TERRORISM | Definition, Reasons for it’s Spread | How can India Defeat Terrorism?

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What is Terrorism?

  • Terrorism, in its broadest sense, describes the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror or fear, in order to achieve a political, religious or ideological aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence against innocent civilians or non-combatants.
  • Broad categories of political organisations have been criticised of being involved in terrorism in order to further their objectives, including right-wing and left-wing political organisations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments.
  • The word “Terrorism” has gained popularity since the attacks on the World Trade Centres, New York in September 2001 also referred to as the 9/11 attacks.
  • Depending on how broadly the term is defined, the roots and practice of terrorism can be traced back at least to the 1st-century AD.  Sicarii Zealots, a radical offshoot of the Zealots which was active in Judaea Province at the beginning of the 1st century AD, was in fact terrorist.
  • The term “terrorism” itself was originally used to describe the actions of the Jacobin Club during the “Reign of Terror” in the French Revolution.
  • In January 1858, Italian patriot Felice Orsini threw three bombs in an attempt to assassinate French Emperor Napoleon III. Eight bystanders were killed and 142 injured. The incident played a crucial role as an inspiration for the development of the early terrorist groups.
  • Arguably the first Organisation to utilise modern terrorist techniques was the Irish Republican Brotherhood, founded in 1858 as a revolutionary Irish nationalist group that carried out attacks in England.


To understand the basic reasons we need to first know the different types of Terrorism in the world.


Depending on the country, the political system, and the time in history, the types of terrorism are very different. Generally they are classified as:

  • Political terrorism
      • Sub-state terrorism
          • Social revolutionary terrorism
          • Nationalist-separatist terrorism
          • Religious extremist terrorism
          • Right-wing terrorism
          • Left-wing terrorism
      • State-sponsored terrorism
      • Regime or state terrorism
  • Criminal terrorism

There are some common reasons behind the emergence and spread of this ideology of terrorism such as:

  • Social and political injustice: People choose terrorism when they are trying to right what they perceive to be a social, political or historical wrong—when they have been stripped of their land or rights or denied the same.
  • The belief that violence or its threat will be effective, and usher in change. Another way of saying this is: the belief that violent means justify the ends. Many terrorists in history said sincerely that they chose violence after long deliberation, because they felt they had no choice.
  • When the imbalance between opponents’ relative strength become immense — the stronger side having strong, well-equipped force overshadows the weaker side forcing them to shift towards terrorism or Guerrilla Warfare. In such cases the weak side doesn’t have the resources to mount an effective campaign of structural or economic disruption. Instead, they try to induce fear in the general population attacking Infrastructure & Resources, hoping that a fearful population will have a political impact that will force the strong opponent to make concessions.
  • More Technology is now available to conduct acts of terror.
  • Targets of terrorism are more widespread than ever before.
  • Sophisticated means of communication such as electronic media, print media, social media & Internet helped terrorists to quickly promote their ideology and hate campaign and exploit ‘cyber’ terrorism.
  • Intolerance in Society due to increasing population and decreasing resources.
  • Increasing Globalisation of the society has come to transcend national boundaries spreading terrorism.

In the Indian Context, the reasons over past few years have been plenty:

  • It is a fact that our consolidation as a secular, federal and democratic state is still evolving and the diversity of our multi-ethnic / multi religious society is often exploited by fundamentalist forces.
  • The absence of sufficient employment and unequal development, the resultant poverty and the accompanying frustration has encouraged unemployed youth to take up criminal acts and narcotics. The inducement of money – for instance, Rs 3 to 4 lakhs per year in J&K – is enough for an unemployed youth to take to militancy.
  • Ineffective Anti-Terrorism legislation/ legal frame-work and misplaced judicial-activism.
  • “Structural” inadequacies in the state apparatus, namely:
    • Weaknesses in the intelligence structure – human as well as technical.
    • Inadequate modernisation of Police, Paramilitary Forces and Armed Forces.
    • Unimaginative media management and coverage.
    • Reactive response and slow governmental decision-making, lack of clear strategy and policy on Internal Security.


  • Terrorism found in India includes ethno-nationalist terrorism, religious terrorism, left-wing terrorism and narco-terrorism.
  • Let us look at some Reasons that make India a victim of Terrorist Activities:
    • Our situation between  Asia’s two principal areas of illicit opium production, the ‘Golden Crescent’ and the ‘Golden Triangle’ leads to a heavy influx of drugs and arms.
    • We are the neighbours of a hostile nuclear Pakistan with a land border of 3,400 km, who sponsors ‘state-terrorism’ and fundamentalist forces.
    • The unresolved border with China (5,800 km), a country that has active military and nuclear co-operation with Pakistan.
    • A long sea border (7,700 km), prone to pirating and smuggling.
    • A contiguous and porous border with unequal smaller SAARC nations such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, with accompanying problems such as illegal migration, trade and smuggling in the border belt and the resultant social tensions.
    • Because of it’s size and capabilities, India is perceived as a big brother whose active cooperation is denounced as so-called ‘intervention’ and lack of it, as ‘indifference’.
  • The regions with long term terrorist activities have been Jammu and Kashmir, east-central and south-central India (Naxalism) and the Seven Sister States of North-East India.
  • In July 2016, Government of India released data on a string of terror strikes in India since 2005 that claimed 707 lives and left over 3,200 injured.
  • Some well known examples of Terrorist Activities in India are Mumbai attacks of 26/11, 1993 Mumbai Serial Bomb Blasts, Attack on Akshardham Temple in 2002, Bombay Train Blasts 2006, Parliament Attack 2001; Attacks on Armed Forces Camps in Pathankot, Uri etc.
  • Media reports have alleged and implicated terrorism in India to be sponsored by Pakistan, particularly through its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
  • In 2012, the US accused Pakistan of enabling and ignoring anti-India terrorist cells working on its soil; however, Pakistan has denied its involvement.
  • SATP (South Asian Terror Portal) has listed 180 terrorist groups that have operated within India over the last 20 years, many of them co-listed as transnational terror networks operating in or from neighbouring South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Of these, 38 are on the current list of terrorist organisations banned by India under its First Schedule of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.


