Monday, March 29, 2010



During his forthcoming visit to China for four days from April 5,2010, for talks with the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, S.M.Krishna, the Indian Foreign Minister, should review co-operation in counter-terrorism with China in order to re-focus it on co-operation in maritime counter-terrorism instead of the present focus on co-operation against conventional land-based terrorism. He should explore the possibility of closer cooperation involving the Navies of India, China, Singapore and Japan in ensuring sealane security and in protecting the commercial ships and energy supplies of the four countries from possible attacks by terrorists and pirates operating from Yemen and Somalia.

2. Al Qaeda has extended and strengthened its presence in Yemen and Somalia. While the Somalia-based Al Qaeda elements have not operated beyond Somalia so far, Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) as the Yemeni wing of Al Qaeda is called tried unsuccessfully to blow up an American aircraft over Detroit on December 25,2009, through a Nigerian suicide bomber recruited from London and trained in Yemen.

3. Al Qaeda has not so far succeeded in attacking strategic economic targets such as oil and gas production facilities and supplies by sea and commercial shipping despite its talking about it for some years after 9/11. This was partly due to the strengthening of physical security measures against maritime terrorism by the countries of the region after the attack on the US naval ship USS Cole in October 2000 and on the French tanker Limberg in October 2002. Both attacks took place in the Aden area. It was also partly due to the greater-cooperation among the navies of the region in the form of greater intelligence sharing and joint or co-ordinated patrolling. The positive results of these measures have been particularly evident in the Malacca Strait area.

4. Maritime counter-terrorism and anti-piracy measures have not been as effective in the Gulf of Aden area. Despite the deployment of anti-piracy patrols of the Western navies as well as those of India, China, Japan, the ASEAN countries and others, the Somalian pirates continue to be very active hijacking ships carrying valuable and often dangerous cargo such as chemicals and extracting ransom from the ship-owners for releasing their ships. Even China, despite its policy against ransom payments, found itself helpless last year when a Chinese commercial ship was hijacked by the pirates. Ultimately, the Chinese company, with a nod of approval from the Government, had to pay ransom when it found that the Chinese anti-piracy patrol was not in a position to help it.

5. At present, there is no evidence of any linkage between Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups on the one side and the Somalian pirates on the other. Lack of evidence does not mean there canot be any linkages. The kind of attention the possibility of linkages between terrorist organisations and organised land-based crime groups is receiving is not seen to monitor the possibility of linkages developing between the terrorists and the Somalian pirates. It was the realisation of the danger of pro-Al Qaeda organisations such as the Jemaah Islamiya developing linkages with the pirates based in the South-East Asian region and disrupting shipping and jamming choke-points that provided the trigger for the effective co-operation in the Malacca Strait area.

6. Such a trigger has not been there in the case of Somalian piracy. The danger of part of the ransom money being paid to the pirates finding its way into the coffers of Al Qaeda and its associates is real. India, China, Singapore and Japan as the countries that would be most affected if the Somalian piracy remains uncontrolled as it is presently and if Al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia join hands with the pirates should take the lead in working out feasible options for dealing with the problem through measures such as intelligence-sharing, having a four-nation task force against piracy and maritime terrorism, mutual assistance in patrolling and joint maritime counter-terrorim exercises.

7. India already has a mechanism for counter-terrorism co-operation with China under which two exercises have been held so far in Yunnan and Karnataka. Sino-Indian co-operation against land-based terrorism would be pointless because of China's close relations with Pakistan from which most of the threats to our security from jihadi terrorists arise. Till the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, China supported Pakistan's contention that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JUD), the parent organisation of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), was a charity and not a terrorist organisation. It was China's opposition that came in the way of the JUD being declared a terrorist organisation by the anti-terrorism sanctions committee of the UN Security Council. China and India have no shared perception when it comes to terrorist groups operating from Pakistan. China's policies and acions are largely influenced by the views of Pakistan. Under such circumstances, it would be futile to expect the co-operation mechanism against land-based terrorism to be of any benefit to India. It will be only of public relations value. Nothing more.

