was spelled out in its election manifesto; it bent backwards in its efforts and managed a few rounds of dialogue. The TTP, however, arrogantly perceived this effort as a sign of weakness and has adopted unreasonable postures. Most distressing has been its policy of continuing with its violent activities even as the talks are underway. Time has come for Pakistan to act and act decisively. It will have to shun its approach of differentiating between good militants and bad militants. The United States has often reminded Pakistan to fight militant groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and U.S. interests. It is high time that pressure is built on Pakistan to target all militant groups to bring security to the region. Pakistan should also realize that a lot of its own citizens have died as a result of terrorism. A lot of members of their military have fallen dead. While the people of Pakistan talk in hushed tones against the TTP, an all out popular upsurge is not being witnessed. No violent movement can be quelled unless the people do not provide unrelenting support to the military and political initiative. Terrorism can be contained by the security forces only with unrelenting support of the local population. The people in Pakistan are presently on the fence-sitters phase, they want the Taliban out of their lives but are dependent upon the government and the security forces to do the dirty job, they are not coming forward to make a contribution. Not much can be achieved without such support coming by. It”s important for Pakistan to recognize that threat and to act against that threat. Not only Pakistan, it is also the responsibility of the international community to ensure that these militant groups do not gain a foothold but are pushed back into the recesses of memory. The world can”t afford to remain a silent spectator now. The top priority should be to ensure that Pakistan”s nuclear weapons and technology do not fall into the hands of terrorists. Xiaomi”s Tata coup Industrialist Ratan Tata has created quite a flutter by becoming the first Indian to invest in the cash-rich, fifth-largest smartphone vendor in India, the Chinese $45-billion Xiaomi Corp. While the amount Mr Tata has invested is not known, it is a real coup for the Chinese company, which has ambitions to be the number one smartphone vendor in India in three years. They had approached Mr Tata to act as adviser and mentor. But even more than helping us “tweak our business model”, as Xiaomi”s Manu Jain said, it is significant that Mr Tata, by putting his signature on one of China”s most successful start-ups, has helped dilute fears that Indian security agencies have had about Chinese equipment makers. Of course China”s credibility has come a long way since May 2013, when it was said that the Indian government had launched an investigation of Huawei and ZTE, both Chinese telecom equipment-makers, following security concerns over Beijing”s alleged involvement in cyber espionage. Prior to that there were concerns about using Chinese telecom equipment to roll out fibre optic networks. But that is all in the past as India too has advanced technologically to be able to put in place security safeguards.It is exciting to see what Mr Tata”s contribution will be in Xiaomi, which made news this week with the spectacular launch of the Mi4i, with 4i standing for India. Mr Tata has in the last one year invested in several e-commerce start-ups, but this one is different. Jaitley”s big challenge Finance minister Arun Jaitley faces one of his biggest challenges this week as the Lok Sabha decides the fate of the constitutional amendment bill on the Goods and Services Tax. The entire Opposition and some BJP allies had opposed the bill”s introduction, and many of them, excluding the allies, walked out, making the fate of the bill a fait accompli. Jaitley is said to be in hectic parleys to get the Congress and others to agree to a discussion as they keep insisting that the bill be sent to the standing committee. This is just political cussedness as the bill, that was first talked about in 2003 during the first BJP-led NDA government, has already been with the standing committee for two and a half years.The Congress seems to be paying the BJP back in the same coin as it were BJP-led states that had scuttled agreement on GST even though it was discussed threadbare by the empowered committee of state finance ministers during the Manmohan Singh government. It was alleged then the BJP was deliberately opposing the bill as it did not want the Congress to take credit for it. It is a sad commentary that such a major reform that could increase GDP by 2 per cent, facilitate the ease of doing business and give the states financial strength is being sacrificed at the altar of tit-for-tat. Mr Jaitley will need enormous give-and-take and generosity to get the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress to transcend its hurt pride. Why we Indians are an unhappy lot Money is not everything, but can you be happy if you don”t have it? That”s a no-brainer, obviously. But the SDSN report reminds us to seriously consider a policy orientation that may help in climbing the happiness chart. The third edition of the World Happiness Report suggests that India figures way down the list, meaning it is a more unhappy place to be in than most countries in the world. In a survey of 158 countries, it found itself in the rear of the pack at place 117, a slide from the rank of 111 a year ago. This can hardly be good advertisement for our society, our government, or our political and economic system. Obviously, there is a long way to go before we can turn the corner since we are so lowly placed. It hasn”t helped that the Indian economy flew at more than seven per cent annual average rate of growth between 2004 and 2014 in spite of the last two years of the UPA recording growth rates of less than five per cent – the best for any democracy ever. And the forecast for the first year of the Narendra Modi dispensation is somewhat higher. But even if this is not realised, the data should still be reasonably comforting. And yet, high growth rates do not automatically translate into promotion on the scale of the world happiness index, as tabulated by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an initiative of the UN helmed by the well-known Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs. But it cannot be lost on anyone that the world”s happiest countries – Switzerland tops the list this year – are also among its richest. Money is not everything, but can you be happy if you don”t have it? That”s a no-brainer, obviously. But the SDSN report reminds us to seriously consider a policy orientation that may help in climbing the happiness chart. The yardstick adopted by SDSN makes it obvious that societies and countries should be caring, have social systems to be proud of, should respect freedoms, and should obviously also provide their people access to health, education and housing, and, not the least, should be low on corruption. India loses out on many of these pegs, and we should move quickly to fix the problem. The Modi government had promised much when it came in about a year ago, but the sense many have – rich and poor alike – is that action has not followed on words, although much was promised. Corruption levels have not changed but tolerance thresholds are lower, making for social disharmony. The economic expectations have not been met. While we take these on board, it does cause surprise that countries like war-torn Iraq, the nursery of terrorism Pakistan, and politically-wracked Bangladesh have outperformed India on the happiness index – Pakistan by a mile (it is ranked 81). No less surprising, Pakistan is ahead of China. The question then is, does the index need fixing, and, if so, how?