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India calls for action as world remembers anniversary of Mumbai terror attacks

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This week marks the 12th anniversary of a date forever etched on the minds of Indian people: the murderous 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The atrocity was likened to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York and, while the scale was not quite the same, some 166 people were killed when gunmen went on a killing spree in India’s financial capital.

The attacks were carried out by 10 gunmen who were believed to be connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a  Pakistan based terrorist organization. Armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades, the terrorists targeted civilians at numerous sites in the southern part of Mumbai, including the Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station, the popular Leopold Café, two hospitals, and a theatre.

Pakistan has long been criticized for cultivating militant proxy groups and the country currently faces renewed pressure to act against terrorists. There is particular concern that despite some convictions, some of those responsible for the terrible attacks are still at liberty and thereby free to plot a similar atrocity.

With the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks falling today (26 November), international pressure is again pushing Pakistan to take more action against militant groups and their leaders.

Some argue there is still a lack of political will on the part of Pakistan to deal with the issue. As evidence, they point to the decision by a global “dirty money” watchdog to keep Pakistan on its “grey list” for failing to meet international anti-terrorism financing norms.

The independent Financial Action Task Force has urged Pakistan to meet these requirements by February 2021.

Pakistan was placed on the FATF’s “grey list” of countries with inadequate controls over terrorism financing in 2018 saying Pakistan “still needs to demonstrate that law enforcement agencies are identifying and investigating the widest range of terrorism financing activity.”

The watchdog also asked Islamabad to demonstrate that terrorism financing probes result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and has called for Pakistan to prosecute those funding “terrorism”, as well as to enact laws to help track and stop “terror financing”.

Xiangmin Liu, president of the FATF, warned: “Pakistan needs to do more and it needs to do it faster.”

Further comment comes from Denis MacShane, a former Europe minister in the UK under Tony Blair, who told this website, “It is hardly a secret that Pakistan's renowned Inter-Services Intelligence agency undertakes black operations rather like Mossad does for Israel as Pakistan have been locked in its cold, occasionally hot war with its much bigger neighbour India. A number of majority Muslim states have helped Islamist terrorist actions, most notably Saudi Arabia, whose Islamist citizens helped carry out the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan. Pakistan's nominally civilian government is helpless against the military and the ISI.”

There is still widespread concern about Islamist militant groups in Pakiston - especially Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and its welfare arms, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-e-Insanyat - and on their sources of income.

There are also long-standing accusations that Pakistan has nurtured and supported Islamist militant groups for use as proxies to project power in the region, particularly towards its arch-rival India.

As recently as last year, a U.S. State Department country report on terrorism said Pakistan “continued to provide safe harbour to other top militant leaders.”

There is concern too at reports that a top Pakistan militant suspected to have planned the 2008 Mumbai attacks is still living freely in Pakistan.

India and the United States have both indicted Sajid Mir, of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, for the three-day attacks on hotels, a train station and a Jewish centre in which 166 people were killed including six Americans.

The immediate impact of the attacks was felt on the ongoing peace process between the two countries and India’s attempt at pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terrorists within its borders has been strongly supported by the international community.

At various times since the attacks, there have been concerns that tensions might escalate between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. India, however, has refrained from amassing troops at the Pakistan border as it had following the December 13, 2001, attack on India’s parliament. Instead, India has focused on building international public support through various diplomatic channels and the media.

India has long said there is evidence that “official agencies” were involved in plotting the attack – a charge Islamabad denies – and Islamabad is widely believed to use jihadist groups such as LeT as proxies against India. The U.S. is among those to allege that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorists.

Fraser Cameron, a former senior European commission official and now director of the EU-Asia Centre in Brussels, said, “Indian claims that Pakistan continues to provide refuge to some of those involved in the 2008 attacks makes a Modi-Khan meeting almost impossible to arrange.”

The anniversary this week of the Mumbai attacks will evoke a strong national and international outcry against such violence and has sparked renewed calls to increase efforts to deal with the menace of terrorism.

The sense of outrage at Pakistan’s failure to fully hold to account those responsible for the attacks is summed up by Willy Fautre, the respected director of Brussels-based right NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers.

He told this site: “Ten years ago, from 26 to 29 November, over 160 people lost their lives in ten terrorist attacks perpetrated by ten Pakistanis in Mumbai. Nine of them were killed. Human Rights Without Frontiers deplores the fact that Pakistan waited until 2020 before convicting the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. He was sentenced to five years and a half in prison.”

Moscow

NATO vs Russia: Dangerous games

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It seems that the Black Sea has recently become more and more an arena of confrontation between NATO and Russia. Another confirmation of this was the large-scale military exercises Sea Breeze 2021, which were recently completed in the region, which Ukraine hosted, writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

The Sea Breeze — 2021 exercises are the most representative in the entire history of their holding. They were attended by 32 countries, about 5,000 military personnel, 32 ships, 40 aircraft, 18 groups of ground and sea special forces from Ukraine, as well as NATO member and partner countries, including the United States.

