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Security threats to India in 2015

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Strengthening rapid response capabilities is key to meeting the challenge

As India strives to emerge as a strong regional power it faces formidable security challenges in the New Year, which may cause obstacles in its progress. The most formidable of these stems from terrorism, in both its external and internal dimensions — the trans-national and home-grown, against which India has long waged a relentless fight. The former originates from Pakistan, which faced a crisis of identity after Partition. It sought to compensate for its diminishing conventional military clout after 1971 through a quest for nuclear parity and deterrence.

It also pursued the option of asymmetric power, through use of non-state actors, first during the Khalistan movement in east Punjab and then in Jammu & Kashmir. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or `Army of the Pure’, founded in 1990 by Hafez Mohd Saeed and Zafar Iqbal in Kunar, Afghanistan started functioning from Muridke, near Lahore, with increasing state patronage. Though its primary focus for militant operations was initially the Kashmir Valley, its professed goal now extends to destabilising other parts of India.

As the U.S. and International/NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) could assign a new role for the LeT there, as seen in the recent attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat. Indian diplomatic premises and developmental support workers there will remain targets in the foreseeable future.

India has been in the ideological crosshairs of al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Both Osama-bin-Laden and Ayman-al-Zawahiri spoke of a ‘Zionist-Crusader alliance’ which was extended after 9/11, to a ‘Zionist-Crusader-Hindu alliance’ when al-Qaeda developed links with Pakistan-based militant organisations like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

In a video which surfaced on September 04, 2014 al-Qaeda chief Zawahiri announced formation of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). He threatened to “liberate our brothers” in Myanmar, Kashmir, Bangladesh “from injustice and oppression.” One objective of this declaration could be intended to compete for leadership, influence and legitimacy with the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, but as the suicide bomb attack near the Wagah border, inside Pakistan (November 2, 2014) revealed, it brought the spectre of an AQIS threat that much nearer to India.The Burdwan blasts (Oct 02, 2014) revealed a sinister linkage developing with the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), for possible terrorist operations in West Bengal and Bangladesh. This brings another perspective to the fragile security situation in Bangladesh, which has been plagued by gun running trails and linkages to disgruntled militant factions of our North Eastern insurgents.

Till lately, India has not provided a fertile ground for establishing an al-Qaeda base though newly motivated Indian jihadists have started seeking global affiliations. The Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen (TIM) was formed in 1985 after the communal riots in Maharashtra. Its message found resonance among young members of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), founded in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh in April, 1977. SIMI was banned in 2001 but its followers regrouped under Indian Mujahideen (IM), which was successful in plotting and executing several bombings between 2002-2008, with logistic help from across the border. IM operated through several networks — the Azamgarh module in Uttar Pradesh, recruits in Beed, Maharashtra and Bhatkal in Karnataka. Two other modules surfaced later, one from Pune in 2009 and the other from Darbhanga in 2011. IM sleeper cells have been seen also in Hyderabad and Ranchi. Despite recent arrests of some of its prominent leaders, IM remains a potentially powerful disruptive force.

Despite all their grievances, unhappiness and anger against the Government, Indian Muslims have kept away from pernicious pan-Islamic ideologies advocated by jihadi terrorist organisations so far. However, even as AQIS becomes increasingly interested in India, it could try to tap the wellsprings of discontent among young Islamists in India.

China’s rapidly enhancing clout as a major power in our vicinity impinges directly on India’s geo-political space. In the near term, the power differential with India, in terms of its economic and military capability will widen. Long-standing disagreements on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) are unlikely to be resolved quickly but India must accelerate gradation of its border infrastructure, putting in place military operational concepts and capabilities to deter big incursions from the north, while nuancing the posture of political exchanges with China in a calibrated manner.

On the internal front, left wing extremism (LWE) in the so-called Naxalite corridor, extending to five/six States — Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh/Telangana and Maharashtra — poses the most serious threat. In 2014, there was a declining trend of fatalities, though violence continued. A mix of force-centric and development-oriented approach by the establishment has not curtailed its ability to carry out periodic attacks resulting in high casualties among the security forces.

Expediting police reforms, plugging manpower shortages, enhancing rapid response capabilities and equipment modernisation should be essential facets of our strategy to cope with these threats in the near term.

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Printable version | Jul 18, 2018 8:31:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/security-threats-in-2015/article6823327.ece