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India: Facing Up To Ugly Truths About the ISIS

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By Shastri Ramachandaran* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

MUMBAI (IDN) - In sharp contrast to the ongoing dissection — in the West and West Asia — of the ISIS, its roots, its growing appeal, the dangers it poses and ways in which it can be confronted and countered, in India there is a deafening silence.

The government and political parties act as if the threat would go away if they don’t talk about it. We make do with bombast about the patriotism of Muslims in India, and do not debate what the threat is about. The ISIS is not a challenge to any one community or country. It is a phenomenon attracting adherents from unlikely quarters in the West; from the very countries that have joined hands to militarily crush the ISIS.

What is India’s understanding of the problem? What are the threats India is facing? Is there a danger of ISIS recruiting Indians? Is India a target for a jihadi attack? Is being in a state of security alert adequate deterrence? Are there creeping dangers — indoctrination, inducements, coercion and such — which can be checked by creating awareness and understanding through public campaigns on the issues involved? Is the fight against the ISIS better served by official silence? Or, does it call for more open sharing of perceptions so that Official India gains clarity in dealing with the matter?

These questions came to the fore, again, middle of October because of two disparate developments: one, public disagreement between the U.S. and Israel; and, two, the chief of India’s National Security Guard (NSG) being frowned upon, and berated, for speaking his mind.

To take the latter first, NSG Director-General JN Choudhury said on October 16 that the ISIS and al-Qaeda are preparing for “multi-city, multiple attacks” in India. He observed that with al-Qaeda declaring its intention to attack, the outfit might join forces with other groups like Indian Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed etc.

The Union Home Ministry promptly rubbished Choudhury’s remarks saying that: he had no locus standi; he was head of a post-attack force (Does it mean he should stand back in pre-attack situations?); and, his past work in the Intelligence Bureau makes him prone to gaffes.

John Kerry’s remarks

At the end of it, no one has a clue to the government’s thinking. Does it believe that the danger to India is less because al-Qaeda and ISIS are at daggers drawn? Is the home ministry more preoccupied with the turf war between these jihadi outfits than the propaganda offensive and terrorist strikes they may unleash?

In this context, U.S.-Israeli spat, triggered by Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks may be of interest to the Indian establishment as well as critics of its foreign policy. At a White House ceremony for Eid, Kerry said that the conflict between Israel and Palestinians was the main cause of unrest in West Asia (and of jihadi recruitment); and, that achieving peace between these two was “more critical than ever”. Kerry provoked angry reactions from Israeli ministers and politicians though Israel and the U.S. are hand-in-glove in the region.

This is a pointer that even close allies have no clarity yet on the causes and conditions which breed jihadi recruitment. This also underscores the need for deeper investigation, scrutiny and understanding of the ISIS phenomenon and why it is gaining ground. The U.S., Israel and Palestine do not let armed conflict make them pause in the battle for minds.

To fight ISIS, there is need for an Indian perspective on what conditions in India are helping jihadi recruitment and boosting the appeal of the ISIS. The lack of authoritative and credible answers shows that India is ill-prepared to deal with the truth of the situation.

Shastri Ramachandran is an independent political and foreign affairs commentator. This article first appeared in DNA on October 21 and is being reproduced by arrangement with the writer. [IDN-InDepthNews – October 22, 2014]

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Photo: J N Choudhury, Director General of National Security Guard (NSG) | Credit: tkbsen.in

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