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Fighting Terrorism: Need for Constant Vigil

It is assuring to learn that the National Democratic Alliance government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is fully determined to combat jihadi terror the country has been confronted with since long. Addressing the 49th Annual Conference of Directors-General of Police and Inspectors-General of Police and heads of Central Police Organisations in Guwahati in November, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the current dispensation would not allow any international terror outfit to gain foothold in India.  

Minister Singh said, "The al-Qaida has formed a new wing called Qaida-al-Jihad for the Indian sub-continent with the intention to bring Bangladesh, parts of Assam, Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir under one Islamic sub-continent.” He assured that the Government was “not taking the threats lightly” and the “capabilities” of the security forces would “keep the country safe.” The home minister also hoped that Indian "society will stand united and al-Qaida will not succeed in its designs.''  Touching upon the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, he said “the Indian sub-continent cannot remain untouched by this menace… It is also a matter of concern that some Indian youth have been attracted to the ISIS. But the government is committed to checking it."

Earlier, at The Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Minister Rajnath Singh indicated the Government was taking all appropriate action against the external source of terrorism.  He said: “Terrorism here is not home-grown. It is externally aided. Pakistan blames non-state actors for it. I ask them whether the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is a non-state actor. If anyone is fully helping terrorists, it is the ISI…. They have not effectively acted on our request to hand over culprits (Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed and mafia don Dawood Ibrahim) who planned the 26/11 attack on Mumbai [in 2008].”

Knowledgeable sources say there have of late been some other developments as well that strengthen India’s fight against terror. The ISIS has in the recent years recruited young Europeans and British nationals through different means, including the Internet. At least 400 of the approximately 15,000 foreign IS fighters today are from the United Kingdom. The number of teenage girls and women travelling abroad as “IS brides” from Britain is growing. ISIS has recruited jihadists also in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Now the United States and allies seem to be sharing the Indian perspective that all jihadist outfits practise a common ideology of hatred and violence against whoever does not subscribe to their radical, militant Wahhabi theological version of Islam. This has led them to intensify their much-awaited action against ISIS.

Besides, the United States and the United Kingdom have recently been cooperating more with India in combating this Islamist terrorism India confronts. A joint effort by the Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from India, the United States and the United Kingdom has helped India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) extract crucial online chats of key Indian Mujahideen (IM) members with the al-Qaeda. Like India, the United Kingdom and New Zealand have also long banned the IM. In the United States, the outfit is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

Also, the U.S. State Department has now launched a counter-intelligence investigation against former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robin Raphel. It may be recalled that once Raphel promoted moderate Kashmiri separatists Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. She managed their first visit to Pakistan and then to the US many times. Raphel used her contacts to get their voice heard before the Congress and American think tanks.

One would, however, suggest that New Delhi remain cautious about trusting Washington and allies beyond a point in its fight against Islamist terror. Ironically, Washington continues to overlook the deeds of Pakistan’s notorious Inter Service Intelligence even though it fully knows the root cause of terror in India is this rogue agency. The realities on the ground clearly demand that New Delhi remain on constant vigil. The Intelligence Bureau has identified ISIS as a threat.  Recently, Director General of the National Security Guards Jayant Choudhary has warned that the ISIS and al Qaeda may join hands with Lashkar e-Toiba and the Indian Mujaihideen and launch suicide attacks across the country. Some youths have recently raised the IS flag in Kashmir. Srinagar-based 15 Corps Commanding Officer Lt General Subroto Shah has warned that, from across the Line of Control, efforts are being made to push terrorists armed with highly sophisticated weapons into the Indian side.     

New Delhi would do well to keep in mind that there is unlikely to be any dilution in Islamabad’s traditional policy towards Kashmir. There is a near consensus across the Pakistani politico-military spectrum on raising the Kashmir issue at the United Nations and various other fora. Recently, Pakistan’s most powerful Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif has described Kashmir as “ the jugular vein of Pakistan.” He said that the Kashmir issue should be resolved in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir.  

Pakistan’s National Assembly has called for a diplomatic offensive to wrest control over Kashmir. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s manifesto-2013 says, “Special efforts will be made to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN resolutions and the 1999 Lahore Accord and in consonance with the aspirations of the people of the territory for their inherent right of self-determination.”  

The manifesto of the main Opposition Pakistan People’s Party says, “We support the rights of the Kashmiri people …” Addressing a recent public rally in Multan, its leader Bilawal Bhutto said he would “take back Kashmir, every inch of it”. 

The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.

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Jagdish N Singh
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