Cross border terror is a bigger threat than ISIS

Cross border terror is a bigger threat than ISIS

By D.C. PATHAK | | 29 August, 2015
Arrested terrorist Muhammad Naveed.
Pakistan’s plea that ‘we are also a victim of terrorism’ is an ISI ploy to palm off its own operations against India to the ‘radicals’.

The hold acquired by ISIS in the Iraq-Syria region in recent months has produced media despatches claiming that the terrorist group was now rapidly spreading towards South Asia. What is ironic, however, is that many strategic analysts are being quick to suggest that the prime threat that India now faces was coming from the ISIS, rather than from ISI-sponsored cross border terrorism for which as is well known, India-specific outfits like LeT and HuM were used all along by Pakistan.

ISIS, no doubt, has the potential to grow into a global threat to all non-Muslims, since its basic ideology and thrust is to reestablish the Caliphate for the entire Umma by going back to the days of the four Rashidun Khalifas. The Caliphate put an obligation on all Muslims to make the supreme sacrifice to destroy the enemies of Islam and other infidels. Islamic radicals see nothing wrong in "beheading" the enemy. They look at the position of women as something determined by the religious injunction, "Men are in charge of women."

Indian strategic analysts, studying the ISIS phenomenon, must note that in the "war on terror", the two targets of the US-led offensive, Iraq and Afghanistan, became the focal points of radical consolidation — through ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine in the Pak-Afghan belt. In a superficial reading of the developments, many media "specialists" started writing of the mutually destructive rivalry between ISIS and Al Qaeda, until reports came in of a growing convergence between them.

For Islamic radicals, the US-led West and their allies are the prime enemies; this is something rooted in their historical memory of the Crusades as well as the Wahhabi revolt of the Indian subcontinent. For historical, ideological and political reasons, radical Islam — given to extremism — goes also after the Shias, apart from keeping its wrath alive for other deviants including the idol-worshipping kafirs. The question is: How far will the voices from within the Muslim world go to resist the rise of extremism in the name of religion?

It should be mentioned that a set of geopolitical and socioeconomic factors have enabled the Islamic radicals to gather strength on the ground and spread to places like Somalia, Algeria and Yemen in a decisive way. The tentativeness of military response from the West led to the ISIS consolidating its hold on the oil wealth of Iraq. In both the Syria-Iraq and Pak-Afghan theatres, there are enough supporters and admirers of the ISIS, Al Qaeda and Taliban to facilitate the advance of the radicals. And now the removal of Al Baghdadi, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar from the scene is having the effect of operationally bringing the two radical groupings closer to each other.

ISIS has the potential to grow into a global threat to all non-Muslims, since its basic ideology and thrust is to reestablish the Caliphate for the entire Umma by going back to the days of the four Rashidun Khalifas. The Caliphate put an obligation on all Muslims to make the supreme sacrifice to destroy the enemies of Islam and other infidels. 

A firm indicator of this convergence comes from the contents of a recruitment document that the American Media Institute claims to have found in the Pakhtoon frontier of Pakistan. It seeks to unite factions of Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan into a single army and expects the latter — together with Al Qaeda — to rally behind the Islamic State for establishing the Caliphate for all of the one billion Muslims. The document in Urdu (not Arabic) talks of an attack "in India" (not on India) to provoke an apocalyptic confrontation with America. The security set up of India would do well to research the origin of this document.

From India's perspective, the threat of terrorism has revolved round the covert offensive that the Pak ISI had planned against India years ago, by infiltrating the Mujahideen into the Kashmir valley to replicate the Afghan jihad there and using the porous borders of India with Nepal and Bangladesh to send in trained elements to carry out acts of terrorism in other parts of India as well. Even after India came on board with the US-led world coalition against the new global terror perpetrated by Islamic radicals, the Pak-sponsored cross border terrorism went on unabated.

India's naive step at Havana of bracketing itself with Pakistan as being at the receiving end of terrorism gave our adversary a plea of deniability that it used even for 26/11. This stand, disregarding, for whatever reason, our assessment of the Pak sponsored proxy war, served the purpose of getting India in line with what was clearly the American stand on Pakistan. It is not surprising that the US policymakers now want India to go along with the US-Pak approach on Afghanistan's future. The desire of the US to somehow have an India-Pak dialogue resumed, reflects this approach. This is happening at a time when the Pak army has sensed an increased dependence of the US on it for protecting American assets in Afghanistan. Interestingly, those behind the ISIS document mentioned above, highlight an alleged plan of this outfit to attack US army personnel moving out of Afghanistan and the American diplomats staying on in that country.

India's intelligence agencies are aware that Pakistan's plea that "we are also a victim of terrorism" has been used by the Pak ISI as a ploy to palm off its own operations against India to the "radicals", as was seen in the attacks sometime back made on our missions in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has the potential of striking an equation with Taliban in a post-American Afghanistan. The strategy of countering the influence of Islamic radicals on India's Muslim youth should take into account the distinct possibility of Pakistani agencies being able to use both India-specific groups like LeT and the outfits of the radical umbrella in the "proxy war" against this country.

D.C. Pathak is a former Director of the Intelligence ­Bureau

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