A ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy is not adequate to combat the threat of global jihad against India. It is vital for India to ensure that the IS is unable to spread its tentacles and influence in the Afghan-Pakistan region
It has been widely reported in the American media that the Islamic State has a grand design of uniting the numerous Afghan and Pakistan terrorist groups to forge a new ‘army of terror’ based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and to trigger a war in India to provoke the US. The revelation is based on a 32-page document in Urdu that talks about the future battle plans of the IS in pursuance of its ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate, a common goal of all globaljihadi terror outfits. It urges the Ummah, the entire global Muslim community, to recognise the Islamic State’s head Baghdadi as the sole ruler of the world’s Muslims under a religious empire ‘caliphate’.
It also reveals its focus on armed uprisings in the Arab world. The document reveals that preparations for an attack in India are in full swing and terms it as a “final battle” leading to the victory of good over evil, something similar to the Ghazwa-e-Hind announced earlier by the Al Qaeda and supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Al Qaeda also released a video titled ‘War must continue, a message to the Muslims of Kashmir’, late last year.
The Government of India has acknowledged the growing threat of radicalisation of the Muslim youth and they, being motivated by the IS ideology. A Home Ministry official said, “Attraction towards radical ideology of any religion is a matter of concern.” The Government maintains that the appeal of the IS in India is confined to a few radicalised youth from the minority community and there is no direct threat from the organisation. Also, the Government has decided to put in place a strategy of ‘counter radicalisation’ for de-radicalisation of the youths, attracted by the idea of jihad, to combat the IS threat in India. National Conference president Farooq Abdullah has termed the waving of IS flags in Kashmir as “a mere expression of anger and frustration by the youth who want to wake up the nation”. Is the IS threat to India so trivial or is it time to wake up and smell the coffee?
Frederick W Kagan, a renowned American expert, has described the IS threat as “the greatest evil of our time that has taken its root in Iraq and Syria”. He adds, “The IS is not a terrorist organisation. It is an army of conquest that is destroying all traces of civilisation in the lands it holds. It slaughters innocent civilians. It loots ancient sites for profit and demolishes what it cannot steal. It has declared its intent to conduct genocide against all Shia Muslims and follows through whenever it can. It has re-established slavery and distributes captives as property among its troops and allies. It encourages its soldiers to rape, including through forced ‘marriage’, women who fall into its hands. It boasts of the most brutal methods of murdering its hostages.” Mr Kagan has aptly summed up the medieval outlook and thought process of the dreaded outfit.
According to the IS, anybody who does not subscribe to its interpretation of Islam is not a Muslim and needs to be killed. The IS is the richest terrorist organisation in the world. It occupies swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria (equal to the size of Jordan) and runs its own Government. It possesses oil wealth, generates revenue and imposes taxes on non-Muslims. It’s a state of non-state actors. It is best poised for the re-establishment of a caliphate. It has no dearth of recruits, both domestic as well as global. Its core cadre of fighters comprises erstwhile Sunni tribal groups, Baathists officers and soldiers who are well-trained. It has sophisticated war-fighting machinery. The IS has mastered the use of social media and uses it effectively to not only spread its ideology but for brainwashing and radicalising the young minds to motivate them for jihad.
It also uses social media for international scouting of fighters. The IS also exports terror to the civilised world through the return of thousands of indoctrinated, trained and battle-hardened fighters to their respective home lands.
India has been on the radar- screen of globaljihadist, Sunni-Islamist terror outfits since a long time. Though the IS rose to prominence only a just more than a year back, it has been focusing on India since the very beginning. Khalifah Ibrahim alias Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his message at the eve of holy month of Ramzan last year released a list of ‘enemies of Islam’ nations and India figured in the list. In his message, he commanded the Muslims to revolt against the Government and wage a holyjihad. Parts of North-West India were included in the map of the proposed caliph.
A number of Indians were motivated to join the IS ranks and were reported to be fighting alongside the IS in Syria. The IS further renewed its effort in India by translating online training literature in three Indian languages. It considers India as a fertile ground for recruitment. Recently, a group of Indians was detained before it could fly out to join the IS. Some of the Indian fighters are also reported to have died in Syria. Those who are alive, can be used to join the proposed ‘army of terror’ to fight in India.
The death of Mullah Omar has minimised the challenge posed to the IS by the Afghan Taliban. Many factions ofjihadists in the Afghan-Pakistan region have already announced their loyalty to the IS. Al Qaeda is also facing a severe financial as well as manpower crisis. The launch of the Al Qaeda in the Indian Sub-continent with much fanfare has turned out to be a damp squib. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS supremo, has no rival to his self-proclaimed title of Khalifah (Caliph) after the death of Mullah Omar. The stage is set for the IS to move into Afghanistan and to form the ‘army of terror’ to launch the ‘final battle’ in India.
A ‘counter-radicalisation’ strategy may to some extent be capable of preventing radicalisation and alienation of the minority community youth, but is it adequate to combat the threat of globaljihad against India? The physical threat to India from the IS may manifest only after it is able to firm up in the Afghan-Pakistan region. It is critical for India to ensure that the IS is unable to spread its tentacles and influence in this region. With the ground situation in its favour, Baghdadi will soon try to wrest the initiative in Afghanistan. It will attempt to coerce or lure Pakistan’s ISI to join the bandwagon.
To this, include the ISI’s plan to extend the arc of terror and revive Sikh militancy. Recent terrorist acts at Dinanagar, Udhampur and Basantgarh, and renewed violence in the Kashmir valley, are enough indicators of its intent. If the IS and the ISI join hands, globaljihad, led by the IS and fully supported logistically by the ISI, will be at our doorstep. India has to prepare itself to meet this threat. It requires a matching counter-strategy formulated by professionals who have ground experience and not by arm-chair bound bureaucrats. India needs a separate Ministry of Homeland/Internal Security by clipping the Ministry of Home Affairs.
(The writer is a retired Army officer and security and strategic affairs analyst)