Terrorism has continued to escalate globally over the recent years. According to the Global Terrorism Index there were 18,000 deaths in 2013, a jump of about 60 per cent over the previous year.
International terrorism is primarily driven by Al Qaeda morphed into its affiliates like Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda in Arabic Peninsula, Al-Shabab in Somalia, ISIS in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria. All these non state actors use Jihadist ideology to espouse their cause.
The recent development in Levant region (Iraq and Syria) have brought to surface much bigger threats due to extreme interpretation of religious thoughts and soaring numerical strength of ISIS estimated to be about 30,000 including foreign fighters in the core area of Levant.
ISIS has announced territorial claims in 26 provinces to establish an Islamic Caliphate including Tripoli (Libya), Sinai (Egypt), Dagestan (Caucasus), Khorasan (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) and Yemen. Besides, there are about 60 terror groups who have announced their allegiance to ISIS.
ISIS has fascinated an enormous following mainly due to enunciation of taqfir which simply means the practice of one Muslim declaring a non-Muslim or an apostate, an unbeliever or kafir and hence fit for killing. Other related causes for upsurge of this phenomenon continue to be unemployment, failing economy, poor quality of governance and absence of democracy in West Asia and North Africa.
ISIS has exploited this situation by popularizing the idea of territorially expansionist jihadi model which promises quest for political power and territorial control. The idea of Islamic Caliphate in itself is attractive enough for scattered groups to rally around.
Moreover, they are adapting to innovative technologies to nurture two cardinal elements of terrorist movement that is ideology and financing, particularly online platforms, for procuring funds from donors or for raising finances for their operations and survival.
The modern means of communication like social media are fully exploited to support the propaganda machinery of these radical organizations. Availability of jihadist literature in open domain, particularly on the web, has become an easy tool for radicalization of young impressionable minds to join terror groups or be inspired to carry out lone wolf attacks. Social media is also profoundly exploited for recruitment and publicity.
World Wide Web has thus become an exceptionally significant apparatus for terror groups to thrive.
Traditional forms of funding include ransom, counterfeit currency, smuggling of antiquities, tobacco, black-marketing and drug trafficking besides donations. New forms of funding also include Bit coin, Dark Web, PayPal. Self-funding by means of extortion, taxation and trading of natural resources also continues.
India remains vulnerable to the threat of global terrorism, particularly in the light of the turmoil in West Asia, gradually shifting to India’s immediate neighborhood. Many terror groups from South Asia have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Increasing radicalization of the societies of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives, is a distressing trend for India due to a possible spill-over and targeted attacks in the Indian states.
US strategy to counter terror worldwide is based on partnership and support for WOT. It uses Special Forces in conjunction with local troops for counter-terrorism operations.
India need to address potential threats through adaptive and innovative use of Human Intelligence (HUMINT), Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), Signal Intelligence, Geographical Intelligence, and Cyber Security which are fast becoming essential tools to fight terrorism. Technology must be harnessed for better data management, intelligence gathering and action.
Measures to prevent terrorism should include pro active and effective border management, building a national level database for intelligence processing, evolving structures to disrupt terror financing and also put into place strong systems for ingenious inter ministerial coordination.
We also need to enhance strategic capabilities of Special Forces enabling them to operate in terror sanctuaries or areas affected by terrorism.
The Muslim community in India has been very resistant and resilient against terrorism. It adheres to moderate set of Islamic beliefs and ismostly detached from radicalism and extremism. The influence of rising spread of Wahhabism in the sub continent needs to be contained through effective political processes.
Addressing the socio-economic-political grievances of the Indian Muslim community is the biggest challenge for India’s political leadership, as radical elements exploit this dilemma to indoctrinate individuals and lure them to terrorism.
There is a need to engage the Muslim community in structuring crucial partnerships to strengthen and build social harmony. Harmony centers in schools, villages, towns and cities can be of immense help. Measures to reduce alienation and discrimination by mainstreaming the community, specially the youth, will deter them from falling in the trap of radicalization.
There is also a larger need to rehabilitate those suspect accused of terrorism and later released from judicial custody. We must build robust rehabilitation capability that delivers educational, vocational, agricultural, recreational and psychological sustenance.
Both India and Pakistan need to co-operate to fight trans-national terrorism and contain the threat by preventing such terror groups from finding safe havens. Failure on behalf of both India and Pakistan to join hands and work together will eventually affect the South Asian region as a whole.
To fight transnational terror, the response should be on a multi agency, multinational and multi jurisdictional level of co-operation globally.
India Habitat Centre