Increase in cross-border firing, attempts to attack coastal areas and targeting army camps in Kashmir show a new aggressive posture of the Pakistan army. The dramatic rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the recent Pakistan offensive in Kashmir have added a new dimension to the challenges that India faces from extremism. Although only a few Indians have joined the ISIS or travelled to Iraq and Syria to enlist with the ISIS the danger of its influencing larger segments of Indians persists. In West Asia, ISIS remains undefeated, brutal and defiant despite sustained operations mounted against it by the US led global coalition. A few thousand air strikes by the United States and its partners have failed to degrade ISIS operations so far. The operational capability of the ISIS remains unhampered both in Iraq and in Syria, mainly because the coalition has yet to put more boots on the ground and the war has been compartmentalised between Iraq and Syria.
The longest NATO mission ended at midnight on 31 December 2014. During its 13 long years in Afghanistan, NATO suffered more than three thousand fatal casualties. 2014 was the deadliest year in Afghanistan with overall 10000 civilian and military casualties. The efforts of the Taliban to overthrow the established regime in Afghanistan are likely to intensify, and Pakistan and its proxies may play a leading role in this internal struggle.
The main danger to India’s security is the al-Qaeda and ISIS campaigns in the Indian subcontinent.
The internal security environment in the country shows signs of gradual deterioration because of the growing polarisation of the society along with external and internal terrorist threats. The main danger to India’s security is the al-Qaeda and ISIS campaigns in the Indian subcontinent. Besides these threats, a new phenomenon in the form of simmering ethnic or religious unrest is spreading in some parts of the country and has in some cases has taken a violent turn. Violence is hindering economic development and challenging the authority in many states.
The socio-economic unrest is spreading across many states due to the absence of a strong and resolute leadership, poor policing and widespread corruption. The groups that launch such movements propagate the urgency of introducing socio-economic reforms among the vocal segments of the middle classes in the initial stages. These classes are urged to rise against the unjust system that hinders their upward mobility and economic well-being. Common problems such as unemployment, lack of transport facilities, rising prices of essential commodities and non-availability of common items of food are then highlighted to garner support of the common man. So far, most such movements have failed to gain mass support, but infiltration of antinational or subversive groups in these movements in some industrial areas of the country poses danger to peace in several urban and industrial belts of India.
Domestic terrorism has got a new lease of life due to support from worldwide violent Islamic movements. The plan of al-Qaeda to start operations in the South Asian region and the dramatic rise of the ISIS have added a new, dangerous dimension to the challenges that India faces from Islamic extremist groups.
The recent terrorist attacks in Kashmir suggest a new aggressive pattern, which is generally adopted by the fidayeens; such attacks require a more aggressive response by the security forces.
Although India has been by and large free from the problem of its nationals travelling to Iraq and Syria to enlist with the ISIS, the curious case of Mehdi Masroor Biswas and his global digital footprint came as a rude shock to our intelligence agencies. From his @ShamiWitness, an ISIS propaganda Twitter account, ominous signals were emanating that had the potential of influencing and radicalising large segments of Indian society. Mehdi supported the ISIS and declared that Islamic caliphate will be established in the world soon. Mehdi, who was running what was perhaps the most influential ISIS twitter account, was working for a top corporate in Bengaluru.
A new phase of terrorist activities has commenced in Kashmir. After a pause of many months, Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups have not only reappeared in Kashmir but also attacked well-fortified army camps. The recent terrorist attacks in Kashmir suggest a new aggressive pattern, which is generally adopted by the fidayeens; such attacks require a more aggressive response by the security forces. It is time to have a fresh look at the tactics employed by the terrorists that help in evading the security network.
Pause in terrorist activities in the recent past led many of us to believe that the insurgents have been defeated, their supporters have disappeared and Pakistan has given up its game plan of subverting the government in Kashmir. The reality is that anti-government and anti- India activities continue unabated and more Pakistan agents are active behind the scenes. In Kashmir, security aspects have been overplayed by vested interests and overenthusiastic army and police officers at the cost of socio-economic development of the state. This has resulted in increased levels of alienation among large segments of the population. Police methods of containing militancy succeed only for short durations without steps to bring about appropriate political and socio-economic changes to hit at the root cause of political unrest and Pakistani interference in the state.
