Previously, we wrote about things you should know about the Islamic State – currently the world’s most brutal terrorist organisation. Through the first part in this two-part series, we tried to present a complete picture of the barbarism that is being carried out unbridled in the areas under IS control and how they are able to achieve their heinous objectives without much retaliation from anyone.
This part focusses the lens on India. The first article began with three examples of how IS has succeeded in influencing some impressionable minds of our young society. As you must have noted, not everyone influenced by the uncivilized, medieval ideology of the IS comes from an impoverished background – Mehdi Masroor Biswas is the best example. It is true that IS is thousands of kilometres away from India, but contemporary history proves that terror is not restricted to a geographic border. Thus, India is very much a target – a BIG target, to be honest. This is why India has reasons to be concerned.
1. India’s security structure is not in the best of shape as it should be.
The Indian armed forces are low on ammo, so low that they cannot fight a war for more than 10 days.
Our intelligence, both external and internal, is weak on many fronts and is more engaged in internal competition and bureaucracy than gathering reports on enemy movements. Let us be frank – India’s air force is but in name only. It has neither fighter nor pilots.
2. Illegal infiltration from Bangladesh.
India’s ‘secular, liberal intelligentsia’ might find this a rhetorical assertion, but illegal immigration from Bangladesh is a pressing problem. One must note that many in Bangladesh, who are opposed to the secular rule of Sheikh Hasina, are finding refuge in India because of our fragmented political system.
Those making bombs in that house in Bardhaman in West Bengal were connected to the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (Bangladesh) – a banned extremist Bangladeshi outfit. Followers of this outfit will willingly join the Islamic State cause since the latter promises a country ruled by Islam alone. Of course, not all illegal immigrants are terrorists, but it is very difficult to chaff out those with evil intentions from the good ones in a demography such as India’s.
3. Political polarisation of communities.
No Indian with a clear understanding of politics can claim that the concept of vote banks do not exist in the country. This vote bank fragmentation of the people has created a very deep chasm between communities.
Only the most rational of minds can cross this chasm and those who cannot are left dangling on the periphery of disillusionment that, in the worst case, often leads to a complete disconnect with the political system. These are the kind of people that terrorists look for – as is made clear from the objective of the Ratlam IS module.
4. The ISI.
(No, this is not another anti-Pakistani rhetoric.) The people of Pakistan are not a problem; most of them will never approve of IS ruling them and taking away the freedom they enjoy. But history is proof that the security establishment of Pakistan – the ISI, in particular – has never shied from using any opportunity to destabilise India.
The clout of ISI and the Pakistani army over its democratically elected government is known to all. Also, the complex war between local jihadi groups in Pakistan, and the country’s own failures in tackling terrorism (whatever be the reason) and violent attacks on minorities leaves her vulnerable to the horrors of the IS. This is why India should not put its guard down.
“The threat from the IS (to India) could become very real if comes via Pakistan. There are already indications that the IS has established some footprints in Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence could co-opt such a group for targeting India,” said Tufail Ahmad, Director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute.
5. Pakistan’s probable nuclear assistance to Saudi Arabia.
We have already mentioned that wealthy donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are assisting the Islamic State. Saudi Arabia sees IS – composed of Sunni fighters only – as a means to counter the Shia-majority Iran. Reports suggest that the growing proximity between Iran and US on the nuclear deal issue has made Saudi Arabia openly demand for nuclear technology from Pakistan.
Religion, political and economic dependence will force Pakistan to help Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons. If the IS remains around the time when Saudi Arabia acquires nuclear technology, there is every possibility that such tech will land up in IS hands via their Saudi sympathisers. (They have already claimed that they will buy one from Pakistan.)
6. The puzzle around recruitment.
Most of IS recruits are psychologically deranged humans who are attracted to the prospect of raping women and murdering without the fear of repercussions. Areeb Majeed, too, was lured with the prospect of “marrying” a female IS member.
IS members enjoy beheading and actively participate in carrying out executions of ‘apostates’. Some young men find such prospects too lucrative to let go off and they join the IS. Since it is very difficult to identify such men in a country of 1.2 billion plus population, the risk such men going to fight for the IS remains very high. The question as to why such young men and women join IS is still a puzzle to many.
7. India’s vast natural and historical resources.
India is naturally and historically rich in resources. Compared to the region where IS currently operates, India’s agricultural land is heaven to them. India’s biggest treasure lies in her historical artefacts, smuggling of which is a source of income for the IS. If they cannot smuggle it, they will destroy it like they have been doing in Iraq and Syria, and now in Palmyra.
8. Indians in Gulf countries.
India is the world’s biggest remittance nation. Much of the billions of dollars received in remittances come from Gulf countries through an estimated seven million Indians working there. If the IS is able to gain more ground in Syria and Iraq, it will have a very deep impact on other Gulf nations.
There is a very high chance of attacks on Indians residing in countries of the Middle East from where IS receives no assistance such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, UAE and Yemen. The IS had kidnapped dozens of Indian construction workers and nurses in June last year. The nurses were freed but only one construction worker has managed to escape.
9. Radicalisation at home.
India’s biggest problem is that successive governments have shown pusillanimity in tackling radicalisation of young Muslim men at the hands of extremist elements and allowed the unbridled, irresponsible statements of right-wing leaders to go unchecked. A large majority of India’s political parties have been formed on the lines of caste, region or religion.
This is why a political party that relies on the support of a core vote back cannot condemn, forget reject, fatwas such as the one that bans women from playing football. This is why a party and its leaders remain quite when a part of its own broader political set-up carry out unwarranted activities related to conversion of minorities.
Such selfish and polarising leadership arm the terrorists and their sympathisers with the psychological ammo to exploit young minds.
But this does not mean that India should involve itself in the US-led war on IS. Experts believe that unlike Iran and Afghanistan, India is not at a direct risk from Islamic State and that India’s concerns should lie in its immediate neighbourhood. But India must remain vigilant at all times; her political class should show the spine needed to take decisions that strengthen the secular, democratic fabric of the country; and her media and the intellectuals should stop taking sides in their commentaries and analyses. As Tufail Ahmad concludes in his excellent essay on Islamic radicalisation in India: Know the enemy, know its enterprise and debate it in a very public way.