Rising ISIS and implications for India

By December 14, 2016World Affairs

It has been almost more than a year when the Islamic State (ISIS) came into global recognition from the remote, deserted mountains of Iraq. Though its existence is not exactly recent, its global presence definitely is. In such a short span of time, the group has managed to lure youth from all over the world. The irony is that many of those are from the West, the arch nemesis for IS. After creating havoc in Iraq, the group has now moved east towards Afghanistan and South Asia. According to a recent document, the group plans to take over India by the year 2020. So, should this threat be brushed aside as an over ambitious plan, or is it a real cause of concern?

What constitutes the Islamic State?

The Islamic State mostly consists fighters from the Middle East (or Arab background). Its cruel ways of day to day affairs have been witnessed by the world again and again. After severing its ties with Al-Qaeda, IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared himself as the leader of the so called ‘Islamic Caliphate’. Not long ago, ISIS made advent in Afghanistan, which is suffering from the presence of the notorious Taliban for the past two decades. The Taliban mostly consists of Afghans but the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan has been linked with the group for a long time now. This has created trouble for India even in the past as the infamous hijacking of Air India IC 814 was carried out by the same group. Now, once again, the threat perception seems high as ISIS starts capturing territory in Afghanistan. Taliban was, till recently, on a way to peace negotiations with the Afghan government and several rounds were conducted in Doha, Oslo and even China. But with the news of death of Mullah Omar, the talks have gone haywire. This might prove useful for IS as it gains more time in proving its supremacy in the region as Taliban members fight among themselves on the leadership issue.

No matter how it ends, the situation looks grim for India. Firstly, China has been actively engaged in talks with the Taliban to cork the unrest in its Western region. Though Taliban has denied its direct presence there, China believes if Islamic radicals in the Uighur province can be brought under control, the region will attain stability. If China does manage to pull this off, it can direct its troop movements more towards India and cement its hold in areas adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and even Kashmir. Now, with the involvement of IS, China might reconsider its negotiations with the Taliban. In the coming few months, if Taliban is unable to hold off IS, then it might lose credibility of controlling areas in Afghanistan. This might be the reason for the increased violence on its part.

Secondly, China has been actively engaged with Pakistan over several issues from construction to defence. Pakistan for a long time has claimed that the regions of Baloch and FATA are covered by anti-Pakistan groups and India is funding many of them. These statements cannot hide the fact that the ISI has been involved with the Taliban ever since its inception, whose leadership comes from a town in Pakistan called Quetta. The only ally for India in the region is the Northern Alliance. Even though two of its leaders are part of the government, its military hold is anything but commanding.

What should India do?

At this point, India is surrounded by a plethora of enemies from all sides whose sole motive is to destroy the unity and integrity of the country by carrying out cowardly attacks on its citizens. In such a situation, India should focus on a few areas, such as:

  • It should closely monitor the troop movement from China on its Eastern frontiers as it could use terrorists to infiltrate North East India. If Chinese troops are backtracking in areas where they would generally patrol or camp, it is possible that state sponsored terrorists might find their way into India from those routes.
  • The recent attacks in Punjab and the arrest of another terrorist in Kashmir are warnings that border security needs to be stepped up in these regions. With ISIS planning to infiltrate India, these borders become more vulnerable and the probability of terrorists sneaking in is more than ever. Informers in this region should be contacted more often and intelligence needs to be gathered almost on a daily basis.
  • The government internally should keep a close watch on any religious propaganda on social networking sites which could hurt the sentiments of any religion. ISIS has used the social platform as one of its strongest tools. The group was unable to gather much support from the Indian youth and very few travelled to join the group. But, with a Right Wing party in power, the group might once again manipulate the social network to create unrest among different religions resulting in riots.
  • India should also follow the peace process in Afghanistan closely and foster its ties with Iran. Being a Shia dominated state, Iran does not sympathise with many of these groups which are Sunni Especially with the ban on its nuclear program about to be lifted, Iran will be wary of being in company of any terrorist group.
  • Apart from this, all intelligence and security agencies should not put their guards down as Independence day has passed. If IS manages to collaborate with minority groups functioning in China, then India will face a four way threat on its borders, i.e. the Pakistani army, terrorists from Pakistan, Chinese army and terrorists from China with support from ISIS.