Voices this Week draws together published material on an important strategic issue in South Asia.  This week: the impact of and responses to terrorism in South Asia.

The US State Department released on Wednesday Country Reports on Terrorism 2013. The annual report noted that “South Asia remained a front line in the battle against terrorism last year.” Regarding Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, the South and Central Asia Overview offers:

 “Afghanistan, in particular, continued to experience aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, HQN, and other insurgent and terrorist groups. A number of these attacks were planned and launched from safe havens in Pakistan. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are now providing security across all of Afghanistan as the transition to full Afghan leadership on security continues in anticipation of the 2014 drawdown of U.S. and Coalition Forces (CF). The ANSF and CF, in partnership, took aggressive action against terrorist elements in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, and many of the eastern and northern provinces.

 “Pakistan continued to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks. The Pakistani military undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as TTP, but did not take action against other groups such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), which continued to operate, train, rally, and fundraise in Pakistan during the past year. Afghan Taliban and HQN leadership and facilitation networks continued to find safe haven in Pakistan, and Pakistani authorities did not take significant military or law enforcement action against these groups.

“….India remained severely affected by and vulnerable to terrorism, including from Pakistan-based groups and their affiliates as well as left-wing violent extremists. The Government of India, in response, continued to undertake efforts to coordinate its counterterrorism capabilities more effectively and expanded its cooperation and coordination with the international community and regional partners.”

In an opinion piece in The Hindu, Praveen Swami addresses Narendra Modi’s recent suggestion that he might authorize cross-border strikes against terrorists, and offers some history on the impact of cross-border terrorism in the region and government responses to it. Regarding Modi’s suggestion, Swami cautions that:

The use of covert action inside Pakistan will, almost certainly, invite retaliation — ending, thus, in more violence, at least in the short run. It can cause large-scale civilian fatalities, with damaging international consequences. It can end in the arrest of Indian assets, damaging the country’s credibility. It can succeed in its aims, as Israel, the U.S. and the United Kingdom have sometimes proved — or, as those very countries have learned, just as easily fail.

“There is no easy path to be taken, for each winds past the taking of human life. It is imperative, therefore, that India’s new security czars discuss their choices dispassionately, before a decision has to be made in rage.”

Peter Bergen and Carlotta Gall sat down in April to discuss their differing opinions on Pakistani knowledge of or involvement in Osama bin Laden’s concealment in Abbottabad.  A condensed transcript of their conversation was published Thursday on Foreign Policy. In her new book, The Wrong Enemy, Gall “asserts that the United States had ‘direct evidence that the ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence] chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of [Osama] bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad,’ and that the ISI ran a special desk assigned to handle the al Qaeda leader.”  Bergen pushes back and counters that he is “convinced that there is no evidence that anyone in the Pakistani government, military or intelligence agencies knowingly sheltered bin Laden.

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