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DSA is as much yours, as it is ours!

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The single biggest threat to India and its national interests has been terrorism. In some form or the other this has been a truism since the middle of the 1950s. Insurgent movements in the north-eastern states began what has become a serious and widespread problem well into this century. Almost all of the north-eastern states have been afflicted by this ailment at some stage or the other. Insurgent groups spread across the states and also into neighbouring countries, be it China, Bangladesh or Myanmar. But there is a difference to what is now happening across many countries of the world and more specifically in the heart of the western Asia. India’s north-eastern states witnessed a localised insurgency, but what is now all over is a global phenomenon that threatens everyone in one way or the other.

India got a whiff of global terrorism when the Kashmir insurgency metamorphosed into a jihad for the brainwashed youth of Pakistani Punjab. The groups that sprang up, supposedly in the name of Kashmiri liberation, were essentially allies of global terrorist organisations. They were part of a wider networked jihadi apparatus that sought to impose its costs on those that it viewed as enemies, whether believers or not. Even as each group maintained its own distinct identity, yet they belonged to a global phenomenon that was motivated by faith. What the world is now witnessing is a completely new player on the ground, truly international in reach and motivated by shock and awe.

Al Qaeda was the first headquarter of transnational terrorism. Its worldwide impact, lowest in South America, was felt in every continent. In true corporate culture its franchises did the job for it and they didn’t even have to pay royalties. In the Indian subcontinent Al Qaeda fraternised with various Pakistani terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Sipah-e-Sahaba and various other lesser outfits. They represented the local sales offices of Al Qaeda, though did their own things, only paid nominal obeisance and kept India on tenterhooks. Their obsession with India is not something that really interested Al Qaeda, which was unifocal in its western attacks. 11 September 2001 changed the nature of the game for it showed the true nature of the beast. In a decade its head and guide, Osama bin Laden, was killed in an outrageous raid by United States Special Forces, the Navy SEALs.

The laws of nature are applicable to all, even to global terror. Where there is a vacuum, other energies will rush in to fill the space. And that is precisely what has happened in the world of global terror. The space vacated by Al Qaeda, even if they claim to exist and be relevant, is fast being filled in by the Islamic State, an organisation vastly different to how its predecessor functioned. A basic functional requirement for Al Qaeda was the absence of viable state institutions or at least weakened ones. First Sudan, then Afghanistan and subsequently Somalia, are all instances where Al Qaeda settled when the state decayed. In the case of the IS it is the reverse, where it replaces the state. It first battles agencies of the state and then assumes duties and functions of a state. Quite unlike Al Qaeda.

The other and more important, difference between the IS and Al Qaeda is in the pattern of recruitment. Al Qaeda remained a largely Arab organisation, with a smattering of recruits outside in the periphery. But the IS on the other hand, while being led by an Arab who claims the Caliphate, has a vast multinational workforce. And this is where India’s worries really begin to get serious. Unlike the lumpen Pakistani Punjab based terrorists India is accustomed to handling, the IS has been recruiting educated young Indians. By the sheer shock and macabre nature of its actions the IS has a surplus of volunteers, being drawn in from countries as disparate as South Korea and Sweden. Countries all around India have seen young men and some women too, volunteer for the IS. They form the single most important national security challenge for India. For some will return, when the IS decides to expand from its Arab heartland focus. So when they do their cruel capabilities will put any psychopat h to shame.

Manvendra Singh


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