ISI and Jihadi terrorism in south Asia

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Brig Anil Gupta
The recent terror attack in a highly secure zone of Dhaka where 20 hostages were brutally killed by the terrorists has sent shock waves throughout the civilized world. As per eye witness account the terrorists went about segregating the hostages by asking them to recite religious verses from holy book of a particular religion.
Those who could not were brutally killed with sharp edged weapons as if they were making sacrifices. No religion in the world teaches/ encourages such barbaric acts. There is no denying the fact that terror has no religion. But the terrorists do belong to a religion. The analogy of blood is identical. All blood is of same colour but when it flows in the veins of human beings it is associated to the religion of the individual like ‘blood of Hindus/Muslims/Sikhs/Christians’.
It is also true that professed aim of all jihadi terrorist organisations is to establish an ‘Islamic Caliphate’ or Khurasan Wilayate encompassing; India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Srilanka; the South Asian landmass. One can also not deny the fact that most of the terrorists or so called jihadis are followers of Islam and their mentors/trainers use certain tenets of Islamic ideology to motivate them and prepare them for jihad.
But reverse is also equally true that all followers of Islam are not terrorists. Most of the Muslims world over condemn such acts and term them un-Islamic. Another interesting fact is that most of the leaders of the jihadi-terror groups have not graduated from any famous Islamic university but are self-proclaimed interpreters of Islam.
While ISIS has claimed the ‘Dhaka attack’ as its handiwork, the government of Bangladesh is in a denial mode and is blaming home-grown terrorist groups and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). ISI has been in the forefront of spreading jihadi terror in South Asia particularly India as part of terrorism as a state sponsored policy. What happened in Dhaka does not portray well for India and the signs are ominous. Have the preparations for launch of Ghazwa-i-Hind reached the final phase?
Jihadi terrorism is on the rise in the region with new generation of terrorist leaders assuming control and ISI playing a major role as a facilitator cum coordinator between the international Sunni-terror organisations and home-grown Islamic terrorist tanzeems. Terrorist groups are increasingly preferring to work collectively with convergence in their ultimate aim “Establishment of Islamic Caliphate.”
India has been on the radar of international jihadi organisations since the Eighties with ISIS lately threatening to launch the holy war against India via Bangladesh. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan are serving as major hubs for ideological and material support to the jihadi organisations including South Asian radical Islamic network.
The bursting of various terrorist modules and over ground sympathiser networks of ISIS by National Investigation Agency (NIA) is indicative of emergence of home-grown jihadists. The exploitation of social media by the radical organisations to brainwash alienated Indian Muslim youth with jihadist ideology and appeal to join jihad is a serious issue. ISI’s hawk-eye is ever ready to exploit any sort of difference or dissension in our vast diverse society.
Its agents and sleeper cells are working relentlessly to sabotage our economy and create a communal divide. As per Wikkileaks, the US State Department described ISI as a terrorist organisation at par with al-Qaeda and Taliban. ISI is run as “a state within state” subverts elected governments and is involved in drug smuggling. There is an unholy nexus between the drug cartels and jihadi terrorist organisations under the patronage of ISI.
It is a well- known fact that in 1988, ISI moved Islamic militants from Afghanistan to Kashmir to start an insurgency which soon was overtaken by different jihadi terror outfits. Jihadi terrorism is firmly embedded in South Asia in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is trying to spread its tentacles in India, though India has been the major victim of jihadi terrorism in the region. ISI is trying to establish its hold in Nepal and Sri Lanka as well with a view to encircle India. Another South Asian nation Sunni-majority Maldives is fast becoming a safe-haven for the terrorists. ISI is under the firm control of Pakistan Army that is credited with “while all nations have an army, Pakistan Army has a nation.”
ccording to Dr. Subhash Kapila, an expert on South Asia, “Islamic terrorism to begin with was left wing in nature and confined to Middle East.
It was transformed into jihadi terrorism, generated and dictated by Islamic fundamentalists, under the guidance of Pakistan.” ISI was chosen as the national instrument by the Pakistan Army to nurture and coordinate jihadi terrorism. Jihadists are motivated to believe that jihad is permanent, global and ‘not linked to any particular territory’.
They believe that Jihad is an unlimited offensive to bring the whole world under Islamic rule and law. Wahabiism and its ally Salafi jihadism supports war against anyone and everyone who is not like them. The recent killings of Hindu priests in Bangaladesh, the Dhaka attack; atrocities on Hindu minorities, Shia and Ahmedias in Pakistan and Rohingya Muslims is the manifestation of this extreme ideology.
It is time to smell the coffee and accept the presence of elephant in the room. A regionally coordinated response to counter the challenges of jihadi terrorism in the region with India in forefront is imperative. With Pakistan using terror as an instrument of state policy and its repeated exposure as a hub of jihadi terror it would be futile to expect Pakistan to cooperate in this effort.
The only way left now is for US and its allies to formally declare Pakistan as a terrorist state and impose international sanctions. ISI should be declared as a terrorist organisation as has been acknowledged by the US authorities as per Wikkileaks. The centre of gravity of US operations against terrorism should shift towards Pakistan and engage all South Asian Islamic cum Jihadi terror groups.
SAARC nations less Pakistan need to formulate a joint mechanism for combatting the devil of jihadi terror in South Asia. India as the main target of the jihadi terrorist organisations, international as well as South Asian, has to remain alert always with the intelligence agencies required to play a major role.
With ISI having succeeded in getting a firm foot-hold in Bangladesh India now faces the challenge of flow of jihadists both from her Eastern as well as Western
borders.
A thorough mid-course review of the Home Ministry’s ‘anti-Radicalisation Policy’ and ‘Counter-Terrorism Policy’ is also needed. Last but not the least it is also imperative to empower moderate Islamic forces to raise their voices against the jihadi forces operating in the region and leverage them against the perpetrators of jihadi terror.
(The author is a Jammu based columnist, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at anil5457@gmail.com)

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