Pakistan and its local agents are reorganising and resetting their plans to launch a new disruptive phase in the state. Sporadic terrorist attacks have already restarted, even in and around Srinagar.
The demand for the thinning out of security forces, the removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and the release of political prisoners is a part of the game plan of separatists and Pakistani camp followers. These groups also constantly harp on violations of the human rights by security forces, ignoring the fact that the civil population has suffered much more because of human rights violations by the insurgents and terrorists. They complain about the security checks that affect the day-to-day activities of the people but say little about security compulsions of the state because of subversive Pakistani role that requires imposition of strict security checks in the first place.
Realising its diminishing support, Pakistan and its local agents are reorganising and resetting their plans to launch a new disruptive phase in the state. Sporadic terrorist attacks have already restarted, even in and around Srinagar. Lately, there have been grenade attacks on police posts in several Kashmir towns; members of elected panchayats have been attacked/killed. There is a spurt in anti-Indian propaganda, and posters threatening police and government officials have appeared in several towns.
The post-election scenario has thrown up new possibilities of bringing peace to the troubled state. However, sustained and determined efforts of the centre and state governments will be required to bring peace. A viable solution can emerge only if all stakeholders of J&K agree to sort out regional and ethnic differences. This, however, is not presently in sight.
The devious US policy of supplying $500 million worth of arms to the rebels in Saudi Arabia has only prolonged Syria’s civil war and undermined operations of the coalition forces against the ISIS.
The ISIS remains undefeated, brutal and defiant as ever despite sustained operations mounted against it by the US-led global coalition. A few thousand air strikes by the United States and its partners show little signs of subduing the ISIS. The strategy to degrade the capabilities of the ISIS by devastating air attacks has obviously not been able to achieve the desired result. The one reason why the operational capability of the ISIS remains unhampered both in Iraq and in Syria is that the coalition has compartmentalised the war between Iraq and Syria.
The devious US policy of supplying $500 million worth of arms to the rebels in Saudi Arabia has only prolonged Syria’s civil war and undermined operations of the coalition forces against the ISIS. The decision of not putting American boots on the ground, along with the stipulation that combat operations must include the active involvement of all the regional countries, imposes certain restrictions on an all-out offensive on the ground. It is clear that the war cannot be won via air strikes alone and the presence of a larger number of ground troops will be unavoidable at a certain stage of the campaign. It is hoped that a Shiite coalition of Iran, the Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shia militias, apart from the Kurdish Peshmerga, will eventually provide the ground forces required in the war against the ISIS. We may eventually require the United States and Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kurds, which have been working at cross purposes, to join the fight against the ISIS.
The recent brutal attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, in which more than 130 school children were systematically butchered, forced the Pakistan army to intensify its operations against the TTP. There are clear indications that a group of Uzbeks formed part of the attackers on the school in Peshawar. The presence of the elements of the IMU in its frontier region can pose a major threat to Pakistan.
Pakistan’s policy of using various militant groups will prove extremely dangerous for Pakistan’s own safety and the larger national interests of its neighbours in the long run.
Although the Pakistan prime minister declared in the wake of this attack that the government will not rest till it wipes out all the terror outfits and there is no good or bad Taliban, the outfits led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed remain untouched. The army is continuing its policy of training, funding and sheltering militant groups and using them as proxies to attack India and Afghanistan. Since 2001, analysts have repeatedly warned Pakistan’s generals that they will be eventually attacked by their rogue militant proxies, but Pakistani generals continue to be in a denial mode.
In the recent past, there has been a sudden spurt in public support for the ISIS in various parts of Pakistan. Some senior commanders of the Mullah Fazlullah–led TTP had recently announced their acceptance of Ibrahim, a.k.a. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the caliph. Moreover, many other smaller militant groups now support the agenda of the ISIS. Graffiti and posters supporting the ISIS have appeared in Karachi, Lahore, Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and many other towns and cities of the country.
There are persistent reports about Pakistan plans to employ terrorist proxies in a major role in Afghanistan after the drawdown of the USNATO forces. The Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and other Pakistani groups, including the Lashkar, the Jaish and the Punjabi Taliban, are likely to be in action together. Pakistan is already using the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network for re-establishing its influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s policy of using various militant groups will prove extremely dangerous for Pakistan’s own safety and the larger national interests of its neighbours in the long run.