8. However, no such differences of perception arise in the case of Somalian piracy and maritime threats from Al Qaeda and its associates in Yemen and Somalia. All the four countries ought to be equally concerned over the persisting and growing threats from the Gulf of Aden area. Any disruption of shipping or energy supplies will damage their economies as they are recovering from the impact of the global economic melt-down. As the victim of a spectacular act of sea-borne terrorism by the LET in November,2008, India should play the leadership role in evolving a co-operative maritime counter-terrorism and anti-piracy mechanism involving the navies of India, China, Singapore and Japan. The reasons for the participation of India, China and Japan are obvious and need no elaboration. Singapore's participation would be beneficial because of the co-operation of the navies of India and Singapore for some years now and Singapre's close relations with China. Singapore will be able to impart to the co-operation a good measure of professionalism. ( 30-3-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )




"Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have been closely monitoring the activities of various pro-Al Qaeda groups operating in Xinjiang, the Central Asian Republics (CARs), Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia. Recent reports indicate that the Uzbecks, Chechens and Uighurs trained in Al Qaeda training camps in North Waziristan have started moving towards their home bases in order to step up their jihad against the Governments of these countries and to disrupt the movement of logistic supplies to the US and other NATO troops through their territory. It is the assessment of well-informed Pakistani Police sources in the Pashtun areas that during the last two weeks there has been a decrease in the activities of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan because trained TTP elements have been moving into Afghanistan to help the Afghan Taliban in its operations against the US-UK offensive in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. The TTP cadres are going in replacement of the Uighurs, Uzbeks and Chechens who are being moved towards Central Asia, Xinjiang and Chechnya. This also suits the Pakistan Army since it relieves pressure on it. An upsurge in acts of terrorism in this region is apprehended. Russia cannot afford to be complacent over the situation in Chechnya and Dagestan. As the fighting in Afghanistan escalates, reprisal attacks by Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in areas such as South-East, South and Central Asia and in the Muslim majority regions of Russia is a possibility to be reckoned with. "

---- Extract from my article of August 4,2009, titled " Pro-Al Qaeda Elements Regrouping For Fresh Strikes " at


The CNN TV channel of the US has reported that a Web site associated with Chechen separatists has claimed responsibility for the two explosions in two subway stations of Central Moscow on the morning of March 29,2010, which resulted in the death of at least 37 persons. While the authenticity of the claim is yet to be established, jihadi terrorists from Chechnya trained in the past by Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban had till 2004 exhibited a capability for mass casualty suicide or suicidal terrorism in the heart of Moscow.

2. A month before the Madrid blasts of March 2004 by pro-Al Qaeda elements, pro-Al Qaeda Chechens had killed 39 persons by planting an improvised explosive device (IED) in a Moscow Metro station . This was followed by a suspected suicide bombing in the Moscow Metro in August 2004 in which 10 persons died. In November 2004, a Chechen-trained jihadi group from the Caucasian region of Russia planted an IED in an inter-city train from Moscow to St.Petersburg killing 29 persons.

3. While the Russian authorities had claimed to have neutralised the jihadi groups operating in Chechnya and restored normalcy there, Chechens of Afghanistan vintage operating from sanctuaries in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan had maintained their capability for acts of terrorism.Many of them work as instructors in the training camps of different pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the North Waziristan area, including in the training camps of the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,the so-called 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, one of the handling officers of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), and the islamic Jihad Union (IJU) also known as the Islamic Jihad Group (IJG), a splinter group of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

4.Since the Uighur uprising in the Xinjiang province of China in July,2009, there were reports from reliable sources that Al Qaeda and its associates have been targeting Russia and the Central Asian Republics as a reprisal for their agreement to allow logistic supplies for the NATO forces in Afghanistan to move through their territory.

5. The Chechens---- the pro-Al Qaeda jihadis as well as separatists not associated with Al Qaeda-- have also been wanting to prove wrong Russian security agencies, which have been claiming to have crushed the Chechen separatists and restored normalcy in Chechnya. But reports from the Caucasian region of Russia have been indicating that jihadi terrorists continue to be active in the Ingushetia region. In February, at least 20 insurgents were reportedly killed in an operation by Russian security forces in Ingushetia.

6. Many Chechens work as security guards and manual labour in the commercial establishments of Moscow. Often, pro-Al Qaeda Chechens use them for creating sleeper cells in Moscow.

7. If it is established that pro-Al Qaeda Chechens have staged a come-back by organising the two suicide explosions of March 29,2010, in the Moscow Metro, it should be a matter of concern not only to the Russian security agencies, but also to those of the CARs and the Xinjiang province of China. Likelihood of threats to the security of the forthcoming Shanghai Expo from pro-Al Qaeda Chechens or Uighurs or Uzbecks would increase. This has to be factored into in the security drill not only at the Expo, but also in Xinjiang. ( 29-3-2010)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )