Terrorism is, by and large, repetitive, monotonous, crude, somewhat autistic as the bonding is through violence, exceedingly brutal, yet even boring and then BAM – a modeling moment like the 26/11 Mumbai Massacre or 9/11. Suddenly we are confronted with a paradigm shift in its lethal conceptualization and revealed therein the depths of the perversity of the human heart: the terrorist.
Even as I am writing, the name “Mumbai” evokes vis a vis attempts to foil a “Mumbai-style” attack in Europe. A travel advisory has been issued for U.S. citizen going to Europe warning of an attack. So we see that this book is important and relevant. Counter terrorist experts in Europe are currently on high alert because they have information that there will be a Mumbai-style attack. They evacuated the Eiffel Tower twice.
When 26/11 Mumbai happened, I was on a road trip in Texas and saw the footage coming in over CNN, in a hotel ironically meticulously run by immigrants from India. They shook their heads in dismay and utter sadness. While we watched in horror and then I read and spoke with colleagues about the terror in India, the majority of the analysts to whom the American public and scholars were exposed, were not from India.
This slim volume resolves that gaping gap in knowledge with a uniquely diverse series of essays from Indian counter terrorist experts. Maroof Raza, a former Indian army officer, with sterling academic credentials including trained in Delhi, London and Cambridge, was approached by Penguin India to bring out this collection of essays after the attacks. He has brought together an exception group. To kick off this volume, he invited Stephen P. Cohen who is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute with years of scholarly and on the ground experience concerning India. Cohen is author of India: Emerging Power and the Idea of Pakistan, hence ideally suited to give a succinct in depth overview of India and terrorism.
In my opinion Confronting Terrorism leads the pack of existing books on Mumbai that we encounter in the American book store. There is no question that Confronting Terrorism merits joining the ranks of being better well known to the American and European public. It would be a tragedy if it were to remain only known to the Indian audience.
There are other books on India and terrorism both the 1993 Bombay bombings as well as 26/11, to cite only a few: Terrorism in India – Attribution of the 2008 Mumbai Attacks Ajmal Kasab, Lashkar-E_Taiba, Operation Blue Star, 1993 Bombay Bombings by Books LLC, 2010; Mumbai: Post 26/11: An Alternate Perspective by Ram Puniyani and Shabnam Hashmi (2010); The Lessons of MumbaiOccasional paper from Rand by Angel Rabasa, 2009; Mumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy by B. Raman, 2010 and Mumbai, India and Terrorism by Elena N Popov, 2010.
Confronting Terrorism is unusual in that the array of essays touch on nearly all aspects which need to be addressed, ranging from an overview of the history of terrorism in India, a comparative study of the terror networks from the West and South Asia, India’s vast military complex and regional challenges, an elucidating discussion of COIN for Jammu and Kashmir, to even the “constable on patrol” who was suddenly tasked with dealing with highly skilled and equipped terrorists.
That is only the beginning because any book on terrorism and India would have to include at least a chapter on Pakistan and the ISI’s involvement along with a serious discussion of pre-emptying and preventing nuclear terrorism. It was prescient too for Raza to choose to include a chapter on the US-Nato Counter-Terrorism Experience in Afghanistan and there is an excellent chapter on intel and had the nation been forewarned of the 26/11 attacks. Having graduated from the American COIN program called the Human Terrain Program, at Leavenworth, Kansas where I was scheduled to deploy to Helmand, this particular essay struck a cord in me. In my opinion the HTS program was too politically correct to really deal with the problem of radical Islam and the Taliban that the American army has yet to understand. India is rightfully concerned about the possible deteriorating nightmarish situation on its borders as well as from within, i.e. home grown.
In conclusion I have only a few quibbles. First, the book should be made available in digital form as soon as possible. An updated version might be considered in adding a more psychological twist. I could not help think what the renown Indian psychoanalysts Sudhir Kakar and Ashis Nandy might have to say about the current escalating terrorism. I wish too that the editors at Penguin India would have insisted upon an index which enriches the collection for research purposes. Nevertheless despite these oversights, Maroof Raza has edited a superb text that will help many in the field of terrorism studies throughout the world. Confronting Terrorism would be an excellent addition as a textbook for any syllabus as well. He deserves special kudos for this achievement.
Maroof Raza (editor): Confronting Terrorism. Viking by Penguin Books India, 2009. See also the
website of the author, please.