The efforts to establish IS modules nationwide with much emphasis on communally fragile states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand and Andhra Pradesh. This is potentially extremely dangerous as Daesh is unlikely to await full blown capability before demonstration of its reach and levels of penetration
Strange things happen in the world of transnational terrorism. Since December 2008 Bharateeya intelligence agencies have virtually kept the nation free of major terror strikes through timely intelligence and assistance in implementation of counter terror operations. However in recent weeks a resurgence of Islamic terror appears evident. Not necessarily linked to the Pathankot strike by elements sponsored from across the border but a separate thread of terror activities linked with Islamic State (Daesh), appears becoming evident. This is important to review in the light of the fact that most analysis, including my earlier ones, had discounted the feasibility of early inroads by Daesh into Bharat. Sporadic cases of support through social media had come to light and some had attempted to escape the shores of the nation to become a part of Daesh. However, given Bharat’s successful integration of Muslims, the past failure of the al-Qaida to make inroads into recruitment or involvement in anti-national activities and the absence of links between Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and Daesh, all appeared to point towards relative potential failure of Daesh to shift its focus in any decided way towards Bharat. Yet, from online motivation and technical support the threat appears to have moved on to the creation of terror modules on the pattern that Indian Mujahideen had conceptualised. 14 young Muslims across the country have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in activity linked to Daesh. Handlers of the same are all believed to be in the West Asia.
There is no doubt that Daesh considers much of Bharateeya territory as being a part of Khorasan which it wishes to recapture as part of the Ghazwa-e-Hind campaign (the campaign/battle for Hind or Bharat). The concept which Daesh has followed elsewhere is to establish reliable surrogates with full loyalty and extend moral support to them under the pan Salafi flag; Somalia, Sudan, Sinai, Libya and Nigeria are all a part of Daesh’s expansion plans where it is nurturing situations to obtain full scale support in future. While examining Bangladesh’s situation there prevailed a western perception that Bangladesh was likely to go under and Daesh has already commenced the fires. I discounted this theory on grounds that Daesh will not wish to expand beyond a ‘limit’ because that would severely affect its ability to sustain the campaign. That limit was appreciated to be Afghanistan.
With the busting of the module which was attempting to target the Magh Mela at Haridwar the theory of ‘limits in the Daesh strategy’ seems to be belied. It also appears that the efforts to establish modules nation wide with much emphasis on communally fragile states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand and Andhra Pradesh. This is potentially extremely dangerous as Daesh is unlikely to await full blown capability before demonstration of its reach and levels of penetration. The problem is therefore right there and it’s upon us upfront; denying it will only limit our capability to act against it and to secure ourselves.
Bharat’s 180 million Muslims is decidedly the most peaceful segment of that faith anywhere in the world. Yet it is only a miniscule number of radically affected ones who are sufficient for Daesh to seed greater radical belief and spread mayhem. Daesh’s strategy is the spread of turbulence and chaos through society in order to reform it on Islamic lines. Even more important than that is the short term strategy of making its presence and outreach felt universally especially in what it may perceive as fragile zones where diverse communities exist. To counter both strategies it is necessary to strengthen intelligence particularly in the technical field because much of the pickups will emerge from communications through social media or just the Internet. We need deep data mining capability of a higher order and for that our software industry needs to rise to the occasion because shared technology from abroad will always be less than optimum in quality. There is a need to penetrate the minority pockets taking care that this has to be done with refined techniques of surveillance both technical and human to obtain early signs of emerging modules. While radicalisation itself is a threat, it is the manifestation into execution capability which overrides the issue of radical ideology. Counter radicalisation which the government has already undertaken is a long term strategy and must continue with imaginative techniques information on which must be shared and cooperation established with other nations suffering from the problem. Indonesia is one such country with whom such cooperation is essential.
Perhaps the most important element of nipping radicalisation and returning affected youth to the path of moderation is the role of the clergy. Bharat’s Muslim clergy has come out strongly with messages against Daesh but the occasions this has happened are infrequent. We need a robust spread of information about how the clergy frowns upon this and considers it unIslamic. This means more frequent utterances at Friday prayers especially at the closed door ones in walled city areas where the minority community exists in large clusters. Members of the clergy are usually reluctant to step out and take initiative fearing ostracisation by more rabid and radical elements within. They have to be encouraged and motivated to do so. The media’s cooperation is also essential as the victim status of affected elements is easily thrown up which has to be resisted.
From IT to Terror Hub
Bengaluru has had a special place in the map of Bharat and from the past two decades, even of the world. However, Bengaluru, with such huge urban agglomeration has its set of woes to this list of post-modern woes, terrorism has unfortunately crept in.
Measures to counter Daesh influence and control will necessarily be sensitive and it is easy for anti-national elements to seize moments to paint the actions of intelligence agencies as anti minority. This is where the political angle emerges and it is Bharat’s political maturity and experience of democracy which must come the fore. Encouragement to patriotic members of the community, creation of role models and projection of the freedom enjoyed under our system need to be projected without allowing minority or majority bashing by political elements. The element of national interest involved in securing the minority community from being influenced by extraneous ideology, which is alien to Bharat’s established norms of respect for diversity, has to be brought forth without political coloring.
Ultras’ hit Arunachal Politics Again
“Arunachal politicians are in touch with the rebel group, NSCN (Isaac-Muivah)”– thus, read few media reports in December, 2015 when political crisis was peaking in the frontier state. However, on January 28, 2016 with national dailies accessing the Governor’s report recommending the President’s Rule, this time around, the culprit has been identified as the former Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.
The Daesh threat is real and it is live. However, it is still in nascent stages. Daesh itself is running low on finances after the targeting of its energy networks; it has recently halved the payments it makes to its fighters. Our intelligence agencies need to be alive to the ways of financial conduits spinning webs and must endeavour to be a part of international efforts towards preventing their proliferation. The drugs and narcotics networks will make efforts to assist Daesh in its efforts to move its area of operations to lucrative zones where it perceives existence of disaffected Muslims. Bharat’s Muslim community does not fit that bill and that projection needs to be made very clear through very deliberate and visible actions both by community leaders and the Government.
There is no counter measure as strong as education. It must be made evident to Bharat’s Muslim community that it exists in one of the most harmonious conditions and that ideologies such as that of Daesh can only upset that state of harmony. Chaos and turbulence being synonymous with Daesh ideology is not synchronous with interests of a community which continues to progressively improve the lot of its members. This education has to be delivered through outreach to the community and not to the youth alone.
Lastly, what is missing is an apex level organisation which can advise the government from time to time on how to manage perception and psychologically secure our communities. The Government must consider this suggestion made many times over that a body of eminent and experience people with diverse backgrounds must come together to advise it on how to handle such issues as communal disharmony, threats to integrity and radicalisation.
Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (The writer is an ex-GOC of the Srinagar based IS Corps)