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In his book, the author goes beyond the well-known by-lanes of the phenomenon and provides a tantalising glimpse of how the world is probably missing the wood for the trees in its fight against global terrorism.

Highlighting the changing nature of conflicts, the General provides a fresh perspective on dealing with the ‘disproportionality’ factor related to terrorist actions – as in Bali – whereby a small cell can force extraordinarily large deployments on nations responding to the terror. He goes on to show how national response patterns, ignoring several alternative strategies, still hover between retaliatory insufficiency and retaliatory overkill.

Delving into territory that has seldom been charted before by scholars and experts writing on the subject, Saighal’s novel approach is particularly discernible in his views on:

- Breaking the Definitional Impasse – that has eluded the comity of nations;

- Looking Beyond Iraq;
- Countering Suicide Missions;
- Future Projections to tackle the menace of global terrorism.

The book lucidly brings out that the civilisational jockeying for world dominance had commenced well before the hypothesis made famous by Samuel Huntington saw the light of day. Saighal’s book will have an impact on perspectives related to global terrorism as viewed by the UN, governments, diplomats, scholars, think tanks, military and intelligence experts and the general public around the world.

Vinod Saighal is the author of the internationally acclaimed books, Third Millennium Equipoise, Restructuring South Asian Security, and Restructuring Pakistan.



- Nul doute que votre ouvrage contribuera à une meilleure compréhension du phénomène du terrorisme, dans sa diversité et sa complexité. (There is no doubt that your book will contribute towards a better understanding of the phenomenon of terrorism, in its diversity as well as its complexity). (DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER).

- It is an in depth look at the causes, as well as solutions to the menace of terrorism. Well researched and thought provoking, the book is a must read for policy makers around the world. (BEN BOOTHE, ECONOMIC CONSULTANT (USA), GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE, SEPTEMBER 26, 2003).

- An interesting insight on terrorism and its various manifestations, it is an informative book on the subject and can provide useful data to researchers working in the area. (THE TRIBUNE, JUNE 15, 2003).

- He covers overall spectrum of terrorism, historical, psyche and philosophical, religious and technological aspects. He also evaluates the present trend and futuristic operational concepts of terrorism… And most importantly, the author has dealt with futuristic outlook to deal and combat terrorism. (THE HINDU, JULY 8, 2003).

- Some very controversial and hitherto unexplored aspects of terrorism have been discussed in part IV of the book. The lack of consensus on the definition of terrorism is one such aspect. The author is of the view that the impasse could be got over by constructing a shunt or by-pass. The author rightly suggests that if the specific elements of crime are recognized, much of the controversy and debate surrounding definitional impasse might be overcome. Another important, but not fully explored, aspect of terrorism, which manifests in stress to individuals and societies has been discussed in some detail… Major General Saighal has crafted a thought-provoking book. He has put across his arguments in a lucid style. One may not agree with many of his views, but the arguments are persuasive. Some of his predictions may turn out to be prescient. It is a book worth reading by all who want to understand the dynamics of jihad. (JOURNAL OF UNITED SERVICE INSTITUTION OF INDIA, VOL. CXXXIII, NO.552, APRIL-JUNE 2003).

- As Maj. Gen. Saighal writes, Afghanistan shows that it is technically possible “for a terrorist group to impose itself on a weak state and leverage that state as a base to carry out terrorist attacks on a foe far away”. (HIRANMAY KARLEKAR, IN THE PIONEER, MAY 30, 2003).

- In this insightful book, the author has put together every conceivable aspect related to global terrorism – conditions that give birth to it, the role of the media, measures for dealing with the menace. In a refreshing departure from the usual style of defence officials who tend to deal only with the security related aspects of every subject, Saighal describes the effect terrorism has on the civilian population. (THE PIONEER, JUNE 29, 2003).

- An informative and thought-provoking exercise, this book concludes, as noted earlier, with a plea to humanize and democratize both the approach to tackling global terrorism and societal imbalances which continue to proliferate intolerance and revenge and, consequently, acts of terrorism. (MAINSTREAM, MAY 10, 2003).

