The visit of State Department Terrorism Coordinator Phillip Wilcox and his team to Colombo has triggered Sri Lankan security and foreign officers to think of closer international and regional cooperation.
While international cooperation has yet to be developed, already there is some level of regional cooperation.
Cooperation among governments committed to combating terrorism must be examined through the political and the socio-economic backdrop of South Asia.
Poverty and geography of South Asia not only make the region vulnerable to insurgency but they also make the region influence and fuel extra-regional insurgencies.
To dampen the spread of lethal technologies, both their transfer and independent development, governments develop and implement cooperative and collective security measures and agreements within and outside regions.
The Indo-Lanka interaction confirms that no one country can guarantee its security without ensuring the security of its neigbour.
Research on insurgency reveals that the threat posed by insurgent groups with a trans-national reach to conduct military strikes both within and outside South Asia had dramatically increased in the 1990s.
With the trans-national linkages both to foreign insurgents and diaspora communities, domestic insurgent groups today operate internationally like multinational corporation or intelligence agencies with a global reach. Taking the changing global political landscape, security experts and planners must conceptualize the changing behaviour of insurgents and institutionalize active counter measures to ensure a safer 21st century.
Sri Lankas commitment to regional cooperation to combat terrorism has been very high after the ratification of the SAARC Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism. As a consequence, the South Asian nation-states agreed that Sri Lanka will be the central repository for all records. Three of the latest meetings on terrorism were held in Bangladesh in 1994, India in 1995 and in Nepal in 1996.
Sri Lankan delegates at these meetings were investigative and intelligence personnel, except the Nepal meeting which was represented at administrative level. This change may suggest that Sri Lankas commitment to regional cooperation had dwindled. It is imperative that Sri Lanka plays a leading role in mobilizing support within and outside the region in combating terrorism. The commitment towards security and intelligence cooperation targeting terrorism must be generated at a policy level. However, the implementation must not only be at a strategic but a tactical level.
Future regional initiatives will be incorporated to the global drive against terrorism. In June and July 1996, when the seven richest nations of the world Ñ the USA, Britain, Japan, France, Italy, Germany and Canada Ñ met, they decided to enforce strong measures against terrorism. The impact of these measures is bound to dampen both the domestic and international activities of groups such as the LTTE.
The international community believes that terrorist groups the world over will suffer a series of reversals with the G7 proposals becoming law. At least, until such time when terrorist groups develop counter measures, the G7 stand will be detrimental to the global rise of terrorist organisations.
Unlike the measures adopted domestically, the G7 measures are bound to affect groups with a regional or a global reach. They include groups like the LTTE, the Punjabi Sikhs, the Kurdish PKK, Algerian FIS, IRA and Middle Eastern groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
Other groups that have demonstrated their ability to operate in distant theatres with great skill were the Armenians and the Palestinians. But, more recently the Basques, Japans Aum sect and the Kashmiris mujahidin are developing linkages to operate on a larger geographic scale. Further, terrorist networks are bound to suffer as a result of these counter measures.
For example the Muslim Brotherhood-Jamaati Islami network send fighters as well as weapons to wars in Algeria, Egypt, Bosnia, Sudan, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Mindanao. The LTTE is linked to this network through the Afghan group of Gulbuddin Hekmatiyar. It has become increasingly difficult for countries, particularly those in the Third World, to develop legislation and institutions to fight this new form of trans-national terrorism.
With globalization of greater economic and political interaction, the world has become much more easier for terrorist groups to operate in distant theatres with nearly the same ease as in their home or neighbouring theatres.
The post-Cold War world is witnessing enhanced travel, communication and migration, free flow of information and greater access to lethal weapons, and increased porosity of boundaries. Terrorist groups have established ideological, technological and financial linkages within and outside their regions.
Countries of the developed world have realized the long term and strategic implications of allowing terrorism to grow both in the north and the south. When the G7 leaders met in Lyon, France in late June, they agreed that fighting terrorism is their priority. Although terrorist strikes in Oklahoma, Paris, Manchester, London, Tokyo, Israel and Saudi Arabia dominated the discussion, the 40 measures prepared by experts to combat terrorism, organized crime, narcotic trafficking and nuclear smuggling would have a worldwide impact.
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