by Harish Gupta, National Editor, Lokmat Group
The Republic Day parade in Delhi this year is being held amidst an unprecedented security. Considering neighbouring Pakistan's open espousal of selective terror as a state policy, the day has long since become one of keeping all eyes peeled. But the threat this year is of a different kind. With French President Fracoise Holland as this year's guest-in-chief at the parade, and France being the prime target of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Europe, the enormity of this year's threat on Indian soil is mind-boggling.
It is no wonder therefore that the US, which is a close ally of France, has deployed the full potential of its CIA to help India's enforcement agencies track down IS moles and sleeper cells. The result has been instantaneous. In a matter of 12 hours on Friday last, more than a dozen persons were detained from six states, including NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. One of them is a chemical engineering dropout. The kingpin of the Indian operation of the ISIL was operating from Mumbra which is the proposed Capital of Indian wing of the IS. It soon became clear that these modules were in contact with their handlers in the Iraq-Syria territories under IS control. Information began trickling in of foreign intelligence agencies having alerted their Indian counterparts of a move by IS to use teen-age boys and girls to make an attempt on the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
So far, India has been a victim of terror from groups in Pakistan operating under a variety of religious signboards, though all of them are orchestrated by the Inter-Services Intelligence of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The attack on IAF base at Pathankot by Pakistani terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, with possible backing from ISI, was the subject of this column last week. In former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's words, terror outfits like JeM or LeT are the "Frankenstein monster" created by Pakistan as some of them on the country's west are now striking at Pakistan on its own soil, the most recent being a dastardly attack on Bacha Khan University in Peshawar, killing 20. Even as India was put on high alert over IS threat, the terror from across the border post-Pathankot was still unfolding. A taxi hired at Pathankot by three unknown persons was lost in Himachal Pradesh; a day later, its driver's body was found on a lonely bridge in Kangra valley. An SUV belonging to an Inspector-General of ITBP, with blue beacon on its top, was stolen. On Sunday, yet another security services car with military sticker disappeared from Delhi's Lodhi Garden.
Who are behind it? Is it the "known unknown", in other words, surrogates of ISI from across the border? Or is it IS? Is India still caught in its warlike neighbourhood, and does that fully explain the high level of anxiety that has become a regular feature of life in India? Or, are global religio-political forces finally pulling India out of its regional bounds, into the windstorm of what may be a new crusade?
It is often argued that India's presence in the so-called IS army of 30,000 is minuscule, with just about 20 who could have had fought for the "cause" at some point. Besides, about 30 Indians who had been 'radicalised' were prevented from leaving the country and are under surveillance. Foreign intelligence partners have identified over 200 Indians who may be in contact with IS recruiting agents. In Kashmir, till the other day, raising Pakistan flag was an accepted way of showing protest. For the past few months, Pakistan's crescent moon flag is giving way to IS' colour. And sources in the telecoms sector with access to information about usage pattern of bandwidth on smart-phones hint at large scale downloading of IS sites by many belonging to the young generation of Indian Muslims.
It is likely, therefore, that the very nature of communalization of the minorities is changing. BJP spokesperson and eminent journalist M. J. Akbar, delivering this year's R.N.Kao lecture (named after the late Ramnath Kao, founder of the R&AW), has spoken about "regression and its romance". Implying, rightly, that the regression from modernity that underpins IS's call to return to Caliphate of the ancient world, and an Islamic one-world, has a romantic charm of its own. Like Karl Marx's call to "change the world", the call of IS "Caliph" Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is truly pan-Islamic, however hideous may be its expression, with its videos showing IS prisoners being beheaded in rows. While past, as it is said, is a "foreign country", it is not difficult to surmise that the world of the Caliphs that began in the 7th century was too gory to make a big fuss about human heads being always kept in their proper place. Yet so overpowering is its lure that it is drawing youngsters away from the age of modernity.
To IS, Pakistan is as much an enemy country as India, because its objective is to unite the entire crescent from North Africa to Indonesia under its religious banner.
The military brass of Pakistan may think they are still the masters of the terror universe—nursing their 'Frankenstein monsters' yet ruling a seemingly modern country from the background. But they are pretty drab and losing appeal to the new-gen terrorist who must win a world, not just a corner of Kashmir or even India. To IS, Pakistan is as much an enemy country as India, because its objective is to unite the entire crescent from North Africa to Indonesia under its religious banner. The military leaders of Pakistan, in their blind outrage against India, are oblivious to the changing flow of global jihadis to Syria, bypassing the bearded mullahs in their payroll. Its backwash will come very hard on Pakistan. US President Barack Obama had this possibility on his mind when he reminded Pakistan that it “can and must” destroy all machinery of terror in its backyard.
To that extent, Modi’s foreign policy has been productive. It has found traction with the western world and Israel in their new resolution to counter the new form of Islamist terror that works through social media, networks globally, to identify and infect the gullible mind wherever it is. Let us hope that the Republic Day passes off peacefully and, as the year advances, India gets full support of the world to make Pakistan see reason.