Terrorism and role of External State and Non-State Actors

  • Terrorism is the planned, organized and systematic use of violence as a means of coercion for political, religious or ideological purposes. It has become a global phenomenon posing major threat to international peace, security and stability.
  • The menace of terrorism whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or state forces is a crime against humanity which has wounded societies all over the world.
  • The terrorist has not only threatened the ideals of democracy and freedom but also caused a serious challenge to the existence, progress and development of mankind.
  • International terrorism poses an increasingly dangerous and difficult threat to world. Today’s terrorists seek to inflict mass casualties, and they are attempting to do so across globe. They are less dependent on state sponsorship and are, instead, forming loose, transnational affiliations based on religious or ideological affinity and a common hatred. This makes terrorist attacks more difficult to detect and prevent.
  • In the Global Terrorism Index 2020 (GTI), India has retained its rank as the eighth most highly impacted country from terrorism globally, it has improved significantly on several metrics. Between 2018-19, it was among the 10 countries that witnessed the largest decrease in deaths from terrorism. There has also been a 16 percent decrease in the overall economic impact of terrorism on India over the same period.


India subdivides terrorism in four major groups:

  • Ethno-nationalist terrorismThis form of terror focuses either on creating a separate State within India or independent of India. Violent Tamil Nationalist groups from India to address the condition of Tamils in Sri Lanka, as well as insurgent tribal groups in North East India are examples of ethno-nationalist terrorist activities.
  • Religious terrorism– This form of terror focuses on religious imperatives, a presumed duty for a specific religious group, against one or more religious groups. Mumbai 26/11 terror attack in 2008 from an Islamic group in Pakistan is an example of religious terrorism in India.
  • Left-wing terrorism– This form of terror focuses on economic ideology, where all the existing socio-political structures are seen to be economically exploitative in character and a revolutionary change through violent means is essential. Maoist violence in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are examples of left-wing terrorism in India.
  • Narcoterrorism– This form of terror focuses on creating illegal narcotics traffic zones. Drug violence in northwest India is an example of narco-terrorism in India.


Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

  • All the states in the north-eastern region are different from each other because of their ethnic diversity which comprises over 160 scheduled tribes and 400 other tribal or sub tribal communities and groups with predominantly a rural economy.
  • This region has remained largely under-developed and there has been no policy like “Act East” which could focus on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region and simultaneously developed this region.
  • Because of lack of socio-economic development, and central and regional divergence, this region still suffers from a multiplicity of deficits namely deficits related to basic needs, infrastructure, resource allocation and utilisation, governance and above all a deficit of understanding between the region and the rest of the nation. For these reasons, different insurgent groups are still active.
  • Deadlock over peace-talks and cease-fire agreements with various warring tribes, nexus between many insurgent groups and organized crime syndicates, China’s linkages to some anti-India insurgent groups, demand scrapping the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act are some other key reasons for the survival of armed insurgency in the north-eastern region.


External vulnerabilities by state and non-state actors that pose challenges to India’s national security:

  • ‘State actor’ is used in the context where one government supports an actor in the performance of an act or acts of terrorism against the other often deemed as a state sponsor.


State actors:

      • Increasing activities of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in Nepal changed the nature of the border completely. It has ties with the Taliban and other radical groups. These groups have been involved with the radicalization of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Haqqani Network and the Taliban have repeatedly been used by Pakistan as instruments to help it achieve its foreign policy objectives in India and Afghanistan.
      • China’s People’s Liberation Army continues to deploy construction equipment for road works. It uses spider excavators to build roads in the border area.
      • China is setting up villages in uninhabited tri-junction stretches between India, Bhutan and China, which are intended to support Chinese military facilities.
      • China not following resolution mechanism of maritime disputes in reference to the South China Sea where China is flexing its military muscle despite an international tribunal verdict (UNCLOS) going against it.

Organizations and individuals not connected with, directed by, or funded through the government are non-state actors. They can be corporations, NGOs, and even paramilitary and armed resistance groups.


Non-state actors:

      • Pakistan has been a major exporter of terrorism to India. Non-state actors like terrorist groups for instance Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad are a continuous threat.
      • Non state actor -sponsored terrorism, often motivated by fundamentalist ideologies, backed by secretive but efficient financial networks, use of IT, clandestine access to chemical-biological and nuclear materials, and illicit drug trafficking, has emerged as a major threat to international stability.
      • These groups aim to not only create instability in states like J&K, they also have a larger aim of destabilising the country. This is done through sporadic terrorist strikes, which spreads terror and panic. This could also adversely affect the ability of the Indian state to pursue economic modernisation.
      • Growing vulnerability of the coastline and also of the airspace, for example, Mumbai and Purulia incidents.
      • Insurgency, illegal migration from Bangladesh and smuggling activities reflect the porosity (concern highlighted in Kargil Review Committee) of our borders.
      • The deep-rooted nexus between drug mafias, arms dealers, and money launderers for financing terrorism.
      • The north-eastern states have been facing many challenges such as
        • organized Crime, the UWSA is the largest of the organized criminal groups in the region and operates freely along the China and Thailand borders,
        • Ethnic Gangs
        • Insurgent Groups which can encourage LWE, trans-border terrorism and separatist tendencies
        • Opium poppy cultivation in Burma’s Shan state
        • illegal immigrants having livelihood interest
        • refugee crisis like 40,000 Rohingya live in India
        • insurgent groups active in the Northeast, namely ULFA-I, NDFB-S, UNLF hide in Myanmar, together these could be a serious threat to internal security.