- Vinod Saighal has done yeoman service for the thinking class worldwide and hopefully for leaders in power or those waiting in the wings to get provoked enough to kick-start a difficult but highly necessary mission of peaceful coexistence. (WORLD AFFAIRS, VOL 7 NO 3, JULY-SEPTEMBER 2003).

- Adapted for the World Politics class (PSCI 240) course for the fall of 2003-2004, Regina University, Saskatchewan, Canada.

- Interviewed by the BBC in London on 16 September 2003 on different facets of the book.

- Saighal says while fighting global terrorism, it has to be kept in mind that in the present day, terrorists have access to technologies whose destructive power is of a kind that was available only to organized states or the larger state-sponsored terrorist organisations. “Unless there is an immediate, drastic scaling down of the globally destructive weapons spiral at the top, it would become well nigh impossible to prevent a corresponding increase at all other levels. The motive force of the destructive spiral of violence on the planet is ‘top down’ and not ‘bottom up’.” (PTI, New Delhi December 25, 2003).



Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward by Major General (retd.) Vinod Saighal; Sterling Publishers, New Delhi: pages 398; 2003 price: Rs.600/- (Hardbound)

This no-nonsense tough-talking volume ends on a rather unexpected note: the author draws the conclusion on an inherently violent subject with the holistic view that reverence and admiration for the beliefs of others will have to be inculcated from childhood. “Those sects which jealously build their boundaries with too rigid creeds excluding all spontaneous movement of the living spirit may hoard their theology but they kill religion,” he quotes Rabindranath Tagore to underline his approach.

Throughout, the text is rich in knowledge, analysis and prognosis; in the process, the good General treads on a number of corns bringing discomfort to many. The most hard-hitting of these is his assessment that a civilisational clash is indeed in the making. There are many a mention; one or two will do for the present… if a major civilisational clash is not avoided, he says, and it is turning out to be a clash on that scale, “whatever people might say”; elsewhere, while he asserts that the clash of civilizations is being deliberately provoked by Islamists in many parts of the world, he also notes that … the Quran has nothing to do with it. The fight is for political assertion within their countries and global domination as part of a pan-Islamic movement.

One cannot agree more with him when General Saighal says that the process of change in Muslim societies that have regressed into orthodoxy can only come through the reinvigoration of the democratic process in closed Muslim societies. And that the clash of civilizations has to be prevented not so much by the force of arms as through the minds of men. Tragically, he points out, while not calling it a clash of civilizations, the policies being followed by the US and its allies could lead headlong into one.

Divided into five parts, the book plunges straightaway into the links between Islam and global terrorism, noting in the process that terror in the form of Islamic jihad, regardless of whether it constitutes a clash of civilizations or not, is going to be a part of the global milieu for some time to come. He identifies as the biggest challenge for societies subjected to terrorism the task of preventing their own transformation in the process of fighting global terror to something resembling the closed societies that visited terror upon them. When one looks at the virtual paranoia that appears to have set in the US in the name of protecting homeland security, one wonders if there would be any takers for the General’s sane advice.

The author is obviously not one of those who believe that Islamic fundamentalism is restricted to a numerically insignificant number. He argues that while this could be true only up to a point, the point to note is that the ruling establishments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had played a part in the spread of “anti-modern orthodoxy”. The activities of Islamic fundamentalism were state-sponsored, he says, with the majority of the population “alive to what was going on”. Very unpalatable a view indeed, but shooting straight from the shoulder occurs throughout the book.

UNDERSTANDABLY, Pakistan receives a particularly penetrating treatment, and in fact, the chapter devoted to it is called “Pakistan—the Epicentre of Global Terror”. In this chapter, the author makes a startling accusation, namely, that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan were “the real masterminds of the (September 11) attacks”. The attacks, he argues, could not have been mounted without the support of Pakistani missions in several countries and support of ISI assets around the world, especially in the Middle East, US and Europe. The author was obviously fairly convinced of the acceptability of his view before he decided to put it in writing.

Apparently aligned with this view is the further assertion that neither the Taliban chief, Mullah Omar, nor Osama bin Laden was in the know of the details of the September 11 attacks on the US. Unfortunately, the author does not tell us the source of his knowledge, which detracts from the acceptability of the two unconventional claims.

In an interesting and totally credible analysis of the situation in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, he examines the various factors that could conceivably lead to a resurrection of the extreme fundamentalist group, such as, Pakistani meddling, future American policies and their goals in Central Asia and Pakistan, likely Russian moves and Chinese intentions, and the extent of Indian involvement and developments in Central Asia.

The author examines US policies in the context of the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and global terrorism and notes, inter alia, that within the ambit of the irregular warfare, undertaken by the US against the erstwhile Soviet Union during the Cold War period, must be included the training of radical Islamic groups in concert with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, even before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. One may mention the theory that the Soviet Union was manoeuvred into invading Afghanistan by the successful implementation of this particular US policy.

The catholicity of the author’s views is likely to be reaffirmed by the aftermath of the American-British war in Iraq, for while discussing the “unfettered” unilateralism being practiced by Washington, he cautions that unless a global mechanism is formed to assess the credibility or admissibility of the unilateral formulations of the US, such as, the designation of “rogue states” and “states sponsoring terrorism”, global terrorism of the Al-Qaeda variety could be given a new lease of life. This is precisely what the whole world apprehends today. For a good measure, this book takes a look at the US’ own record of promoting terrorism in various countries as well as its equally unacceptable unilateralism in violating the national sovereignty of other countries. Quite logically too, it notes the US opposition to the International Criminal Court and the international conventions on biological weapons.

Arguing that the doctrine of hot pre-emption is being slowly but surely legitimized by the US, the author says that the world community must now seek answers to questions—such as, hot pre-emption against whom? in what forms? up to what limits?—and notes that the global implications of hot preemption should be examined closely.

An informative and thought-provoking exercise, this book concludes, as noted earlier, with a plea to humanize and democratize both the approach to tackling global terrorism and societal imbalances which continue to proliferate intolerance and revenge and, consequently, acts of terrorism.

Maj. Gen. (retd) Vinod Saighal
New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Ltd: 2003, 398pp. Rs.600/-

Reviewed by Lt. Gen (retd) K.S. Khajuria

Terrorism today has become a major destabilizing factor in the world. It has affected the lives of all humanity in some form or the other and hardly a day passes when some manifestation is not reported in some part of the world. For a variety of reasons some geographical areas have become more prone than others. Governance factors have resulted in the spread of terrorism due to disaffection of communities or through religious divides. The time, effort and money being spent on trying to control and check terrorism is so vast that were this to be diverted to alleviating poverty worldwide the problem could be resolved within a few years.

Use of terror as a weapon is not a new phenomenon. It is age old. Even Raja Kans, after hearing the prophecy that his sister’s son would be his destroyer ordered the killing of numerous daughters that Devaki gave birth to, to stop her from producing a son. It terrorized the couple but did not succeed in deterring them. Even the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans was an act of terror to send a message to the population; and once again it did not work. History the world over is replete with instances, which were meant to terrorise.

The sophistication and the use of terror even as state policy has shown great progress post-World War II. Vinod Saighal has only made mention of one case – that of Mossadeq of Iran - but there are countless others such as Allende, Thieu, attempts on Fidel Castro, bombing of Gaddafi’s palace to name but a few that point very straight fingers to the method as also to it being state sponsored. In the subcontinent and its environs assassinations have played a strong and dubious role in creating uncertainty, if not terror. Liaqat Ali Khan and Zia in Pakistan, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira and Rajiv in India, U Aung San in Myanmar, Mujeed in Bangladesh, in Sri Lanka a dozen or more including Premadassa, and many more. In India the removal of a prime minister and an ex-prime minister who was probably a future prime minister to be, wrought havoc with the leadership issue. In Rajiv Gandhi's assassination a charismatic leader, who was young and had the ability to galvanize the nation was lost to the country.

But 9/11 was the ultimate eye-opener. In his book General Saighal has asked a very pertinent question. Had 9/11 not been perpetrated the jehadi movement and specifically the al-Qaeda and the Taliban would not have drawn the attention that they did and the strong and brutal response thereafter. He has a strong point in this, but there can be another side to it - that 9/11 was the result of perceived or actual feeling of partial and biased American stance against Islamic peoples and nations – one which allowed Israel to break all rules of human behaviour against the Palestinians and the generalized thrust, which was anti-Islamic, specifically in the Middle East and West Asia. This by itself is worthy of deeper analysis.

