x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

States can stoke global insecurity as well as terrorism

The globalisation of insecurity is now more a function of state agencies than non-state actors.

The term globalisation is generally applied to the political and economic aspects of modern life. The ideal of globalisation is that it will promote the equality of mankind beyond the confines of state boundaries. However, it seems that another aspect of globalisation is becoming increasingly visible and is cause for increasing concern: the globalisation of insecurity. On January 20 2010, Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a prominent Hamas leader, was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai. By mid-February UAE security personnel had identified the suspects involved in his murder, released their names and photos along with video coverage of the accused. They had travelled on forged passports and within days, the genuine passport holders appeared before the international media in their respective countries to protest that while the names and addresses on the passports may have been theirs, the passport numbers and photographs were not. Like the September 11 attack on the United States, this was another stark reminder that security has become a global issue.

There is, however, one important difference between these two events aside from their scale. The attacks on New York and Washington were carried out by a non-state (terrorist) organisation, while the latest event, according to all the evidence, was a Mossad hit. If that is indeed the case, it should be a development of considerable concern not just to the global community but also to Israeli citizens: Mossad has no qualms violating even their privacy. The liberties that Israel takes in planning and executing its operations, including stealing the identities of its own citizens, may explain some of its "effectiveness".

While the world has come together to combat non-state actors from committing acts of terror, when the veil of the state is used as a cover to carry them out, that presents different problems. In the case of the September 11 attacks, many of the participants, of various nationalities, are now known to have gathered in Germany to co-ordinate their attack before arriving in the US. The lesson learnt was that there is no way that one state, acting without the help of other intelligence agencies and governments, could ferret out such attacks. This led to greater communication between states to promote their shared security interests.

But these efforts were geared to limit the effectiveness of non-state actors. What security system is in place to prevent a state from committing clandestine acts that destabilise another? As the Dubai murder showed, states are proving just as adept at undermining global security. This is far from the only instance of where this has happened. On the subcontinent, India is suspected to be increasing the insecurity in Pakistan working through its consulates in Afghanistan and India. These actions were inferred by the US General Stanley McChrystal's initial report asking for a troop surge last year and accepted by Manmohan Singh in a joint communiqué with his Pakistani counterpart.

Pakistan has also been accused by India of operating from its bases in Nepal and Bangladesh - and with good reason. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist captured alive by the Indian security forces after the attack in Mumbai in 2008 and presently on trial was captured and released by Indian security forces in Nepal six months before the Mumbai attack. Illegal arms markets continue to operate throughout the world even though their locations and operators are known and often monitored by many intelligence agencies. Money laundering and the illegal transfer of funds to terrorists, individuals, organisations, and countries continues, despite the fact, for instance, that no substantial transfer of funds can take place without it being registered. How can these threats be confronted?

Before beginning to attempt an answer it is important to repeat the obvious: the globalisation of insecurity is now more a function of state agencies than it is of non-state actors. Whether it is money laundering or arms trading, states know that it is taking place, and in many instances, participate in it. As far as the non-state actors who create global insecurity are concerned, a general consensus has been reached towards international co-operation to combat this threat, though some states are still considered less cooperative than others.

But how state sanctioned actions contribute to global insecurity must now be on every nation's agenda, particularly after the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh. Logically, the only organisation that can deal with such an issue is the United Nations. But not only is this body becoming increasingly redundant, its dependence on the US for funds, however late they arrive, makes it appear to be a mere extension of the US administration to many less influential states.

So we can't leave it to the US. A state will act solely in its own best interest but, in the case of the US, it has continuously demonstrated its willingness to act in Israel's interest, however bizarre that might be. Should the Chinese or European Union have a greater role in global policing? The lack of answers or even a conversation about a persistent source of globalised insecurity suggests that there is far more work to be done.

Brig Gen Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer