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Global ISIS threat: How Asia should counter it

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By Rohan Gunaratna

Asian governments and their partners should craft a multi-faceted response to Islamic State (ISIS), the group that claimed the Jan. 14 terrorist attack in Jakarta.

This is in their interest because they cannot afford to let IS expand its influence in the region through local cells and networks, which could disrupt Asia’s security and stability in the 21st century. Today, the regional and global priority should be to dismantle IS across the board.

The group poses a multi-dimensional threat through core operations in its home base of Syria and Iraq, its branches in other corners of the globe, and its online presence. IS foreign fighters and supporters from across the Asia-Pacific are active in all these domains.

To counter this threat the region’s military forces, law enforcement authorities and national security agencies need to develop new capabilities. These integrated measures would include expanding elite counter-terrorism tactical units, enlarging national security services, developing robust legal frameworks for preventive detention, and raising units dedicated to stopping cyber-attacks.

Because Asia-Pacific is rising in the 21st century, its various governments need to do more and work together to secure the region, as well as increase their efforts in the international fight to dismantle IS at its core.

A few regional governments have joined anti-IS coalitions. But it is paramount for more governments, especially those threatened by IS in the region, to join the coalitions.

By working with the coalitions, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, China, Japan and other Asian powers can build their own military and intelligence capabilities.

At the heart of going after the IS core in Iraq and Syria is building intelligence-led military capabilities to kill or capture IS leaders, breaking up their support and operational structures, and disrupting their operations.

Asia can play pivotal role

An air campaign alone will not achieve the desired outcome. Both special and general- purpose ground forces also are essential to degrading and destroying IS. Political will is key to fighting IS in a ground war, but without another mass fatality, mass casualty attack reminiscent of 9/11, public support for this will be unlikely.

The Muslim countries of the Asia-Pacific, nonetheless, can play a pivotal role in countering IS’s radical ideology, narratives, and propaganda.

It is worth noting too that the U.S./Arab and Russian/Shia-led coalitions which are fighting IS will not unite around the threat. However, they will exchange intelligence and develop or sharpen capabilities for containing, isolating and eliminating IS at the core and other areas.

Only a sharp escalation of the threat can unite these various coalitions.

The case of Mehdi Nemmouche

The need for anti-IS collaboration between European, Middle Eastern and Asian services was exposed when Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old Frenchman of Algerian origin, killed four people in an attack on the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014.

After spending a year with IS in Syria, Nemmouche visited Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore while in transit before entering Europe through Germany to stage the attack in Belgium. He took a circuitous route back to Western Europe so as to throw European authorities off guard about his presence in the Middle East.

A convicted criminal who was radicalized and recruited in prison, before the attack Nemmouche recorded a video showing the IS flag. Had the French authorities shared their intelligence with their Asian counterparts, the attack might have been prevented.

Therefore, international and regional cooperation in the fields of security and intelligence cooperation is of paramount importance today to contain and control the threat.

Governments must be proactive

In the Asia-Pacific, it is imperative that governments take preemptive action against IS support groups that have ambitions to collaborate with IS central in declaring their areas satellites of the IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

The key to preventing IS from making inroads and declaring areas as its provinces is for governments to take legislative and executive action. Governments should proscribe entities and people advocating, supporting and participating in IS activities, as well as charge and prosecute them.

To stop IS from declaring an area as one of its provinces the strategy should be to target IS’s core, the satellite and the intermediary link. The tempo of IS attacks in Iraq and Syria created the momentum for spawning and sustaining associated groups outside the theatre of conflict.

Develop zero tolerance in cyberspace

Asia-Pacific governments in particular can play a role in countering the IS threat online.

Between 80 to 90 percent of IS’s online media traffic targets Arabic speakers, but the group’s supporters in the Asia-Pacific have created online messaging platforms that aim to recruit, radicalize and militarize vulnerable segments of Muslim populations region-wide.

In Malay, Indonesian, Devehi, Urdu, Pashtu and other Asian languages, IS supporters promote an IS pop ideology of hatred that seeks to replace mainstream Islam. About 80 percent of social media sites transmitting IS propaganda is hosted by U.S. and European-based servers.

Because of a lack of leadership, will, and strategy among governments and partners tasked with counter-messaging and taking down IS online platforms, the threat will persist and grow. As long as IS social media sites remain intact, the threat will proliferate.

Governments across the Asia-Pacific should develop a zero tolerance against IS propaganda in the virtual space.

The IS operational threat manifests itself in the physical space, but it is growing both in the virtual space. In parallel to a ground campaign, governments should firmly regulate the use, misuse and abuse of the internet in order to prevent IS from indoctrinating young minds through social media.

In preventing IS online messaging from radicalizing and militarizing Muslim communities, governments should build partnerships with the private sector, civil society and community groups.

To fight IS’s sophisticated exploitation of technology, governments should build trusted networks with academia and technology companies.  To protect vulnerable segments of Muslim communities, governments in the region and their partners should complement a whole-of-society approach with a whole-of-government approach.

The twin approaches are to build: (a) on-line and off-line counter-radicalization programs; and (b) de-radicalization programs to rehabilitate those already radicalized.

Failure to craft a multi-faceted response will lead to the disruption to the relations between religious and ethnic communities affecting harmony, which is essential for the region’s prosperity in the 21st century.

Published with permission from BenarNews

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India China’s Fight Over the Doklam Plateau Explained

Doklam or Donglang, is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India

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picture from- indiaopines.com

By Ruchika Verma

  • India and China have an old history of disputes
  • This time, the dispute is regarding the Dokplam Plateau
  • The area is of strategic importance for both the nations

Disputes between India and China are not at all uncommon. The rivalry between the two nations is famous. There have been several disputes between the two on the India-China border in past, and there seems to be no stopping for these disputes in the present or future, for that matter.

India and China have a n old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com
India and China have an old history of repeated disputes. zeenews.india.com

In June 2017, the world witnessed yet another dispute arising between India and China. This time the dispute was about China building a road extending to Doklam Plateau, which both nations have been fighting over for years now.

Also Read: China is likely to get involved if India disrupts $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

History of the dispute 

Doklam or Donglang (in Chinese), is a disputed area between China and Bhutan located near their tri-junction with India. India doesn’t directly claim the area but supports Bhutan’s claims on it.

India fits into the picture, as this plateau is an important area for India. Not only is Bhutan one of the biggest allies of India; China gaining access over the Doklam Plateau will also endanger India’s borders, making them vulnerable to attacks.

Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan's borders.
Dopkam plateau is an important area near India, China and Bhutan’s borders.

Apart from the hostile history of the two nations, the Doklam Plateau is also important for India to maintain its control over a land corridor that connects to its remote northeastern States. China building a road through Doklam surely threatens that control.

A complete timeline of what happened in the recent Doklam Standoff 

On 16 June 2017, Chinese troops with construction vehicles and excavators began extending an existing road southward on the Doklam plateau, near India’s border. It was Bhutan which raised the alarm for India.

On 18 June 2017, India responded by sending around 270 Indian troops, with weapons and two bulldozers to evict the Chinese troops from Doklam.

On 29 June 2017, Bhutan protested against the construction of a road in the disputed territory.  According to the Bhutanese government, China attempted to extend a road in an area which is shared both Bhutan and India, along with China.

Between 30 June 2017 and 5 July 2017, China released multiple statements justifying their claim over the Doklam plateau. They cited reasons as to why the Doklam standoff wasn’t really needed. And how China has not intruded into India’s territory to incite the standoff.

On 19th July 2017, China asked India again to withdraw its troops from the Doklam. On 24th July 2017,  Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in his statement, asked India to withdraw and behave themselves to maintain peace.

India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC
India and China seem to never agree when it comes to their borders. BBC

Also Read: Why India Must Counter China’s High-Altitude Land Grab?

What followed till 16th August 2017 was China constantly alleging India of trying to create trouble. They accused India of trying to disturb the peace and not withdrawing the troops, even after repeated reminders. They also accused India of bullying.

India, however, kept quiet during the whole fiasco, only releasing a statement regarding their stand and position at the Doklam standoff.

On 28 August 2017, India and China finally announced that they had agreed to pull their troops back from the Doklam standoff. The withdrawal was completed on that very day.

On 7 September 2017, many media reports claimed that both nation’s troops have not left the site completely. They were still patrolling the area, simply having moved 150 meters away from their previous position.

On 9 October 2017, China announced that it is ready to maintain peace with India at the frontiers. India reacted in affirmative, the peace was established when Indian Defence Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman’s visited Nathu La.

The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay
The issue between the two nations may rise again. Pixabay

The Doklam issue, for now, is resolved. However, given the history of disputes between India and China, it won’t be a surprise if the issue resurfaces again in near future.