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For First time, US Warns publicly of Possible Islamic State Terrorist Attack in India

India traditionally has been more vulnerable to terror cells from Bangladesh and Pakistan carrying out attacks on its soil

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FILE - An Indian Muslim man holds a banner during a protest against IS, an Islamic State group, and the Paris attacks, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 18, 2015. VOA

November 2, 2016: For the first time the U.S. government is publicly warning of the possibility of terrorist attacks in India carried out by the Islamic State group.

A brief security message for U.S. citizens in India, issued Tuesday evening at the embassy in New Delhi, calls on Americans to “maintain a high level of vigilance and increase their security awareness,” especially at religious sites, markets and festival venues.

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Previous security advisories issued by the embassy have mentioned Islamic extremist groups, such as Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, but not Islamic State.

The fresh security advisory could be related to recent IS arrests in India, said Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Lisa Curtis, noting last month’s discovery of an Islamic State cell in Kerala that allegedly was plotting attacks during the Diwali holiday season, which began Sunday and runs through Thursday.

Kashmiri Muslim protesters hold a flag of Islamic State as they shout anti-India slogans during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 8, 2016. VOA
Kashmiri Muslim protesters hold a flag of Islamic State as they shout anti-India slogans during a protest in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 8, 2016. VOA

“These arrests may have led to additional information about the ISIS terror threat in India,” Curtis, a former CIA analyst who was also a diplomat in U.S. embassies in India and Pakistan, told VOA. ISIS is an acronym for Islamic State.

“I have no doubt there are some grassroots capability [of IS in India], at the very least,” said Fred Burton, chief security officer for the private strategic intelligence firm Stratfor.

In other South Asian nations, such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, IS has successfully tapped into local Islamist networks.

“ISIS operators may be trying to employ the same tactic in India by linking up with groups like the Indian Mujahideen, which was behind a series of attacks several years ago,” Curtis said. “ISIS released a recruiting video in May showing Indian Muslims [including two IM members] calling on Indian Muslims to avenge … purported injustices in Kashmir.”

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Muslim minority community

The relatively few extremists in India’s substantial Muslim minority community are not perceived as having interest in joining IS, according to analysts. It has been reported that two or three dozen members of IM and others groups, however, traveled from India to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS, but are not believed to have sworn allegiance to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

FILE - Anti-Islamic State posters are seen around a mosque in Kolkata, India, Dec. 5, 2015. (S. Azizur Rahman/VOA)
FILE – Anti-Islamic State posters are seen around a mosque in Kolkata, India, Dec. 5, 2015. (S. Azizur Rahman/VOA)

India traditionally has been more vulnerable to terror cells from Bangladesh and Pakistan carrying out attacks on its soil.

“Any kind of chatter can drive an alert” by a risk-averse State Department, Burton told VOA.

As has been the case for IS-claimed attacks in other parts of the world, there is “no need for elaborate infrastructure or training for a self-inspired small group or individual to do an ‘official’ Islamic State attack. Just at minimum a computer for inspiration, weaponry [including a machete or a vehicle],” added Burton, a former deputy chief of counterterrorism of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.

A branch of Islamic State said to be active in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan has “an interest in galvanizing individuals to attack in India,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, an analyst at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

Possible nexus

Illinois State University’s Ali Riaz, who teaches South Asian politics and political Islam, says Indian militants may be connected with terrorist groups in Bangladesh who have affiliated themselves with IS.

“Most of the weapons used in the recent Dhaka attack in July were modified in India before they were transported to Bangladesh,” Riaz told VOA.

While the extremist group’s messaging about India primarily has focused on the disputed Kashmir region and avenging attacks against Muslims in India, the group’s magazine also has carried threats against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and condemned India for being a majority country of Hindus, a religion it has characterized as “cow-worshipping pagans.”

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Islam is India’s second-largest religion, with Muslims comprising about 15 percent of the total population of more than 1.2 billion people.

If other countries follow Washington’s lead and issue similar warnings about a possible IS attack, it may have ramifications for India’s travel and tourism sector, according to the Economic Times, a Mumbai-based daily newspaper.

In recent years, foreign tourism has become a significant part of India’s economy, contributing about $20 billion annually in foreign exchange earnings and matching the much-touted information technology sector. (VOA)

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Raja Chari: Indian American Astronaut chosen by NASA

Raja Chari, an American of Indian descent, has been chosen by NASA as one of the 12 astronauts for a new space mission.

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Raja Chari. Twitter.
  • Raja Chari is an American of Indian descent chosen by NASA for the new batch of astronauts
  • Currently, he is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force
  • Chari will have to go through two years of astronaut training which begins in August

June 06, 2017: NASA has chosen 12 astronauts out of a record-breaking 18,300 applications for upcoming space missions. An American of Indian descent, Raja Chari, has successfully earned his spot in the top 12.

The astronauts were selected on the basis of expertise, education, and physical tests. This batch of 12 astronauts is the largest group selected by NASA since two decades. The group consisting of 7 men and 5 women surpassed the minimum requirements of NASA.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Chari graduated from Air Force Academy in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He went on to complete his master’s in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The astronaut is also a graduate of US Naval Test Pilot School.

Currently, Raja Chari is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force. He is the commander of 461st Flight Test Squadron and director of the F-35 Integrated Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

After Late Kalpana Chawla, Lt. Col. Raja Chari is the second Indian American astronaut chosen by NASA.

The 12 astronauts will have to go through two years of training. Upon completion, they will be assigned their missions ranging from research at the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft by private companies, to flying on deep space missions on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft.

The US Vice-President Mike Pence visited the Johnson Space Centre in Houston to announce and congratulate the new batch. Pence also said that President Trump is “fully committed” to NASA’s missions in space.

by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2393

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Over 5,000 Plant Varieties in Last 3 Years sent in by Tribal Farmers to protect the species : Minister

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Tribal Farmers
tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years (representational Image). Wikimedia

New Delhi, June 8, 2017: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Wednesday said tribal farmers submitted more than 5,000 plant varieties in last three years through Krishi Vigyan Kendras for registration at the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority.

It will play an important role in the development of climate resilient and sustainable varieties in future, he said at the National Workshop on Empowerment of Farmers of Tribal Areas here.

“New technological innovations in agriculture must reach to the fields of tribal areas but before taking such steps we must keep in mind the unique conditions of these areas, which are the gift of nature and therefore, we should promote natural farming in those areas,” he said, as per an official release. (IANS)

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Number of Women in Workforce Falls Significantly in India! Why is it so?

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Swati Sharma quit her job soon after her older daughter was born six years ago because of long working hours and lack of suitable childcare facilities. Women in workforce in India are facing challenges. VOA
  • India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth
  • An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade
  • Three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active

New Delhi, June 06, 2017: Using a work-from-home facility, Swati Sharma worked for a few months after her baby was born six years ago but quit when her company withdrew the option.

“They wanted people to come to work every day, it became very difficult,” she said, pointing out that child care facilities near her home in New Delhi did not have high standards.

Stories of women leaving jobs are common: An estimated 20 million Indian women have dropped out of the workforce over the last decade, both in sprawling cities and the vast countryside where fewer women now work on farms.

It’s a staggering number that researchers are trying to decode.

Indian economy is robust

Despite India’s buoyant economy, female employment has fallen dramatically over the last decade. Only 27 percent of women are in the workforce compared to about 40 percent in the mid-1990s. That is less than many lower-income countries like neighboring Bangladesh or other emerging economies like Brazil.

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A World Bank study released recently says India needs to reverse the declining rates of women in the labor market to push growth.

The study said three of every five prime working age Indian women (26-45 years old) are not economically active.

Higher incomes play role

But not all the reasons are negative. An era of high growth has increased household incomes and propelled millions of families into the middle and upper-middle class. The relative household affluence has given many women the option to drop out of the workforce.

In the lower-income strata, better incomes for farm and construction labor also resulted in many poor families in rural areas educating girls. As a result, the number of those between 15 and 25 years in school and college has doubled to 30 percent.

“Many of these young women who were working before perhaps out of necessity are now in school and building up their human capital,” said Frederico Gil Sander, senior economist at the World Bank in New Delhi.

More jobs needed for the well-educated

However not all women stay at home because there is a dearth of suitable opportunities.

“If you survey women, many of the women they want to work, but the fact is that not enough jobs are being created that women can take up,” Sander said.

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Garima Verma, who relocated from New Delhi to Jaipur, says there are fewer job opportunities for women in smaller towns compared with the large cities. (Anjana Pasricha/VOA)

In an urbanizing country, while large cities offer regular jobs in services and manufacturing, similar avenues are not available in smaller towns.

Garima Verma, 32, for example, quit her job a year ago because she wanted a break. But some months later she moved from New Delhi to Jaipur and says finding a suitable job in a smaller city has not been easy.

“Lesser (opportunities) I would say as compared to metros definitely,” she said.

Indian workplaces can be unfriendly to women

But even in booming urban centers, women often find it hard to stay the course, partly because most Indian companies have rigid work structures and reliable child care facilities are few and far between.

Sairee Chahal, founder of SHEROES, a portal for women job seekers, said in an era of global competition, extended work hours have become the norm at most workplaces. And patriarchal attitudes in a conservative society do not help.

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“Firms are very unwelcoming around the need for flexibility, maternity is still considered a challenge. And while women have made it to the workplace, men have not picked up stuff at home and that continues to burden women at home,” Chahal said.

A need for more high tech jobs

The low participation of women in the workforce is especially surprising in a country where a large number of college graduates are women – women like Garima Verma and Swati Sharma, who both have college degrees.

“Even highly educated women are not working and this is in a way a form of a brain drain,” Sander said. “Only 34 percent of women with either a diploma or college degree are working.”

Pointing out that this includes a large number of women graduates in science and technology, the World Bank said India needs to create opportunities to tap this human capital.

Swati Sharma, for example, would like to return to work once her 6-month-old baby is a little older, but with working conditions in companies too challenging, she is taking a course so that she can teach “the only option left for me,” she said.

The World Bank said the key to closing the gender gap is to create more jobs, especially regular salaried jobs that are flexible and can be safely accessed by women.

But that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, warns human resources professional Chahal, and reversing the declining trend poses many challenges.

“We do have women who are educated – basically all set and nowhere to go, all set and no doors opening for you,” she said. (Benar News)

NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.