India although late, has already started progressing on various Institutional & Legal Frameworks to tackle Terrorism such as:

  • National Investigation Agency also known as the NIA was set up after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks to tackle terrorist activities in future.
  • National Intelligence Grid also known as NATGRID is an integrated intelligence grid that will link the databases of several departments and ministries of the Government of India so as to collect comprehensive patterns of intelligence that can be readily accessed by Intelligence Agencies. It is a counter terrorism measure that collects and collates a host of information from government databases such as Tax & Bank account details, Credit Card Transaction, Visa and Immigration Records and itineraries of rail and air travel.
  • Multi Agency Centre (MAC) for Counter Terrorism with a mandate of sharing terrorism related intelligence inputs on a day to day basis.
  • Various Legal Framework came up such as Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act or TADA (lapsed in 1995) & Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 or POTA, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the NIA Act of 2008.

Following from the understanding of the nature of international terrorism that faces us today, it is clear that a long-term strategy is required to fight against terrorism. It has to be comprehensively addressed on all fronts, political, economic, social and military. This strategy needs to be evolved from our national aims and objectives to protect ‘core values’.

These core values are:

  • To consolidate as a secular, federal democratic state with freedom of speech, equality and justice.
  • To Protect sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • To Promote socio-economic growth and development.

We must learn from the experience of other nations. However, at the same time, we need to realise clearly that our situation is particular to us and there are no direct lessons to learn except a re-evaluation of our own experience. Our strategy must be realistic and cannot be similar to the US model of worldwide capability or the Israeli strategy of reliance on massive and immediate retaliation, as the respective environment and capabilities are different.

Political / Diplomatic Strategy

  • International terrorism cannot effectively be fought alone, as has been our experience so far. All nations must join hands to combat it.
  • Pakistan sponsored ‘proxy’ war must be further exposed and international pressure applied. We must highlight more aggressively, the justness of our cause and the support to terrorism by Pakistan, both through state and non-state players, as well as strive to isolate Pakistan in the international community.
  • A strong message needs to be conveyed to Pakistan, that we mean business, demonstrated by deeds/actions. All steps to convey this must be implemented such as diplomacy, trade, sports and military.
  • India is leveraging its improved ties with the First World Countries. Multinational bodies like UN, G20, BRICS, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) are being used as platforms to further India’s agenda of anti-terrorism.

Internal Strategy

  • Adopt proactive policies to confront the terrorists at the roots of the ideology of fundamentalists, social evils and sources of terror funding like narcotics / drug trade.
  • Need to strengthen anti-terrorist laws and legal framework.
  • Modernise and enlarge intelligence networks.
  • Modernise State Police and Para Military Forces in training, equipment and ethos.

Economic Dimension

  • There is a need to spread the fruits of development more evenly throughout the country with greater developmental effort in the remote, weaker sections of society.
  • Economic Empowerment of the poor especially in areas like J&K and the Naxal belts would automatically drive out the Extremist elements and their ideologies would be abandoned.

Social Environment

  • India must continue to promote moderate and secular polity by media, intelligentsia and religious institutions.
  • There is an urgent need to address the outdated education system in rural places especially those of the Madrassas by quality modernisation and laying down guidelines for uniform syllabus for all schools.
  • There is a need to upgrade our communication systems so that television and telecommunication spreads to our remote and border areas, which are currently under constant reach of Pakistani propaganda.
  • There should be realistic psychological and information warfare so that the will of the anti-national elements is suffocated and the hearts of the populace are won.

Military Strategy

India should clearly spell out a counter terrorism strategy / doctrine. This should tackle the causes and not just the symptoms.

  • The aim of military operations should be to create a secure and suitable environment, so that social, economic and political issues can be addressed effectively.
  • Seeking political solutions to accommodate the aspirations without fully eliminating the terrorists, their structure and support bases only results in a ‘fire fighting’ situation and actually prolongs terrorism.
    • The first step should be to build-up the military forces and their capabilities (which are not adequate currently), and thereafter consolidation of these capabilities and finally destruction of the militants.
    • A reactive response is not the answer. A reorientation of armed response is required so as to launch proactive and specific surgical military operations.
    • An important element of a proactive effort is to increase the costs of proxy war to Pakistan, by undertaking ‘Hot Pursuit Strikes’ across the LoC and into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK).
  • Effective surveillance and management of the borders to check infiltration (International Border/ Line of Control), is also necessary. This should be achieved through technical means of surveillance, backed by highly mobile, specialised forces as ‘Reaction capability’ rather than the present system, which is manpower intensive.
  • Foreign-based terrorists have to be hit at their bases, training camps and sanctuaries to end the surrogate terrorism or the proxy wars.
  • Imaginative security of our vital installations, nuclear assets and airports is required. Static posts or piquets are not the answer. Electronic sensors and effective intelligence is the need.
  • There should be enough preventive measures against nuclear, biological and chemical attacks (NBC) and cyber-terrorism.

Course Discussion