The word American is deliberately used to make a point here – the American as a person and Americans as people are warm-hearted like our own people from the Punjab – ready to smile and clasp each other in warm embrace. But when it comes to the state department the defense department and big money corporations and the politicians on their payrolls the story is different. This is the real ‘axis of evil’ which in turn is spawning what the same people are terming as the ‘axis of evil’ elsewhere in the world. The 9/11 happening was a brutal shock by its sheer magnitude and which initially gave the feeling of deep shock that tens of thousands must have been killed. That luckily was not so, but even the figure of 3000 odd is in itself huge. Yet, on sober thought there was the lingering feeling that ‘terrorism has come home to roost’. The book has covered 9/11 comprehensively.

The comity of nations in this world forms a delicate balance of great extremes – just like nature. There is so much of interdependence that the delicate balance can very easily be turned topsy-turvy by insensitive behaviour and actions. The ruthless exploitation of the world’s eco-systems – be they the forests, the animals, the sea life, the reserves of hydrocarbons, minerals, the excessive use of oxygen depleting agents and so many others that mankind has indulged in for the last couple of hundred years and more so in the 20th century have put a burden that is being felt universally. Similarly, the growth in the poverty of the poor, the riches of the rich and the growing intolerance of each other in the very being as also in religious or political beliefs have severely strained human relationships.

Vinod Saighal in this quite philosophical book has touched on these issues and drawn not just conclusions but also provides clues to solutions. That the life of one citizen of one nation is more important than the means of livelihood of hundreds of thousands of another nation is not only incomprehensible, but downright repugnant. The fact that there are nations or leaders of nations who take sides and line up behind one or the other view and call it the beckoning of national interest defies humanitarian logic. And Saighal has rightly pointed in this direction throughout his book – be it while dealing with issues of religion, territories, outcome of power plays, trade and globalisation, clash of civilisations theory, the causative manifestations, and the future of terror and its ism.

Perhaps somewhere in the very vast canvas that he has attempted to cover he has over-emphasized the connection between terrorism and Islamic jehad. It may be true that most terrorists today are with Islamic identity and background, but it is equally true that Islam has also suffered from terrorism like everybody else. Terrorism has had the Red Brigade, Baader Meinhoff gang, gangs supporting drug cartels, Khalistanis and so many more in all parts of the world. Some succeeded and faded away, others were eliminated, and new ones have arisen in some shape or form.

Today the jehadi movement from Islam has everybody’s attention. To that extent Islam gets dragged into the ambit of terrorism. Yet Islam also has a glorious history of arts, architecture, literature - and civilisational. It is also true that the spread of Islam per se was on the edge of the sword and that has left two indelible imprints – the first for Islam, the glory of its past; and for others, the memory of the sword. These have to be lived with, as there is no other choice. The choice, if any, is to accept the religion for what it is and to take it into the fold of the best of the humankind. To isolate and to attempt to persecute it would be counterproductive and tantamount to forcing the revival of the “edge of the sword” syndrome. If peace and prosperity are what the whole world is looking for then the means to achieve that are not in the use of force or terror.

The United Nations as a world body has had nearly six decades of eventful existence. It has played the role that its founding manifesto seeded for it. There have been successes and like everything dynamic setbacks also. It has also become a vast bureaucratic setup with its own problems, which are endemic to all bureaucracies. There can be no doubt that allowed to function as per its charter the United Nations Organization has a very important role in the future, particularly so when due to great strides in modernization and harnessing of hitherto unheard of technology to serve mankind grand vistas have opened up. However, all evolutionary trends also produce overpowering desires to control them and therefore produce manipulative tendencies.

The UN is also increasingly becoming susceptible to such attempts. The selection of the Secretary General is a case in point in the past decade. Suitability of the candidate becomes a case of acceptability by the big players. Clearing of dues, which had been rightly worked out on pro rata basis for nations are held up due to unhappiness caused by non-pliability and non-conformance to dictates.

