The ongoing debate in these pages regarding Britain's position on terrorism raises important views in the context of the conflict in Nepal, London bombings and the IRA statement last week.
What both sides of the question need to bear in mind is that terrorism, no matter where, must be condemned. This applies at all times and whether it occurs in remote villages of Nepal or in London's melting pot. Although, as rightly pointed out by British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield (Letters, #258) there cannot be a common solution to counter the menace. Nevertheless, any attempt to control terrorism must take into account underlying causes which should then be addressed properly. Terrorism is always a result of a complex interaction of social, economic, political and ideological factors.
Any counter-terrorism policy based on the assumption that negotiations with terrorists are not possible is doomed to fail, is not sustainable in the long term and is bound to lead to protracted human misery. The protagonists need to keep an open mind to readily identify potential causes of violence. The UK's own experience with IRA terrorism is testimony to this. After 36 years of violence, broken ceasefires, and finally talks and decommissioning, last week the IRA announced an historic end to its armed campaign. There are important lessons that could also be relevant for Nepal:
. Governments often label any rebel armed movement as terrorism without giving much consideration to the actual causes.
. Governments do hold covert talks and negotiations with groups committing 'terrorism' in order to find an acceptable solution.
. It is in the nature of long conflicts that they are punctuated by ceasefires from time to time, these require political will among all sides in the conflict .
. A temporary breakdown of such ceasefires must not discourage attempts at finding lasting peace and shouldn't be labelled as the other party's 'lack of commitment'.
. If nothing else works, the international community should be given the chance to resolve conflicts, especially since terrorism doesn't respect national boundaries and one country's national security policy can affect another country's security.
. All parties must recognise that there is no military solution to political, social, economic or ideological differences and ignoring this leads to loss of lives and property.
All acts that endanger the lives of non-combatants (and thereby terrorise them) either by the state, groups or individuals, whether by minority or majority of the population for whatever reason, must by default be classified as terrorism and their perpetrators severely punished.
No objective justifies the use of violence against unarmed citizens and using the majority argument should also not render such acts legitimate.
Bombing buses in Chitwan and London must both be condemned. Likewise, use of security forces to crush an insurgency, whether in Nepal, Iraq or elsewhere, must not be viewed as an ideal counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism measure.
Killing of unarmed civilians whether a villager in Libang or a Brazilian in London is ineffective in deterring terrorism. The only way social, political, economic or ideological differences can be settled is by having constructive debate and dialogue. And this should apply globally and equally to both groups: those advocating terrorism and those entrusted with the formulation of counter-terrorism policy.
There is no place for double standards.
Ajaindra Singh is pursuing a PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland.