New Delhi, July 21: The situation continues to remain fragile in Afghanistan with the US troops pulling out. What does this mean for India and the neighbourhood?
In this interview with OneIndia, Animesh Roul, Executive Director of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict says that the investment and infrastructure would be in jeopardy once the Taliban takes over Kabul. India should keep its engagement with the Afghan government and other regional players such as Iran to remain relevant and effective, he also says.
While our attention was diverted toward terrorism in Kashmir and away from homegrown terrorism down south, intelligence agencies have now turned their heads towards the region which needs a lot of effort to counter the radicalisation that has spread. Counter-terrorism expert Animesh Roul explains how one should go about it?
There have been a series of raids in the past couple of months in South India. The raids are largely focused on the Islamic State and the deep infestation of radicalisation in South India.
The National Investigation Agency has learnt that the ISIS has been teaming up smaller radical groups in South India to expand its base. To discuss this issue further, we caught up with counter-terrorism expert, Animesh Roul from the New Delhi based policy research group Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict.
India has woken up to the threat of the ISIS and this is set to be an ongoing battle. The ISIS has not made any major announcement where its plans of setting up a base in India is concerned. What we get to see day after day is youth being detained for trying to join the ISIS.
Just today four youth from Kerala were detained upon being deported from the UAE. In all seven Indians including one lady have been detained in the past month for alleged links with the ISIS.
How serious is the ISIS threat in India? The Home Ministry which had dismissed the threat perception of the ISIS as negligible in December 2014 has today taken a host of measures to tackle the problem.
Animesh Roul, Executive Director of Research at the New Delhi-based Society for The Study of Peace and Conflict writing in the Jamestown Foundation says India is vulnerable to the threat of the ISIS. In this interview with OneIndia, Roul says India faces the threat of transitional jihadism.
The Jammat-ud-Dawa is banned in most parts of the world. We expect that Pakistan take stringent measures against this outfit which claims to collect charity but ends up sponsoring the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. Will Pakistan act against the JuD in a manner it is meant to?
The answer is- High Unlikely. Instead the long rope that the JuD has been given has given the outfit the audacity to groom itself into a secure socio-political legitimacy both by supporting the government and the military and by conducting humanitarian works intended to improve its reputation in civil society.
There is a great deal of activity in the Indian Ocean and one of the primary dangers for the security establishment is the growth of Maldives as a launching pad for Jihadi activities. All these years, we read Intelligence Bureau reports of how the Lashkar-e-Tayiba had taken over several islands in Maldives which were to act as launching pads against India.
Now with the Al-Qaeda in the Sub-Continent (AQIS) threat looming large and the Al-Qaeda, India too has a great cause for concern and in this context it would be interesting to take a look at what is happening in Maldives.
There is more than what meets the eye in the Burdhwan blast case.The Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh has raised its ugly head once again and appears to have been given a breather thanks to the lackluster attitude of the West Bengal government.
Animesh Roul, Executive Director, Society for Study of Peace and Conflict says that this outfit has flourished with the help of local support. In this interview Roul says that unchecked influx of Bangladeshi Muslims created pockets of influence for political parties in West Bengal.
What are your first impressions on the entire Burdhwan incident?
Since the incident took place in early October, at Khagragarh, Burdwan (West Bengal), this was evidently clear (to me and perhaps many others) that the event has a strong link with the Bangladesh based organizations, either Jamaat ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harakat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B), both of which can trace their lineage Jamaat e Islami. More plausibly, this is the handiwork of remnants of these groups who have been hiding on the Indian side of the border. Most of the fugitive militants have taken refuge in West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya, taking advantage of porous borders and large migrant populations from the neighboring country.
Now it is getting clearer that JMB’s operatives were involved. NIA investigation is heading towards right direction. However, selective disclosure to the media or wild speculations could be damaging, especially the alleged assassination plots in Bangladesh. This was in their agenda since 2011. So not surprising enough and as a matter of fact these groups have no capability to do that now. Yes serial crude bombings like in August 2005 could be a possibility. When anything like this (burdwan incident) happens, we always should take into account of local support that provided access to material, and other logistics. And also I think , this could be one of the many modules presently operating in India, whether they have ties with Indian separatists’ militant groups like KLO or ULFA factions etc.
Do you think the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (Bangladesh) was given a breather by the West Bengal government?
Of course these people are hiding in West Bengal, knowing that there is hardly any threat to their existence for various Socio-political and security reasons, some of them are unaware government and complacent security apparatus. As a matter of fact, West Bengal government is virtually clueless about the impending threats and why Bangladesh militant groups strive for Greater Bangladesh by merging the present West Bengal and some other region with their country. And the continuous influx of illegal Bengali speaking Muslim populations from other side of the border and opportunities to settle down in India, would be detrimental in future. For example, a place called Madhaym Gram in West Bengal (there are other hotspots) has most Bangladeshi migrants with easy access to ration card and other social benefits. This unchecked influx of Bangladeshi Muslims created pockets of influence for political parties in West Bengal.
There are many mini-Bangladesh in the state, but nothing to blame present government, the story of appeasement and vote bank politics goes back to decades long communist regimes. Mamta Banerjee government is just managing the legacy fearing backlash and of course the fear of the losing support base and recently gained power. When political infighting and confrontation between rival parties happen, Islamic radical groups thrive in this chaotic situation. Same situation is prevailing in both West Bengal and Bangladesh. Continue reading “Burdhwan- More than what meets the eye”→
The inviting of Nawaz Shariff to India to be part of he swearing in ceromony was a master stroke. But the question is will it solve the problem of terror. A fresh start has been made and the ball is in Pakistan’s court to stop cross border terrorism.
Animesh Roul, Executive Director, Society for Study of Peace and Conflict feels that the home grown menace od terror has become extremely serious. In this interview with rediff.com, Roul says that the Modi government could consider deradicalising the Muslim youth with better empowerement strategy.
How much of a difference can the new BJP government make on issues of terrorism?
There is optimism in the air, but we should not expect a sea change in policies tackling terrorism/militancy/extremism etc. BJP or for that matter any government doesn’t have that magic wand to control or deter India’s million mutinies. And each problem has its own antidote. So no quick fix here or one window solutions. Yes, it is very natural to anticipate iron hands for external aggressions, and cross border militancy, especially threat emanating from Pakistan and Bangladesh soil. The new government should be careful in handling homegrown terrorism (Naxalism included), not through outright repressive measures. However, better centre-state coordination required to tackle these situations successfully.
Indian Intelligence agencies say that the threat of a biological warfare against India is not something that they would rule out. There is a threat on hand, but the likelihood of a biological weapon being used against India would be from a non state is a possibility.
Recently there was a report by the Bio Weapons monitor which listed out India’s position on biological warfare. Animesh Roul, the Executive Director, Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict who was part of the team which prepared this report discusses withrediff.com the threat ahead for India where biological warfare is concerned.
By Animesh Roul
The security situation in the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) state of India has reached a new low in the past few months as militant organizations backed by Islamabad have stepped up a campaign of politically-motivated violence by targeting vital infrastructure in the region and attacking civil society members. The region’s status remains disputed by Pakistan, which refers to J&K as “Indian-occupied Kashmir.” In what seems to be a shift in terrorist tactics, the militants have begun focusing on soft targets such as workers, engineers and village-level political representatives.
On September 23, armed militants in Kashmir’s Baramulla District shot and killed local headman Mohammad Shafi Teli, affiliated to the ruling Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC). Earlier in the month, Ghulam Mohammad Yatoo, sarpanch (elected village chief) of Raipora village, was killed on September 10. These assassinations, similar to others carried out this year, suggest that the militants have resorted to these tactics to undermine ongoing grassroots democratic efforts in the troubled region.
The after effects of a ban on the Haqqani network is yet to be seen. While the United States of America thought it was fit to ban the outfit, experts in India kept a close watch on the developments. The question however is whether the Haqqani Network poses a threat to India or not?
Animesh Roul, Counterterrorism Analyst and Executive Director, Society for the study of peace and Conflict, New Delhi says that in the aftermath of this ban there could be a retribution strike in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even though Haqqani’s fire power is dwindling. In this interview with rediff.com, Roul discusses the Haqqani Network and also the growing threat of the Indian Mujahideen.
Thoughts on the United States of America designating the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization.
To start with Haqqani Group is not Taliban. It’s an independent Warlord run Crime syndicate, managed by family /clan members. It is territorial in nature and has both legitimate and illegal activities in the region, including Pakistan and in the Gulf States. It has no global Jihadi ambition, but with sophisticated military capability.
US had to designate the HQN as terrorist group as the later has been involved in many attacks against US/NATO interests in AfPak region. Also HQN’s material helps to Taliban and AQ remain a major concern. Despite Pakistan’s pressure not to tag it as FTO US did that now. May be we could conclude this development as a domestic posturing for the Obama Administration.
