By Nithin Sridhar
Almost every day India wakes up to hawkish incidents like ancient shrines bombed, women abducted, and men beheaded in the Middle East. Thanks to Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the violence against men, women and children has gained momentum.
For example, ISIS recently destroyed the ancient Baalshamin Temple in Palmyra, Syria. Before that, it beheaded Khaled al-Asaad who was a renowned antiquities’ scholar in Palmyra. On September 2, it claimed responsibility for bombing a mosque in Sanaa, Yemen that is controlled by Houthis who adhere to Shia Islam. The bombing had killed at least 28 people.
News pieces like these surface in Middle East almost every other day wherein the Islamic State has killed, maimed, abducted, or raped someone or bombed something. There is a gross violation of human rights happening day in and day out; yet, we see that many people are enthusiastic about joining the Islamic State and they fly from all over the world to Iraq to join the IS.
Consider this: Just yesterday it was reported that a Dutch sergeant who was with Netherlands Royal Air Force left for Syria and now the Defense ministry suspects that he might have joined IS. In June, German authorities had discovered that IS was recruiting women from Germany.
These are not isolated incidents, nor are they localized to some countries. The Islamic State poses a genuine threat to the whole world. Let us look at the Islamic State and its threat from an Indian perspective.
Geographically, the influence of Islamic State is limited to few countries in the Middle East. But, Islamic State is not a terrorist organization. It is unlike all other Islamic terror organizations. The Islamic State is basically a State, a Caliphate as the name says it all.
Being a Caliphate, it is expansionist and imperialist by its very nature. By establishing a Caliphate, the IS had called for all the Muslims around the world to unite under its leadership. And as a result, many Muslims from around the world including India have either joined the IS or have at least made attempts to join them.
Threat 1: Indian youths may join IS
Consider this! Just today, it was reported that UAE had detained 13 Indians in early August on charges of planning to join the Islamic State and it has deported two among them back to India. In June, Intelligence Bureau had stated that 11 Indians had joined IS.
In August, a Mumbai journalist Zuber Ahmed Khan was arrested for planning to fly to Iraq to join IS; therefore, the very first threat from IS that India must counter is its ability to polarize some Muslims, especially youth and induce them to fly to Iraq. This is a real threat! As the number of people who join IS increases, it may trigger a chain reaction as a result of which many more people may come forward to join IS.
Secondly, when someone who had joined ISIS returns to India, it is very difficult to assess whether he is now working for ISIS or has he returned after a change of heart. In fact, IS may use this as a strategy to create its network in India. Hence, India must bust these recruiting attempts by Islamic State and safeguard Indian youth.
Threat 2: IS may give new lease of life to militancy in Kashmir
Kashmir which is already affected by militancy and separatism that fuels anti-India sentiments day in and day out may further be exploited by IS. In June, some youths reportedly hoisted IS flag and Pakistani flag in Kashmir.
This incident shows not only the fact that IS has made a home among the militants but also that IS has become a symbolic representation of ideal Islamic state that terrorists aim to establish. The use of IS flag by some Kashmiri youths sends out a clear signal that some separatists stand by whatever IS stands for and they approve all the actions that IS has committed.
Hence, there is a great threat that IS may give a new lease of life to militancy in Kashmir. Further, IS may, in fact, use militancy in Kashmir to expand its hold. This may be attested from the fact that IS is already trying to gain a strong foothold in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
Threat 3: IS may ally with other terror organizations to infiltrate India and destabilize it
Apart from using its sympathizers in India to recruit new people to its fight, there is a great possibility that IS may also align with terrorist organizations based in Pakistan and Bangladesh that have been causing havoc in India for decades.
A recent book by BBC reporter Andrew Hosken reveals how IS has plans to take over large chunks of the world including Indian subcontinent under its control. Even if IS may not be able to wage a direct war against India, IS may easily utilize the ground network of various terror organizations that operate from Pakistan and Bangladesh to destabilize India.
These are the threats that Islamic State poses to India even now, in the present, when it is geographically limited to the Middle East. But, if it ever manages to geographically expand the way the Caliphates of the old did, then the threats will increase manifold.
It may become a question of survival or death for Indians. The danger that India may face in such a scenario wherein the IS comes knocking its doors can be summed up thus: “If ever the ISIS comes knocking at the doors of India, it is clear that its intentions are to make India a part of its Islamic Caliphate, implement Sharia rule over Indian population and convert or kill all those people who do not adhere to its Jihadi-Salafism brand of Islam.
ISIS poses a danger not only to the non-Muslim Indian majority but also to non-Sunni Muslims present in India. In fact, all those Muslims including Sunni Muslims who do not accept its Caliphate and who do not adhere to its extremist interpretation of Islam would be branded as non-Muslims and taken to task accordingly.”
Therefore, it is very vital that India strategically prepare a response team to tackle the threats posed by the Islamic State. If these threats are not properly countered, India may have to suffer huge losses in the coming future.
IS has been a symbol, an inspiration for all those extremists who adhere to the Jihadi-Salafi interpretation of Islam that believes in Islamizing the whole world and destroying all non-believers. These extremists must be stopped and India must make all efforts to stop them.