(Adds India foreign ministry comment)
By Rina Chandran
MUMBAI Jan 15 British Foreign Secretary David
Miliband called on Thursday for a rethink of the strategy
against terrorism, saying the notion of a "war on terror" was
misleading and mistaken in present times.
Miliband's comments, days before U.S. President George W.
Bush hands the keys to the White House to President-elect
Barack Obama, implicitly criticised aspects of the strategy
launched by Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities in
Miliband, who is winding down a three-day visit to India,
said the motivations and identities of militant groups ranging
from the Taliban to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, blamed for the Mumbai
attacks that killed 179 people, called for a different
"As you know and I know, terrorism was not invented or
started on 9/11. But since then, the notion of a "war on
terror" has defined the terrain," said Miliband at the Taj
Mahal hotel, the site of a 60-hour siege in November.
"The phrase had some merit: it captured the gravity of the
threats we faced, the need for solidarity amongst allies, and
the need to respond urgently -- and where necessary, with
But for a couple of years now, the British government has
used neither "the idea nor the phrase", he said, because
ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken.
Britain, under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, was
America's closest ally in military anti-terrorism operations
but the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein split
Europe and caused a backlash against Blair in Britain.
Britain is set to withdraw most of its remaining troops
from Iraq this year but still has more than 8,000 troops in
Afghanistan, invaded by U.S.-led forces after Sept. 11 to root
out al Qaeda insurgents and their Taliban protectors.
"The issue is not whether we need to attack the use of
terror at its roots, with all the tools available. We must. The
question is how we best do so," he said, after meeting some of
the hotel's staff who shielded and saved guests during the
RULE OF LAW
The idea of a "war on terror" gave the impression of a
unified, transnational enemy, embodied in al Qaeda and its
leader Osama bin Laden, Miliband said, when in fact militant
groups were diverse and had wide-ranging motivations.
The global threat from extremism was also more real today
because technology enables militants to connect more easily.
Today's terrorist groups need to be "exposed and tackled at
root, interdicting flows of weapons and financing", he said.
A "war on terror" also implied the correct response was
primarily military, he said.
"But as (U.S.) General (David) Petraeus said to me and
others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out
of the problems of insurgency and civil strife," he said.
While a "war on terror" was a call to arms and an attempt
to build solidarity by taking on a single shared enemy, the
foundation for solidarity between nations must be based not on
"who we are against ... but who we are and the values we
Countries must respond to terrorism by "championing the
rule of law, not subordinating it", he said, adding India's
standing in the 21st century is based not on its population or
economic growth, but in the idea that it is the world's largest
Democratic governments, wrestling with striking the right
balance between protecting its citizens and preserving civil
liberties, also must be alive to the impact of
counter-terrorism strategies on minorities, Miliband said.
The best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term
was cooperation, Miliband said, adding he would tell Pakistan's
government later this week on his visit to Islamabad it must
take urgent action to break up militant networks on its soil.
"But ultimately this is a journey only India and Pakistan
can make," he said.
India's foreign ministry, in response to Miliband's opinion
piece for the Guardian newspaper, where he wrote that
"resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny
extremists one of their main calls to arms", said in a
statement it did not need unsolicited advice on its "internal
(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft in LONDON; Editing by