As per Pakistan, HQN is their only card left (of course JuD/Jaish-e- Muhammad ideologues are still there) to mediate for Pakistan with Taliban. Pakistan thinks, even the rising PTI ‘s Imran Khan) who can bring Talibans to any future negotiation/ or truce. HQN is weakening too. Most of its leaders are already listed as terrorists. The patriarch Jalaluddin is ageing and having health issues since 2005. Designation though won’t impact immediately but certainly it will restrict their growth. Again designation only can’t help; it also need follow up actions, like freezing assets, interdictions and continuous crackdowns including drone strikes.
What do you think the repercussions of such an action would-be? Will it agitate the network to carry out more strikes?
There could be retribution strike in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even though Haqqani’s fire power is dwindling. Post 2014, they can make things difficult for Afghanistan. Both US and Pakistan could have used Haqqani in a better way in the future. However after couple of backdoor talks failed, the situation reached at this stage. To note, elements in Pakistan including Army and ISI still respect Senior Haqqani and they will help him always to manage their internal crisis. E.g neo Taliban problem in the tribal areas. Also HQN’s considering their powerful existence in the region, their role in any future political assimilation process is still certain, the FTO status notwithstanding.
How does such a thing help India? Is the Haqqani network a threat to India?
Not really and not likely in the immediate future. Haqqani’s are very much focused and territorial and they mean business, and now they will be keener to survive and to hold their ground. HQN’s actions/activities are basically based on self-interest, and never ideology. India’s interest in Afghanistan might be at stake as now Pakistan can exploit situation in its favour, directing HQN against India’s interests.
Which group according to you poses the biggest threat to India today? Is it the Lashkar-e-Tayiba or the Indian Mujahideen?
Both are dangerous and they have longer term plans for India. To note LeT is Pakistan based group and operated under State patronage. SO we can’t do much to contain its threat except pressurizing Pakistan to act against it, which is not going to happen soon.
But IM is spreading within India and its brand of terrorism is hard to control as they don’t have any particular HQs or set ups where any military operation can be undertaken. They have unleashed a truly urban guerilla war against the country. Also there is a chance in the future that the section of Indian Muslims would see them (IM) as their only Card to stand against Hindu right wing onslaughts or the perceived injustice. In true sense, ‘the Pak—Influenced- Homegrown’ group is showing the seeds of radicalization within the country both with their extreme belief and Jihadi actions.
Still a section of political elites think that IM is figment of imagination and believe in a host of conspiracy theories. The growing trend of violent attacks from them should be monitored and managed.
What do you think today are the exact capabilities of the Indian Mujahideen?
We actually don’t know the extent of IM’s capability and reach. It depends on how they spread their rhetoric’s in the past and how they will do it in future. They manage to gather support within, thanks to many Anti-Muslim pogroms in last decades. As of now we have seen its geographical spread , spanning from Kerala to Bihar and of course they must be having safe hibernating grounds in those states not under Intelligence Radar and yet to be witness a terror incidents. Of course the places which can provide them fertile ground for easy recruits and safe haven, e.g. Odissa, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, etc.
The fire power again depends on the local supply, resources and available materials. The financial potency of IM is still mystery, except some known gulf connections and individual funding source. Here the local support is key to IM’s resilience than intermittent Pakistan or Diaspora/Gulf support.
Very recently we witnessed an attack on an Israel diplomat at New Delhi. Do you think that there is a trend here which we may need to worry about in the days to come?
Definitely Yes. There is no room for complacency here. In one line, ‘everybody is vulnerable in India.’ There are host of social, political factor to this situation. The 13 February incident shows that very vividly. Whether Iranian state agencies are involved or not, there is a section of Indians who can be exploited to any extent.
How do you analyze the situation in Kerala? Many term it as a hot bed for activities of terror.
It always reminds me about the 1921 Malabar events when I read anything about Kerala’s rendezvous with Jihad. As a student of History, I have read and researched the origin of violent Jihadi movement (against British and Hindus) in India. I traced back through my readings of Stephen F. Dale’s and others’ work on Mappilla and Portuguese colonialism: One of the most striking examples of such an attack occurred near Tellicherry (Thalassery) in March I764. The Telicheery event occurred when two Muslims entered a Portuguese church during Mass and killed one Lizardo Evan immediately and wounded several others without known provocation. There were other attacks too driven by solely religious causes. For example, two British collectors were attacked (H.V. Conolly was killed in 1855 in apparent revenge for exiling a Mopplah religious leader; and C.A. Innes was attacked in I9I5 for recovering a Hindu boy who had been forcibly converted to Islam.)
