New Delhi: In the popular narrative, seldom is the distinction made between state-sponsored terrorism and stateless terror. State-sponsored terrorism is rooted in a state as the phrase suggests. Pakistan sponsors terrorism against India in Kashmir, Afghanistan and occasionally Iran and China. Iran as a victim may not be shocking because it gives back as good as it gets. It did so recently. Pakistan tightens the terror screws on China when China does not deliver on its promises usually concerning money. Its instruments are the separatist Uighurs. This may not be so true now because Pakistan’s financial condition is dire and Chinese bailouts keep it afloat. But it is common knowledge in the Pakistan military that terror is a tried and tested instrument to compel the Chinese to loosen the purse strings. The Chinese in Xinjiang and the Chinese living and working in Pakistan are vulnerable to terror blackmail.

Pakistani terror against India is, however, still more developed. The Pakistan deep state sponsors terror groups to carry out attacks. In Kashmir, it began with the JKLF, moved to the Hizbul Mujahideen when the JKLF aligned behind the independent Kashmir demand, and eventually Pakistan tired of the Kashmiris and poured its resources into Pakistani Punjabi groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The significance of the Punjabi connection is often missed. In the Partition, Punjab was divided into two. Pakistani Punjabis were never reconciled to the Partition “reward” even though it was a non-Punjabi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who called it moth-eaten. The point of the Punjabi connection is also this. Punjab and Punjabis dominate Pakistan. With Punjabi terrorist groups operating in Kashmir, the Pakistan deep state has no fear that extra-Pakistani and pro-Kashmiri sentiments would come into play. Pakistani Punjabi terrorism is certain to uphold Pakistan state interests unfailingly.

State-sponsored terrorism of the sort Pakistan practices is similar to stateless terrorism of the ISIS or Al-Qaeda kind in one way. The training and the means employed for terror in both cases are not markedly different. Inculcation of fanaticism, hatred for the other, the provision of historical and ideological justifications for acts of extreme violence like suicide bombing and more are common. Stateless terrorism, however, seeks a state, a caliphate, an emirate or whatever else after a successful terror war. The ISIS was precocious to declare a caliphate but the Al-Qaeda, whatever of it is left, fights on for a state without explicitly saying so. State-sponsored terrorism, contrarily, has a basis in a state. It is a war prosecuted by a state by other means. Pakistani terrorism is territorial. It goes back to the Partition and marches ahead with every success obtained by its adversary, namely India, of which economic success is the most tormenting.

Stateless terrorism is obviously not so territorial although it might seek a territorial end like a caliphate. It is, however, stridently religio-political and definitely millenarianist. It defies geopolitics and geo-economics in ways that state-sponsored terrorism does not. For example, what is the logic of the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday attack? It was alien for Sri Lanka despite its bloody history of ethnic violence. The pieces of the puzzle fitted when a foreign hand was conjectured and then proven in the form of the ISIS. And, then, the Christchurch massacre seemed the most likely motive until the ISIS chief presumed dead appeared in a video to link Sri Lanka to the ISIS’s defeat in Syria by the “crusading” nations.

It is important to understand and maintain the difference between state-sponsored and stateless terrorism. There was an attempt during the Indian election campaign to conflate the terror attack in Sri Lanka with Pakistani terrorism in Kashmir and make the case for a police state. This is sophistry of the most dangerous kind. Pakistani terrorism begins and ends with the Pakistan state. There was no state sponsor of terrorism in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka attack has also lead to a curious broadside on wealth-creation. Rich businessmen were involved in the attack. But why should that taint wealth-creation? What’s the percentage of rich entrepreneurs in the world who are terrorists? Too miniscule to compute, one should think. Osama Bin Laden had a wealthy background but that is probably as exceptional as some of the wealthy Sri Lankan suicide bombers. Wealth does not provide particular immunity against insane ideologies. But the defenceless poor who are proportionately in large numbers (as in Pakistan) would be assuredly co-opted into a deep state’s terror agenda with negligible blandishments. The LeT and the Jaish, for example, have a large, well-oiled machinery for this: from cradle to grave as it were.

The point is stark. A police state is no solution to terrorism as some in India advocate. A normal state with its wealth-creation instincts intact has a better chance to fight terrorism than a so-called muscular nation mired in poverty. India is fighting a state sponsor of terrorism and not (at least not yet) a stateless terror entity. The two cannot and must not be confused as one and the same. Each of them requires different tools to neutralize. It is a further mistake to think that a liberal state is a weak state. On its own terms, India can -- and will -- overcome Pakistani terrorism. Illiberality is a cure equal to the disease.