Terrorism In South And Southeast Asia In The Coming Decade
Tuli Sinha ·       

This book is an excellent compilation of essays originally presented at the inaugural Centre for Security Analysis (CSA)-Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) Seminar on “Terrorism in South and Southeast Asia in the Coming Decade” held in Singapore in June 2008. Compiled under the major themes - Global Terrorism and Trends, Terrorism in South and Southeast Asia and Regional Responses, the book highlights the understanding of diverse connotations of terrorism in both regions, post-9/11. It analyses how terrorism has developed following 9/11, with numerous bombings and assassinations.

This book aptly questions the possible use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by terrorists as a challenge to the international community in the near future. It also examines the currents and undercurrents of the terrorism phenomenon and makes an effort to bring different strands together for both the regions to seek a common perspective that could be useful for policy prescriptions and choices in future. Daljit Singh, Ajai Sahni, VR Raghavan, Rohan Gunaratana, John Harrison among others have extensively researched and made their points on threats at the international, regional and national levels. In this work, they further examine how the two regions have been afflicted by the scourge of transnational jihadi terrorism, sometimes subsumed in long-standing insurgencies and also highlight how the regions are affected by problems of poverty and lack of good governance.

A strong point of the book is that it succeeds in coherently showcasing various similarities and differences in the viewpoints of the scholars from both the regions. Contributors from both regions believe in the importance of state effectiveness and good governance that provides sound legal regimes, and efficient, credible and transparent judicial systems as well as effective local police forces trained for counter-terrorist operations. They also agree on the need to contest and defeat extremist ideology, best done by Muslim communities themselves, and better regional and international cooperation, particularly at the operations level. On the other hand, differences in perspectives are also reflected where Southeast Asian contributors tend to see jihadi terrorism in their region as a declining threat. This does not appear to be the case in South Asia. It has clearly grown in Pakistan while in India the relatively new phenomenon of homegrown jihadi terrorism appears to have gained momentum.

Also, while both regions are afflicted with insurgencies of one kind or another, the authors argue that, apart from the situation in the southern provinces of Thailand, insurgencies too have declined in Southeast Asia. While in India, in addition to regional insurgencies on the peripheries of the country in Kashmir and the Northeast, there is a growing Maoist insurgency across the heartland of India from Bihar to Andhra Pradesh. Two stark facts distinguish the two regions and probably account for the successful management of jihadi terrorism in Southeast Asia. All the countries of Southeast Asia will fight terrorism because it is seen as a threat to internal security, investment climate and tourism and also tarnishes their image and standing in the world. Further, the atmosphere and substance of inter-states relations is much better in Southeast Asia than in South Asia.

Though the book impressively portrays the menace of terrorism in both the regions, it has certain limitations. First, the book tends to apply a more regional than a country-specific approach towards explaining terrorism and its diverse ramifications in the two areas in the light of the American war on terrorism. Second, even the country-specific article by Thusitha Tennakoon and Bhathiya Ratnayake titled, ”LTTE: The Terror Guru for the Next Decade” has projected the LTTE as one of the world’s most deadly and formidable terrorist groups in coming years completely failing to anticipate the sudden death of the organization. Further, such events as increased terrorist attacks in Pakistan, the heightened interest of the new administration in the region have not been anticipated.

This combined effort of scholars and Daljit Singh in particular, as the editor, is certainly an asset to the available literature on terrorism for scholars and students. It provides an excellent survey of the state of play of international terrorism, before proceeding to regional and national analyses. It is gratifying to note the various global, regional and inter-regional initiatives that have been initiated to combat terrorism and the efforts being made in various dimensions, like legal and financial, that are dealt with in the essays in this volume. This book is definitely one of the best works which discusses different regional perspectives on terrorism and adds to the existing facts as well as sets the base for further research work in years to come.