The main reason for the growing influence of fundamentalists in the Af-Pak region is the continued presence of U.S.-NATO troops in this region. The Islamists in both countries have a common aim—of throwing out Americans from this region—and hence have garnered more support. Lethal terrorist attacks in the region and the appearance of new jihadi groups in India under the patronage of Pakistan’s ISI are alarming indications of this phenomenon. The Taliban are undefeated in Afghanistan and growing in strength in Pakistan. The prospects of Americans carrying out a face-saving withdrawal from Afghanistan have further encouraged the jihadi movements, whose ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate in the entire Af-Pak region.
Hostility between India and Pakistan for over 60 years has been a fact of life. Later, Pakistan embarked on a plan to destabilise India so that the balance of powers shifts in its favour in South Asia.
The bold attacks in Kabul on American and Afghan security forces, suicide attacks in Pakistan and new terror attacks in India are a clear signal of a more powerful and vigorous jihadi movement in the region. These developments are pushing the moderate elements in the Pakistan army and the civil society on the defensive, and prospects of regional peace and developments are receding. The rapid deterioration in the relations between America and Pakistan are further adding to the turbulence in the region and jeopardising peace initiatives. It is in these circumstances that we look into various developments and growth of Islamic terrorism in the Af-Pak region and some parts of India.
Receding Prospects of Peace in South Asia
The peace process between India and Pakistan and between Afghanistan and Pakistan has slowed down as the real decision makers—the Pakistan army and the ISI—have yet to show any change in their policy of exporting terrorism. There is a warlike situation on the Afghan- Pakistan borders. There is almost a daily exchange of fire between Pakistan and Afghan forces in border areas and frequent raids across the borders.
The military brass talks of war, with the possibility of a nuclear confrontation with India. A report in the media states 25 more nuclear missiles with a range of 700–1,000 km are to be added to Pakistan’s arsenal. If Pakistan successfully achieves this target, this would be the highest addition of missiles to Pakistan’s arsenal ever in a year. The air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles would be capable of hitting a target in all major Indian cities. Pakistan has been rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal, and according to some reports, the number of warheads it possesses has already surpassed that of France.
Pakistan has been following a dual policy of continuing a dialogue with India and Afghanistan and supporting terrorist groups.
Hostility between India and Pakistan for over 60 years has been a fact of life. Later, Pakistan embarked on a plan to destabilise India so that the balance of powers shifts in its favour in South Asia. The annexation of J&K was a pivotal part of this scheme. Despite India’s gesture of peace, the Pakistan army shows no inclination to demolish the infrastructure that supports cross-border terrorism. Infiltration across the borders continues unabated, and Pakistan is keeping its options open to mount major terrorist attacks across the borders.
Pakistan has been following a dual policy of continuing a dialogue with India and Afghanistan and supporting terrorist groups. The Pakistan army still seems to believe that pressure must be maintained on India and Afghanistan so that they do not ignore Pakistani claims in the region. Many in the Pakistan army seem convinced that terrorist assaults will ultimately become unbearable and force India and Afghanistan to accept their demands and change the status quo in the region in favour of Pakistan. If the terrorism sponsored by Pakistan is not controlled in its present form, no peace process can make progress and chaos will ultimately overtake the entire region.
Indian Mujahideen (IM)
The mujahideens in India have lately become more aggressive, and there have been nine terrorist strikes since 26/11, in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Varanasi. The government believes that IM is involved in most of these attacks. The security agencies still do not seem to know what the real motives behind such attacks are and whether they are all indigenous in nature or sponsored and directed from across the borders by Pakistani terrorist groups supported by the ISI.
The series of terrorist strikes carried out by the IM and Pakistani organisations across India outside Jammu & Kashmir since the Mumbai blasts of March, 1993, show that jihadi terrorism has become a permanent threat to India.
Some attacks came after the arrest of members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) in India, who were reported to be planning to kidnap a VIP and demand the release of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri who was sentenced to death for his role in the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. An e-mail message purported to be from “Indian Mujahedeen” received by some news channels before the explosions indicated that these explosions were planned by them. The message also referred to 17 September, when according them the total number of Kashmiris killed in Jammu & Kashmir crossed 100. Many of the messages in the past have borrowed the text from some messages from Osama bin Laden.
Recently, a powerful bomb placed outside the high court in New Delhi killed at least 13 people and wounded more than 100. All we know is that it was 2 kg bomb and it left a crater 3 to 4 feet deep near the main reception counter, where passes were being issued for lawyers and visitors. This was a second attack in the same area, but so far few clues have been found to establish which organisation was actually responsible for these attacks.
The series of terrorist strikes carried out by the IM and Pakistani organisations across India outside Jammu & Kashmir since the Mumbai blasts of March, 1993, show that jihadi terrorism has become a permanent threat to India. Several bomb attacks in large Indian cities in recent years connected to the IM are said to have support from Pakistan-based militants.