General Vinod Saighal has made a very strong case throughout his book for the strengthening of the United Nations organization and for a much more productive and effective role for the Secretary General. In fact, this had been Saighal’s thrust in his earlier writings starting with that extremely well written and thought-provoking book, Third Millennium Equipoise. He has made many suggestions for setting up of committees to monitor and oversee the functioning of measures to counter terrorism worldwide and in specific states, which have become soft on this scourge. There is even the suggestion that the UN and the Secretary General be given the authority to take/authorize action against non-conforming states. His arguments are forceful and convincing.

However, there is a major dichotomy in having UN sponsored or backed consensus on the methodology of dealing with terrorism in its many manifestations around the world and in having the ability to deal with it in a manner that would spell an end to it. Dealing with terrorism and its elimination perforce will need a military operation, which is both strong enough and all encompassing in nature. If a world body sanctioned operation is thought of and planned, the composition of the force, its weaponry and more importantly the command and control structure would be a very difficult one to fabricate. On the other hand if the responsibility is by consensus handed over to a nation or a small group of nations then its overall control would also obviously be in their hands. This would lead to a situation when the UN or the Security Council control would become not only difficult, perhaps impossible. The will of the controlling nation/nations would override every other consideration. This in turn would strongly lead towards fractionalisation of the original consensus that had authorized such a contingency.

The unfolding macabre drama over the issue of war against Iraq or the need for a peaceful solution to disarm that nation of weapons of mass destruction is a case study for the future relevance of the United Nations. The media having become so vast and widespread the TV has been showing top leaders and their spokespersons around the world making statements of all hues and shades. Most of them are blatant and unconvincing regarding their veracity or truth. The body language and the repetitiveness does not convey credibility. By uttering the name of Saddam Hussein 30 times in a five minute statement it conveys the impression of the speaker trying to convince himself that what he is saying is true and hoping that those who are listening will accept it as such. Then to claim that this is being said on behalf of the world is preposterous to say the least. The direct threat that the approval of the Security Council to launch a war is only a minor hurdle, which can be ignored and war launched puts a direct strain on the relevance of the United Nations organization. As the UN is a world body and belongs to and represents the will of over six billion people its misuse/abuse by 350 million or one-twentieth or 5 percent (if that many at all) needs being addressed as fairly and squarely as is possible.

General Saighal has written a highly thought-provoking book on a vexing issue in a very readable style. At times he has been philosophical in dealing with “The Way Forward” aspect of the book. There is always a gap between what is desirable and what can be done. When the word ‘fundamentalism’ gets linked to religion it becomes an explosive issue. Add to that the views of radical thinkers or opportunists and the situation can get to be dangerous. Saighal notes a warning through the deep rooted radical Islamists’ view of spreading Islam by all means and specifically by force and coercion - as happened in the earlier period of the rapid spread of Islam.

He also suggests a UN Secretary General/UNESCO sponsored conclave to look into the role of religion and religious charities and a comprehensive dialogue between civilizations to arrive at a global consensus which points towards peaceful coexistence and divorcing religion from politics. It is unfortunate that the trend in the world today is exactly the opposite.

There can be no better example of this than what we are witnessing in our own country today. Even while enjoying all the benefits of modern technology and asking/striving for more there is an increase of rabble housing obscurantist who would like society to crawl backwards and what better weapon than “religion in danger” from non-believers. If India’s 850 million majority starts fearing minorities who are 180 million and we as a nation are doing nothing about it other than allowing the venom to spread then we need to also ponder if the world can start curing itself of more dangerous ills through bodies like the United Nations.

Vinod Saighal has done yeoman service for the thinking class worldwide and hopefully for leaders in power or those waiting in the wings to get provoked enough to kick-start a difficult but highly necessary mission of peaceful coexistence.

Maj. Gen. (retd) Vinod Saighal
New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Ltd: 2003, 398pp. Rs.600/-

(THE HINDU, Tuesday, July 08, 2003 pg.17)

War without fronts THE WORD "terrorism" has so insidiously worked its ways into our everyday vocabulary and perhaps become an indispensable part of the argot of the present day world. The terrorist act of 9/11 has opened a new dimension of threat to nation-states from non-state entity. While various changes that are being debated by the analysts, the newest face of warfare seeks to answer the question whether terrorism is a form of war? In many ways, the current face of terrorism appears to be a form of a new war. Perhaps, the first global war of the new century without fronts.