However, the only point I would make here is that Present day Kerala has a history of Saudi Wahabi infiltration. And what we see now may be traced back to those times. SIMI has a strong base and organized many successful Conclaves there in the past. Many other Islamic groups have reared their heads. The petro dollar is very much playing a role in radicalizing Kerala Muslims. We have witnessed recruitment drive from Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar e Taiba operatives. Last but not the least the violence against a Christian teacher couple of years back by suspected Popular front of India activists speaks volume about the ground situation. So no confusion about Kerala’s vulnerability to overt jihadism (or say Wahabism) or Radical Islamism.
We have seen a great deal of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia. How do you view this relationship today and does this deter terrorists from taking refuge in this country?
Things are better for sure between India and KSA. However, Jundal’s deportation is not the only thing we are talking about. There are other crime issues concerning Indian immigrants which should be taken into considerations. Since KSA authority has been acting in favor of India, it is certainly a positive sign. Having said that Pakistan must be watching these events…SO they could play their own game to convince Saudis not to deport any Pakistanis to India, whether he or she committed a petty crime or a terrorism incident. By any chance Saudis would listen to Pakistan. But still post Jundal incident, Pak handlers would think twice to send anybody to the Kingdom for hiding or raising money for terror cause.
You have written about the Sri Lankan connection of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba. How strong is this connection today and what does India need to-do?
Yes I have written in the past and constantly monitoring the security situation (Jihadist and otherwise) in Sri Lanka and Maldives. We all know about Fayaz kagzi and Himayat Baig’s SL sojourn. Even though I could not find subsequent links, still strongly believes that there are Al Hadith/Wahaibi sympathizers who can be exploited by LeT and other terror operatives, mostly in the Eastern districts of Ampara and Batticaloa. Also SLanka can be a safe hibernating ground for terrorists and staging point against India. I have little confidence about India’s future proactive role as far as Counterterrorism is concern. Still caught in Tamil quagmire, India and SL have no time to think Islamic terrorism as of now, though yes maritime terrorism is a concern. I am not a believer of only ‘dialogue n diplomacy’ to mitigate terrorism. It should be accompanied with ground military actions (covert and overt) and strong political will. India is lacking in both fronts. India has same position with other neighboring countries too.
The name of HuJI has been surfacing quite a lot these days. It is believed that they have very strong modules down South. Moreover their name was attached to the recent plot which was busted by the Bangalore police involving a couple of youth who were planning on assassinating some pro Hindu leaders and journalists.
There is no doubt that during times of need these brothers in arms will join forces. So whether HuJI or its remnant or LeT are scheming new attacks, itself sounds alarm bells. In any case we don’t know about their exact affiliations, whether they are HuJi or former SIMI or lone wolves. But certainly South India is a HuJi strongholds (Hyderabad, Bangalore and as far as Chennai). What they were scheming to do is dangerous. Not boasting about my assessment sometimes in December last year when I said to gatherings of CT professionals that there would be new wave of terrorist tactics which might involve assassinations of key political leaders, Key judiciary members and noted personalities to spread instant chaos and anarchy. It would definitely send the whole security apparatus into limbo and provide the assassins enough time to escape. It also involves less logistics and man powers. High pofile target killings would work in Indian environment as the situation would be too chaotic post incident. Also acts like murder/assassinations would be treated as criminal acts under Indian law and investigation would take years and to nowhere.
Pakistan always asks for more proof on the 26/11 attack. How long do you think this would last and will there ever be a logical conclusion to this trial in Pakistan?
Pakistanis never serious and any government in Pakistan (be it present Zardari govt or future Imran khan led Mullah Coalition, just stretching my imagination) would play to India’s liking. The political parties survive in Pakistan only playing the anti India and Pro Kashmir card.
It is fact that Pakistan is protecting JuD/LeT leaders along with other Kashmir centric Jihadi leaders. Hafiz Saeed of LeT, HM chief Syed Salahuddin, JeM chief Massod Azhar included. Demanding more proof itself is tactics to mislead Indian agency to believe what they gathered as evidences so far are nothing but ‘literature’(as one Pakistan official termed it). India should understand that as we haven’t achieved any single success in solving any of our with our outstanding issues be it Sir Creek or Siachen.
They are buying their time to force India to forgive and forget in the coming years. There is already a visible signs of dementia creeping into the Indian establishment’s thinking as far as Mumbai 26/11 events are concern, seemingly replaced by and symbolic Cricket, Ajmer sheriff and free trade. Ultimately terror events would be pushed under the carpet gradually. The talks of ‘Glass half full rather than half empty’ is itself misleading and a metaphor to move away from the core agenda. ‘Improving environments for bilateral talks’ or ‘setting the scene’ are pure diplomatic phrases to be used at the press conference or prior to any deadpan joint statements. Also we can’t blame Pakistan alone. We have also a tendency to forget events of yesterday and the ‘business as usual’ syndrome.