By Brig Anil Gupta*
It has been widely reported in American media that ISIS has a grand design of uniting the numerous Afghan and Pakistani terrorist groups to forge a new “Army of Terror” based in the Af-Pak region and triggering a war in India to provoke the United States. The revelation is based on a 32-page document in Urdu that details the future battle plans of the Islamic State in pursuance of its ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic State Caliphate (ISC), a common goal of all global jihadist terror outfits. It urges the “ummah”, entire global Muslim community, to recognize Islamic State’s head Abu Bakr al-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 victory of good over evil, something similar to Ghazwa-e-Hind (greater Pakistan) announced earlier by Al-Qaeda and supported by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Al Qaeda also released a video titled ‘War must continue, a message to the Muslims of Kashmir’, late last year. The latest ISIS document has been declared “rubbish” by our Intelligence Bureau (IB) and home ministry. Some analysts have also termed it as an American ploy to draw India into its fight against ISIS, further its regional interests and possibly to justify unleashing another war in the region. Whatever may be the authenticity of the captured document, does it justify an outright rejection or being termed as “false”.
The Government of India has acknowledged the threat of growing radicalization of the Muslim youth and their being motivated by the ISIS ideology being spread through social media. “Attraction towards radical ideology of any religion is a matter of concern” was stated by a home ministry official. The government maintains that the appeal of ISIS in India is confined to a few radicalized youth from the minority community and there is no direct threat from the outfit. The government has decided to put in place a strategy of “Counter Radicalization” for de-radicalization of youth attracted by the idea of jihad, to combat the ISIS threat in India. Farooq Abdullah has even termed the waving of ISIS flags in Kashmir as “a mere expression of anger and frustration by the youth who want to wake up the nation.” Is the ISIS threat to India so trivial or is it time to wake up and smell the coffee?
Before dwelling on the ISIS threat, it is necessary to understand the ISIS and its ideology. Frederick W. Kagan, a renowned American expert has described ISIS as follows. “The greatest evil of our time has taken root in Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State (ISIS) is not a terrorist organization. It is an army of conquest that is destroying all traces of civilization 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 Shi’ite Muslims and follows through whenever it can. It has reestablished 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.” He has aptly summed up the medieval outlook and thought process of the dreaded outfit.
According to ISIS anybody who does not subscribe to their interpretation of Islam is not a Muslim and needs to be killed. ISIS is the richest terrorist organization in the world. It occupies swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria (equal to 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 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 Baathists officers and soldiers who are well trained. It has sophisticated war-fighting machinery. Its cadre is motivated and buoyed by numerous successes. ISIS has mastered the use of social media and uses it effectively to not only spread its ideology but for brainwashing and radicalizing the young minds to motivate them for jihad. It also uses social media for international scouting of fighters. ISIS also exports terror to the civilized world through return of thousands of indoctrinated, trained and battle-hardened fighters to their respective home lands.
India has been on the radar screen of global jihadist, Sunni-Islamist terror outfits since long. Though ISIS rose to prominence only just more than a year back, it has been focusing on India since the very beginning. Khalifah Ibrahim alias Abu 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 holy jihad. A number of Indians were motivated to join the ISIS ranks and are reported to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria. ISIS 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 they could fly out to join ISIS. Some of the Indian fighters are also reported to have died in Syria. Those alive may be used to join the proposed “army of terror” to fight in India.
The death of Mullah Omar and reported elimination of his son has minimized the challenge posed to ISIS by the Afghan Taliban. Many factions of jihadists in the Af-Pak region have already announced their loyalty to ISIS. Al Qaeda is also facing severe financial as well as manpower crisis. The launch of Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) with much fanfare has turned out to be a damp squib. Abu al Baghdadi, the ISIS supremo, has no rival to his self-proclaimed title of Khalifah (Caliph) after the death of Mullah Omar. The stage is ideally set for the move of ISIS into Afghanistan and for forming the “army of terror” for launching the “final battle” in India. Many analysts call it a far–fetched proposition. But all of them agree that India is threatened by global jihad. Are we ready for this onslaught by the proposed “army of terror”?
The “Counter Radicalization” strategy may to some extent be capable of preventing radicalization and alienation of the minority community youth, but is it adequate to combat the threat of global jihad against India? The physical threat to India from ISIS may manifest only after it is able to firm up in the Af-Pak region. Therefore, it is very critical for India to ensure that ISIS 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 its bandwagon. To this include ISI’s plan to extend the arc of terror and revive Sikh militancy. Recent terrorist acts at Dinanagar, NH1 near Udhampur and Basantgarh and renewed violence in Kashmir Valley are enough indicators of its intent.
If ISIS and ISI join hands, global jihad led by ISIS and fully supported logistically by ISI will be at our doorstep. India has to prepare itself to meet this threat. I once again recommend that threat posed by global jihadist terror organizations should not be treated as just an internal security affair. It requires a matching counter strategy formulated by professionals who have the ground experience and not by armchair-bound bureaucrats. India badly needs a separate Ministry of Homeland/Internal Security by clipping the MHA.
*Brig Anil Gupta is a Jammu-based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]