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Why India should not ignore IS threat

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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.

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Baalshamin Temple

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.

ISIS (1)

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.

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Zuber Khan

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.

AN76722699Empire of FearA 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.

  • P G Kutty Nair

    ISIS is not an evil that one day fell onto the earth from the clouds. There is a tree behind a poisonous fruit, a plant before the tree and a seed before the plant. So it is clear that a seed has been planted and nurtured into a tree before it fructified. The world can be excused for not noticing the seed, but not so for not noticing the tree. Now that it has started bearing fruits like the ISIS, the world must trace the evil to its roots and maybe the seed itself. Let me be more explicit. Remember a secular slogan that is still afloat? “Terrorism has no religion”. That is an open refusal to see reality. Unless that mental condition changes, nothing will change.

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  • P G Kutty Nair

    ISIS is not an evil that one day fell onto the earth from the clouds. There is a tree behind a poisonous fruit, a plant before the tree and a seed before the plant. So it is clear that a seed has been planted and nurtured into a tree before it fructified. The world can be excused for not noticing the seed, but not so for not noticing the tree. Now that it has started bearing fruits like the ISIS, the world must trace the evil to its roots and maybe the seed itself. Let me be more explicit. Remember a secular slogan that is still afloat? “Terrorism has no religion”. That is an open refusal to see reality. Unless that mental condition changes, nothing will change.

Next Story

U.S. To Begin Search Through The Remnants Of The Islamic State’s Final Enclave

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

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Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) patrol near the village of Baghuz in the Syrian countryside, March 20, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed forces are starting to search through the remnants of the Islamic State’s final enclave in northeastern Syria, looking for fighters, mines and booby-trapped explosives.

The effort Wednesday to sift through the broken buildings and shredded tents that litter the landscape in the town of Baghuz comes a day after Syrian Democratic Forces took the area from IS fighters in what officials described as a significant blow to the terror group.

SDF officials said as many as 1,500 more people surrendered following Tuesday’s incursion into IS’s final stronghold, including hundreds of injured IS fighters.

Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

But concerns run high that fighters lurk in trenches dug all around the former IS enclave, as well as in a complex network of caves and tunnels, which some officials said could run for more than two kilometers.

An unknown number of IS fighters have also retreated to a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, and there are no estimates for how many fighters could be hiding in other parts of Baghuz.

“A group of Daesh in Baghuz still fight back and hold their families as human shields,” Zana Amedi, a media official with the YPG militia, which has been supporting the SDF offensive, told VOA Wednesday, using the terror group’s Arabic acronym.

Despite the official caution, small celebrations broke out Wednesday around Baghuz, with some groups of SDF fighters playing music and dancing.

“We have won. We have eliminated the enemy, the terrorists,” Majid Hejjo, an SDF fighter, told the French news agency.

“The comrades are tired, and the battle is over,” said another SDF fighter.

No ‘complete victory’ yet

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump was equally effusive, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that the very last speck of IS-held territory would be liberated within hours.

“There is no red,” Trump said just hours after an intelligence briefing, showing off a map that compared IS-held territory now and the day he was elected. “In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.”

Still, SDF officials and U.S. defense officials have been wary of saying the fight against the terror group’s self-declared caliphate is over.

It has been three months since Trump first announced the defeat of IS in a tweet,and more than a month since he told a meeting of ministers from coalition countries that the end of the caliphate “should be formally announced, probably sometime next week.”

More recently, multiple SDF officials have also forecast the fall of IS within days or even hours, only to see efforts slowed by fierce fighting and the presence of tens of thousands of civilians, mostly the wives, children and family members of IS fighters.

They now say more than 5,000 people have fled Baghuz since SDF resumed its final assault on IS just over a week ago, despite earlier saying only about 1,000 civilians and 300 fighters were holed up in Baghuz shortly after the operation to liberate the town got under way last month.

Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group's last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019.
Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group’s last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019. VOA

In all, SDF says more than 5,000 IS fighters have surrendered or been captured over the past month, while another 1,300 have been killed in the fighting.

The U.S.-led coalition also said Wednesday there has been no letup in efforts to ensure the terror group is defeated.

“The ground offensive, coalition airstrikes and artillery continue as needed,” coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told VOA. “The SDF feel they are in control of the area, but as long as Daesh puts up any type of fight and hides in tunnels, they cannot declare complete victory.”

Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

‘Tens of thousands’ of fighters

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

Thousands of SDF troops have massed around Baghuz for weeks, laying siege to the town in an effort to liberate the final IS enclave in Syria. Officials said Kurdish special forces from Iraq also had been brought in to help with the operations.

Also Read: After Failed Hanoi Summit, U.S. Imposes First North Korea-Linked Sanctions

Even once an official announcement is made, U.S. defense officials caution IS still has “tens of thousands” of fighters working either as part of sleeper cells or as part of an active, clandestine insurgency.

Additionally, senior officials believe most of the group’s senior leadership, including its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain at large. (VOA)