The threat called terrorism is turning more ominous and those at the receiving end are frantically seeking a solution, though in vain so far. The terror strike at an upscale restaurant in the diplomatic quarter of Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on July 1 in which 20 foreigners were butchered by a group of gunmen has been the closest to home and leaders of both the victim country and neighbour India are worried. What next and how to tackle this menace? [Acknowledge it is the ISIS: Terrorists at Dhaka said during negotiations]
The problem with the nation-states in fighting terror successfully is that they are yet to come up with a foolproof method of coordination while taking on terrorism. International politics/relations is an anarchic world where sovereign states determine their own paths.
But at the same time, international terrorism thrives on a network which has no obligations to abide by soverignty. This makes the traders of death more successful than the forces against them. And we are seeing the results across the world: schools, colleges, airports, market places, restarurants---name any soft target and they are being targeted with disdain. [ISIS thrives on political and economic weakness, chooses targets strategically]
How do the nation-states then tackle with these threats?
Our sense of security is obsolete now; State-centric security system doesn't help in fighting terror
The international system, one feels, though has seen a proliferation of democracy but it has remained obsolete in terms of security (more in times of the Great Wars). We are still in a mode to think that security ultimately lies with the sovereign entity called the State. If it fails to protect the citizens' lives from the angry gunmen, it is a complete failure. [Bangladesh is sliding: After look and act, India needs a robust 'Defend East' Policy]
There is a problem with that thinking. Security can't be the sole responsibility of the State since those who pose the biggest threats to the members of the State are not any definite political entity themselves. It is futile to expect that all States across the world will bury their political and strategic differences any time soon and begin to think alike and thwart those terrorist attacks.
Learn from terrorists, see how they take full advantage of globalisation
The State can at the most tighten the physical security cover and bolster its counter-terror network but even that might not be enough. Terror outfits operating internationally have improved their modus operandi by leaps and bounds today. They have made their plans more cost-effective and successful by unleashing the local modules in the targeted country and not making international mobilisations that are easily detectable. So in a way, the threats that the countries are facing today are more internal than external.
Developing countries have political and logistical problems in fighting terror
That brings us to the next problem. How do poor and ill-equipped countries fight these elements? Countries like Bangladesh are not just new to the attack which took place in Dhaka, it is also not politically very stable to constinuously fight on with the terrorists. There are too many divisions in its political ranks while its politics is already tainted by a history of polarisation.
Political forces need to reject divisive ploys & engage all members of the society to fight terror
Such political culture is vulnerable to those who design terror strikes and we saw that in Dhaka. There could also be logistical issues for these small developing countries in fighting terrorism and they would have to depend on external help in terms if military hardware and intelligence-sharing.
The story then brings us back to the original question: How can there be a uniform global anti-terror platform, given the unwritten law of international relations that sovereignty can't be compromised and the gap between the capacities of countries is too wide?
The only way out: Build robust social cooperation mechanism though it's easier said than done
The only way out for the small and developing countries is to continuously educate their citizens about the threat so that a mechanism of social cooperation is developed. It is a continuous process and easier said than done, no doubt. But it is the only option available for the political leaderships that have lost their night's sleep thinking where the next strike will be.
Growing a robust mechanism of social cooperation involves a number of steps. It includes a qualitative improvement in administrative functioning (more for the border states) and a government sympathetic towards the socio-economic lots that are feeling to be left out.
The known traditions of political appeasement in favour of one social group at the expense of another have to be discarded just now. Let us focus on uniform developments during elections and not play cards of caste and religion that divide people. It is among those cracks in the society where grievances take shape and snowball into the ultimate disaster.
Terrorism is not a black-and-white problem
Islamic State has become a symbol of death today. The world of international terrorism is not a black-and-white one although the nation-states perceive it to be one, only to get repeatedly foxed. A multi-layered approach is required to decode the menace and the project demands involvement of each and every member of the state---from the prime minister/president to the layman on the streets.
Politics has divided us but terrorism can unite us. Let's work towards it. There is no shortage of time but the will.