Probe IS threat thoroughly

Islamic State

The Islamic State (IS) group’s recent announcement regarding its new ‘India branch,’ the ‘Wilayah al-Hind’ should worry India. Coming less than a month after the IS joined hands with the National Tawaheed Jamaat (NTJ), a Sri Lanka-based Islamist radical group, to carry out a series of deadly suicide bombings in the island, it reaffirms apprehensions that the IS is according more importance to India in its new global strategy. Following its loss of the last sliver of land it controlled in Syria in late March, the IS is seeking to reassert and reinvent itself, taking aim at India and South Asia. Investigations into its Sri Lankan support network revealed strong links with Indian jihadists in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The IS announced the appointment of a new emir (chief) for ‘Bengal’ and threatened a wave of attacks in India and Bangladesh. It followed that up with a blast in Dhaka. The string of IS-related announcements and terror incidents in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh over a short span of three weeks indicates that the jihadist terror group has these three countries in its crosshairs. This is perhaps aimed at boosting the morale of its fighters. South Asia, with its large Muslim population and multiple communal and sectarian conflicts, could have emerged on the IS’ radar as a convenient new base for its terror activities. It is in this context that the announcement regarding the ‘Wilayah al-Hind’ must be seen.

Indian security agencies could be tempted to dismiss the IS’ ‘Wilayah al-Hind’ as mere bluster. Indeed, the IS controls no territory in India. So, the question of it declaring India a ‘province’ of its Caliphate doesn’t arise. Importantly, when Indian Muslims did not heed the call of the Al-Qaeda, there is little reason for them to flock to join the IS now. On the other hand, over-reaction to the IS ‘threat’ could result in India playing into the hands of the terror group. Going into a security overdrive with random crackdowns will prove counterproductive.

Still, a possible threat cannot be ignored. Indian security agencies should probe the authenticity of the IS announcement and act accordingly. After all, anger and alienation has grown among India’s religious minorities since the BJP came to power in 2014, a scenario in which Muslim youth could get drawn to the IS’ call to arms. The announcement of a ‘Wilayah al-Hind’ is not a clear and present danger to India, but it should not be dismissed without a thorough investigation, either.

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