At a high-level meeting chaired by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday, the Government of India formalized a strategy to counter extremist ideologies such as that espoused by international terror group ISIS, which has influenced thousands around the world to join their ranks. Some of the counter-radicalization steps that the Centre, in coordination with certain State governments, will take include counselling of youths, convincing community elders to persuade the younger generation to not get influenced by any extremist ideology, besides others. ISIS, a violent terror group that has massacred thousands across the globe, has headhunters in India and among Indians living abroad.
Recent media reports have shed light on the fact that terror organisation have been recruiting young Indian Muslims attracted to the ludicrous idea of establishing a Caliphate, which was articulated in a recent 32-page document they reportedly authored. However, some handles have been tracked and intercepted, after Indian intelligence authorities reportedly intercepted a few indoctrinated Indian youth, who had planned to make their way into Turkey and then cross over to Syria to join the terror group. News reports go on to further articulate the strategy ISIS uses to recruit members into their organisation, which primarily includes radicalizing them on cyberspace and then facilitating their travel to Syria. A cause for much concern, however, is how members from the erstwhile Indian Mujahideen (IM), who may have joined ISIS, are involved in radicalizing young minds. The threat to India’s internal security that ISIS poses, albeit not necessarily in terms of a direct attack, is ever present.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed his confidence last year that Al Qaeda or any other radical terror group will not be successful in recruiting Indian Muslims, who will live and die for the country. “Indian Muslims will live for India. They will die for India. They will not want anything bad for India,” Modi said in an interview with CNN. Subsequently, Prime Minister Modi stridently argued that “all countries that believe in humanity have to come to fight this 21st-century challenge.” To a large extent, the Prime Minister is not off the mark on both counts. However, certain strategic experts have argued that India is not ISIS’s main point of reference when it comes to recruiting volunteers. What must be feared, however, is the terror group’s desire to expand its hate campaign to groups located close to the India border. In fact, the recently recovered 32-page ISIS document clearly states its desire to start a war against India, through its plea to various factions of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, who are armed, battle-hardened and leaderless.
What should further worry Indian spy agencies is that the ISIS recruitment document was found in the tribal areas of Pakistan. In fact, one of the aims underlined in Al Qaeda recruitment documents found in Osama Bin Laden’s last home in Abbottabad was an attack on India. Many of these recruits, according to news reports, have shifted to what US intelligence calls the Khorasan group, an umbrella organisation working with ISIS in Afghanistan, which includes several erstwhile Taliban commanders. It is, therefore, of utmost importance on the government’s part to review its Afghanistan policy.
According to Dr. Rudra Chaudhuri, a senior Lecturer at the Department of War Studies and the India Institute at King’s College, London, “it is about time that India embraces negotiations with Taliban representatives willing to talk. If not to win them over then to convince or compel them not to join ISIS, a force that cannot be reasoned with. It is worth thinking of IS as a larger and better organised Al Qaeda that is determined to control territory. If allowed to persist, a hypothetical IS-Lashkar-e-Taiba alliance would hardly seem unthinkable with well-supplied training grounds right across Pakistan’s borders.” Other solutions pending, this may seem like the best way forward.