Paradoxically this new form of war has all the strategic ingredients like surprise, stealthy manoeuvre, operational decisiveness, and skilful execution, global network, blend with the hi-tech systems and human intelligence. This kind of threat of war has come to the heartland of nation-state declared by the invisible adversary. These events have thrown a discussion about redefining national and international security.

Contours of global security environment are rapidly changing. Accordingly, the security agenda of many nation-states have also undergone changes. The events of last two years have taught terrible lessons. No country on this globe is immune against the scourge of modern terrorism. Even a mighty army, good relations with neighbours or vast oceans have failed to protect our cities and citizens from these terrorist attacks.

Today, terrorism is not seen as a monolithic threat, the menace is being seen and analysed from various angles like religious, ethnic, ideological, political and military terrorism often with state sponsored orientation. It is in this context, that Maj. Gen. Vinod Saighal deserves compliments for having worked on such a contemporary subject. He covers overall spectrum of terrorism, historical, psyche, and philosophical, religious and technological aspects. He also evaluates the present trend and futuristic operational concepts of terrorism.

The importance of this book is based on several factors. First, it provides substantive evidence to confirm the widely held belief that terrorism — or at least some type of it — is indeed a form of war. Secondly, he traces the roots of terrorism in Islam and calls it as "globalisation of jehad", an outline of new warrior class equipped with hi-tech systems i.e., "techno-jehadis". Thirdly, he deals with collateral ramifications in relation to nuclear terror issues and the role of the UN. And most importantly, the author has dealt with futuristic outlook to deal and combat terrorism. He feels that radical Islam was well on its way to become a global power player prior to 9/11. This was possible due to monopoly marketing of hydrocarbon wealth of the region and narco-trafficking network. These militants would have acquired nuclear weapons and delivery systems and militant Islam would have developed a global reach to challenge the world order. He has also taken note of investigative journalism for the last 12 years that has revealed a frightening pattern of the push of the radical Islam.

The author is critical of the US military intervention in Afghanistan to fight against terrorism under Article 51 of the UN Charter. He feels that the "poorest nation of the world was repeatedly hit by the most powerful country of the world for months". This could also set the tone for new conflicts in the 21st century. He has dealt with fairly on nuclear aspects of global terrorism, and an impressive statistics has been given to prove his points.

The role of the U.S., Russia and China in this game makes an interesting reading. He has resorted to severe "American bashing" in the book. It is evident in almost every topic and chapter, he tries to portray the U.S. as the villain. Some of his arguments supported by appropriate data may convince the incomplete political observers, but to knowledgeable readers it gives an impression of new-fashioned anti-American bias.

Terrorism as a violent act is concerned specifically to attract attention and through publicity it generates to communicate the message — "there is no way for us". Hence, it serves as oxygen for terrorist organisations.

The author has made a brief mention of media and its manipulations by the West, especially Anglo-American media bias. He also suggests for a global media agency as an independent body under the U.N. for impartial flow of information.

The phenomenon of terrorism has been around the world for decades. However, the developments over the past two years have brought focussed attention to the centre stage of international strategic environment.

The threat of state-sponsored terrorism is being recognised rather slowly and steps are initiated to combat the menace. It is widely accepted that the threat of terrorism can only be effectively tackled through a comprehensive global strategy. It will be impossible for the international community to evolve a successful strategy to combat terrorism without first arriving at an internationally and universally accepted definition of the term.

The author discusses at length about the definitional ambiguity of terrorism and the draft of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism mooted in 1996 and the politics behind the failure of its acceptance.

Even though combating international terrorism has now been placed at the top of global security agenda, lack of a consensus on a universally applicable definition of terrorism would still be considered a major lacuna in the struggle against international terrorism.

Wide usage of semantics, plenty of examples and a large number of questions raised by the author all through the book make it an interesting reading.

The book has provided impressive statistics. While a comprehensive indexing has been attempted, lack of bibliographical references leaves a question mark on a good piece of work.

It would be wrong to suggest that this book is an exhaustive study of military aspects of terrorism; it is the hope of the author that it is at least a step towards closing the academic gap. This book serves to stimulate further study and research on the subject of terrorism.

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