The main venue for the exercises was Ukraine, which, for obvious reasons, considers this event as a military and partly political support for its sovereignty, primarily in view of the loss of Crimea and the military—political impasse in the Donbas. In addition, Kiev hopes that hosting such a large-scale event will contribute to the speedy integration of Ukraine into the Alliance.

A few years ago, the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation was a regular participant in this series of maneuvers. Then they worked out mainly humanitarian tasks, as well as interaction between the fleets of different states.

In recent years, the scenario of the exercises has changed significantly. Russian ships are no longer invited to them, and the development of actions to ensure air and anti — submarine defense and amphibious landings-typical naval combat operations-has come to the fore.

The scenario announced this year includes a large-scale coastal component and simulates a multinational mission to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and confront illegal armed groups supported by a neighboring state, no one particularly hides that Russia is meant by it.

For obvious reasons, the Russian Armed Forces followed these exercises very closely. And as it turned out, not in vain! The sea was patrolled by Russian warships, and Russian fighter jets were constantly in the sky.

As expected in Moscow, the NATO ships made several attempts to arrange provocations. Two warships-HNLMS Evertsen from Dutch Navy and the British HMS Defender tried to violate the territorial waters of Russia near the Crimea, referring to the fact that this is the territory of Ukraine. As you know, the West does not recognize the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. Precisely, under this pretext, these dangerous maneuvers were carried out.

Russia reacted harshly. Under the threat of opening fire, foreign vessels had to leave the territorial waters of Russia. However, neither London nor Amsterdam admitted that this was a provocation.

According to the special representative of the NATO Secretary General for the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, James Appathurai, the North Atlantic Alliance will remain in the Black Sea region to support its allies and partners.

"NATO has a clear position when it comes to freedom of navigation and the fact that Crimea is Ukraine, not Russia. During the incident with HMS Defender, NATO allies showed firmness in defending these principles, " Appathurai said.

In turn, British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said that British warships "will continue to enter the territorial waters of Ukraine." He called the route followed by the intruder destroyer the shortest international route from Odessa to Georgian Batumi.

"We have every right to freely pass through Ukrainian territorial waters in accordance with international standards. We will continue to do so, " the high-ranking official stressed.

Moscow said that it would not allow such incidents in the future, and if necessary, it is ready to apply the "toughest and most extreme measures" to violators, although such a scenario is presented by Kremlin as "extremely undesirable" for Russia.

Many experts both in Russia and in the West immediately started talking about the potential threat of the 3rd World War, which in fact can flare up because of Ukraine. It is obvious that such forecasts are not beneficial to anyone: neither NATO nor Russia. Nevertheless, a belligerent and resolute attitude remains on both sides, which cannot but cause fear and concern among ordinary people.

Even after the end of Sea Breeze 2021, NATO continues to declare that they will not leave the Black Sea anywhere. This is already confirmed by the sending of new ships to the region.

Nevertheless, the question remains open: is the North Atlantic Alliance ready to take extreme measures against Russia under the pretext of protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, which is still persistently denied admission to NATO?

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Defence

Strategic Compass is controversial but better than indifference says Borrell

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EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels today (12 July) discussed the EU ‘Strategic Compass’. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that it was both an important and controversial initiative, adding: “I don't care if it is controversial, I prefer to have controversies than indifferences.”

It is the first time the foreign ministers, rather than defence ministers, will have discussed this project which aims to strengthen the EU’s crisis management, resilience, partnerships and capabilities. 

Strategic Compass is considered by the European External Action Service (EEAS) as one of the most important and ambitious projects in the field of EU security and defence. It is hoped that it can be finalized by March 2022, with a draft presented in November. It is hoped that EU states will provide clear political-strategic guidance on what they want the EU to achieve in this area in the next 5 to 10 years. 
It will guide the use of instruments the EU has at its disposal, including the recently established European Peace Facility.

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Defence

Trafficking of firearms: Commission launches public consultation to review EU rules on imports and exports of weapons

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The Commission has launched a public consultation on the review of EU rules governing exports, imports and transit of civilian firearms, with the objective to close possible loopholes, which traffickers can use, and to simplify the legal framework for legal traders. All interested parties are invited to contribute until 11 October 2021. The results of the consultation will feed into the review of the rules, to improve traceability and exchange of information, and to increase the security of export and import control procedures. Firearms trafficking feeds organized crime within the EU and breeds political instability in the EU's neighbourhood. With the development of fast parcel delivery and of new technologies, trafficking of firearms is taking new forms to escape controls. At the same time, legal importers and exporters of firearms are faced with a wide variety of different rules across the EU. The initiative to review the current legislation is part of the EU Action plan on firearms trafficking for the period 2020 to 2025.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson (pictured) has also published a blog article today encouraging all interested parties to contribute to the consultation.

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