BY M.R. JOSSE
GAITHERSBURG, MD: There have been very potent developments here in America, both in terms of the recent escalation in the ‘trade war’ between the United States and China, as well as the unseemly showdown between Congress and the Executive Branch.
These events are doubtless at the front and centre of the international political discourse, and, as such, will continue to be the subject of acute and heated commentary and analysis across many climes.
Leaving legions of experts in those exoteric reaches of global politics/government to explain what the future holds for not only those most directly concerned but indeed for us ordinary mortals as well, yours truly chooses to focus in the limited space on some rather dramatic developments in our own neck of the global woods – to wit, South Asia.
Having only last week directed readers’ attention to the ‘India nexus’ of the Easter Sri Lankan suicide bombings, your chronicler had, among other things, referred to Indian analyst Brahma Chellaney’s public assertion that “India’s internal jihadist threat is rapidly growing”, specially in West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
It was only natural, therefore, to be strongly drawn to two news/commentary items disclosing that the terrorist grouping ISIS – Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – had now announced a ‘province’ in India!
In a piece by Raj Shekhar (timesofindia.indiatimes.com) ISIS, or IS for short, had released a statement announcing a province – or ‘wilayah-e-Hind’ – on the Indian subcontinent, though it did not specify that it referred to India-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
Shekhar tells us that the presence of IS in Jammu and Kashmir was first noted towards the mid-2016, while the next year an outfit called Islamic State (Khorasan Province) had publicly appealed to Kashmiris to embrace martyrdom, replacing every slain IS fighter in Kashmir with two others.
A better written piece deserving of attention – by Prakash Katoch, a former Lt. Gen. in the Indian Army – appeared in Asia Times. He avers: IS claimed baldly that it had indeed established a province in the ‘Kashmir Valley.’
While reminding readers that ISIS had claimed responsibility for the Sri Lankan Easter outrage, Katoch affirms that such an outcome was “something that was waiting to happen, with India’s lackadaisical handling of the ISIS issue, particularly in Jammu & Kashmir despite ominous signs that have been present for years.”
Among a damning litany of past evidence indicative of ISIS obvious presence in India-administered Kashmir, Katoch mentions the U.K.’s Channel 4 report that an Indian, Mehdi Mansoor Biswas, was behind the biggest “ISIS twitter handle” in India.
Biswas reportedly operated for several years in India and helped in the recruitment of more cadres. He was apprehended after Indian investigators found him working for a food company in Bengalaru. The retired general also recalls that “ISIS flags have been appearing in Kashmir for the last couple of years.”
What’s more, he reminds that “after the Sri Lanka bombings, ISIS issued a threat to India and Bangladesh and appointed Abu Muhammad al-Bengali as it new chief in Bangladesh.”
STATE OF DENIAL
Despite the belated, isolated disclosures now being made that ISIS is alive and well in India, it has for years been an article of faith for Indian babudom and the media to vehemently deny that India has been sullied by the scourge of Islamic radicalism – unlike Pakistan, as they are wont to allege.
One example should suffice. In a detailed piece published in thehindu.com Suhasini Haidar traces the recent of the ‘War on Terrorism’ and concludes that it is in peril for a whole bunch of reasons.
She then pontificates that one reason for the recent Sri Lanka bombings “had much to do with the fact that the intelligence inputs by India were ignored”! Otherwise so well informed, she chooses not to let on that either India herself has become a hub of sorts for terrorism or that increasing numbers of Indians themselves have joined in ISIS operations in the past.
What compounds the mystery of this state of denial are two additional factors: one, with ISIS virtually being wiped out from Iraq and Syria, the return of such fighters to India was inevitable; two, that the ruling BJP’s perceived anti-Muslim image, and the never-ending conflict in Jammu & Kashmir, would be sheer naiveté to imagine that India would not become a high-profile target.
Incidentally, a thoughtful piece having a bearing on South Asia, was penned by Munir Akram – a former Pakistan diplomat and brother of former Pakistan Ambassador to Nepal, Zamir Akram – published in the Deccan Chronicle, by arrangement with Dawn.
Akram’s credible thesis is this: “America’s new hostility towards Pakistan is due mostly to its emerging global rivalry with China in which India has been chosen as Washington’s strategic partner whereas Pakistan is listed on China’s side of the power equation.”
He then goes on to argue that “Pakistan is well placed to resist military pressure. The Pulwana mini-crisis demonstrated two things: one, that Pakistan can defend itself by conventional means; two, that nuclear deterrence works once again to moderate military behavior on both sides. Yet India is embarked on a major arms acquisition and modernisation process which Pakistan will have to continue to neutralise.”
Among other moves to be undertaken by Pakistan, he suggests: “Pakistan should join in the nascent efforts of China, Russia and some other countries to construct alternate or supplementary arrangements to the U.S.-dominated financial system.” And so on.
How far can the United States shut its eyes to the underhand role that India continues to play vis-a-vis South Asian terrorism? Also, one wonders how far India can continue to play America and China against one another.
On the one hand, she is ecstatic about the spirit of Wuhan; on the other, she is ever-ready to join in containment-of-China schemes in one guise or another.
Will a claimed ISIS province in India make any difference?